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Managing Anger

Although I’m not a Buddhist, in recent years I’ve become a big fan of the Dalai Lama. His book, The Art of Happiness is one of the most influential books that I have read. Much of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is similar to teachings within Buddhism, although with a Western flair.

The Dalai Lama’s Advice on Anger

I hate to admit it, but I might have missed my best chance to see the Dalai Lama when he came to Austin in September of 2005. However, I did hear his speech in its entirety on the Internet. One of the things that I really liked that he said had to do with managing anger. I’m going to have take some liberties with my recollection here, but the Dalai Lama explained how it is important to try not to do or say things when in angry state of mind. He stated that our natural way of functioning is with a calm mind…this is closer to who we really are. We are most in touch with our values and principles that we use to guide our actions when we are in this natural state of mind. We often find that when we act of anger, we end up regretting our actions when we calm down. Sometimes we apologize for our angry words or have to dig ourselves out of a hole that we have gotten ourselves into. So, the Dalai Lama concludes, we should not do or say things in an angry state of mind because it does not best represent our values and we often end up hurting others and ourselves.

Advice from the Dalai Lama
Advice via the Dalai Lama

Life’s complexities can be daunting sometimes, and I sure like it when I can find some simple principles to follow. Somehow the Dalai Lama’s teaching about anger struck a cord within me. It seemed so simple yet powerfully true. While I don’t pretend to have the level of discipline that the Dalai Lama possesses, I have been applying his teachings about anger in my life whenever possible. Though I am not always successful, I have been able to catch myself in an angry state of mind and refrain from doing some things that I surely would have regretted. It reminds me of the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Seeing the Wisdom in Your Own Reflections

Maybe take a few moments to reflect upon the Dalai Lama’s teachings and apply them to your own life. Does it ring true to you? For instance, have you ever written an email in anger and then waited a while until you’ve cooled off and reread that email and been REALLY glad that you didn’t send it? I’ve done that one quite a few times and I’ve gotten a lot better at editing those angry emails while in a calm state. After all, if it’s worth sending it will still be worth sending after you’ve proofed it 20 minutes later when you’ve cooled off.

In a way, the Dalai Lama’s recommendation to avoid acting out of anger reminds me of what Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” As you going about your day, ask yourself whether what the Dalai Lama said about anger makes sense to you. If so, try it out…don’t fire that angry email back right away or call your friend on the cell when still red with anger. Wait until you’re calm, then act. Show people who you really are – they deserve that and so do you.

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