Do You Really Want Your Neighbor’s Wonderful Life?

Are you feeling angry? Tired?  Frustrated? Envious? Do you think you are working harder than ever, yet not making much progress?

If your answer is yes, you are not alone.

Millions of people feel that life is passing them by. No matter what they do, it is always the other guy who gets the promotion, buys fancy cars, and sends his kids to Harvard, while they are barely treading water.

Are they right? And if so, what is the solution?

Facebook version of reality

Beach Vacation

Beach Vacation

You “friend” people on Facebook. Or other “social media” sites. Then they send you pictures of their beach vacations, their happy and smart kids, their new cars. And here you are, struggling with the daily grind of your mundane life.

Disconnect

Anger often arises if you want something badly, and your desires are thwarted. Or you think you deserve something, and yet you end up not getting it.

Frustration commonly has similar roots.

Reality

The real world exists.

We want it to be a certain way, but it is a stubborn beast. It goes along its merry way, impervious to our desires. It defies our efforts to control it.

Sooner or later, reality clashes with our expectations. The results, if not put into perspective, can be disastrous.

Grown-ups’ problems

tantrumAs children, we are often pampered. If we want something, we go to our parents, and demand we get it. If we don’t get our way, some of us throw a tantrum.

And then we grow up.

Control and compare

The first clash with reality in an adult world comes through comparisons.

We look at our colleagues and our neighbors. And we feel envious if they are better off than we are. Because we feel that we are just as smart as they are, if not smarter.

Envy, if not dealt with firmly and rationally, leads to resentment, bitterness, and anger.

From here, where?

So you are upset. You are better (you think), but your colleagues get all the riches. You hate that.

angryWhere is this going to lead you? Anger, hatred, resentment … this is a recipe for sleepless nights and an acid feeling in your gut. Will this make you any richer? Will that Lamborghini parked next door find its way into your garage?

No, and no.

You will be no richer, and your outlook towards life is likely to get clouded. Your enjoyment of life will diminish.

So what is the answer?

We need less envy, and more clarity of thought, more empathy, more gratitude.

Think about it.

You envy your neighbor’s mansion, his big car, his fancy vacations. But they do not exist in a vacuum. They are often the end result of a number of decisions he made along the way. Decisions which you do not know about. Decisions that you might not have made if you had that choice.

Perhaps he studied hard while his college classmates were out partying.

Perhaps he toiled at part-time jobs while others were slumped in front of their TVs, sipping beer and devouring potato chips.

Do you want his whole life?

This is the real clincher.

Your neighbor’s life is a package deal.

LamborghiniYou drool over his car. But with it might come his son’s drug addiction, his wife’s loneliness and depression, the alimony he pays to ex-wives, and the grief he gets from them. If you want his car, you will have to accept his problems, too. Ready for the deal?

Pick and choose

That is what we want to do. We want the “Facebook” elements of others’ lives, but we want to steer clear of their problems, many of which we do not even know about. Life does not work like that.

Live happily ever after?

And even if you got your neighbor’s life, and his riches, then what? You will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after? Hardly. Life is not a Hollywood movie.

Where now?

You need a strategy to deal with life. Bitterness, envy, resentment, anger, and frustration are not strategies. They are symptoms. Symptoms that you are not happy in your own skin.

Accept reality

You are what you are. Sit down. Take a deep breath in. Look deep inside you. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Be grateful for what you have. You probably have more than a lot of the 7 billion or so people on this planet, especially if you live in the Western world.

Then take a cold, hard look at your problems. Is the lack of a Mercedes a real problem? Do you really need a beach house and several million dollars to be happy in this world? If so, mankind is really doomed.

What matters in life

Sooner or later, you will have to decide what it is that you really want. What will make you happy? What will give your life meaning? What will give you satisfaction?

If your answers deal with material things, you will always be disappointed. Kids will move out, and the large house will be mostly empty, except for stuff. Stuff that nobody uses anymore.

JunkThe car will lose its shine. The new car smell will fade. Eventually, it will go to the junk yard.

Stuff is temporary. Life is temporary.

The neighbor’s Lamborghini? It will end up as scrap metal one day.

So what should you do?

  • Remember all the good things that have happened to you.
  •  Be Grateful!

    Be Grateful!

    Be grateful for all of them.

  • Live in the moment and enjoy it to the fullest. This is the only moment you have. The past is gone. The future is not guaranteed. So enjoy all aspects of the present moment. This is when you are alive. This is your life.
  • Focus on friends, family, love.
  • You have one life. It might not be perfect. But it is yours. Live it, instead of grumbling about it.

 

Secrets of Pride, Anger, and Social Emotions

“You are a genius!”

“You are such a total failure!”

Each one of us has an inner voice which keeps nagging us. It keeps a running scorecard of everything we do, and regularly passes judgment. One second it can take us to the top of a mountain, and the very next, bring us crashing down.

Why is this so?

Evolution

evolution

This is a convenient target to blame. We are wired this way. We cannot help ourselves.

To some extent, that is true.

Living beings need to survive, and propagate the species. Social animals want to move up the social hierarchy, because that improves the odds of survival and reproduction.

And thus are born instincts and emotions, which warn us against danger, and help us get ahead in the world.

Is this relevant today?

Yes and no.

Dangers to life and limb are of a different nature today. The stress system previously triggered by the roar of a tiger in the wild is now brought into play when we are sitting in traffic, fretting and fuming because we are late for a meeting. The hormones pouring into our bloodstream (cortisol and adrenaline), which were meant to aid fight or flight, now end up raising our blood pressure and blood sugar.

Are primary or basic emotions still useful?

To some extent, they are. They still alert us to the possibility of harm.

Anger, joy, sadness, surprise, fear, and disgust develop in the first 9 months of an infant’s life

fear

These basic human emotions have characteristic facial expressions which accompany them. An early signal of both fear and surprise is a widening of the eyes, which increases our field of vision, allowing a better chance of fast escape, as we can see more of our surroundings.

surprise

The emotions of anger and disgust show the same initial facial expression, a  wrinkled nose, which was likely designed to reduce the potential for breathing in particles dangerous to health.

Modern role

Many researchers believe that emotions affect our cognition, influence our thinking, and influence the way we make decisions.

Gut feeling

The human brain can take in vast amounts of information, process it rapidly, and present to us a plan for rapid action, without our having to think about it at a conscious level. Our emotions play a key role in this, through our “instincts,” or “gut feelings.”

In many situations, the amount of information available is so much that analyzing it carefully and consciously would take a lot of time. You might be in a car showroom, with the salesman pushing you to close a deal. But your brain sees a red flag, and tries to warn you. You start getting an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach. You do not know what it is, but your brain has been there before, and it is warning you that something is fishy, and you should leave. Only later do you find out that the sales person has a track record of duping customers. Your instincts, however, picked up some subtle cues and warned you in time.

But it can work against you

Emotions act in a very simplistic manner. They present you information about your surroundings and circumstances rather broadly, and you react to that without too much conscious thought. This, however, can also create problems in the modern world. When things do not go your way, you tend to get angry, and this could become a recurrent pattern. Chronic anger can create health problems, such as high blood pressure, and even heart disease.

Self-conscious emotions

These emotions can cause even greater problems.

pride

Pride, hubris, guilt, and shame are commonly considered to be “self-conscious” emotions. They develop later in life than the basic emotions of anger, fear, etc. (which can be seen by 9 months). Pride, for example, develops by the end of the third year of life.

These emotions depend on an interaction between a person and the society in which he or she lives.

Pride and social status

Society and culture often dictate what kind of a person we are expected to be. Pride helps us to regulate our behavior to gain the approval of society. It also motivates us to avoid actions of which society disapproves. Thus it helps us to avoid feelings of rejection.

Pride is an important building block for self-esteem, helping us to attain and maintain a certain status in society.

Pride and goal setting

People constantly evaluate social norms, and then set goals for themselves. If they meet or exceed those goals, they feel a sense of pride, which promotes further achievement. A failure to meet those goals leads to a sense of shame or guilt.

Thus pride depends on constant self-evaluation.

Is pride two emotions?

Pride and hubris are being studied afresh these days.

It is commonly felt that the difference between the two is only of degree. An excessive sense of pride is commonly called hubris, which is detrimental to emotional and social development.

Some researchers feel, however, that we need to distinguish between an achievement-based pride and a hubristic pride

Pride in achievement

Almost all of us have experienced this.

You run track, and come in first in a tough competition. Or you are a musician, and win an award for a fine performance. You might, perhaps, receive praise and a promotion for completing a project which wins your company new clients.

Most human beings would feel proud under these circumstances.

Hubristic pride

This is more problematic.

hubris

This is the pride a person feels because of who he thinks he is.

Most people in this category have a distorted sense of self-perception, and may have delusions of grandeur. They are often arrogant and conceited.

They feel that they deserve praise for who they are, not just for what they have achieved.

Impact of pride

Psychologists feel that an achievement-based pride helps to develop self-esteem, and promotes “good behavior” and the promotion of societal goals.

Hubris and narcissism

Unlike “regular pride,” hubristic pride is a clearly negative emotion, with strong ties to narcissism.

Such people frequently have deep-rooted insecurities. They might feel inadequate, and often harbor feelings of shame. To protect themselves from these emotions, they adopt a cloak of arrogance and self-aggrandizement.

This is a defensive process, and is maladaptive in nature.

Demonstration of pride

This depends on the cultural and social norms the persons grows up learning.

In Eastern, “group based” cultures, demonstration of pride aggressively is frowned upon, and pride is often considered a negative emotion.

However, in the more individualistic societies of the West, pride is usually considered a virtue. Rather than condemning it as a vice, Western societies like to encourage pride in both children and adults.

A deeper truth?

Even achievement-based pride can create problems.

This pride depends on positive results. However, results of our actions are never under our control. We can only control our own actions.

Results, pride, and self-esteem

If you praise yourself, or your child, mostly for achievements, you might be sending the wrong message.

You can try your best, and yet fail in an enterprise. Other times, you could cruise through your assignment, and still get positive results purely through luck. What would you rather praise and encourage, the effort, or the result? What is more likely to stand you in good stead through the course of a lifetime?

So what is the bottom line?

joy

  • Emotions are deeply ingrained in the human psyche.
  • We receive an evolutionary benefit from emotions, as they alert us to danger and promote prompt, subconscious action.
  • In the modern setting, many emotions are triggered inappropriately, or excessively, and they can hurt us, causing significant unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life.
  • Chronic anger, excessive sadness, and inappropriate fear can ruin many a life.
  • Excessive pride and shame can also have deleterious effects.
  • Emotions trigger thought and action.
  • It is vital that we understand and control our emotions and their triggers, in order to moderate our responses, and avoid becoming slaves to our emotions.
  • There is often a lack of association between effort, action, and achievement. Be careful what you praise and encourage.

Emotions, happiness & satisfaction

You can read more about this connection in my book, available here:

http://goo.gl/4tp2t9.

Is Pride Good, Bad, or Indifferent?

pride

Pride

Are you proud of what you have achieved in life? Are you a proud man? Is there a difference? Is pride good or bad? What is pride anyway?

Confusion

These questions have been confusing mankind for centuries. One reason might be that research has been limited because pride is not usually included in the category of basic emotions.

Basic emotions

These emotions are not limited by culture or nationality, but are felt to be truly universal.

Anger

Anger

Anger, fear, happiness, surprise, disgust, and sadness are commonly accepted as the basic emotions.

Another characteristic of these emotions is that they are accompanied by non-verbal expressions, which can be understood by almost anybody living anywhere in the world. For example, the facial changes which occur when a person is angry are usually not subtle, or limited by nationality.

Secondary or complex emotions

These develop later in the life of an infant, and depend on an ability to evaluate aspects of society, culture, and a sense of “self.”

Some of these emotions are combinations of the basic emotions.

Jealousy

Jealousy

Examples of these are envy, jealousy, and resentment.

This issue has been dealt with in a previous article here … http://goo.gl/hZ5Qlk.

Self-conscious emotions

I did it!

I did it!

This is an interesting, and at times confusing, set of emotions, which require a complex interplay between a person and society or culture.

The person develops a sense of individuality or “self.” He or she then looks around to see what society expects. This leads to goal-setting, and finally an evaluation whether those goals have been met. A sense of success or failure is the common result of such an evaluation.

Shame!

Shame!

This complex process is felt to be responsible for our “self-conscious” emotions of pride, hubris, guilt, and shame.

Why do we have emotions?

Emotions are clearly evolutionary in nature. They help us to survive, reproduce, and move up in the food chain.

Emotion and reason

We have the capacity for both. And they serve different functions.

Fear!

Fear!

Take a basic emotion like fear. In the good old days, when we heard a roar in the wild, it alerted us to danger to life and limb. We did not sit around, form a committee, and debate rationally the probabilities of a tiger attack. Instead, we were immediately gripped by a mortal fear, our fight-or-flight response took over automatically, adrenaline poured into our bloodstream, and we ran like crazy. And lived to fight and reproduce another day.

Aggression

In addition to just living, we also wanted to adapt and thrive. Here our rational being came into play. It helped us to venture out, capture animals, avoid danger ahead of time, develop agriculture, and enhance our welfare by forming tribes and societies.

Social good

Group living helped us, but also led to the development of more emotions. Individual survival now competed with group survival. An aggressive individual was of value, but could lead to trouble within the group.

Thus social and cultural norms and hierarchies were born. You could kill invaders, but not your neighbors in your tribe.

The tribes also needed leaders, and followers. The leaders enjoyed unique privileges. There was often competition to become a leader. Certain traits were valuable in a leader, and others were frowned upon.

Thus arose pride and shame.

Desire

There is another theory of emotions.

Human beings have desires. Some of these are basic, while others are conditioned by society or culture.

All of us have a desire to live. We also want to be successful, to be liked, to move up in society, to be accepted and admired.

Events in our daily lives either lead to the satisfaction of these desires, or their frustration. These events produce mental and physical changes in us, which we recognize as emotions.

For example, the presence of a tiger threatens our desire to live, so we experience fear.

Moving on up?

Moving on up?

Buying a flashy new car satisfies our desire to move up in society, and so we feel joy.

Denial of a promotion frustrates our desire to be recognized and admired, and we feel anger.

 Where does pride fit in?

Pride is confusing.

The Greeks both admired it, and detested it. They valued pride in their warriors, but also recognized the problems with excessive pride, or hubris.

 

Achilles

Achilles

Most of the characters in Homer’s “Iliad” were led to their ruin by pride.

Christianity

Since ancient times, Christian teaching has talked of the seven deadly sins, of which pride is one.

Dante

Dante

He was not bashful about his opinions. He considered pride to be the deadliest of the seven deadly sins.

Pride and the Gita

         Dambho darpo abhimanashcha krodhah parushyamevacha

          Ajnanam cha abhijatasya Partha sampadam asurim  (Gita 16:4)

This epic of ancient Indian philosophy and religion narrates how Lord Krishna, a Hindu god, described to his pupil Arjuna the specific traits of people born with a demonical nature: hypocrisy, arrogance, pride, anger, harshness, and ignorance.

Emotions and happiness

So what can we take away from this?

Do emotions help us?

In the modern setting, can they hurt us?

Is pride always good, or always bad?

Complexity can be reduced

By studying emotions in greater detail, we can understand their evolutionary benefits.

Similarly, we can also understand their potential to derail our pursuit for happiness and satisfaction in the modern world.

We will discuss this further in subsequent post.

Stay tuned!

Want to read more?

Confused about happiness? Your ship just came in!

Confused about happiness? Your ship just came in!

The pursuit of happiness and satisfaction is discussed in more detail in my book available here … http://goo.gl/4tp2t9.

Do Not Let Envy Derail Your Happiness!

Most human beings have the ability to achieve happiness fairly quickly in life, and without enormous effort. Then why don’t we?

Potholes

pothole

We let negative emotions create potholes on a road which would otherwise be smooth.

Envy, jealousy, and resentment: These are common human emotions, and cause uncommon suffering.

A little soul?

“Envy is a littleness of soul, which cannot see beyond a certain point…”

-William Hazlitt

Envy or jealousy?

People often feel that these two emotions are similar, but they really are not, at least not technically.

The emotion of envy essentially implies that someone else has something that you lack, and really want for yourself. You covet that possession, or situation, or attribute.

jealous

Jealousy implies that you are afraid of being replaced by somebody else. It is often used in situations where you feel that someone you love might start loving somebody else more. So you have something (usually a relationship), and this is being threatened by a third individual.

Primary emotions

shame

Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, shame, grief, and disgust are found in most cultures all over the world. Even young children have been shown to display these emotions.

Non-basic (secondary) emotions

Examples of these are envy, jealousy, and resentment. These are more complex, and depend on the child discovering cultural and social rules as he or she grows up. As such, they develop later than the primary emotions.

Mixture

Some of these secondary emotions result from a mixture of the basic emotions. Jealousy, for example, contains elements of fear and anger. Similarly, feelings of guilt can be a summation of sadness and fear.

Wrong

Fundamentally, you feel envious when you do not have a quality or object which somebody else has. In addition, you feel that this situation is unfair, or wrong.

Poor self-esteem

inadequacy

People who are troubled by severe envy often feel inadequate. They are frustrated by the sense of not having achieved their goals, and are angry at others who have.

Envy can lead to maliciousness, and a desire to harm or humiliate the other person. A perverse wish to scratch your neighbor’s brand-new Ferrari falls into this category!

Invidious hostility, such as gossip, backbiting, and defamation are some of the other consequences of envy.

Resentment

resent

This is a complex emotion, and is usually a combination of anger, fear, and disappointment.

It is often directed against a person whose social status is higher than yours.  The underlying feeling you get is that you have been treated unfairly, and you are not in a position to do much about it.

It can even be the result of envy, if you feel that you have worked hard, and have not received much recognition or reward, while another person, who you think has not worked as hard, has gone ahead in life.

Quite often, resentment can leave you feeling bitter and depressed.

Resentment can be mistaken for pure anger, but the two emotions frequently have distinct external expression. People often express anger in an aggressive manner, while resentment is commonly internalized, where it can “burn the person up” from the inside.

Phthonos

The Greeks were no strangers to envy. Phthonos was their spirit of envy and jealousy in ancient times, and he also had a more popular female counterpart.

Nemesis

She was the Greek goddess of jealous retribution, the female counterpart of Phthonos. Her domain was indignation, especially directed at subjects who were felt to be undeserving of their good fortune.

Ill effects of envy

Envy can seriously undermine one’s mental health. It creates unnecessary stress, and leaves the victim feeling overwhelmed. Anxiety, hostility, and depression are common results of envy. Irritability and anger often follow, and the envious person suffers the loss of friends (who do not want to hang out with a grumpy person) and descends into a chronic state of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life.

Bitterness

This is a common result of chronic envy, resentment, and jealousy. These negative emotions extract a heavy toll.

Count whose blessings?

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”

-Harold Coffin

Long lasting

“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.”

-Heraclitus

The Gita on envy

murudeshwar-172586_1280 (1)

The Gita is an ancient Indian epic dealing with philosophy and religion. It addresses most of the common roadblocks on the path to happiness.

      Ahankaram balam darpam kamam krodham cha sanshritah

      Mamatmaparadeheshum pradvishantoabhyasuyakah  (Gita 16:18)

In this verse, Lord Krishna, a Hindu god, is explaining to his disciple Arjuna the character traits found in people who have demonic personalities. He says that such people are egotistical, violent, arrogant, and full of lust. They are angry and full of envy. They forget that God is present in their bodies, and the bodies of all other human beings, as their soul. By harboring these destructive emotions, they abuse and dishonor their innermost sacred selves.

So what to do?

Feelings of envy, jealousy, and resentment are deeply ingrained in our psyche from millennia of evolution. Human beings have survival mechanisms which alert them to danger, and enable them to take action. These days, however, these emotions are triggered subconsciously, often at inopportune times, and have harmful effects.

  • First, become more self-aware.
  • Analyze your emotions and responses frequently, and identify what triggers envy, anger, resentment, and bitterness in you.
  • Recognize and remind yourself that talent and rewards are not always evenly distributed in this world.
  • Remind yourself often of your own unique abilities and gifts, which many others may lack.
  • thanks
  • Develop a sense of gratitude for all that has been given to you, rather than moan about what you don’t have. In other words, count your blessings! Frequently! You can read more about the value of gratitude here: http://goo.gl/wMMBDB.
  • medit
  • Take up meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. The technique and benefits of deep breathing are described here: http://goo.gl/v9dQ0d.
  • If you still feel that these emotions are not under good control, consider consulting a trained mental health professional.

Summary

The pursuit of happiness is made unnecessarily complicated by a host of negative emotions. Recognizing and controlling them will go a long way toward improving your satisfaction with life.

Read more about leading a happy and satisfying life athttp://goo.gl/4tp2t9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Miss The Boat: Grab Happiness Today!

Sail today

“I think once the home mortgage is paid off, I’ll be happy.”

“Wait a second, what about the kids? I think once they are married off, and well-settled in life, that’s when I think I can afford to be happy.”

“Happy? Are you kidding me? I have to get that promotion before Jim does. Who has time to be happy?”

I’ll be happy when…

We tend to lay down conditions when talking about happiness, or even when thinking about happiness. These are all external conditions. You get your promotion. But then the goal post changes. Now you want to be the CEO before you will allow yourself to be happy. And what if you do become the CEO?

You will then want to grow the company, increase revenues, buy other companies, create an empire.

Sound familiar?

What is wrong with right now?

If you ever want to be happy, you must decide to be happy right now.

Not tomorrow, not next week, not when the kids have grown up.

So what is stopping you from being happy right now?

Fear, confusion, and ignorance.

Most of us do not know what happiness is.

Oh, we see the external signs all right. The smiling faces, the big mansions, the stately cars. And the eye-popping yachts.

yacht

We get confused. We think that these are the things which produce happiness. And the media outlets do their best to reinforce this world-view. Because it is their job to sell. But it is not mandatory for us to buy.

Masks

mask

People walk around with masks on their faces. Maybe you do, too.

The smiley-face mask hides the pain underneath. The pain, and the confusion. Everybody is rich, everybody is smiling, so what’s wrong with me?

I must smile, too, and join in this pretense.

Fear

At some point, we have to turn our gaze inwards, do some honest-to-goodness introspection and ask ourselves what would truly make us happy, what we truly want. Not what we are programmed to pursue, but what really would give us lasting satisfaction.

Many of us are afraid to do that, because we are afraid of the answers we might get.

Many of us are afraid of slowing down, taking a step back, and doing some serious soul-searching.

Many of us are afraid of rocking the boat, of abandoning the rat race, the mad pursuit of material progress and accumulation.

But if you look inside you, there will be answers which will surprise you. However, these are answers which true seekers have always found, over millennia.

Gratitude

This is one of the major ingredients of a happy, fulfilling life.

Be grateful that you are alive. Most human beings, with very rare exceptions, would rather be alive than dead. So express your thanks. To whichever power you believe in.

Be grateful for your health. Whatever your state of health, you can always find people worse off than you. Be grateful for two arms and two legs. If you have had an amputation, be grateful for any arms and legs you have left. There are people with less.

Gratitude for nature

beach

No matter how sad you are, look around you. You will discover everyday epiphanies. The sky, the stars, the beach, the mountains: look at them carefully, and drink in their beauty. The sun rises daily, whether it wants to or not. And so does the moon. And they shine on rich and poor alike.

If you believe in God, thank him for the grandeur of nature. If you do not subscribe to the notion of a creator, you can still enjoy the wonders of nature. Your beliefs or non-beliefs do not subtract from the glory of nature.

Expand your focus

focus

You are not the center point of the universe. There are other creatures, great and small, who share this world with you. They have as much a right to happiness as you do.

If you think about yourself all the time, your pleasures, your pain, life will get difficult. What have you done to deserve a lifetime of unending bliss? Into each life, some rain must fall.

Expand your thinking and focus to include others.

Try and rejoice in the good fortune of others.

Try and feel the pain of somebody who is suffering.

Gratitude expands your focus, and makes you less self-centered. It makes you more happy, more satisfied with what you have, indeed more satisfied with your lot in life.

Be kind

happy

“There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”

-Dalai Lama

Wordsworth

Studies on students have found a clear relationship between altruism and happiness. Happiness makes us more open to others. Those people who consider themselves to be the most happy are also generally the most altruistic.

Monks have been studied scientifically when meditating on compassion: their brains show more activity in the left pre-frontal cortex. This reflects a larger capacity for happiness and a lower tendency for negativity.

Out with resentment!

Holding-on-to-anger

Resentment and anger are wasted emotions. They affect you more than the person they are directed against. That person is often not even aware of your feelings, and usually doesn’t care! While you keep seething inside.

Resentment and unchecked desire are two of the major impediments to human happiness.

The Gita on resentment

Gita quote

There is a lot of confusion about the true meaning of sanyasi, a word used to refer to someone who has renounced the world, who is detached from this world. But to achieve that state, we are told in verse 5:3 of the Gita (an epic of philosophy  and religion), it is not essential to don sackcloth and ashes.

The true sanyasi is he who has renounced resentment and desire. Freed from the bonds imposed by those emotions, he can still live in this world, and perform appropriate actions.

So why wait?

shackles

Throw off the shackles causing you misery today, and lead a happy and satisfying life!

Want to read more?

You can download my book on satisfaction and happiness at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00W5TGM1U.

 

Can You Learn To Say Enough Is Enough?

“How much money is enough?” somebody once asked John D. Rockefeller. John was the first ever American billionaire, and was also the world’s richest man at one point. He is still considered by many to have been the richest man in modern history, because he was a billionaire in the early 1900s.

“Just a little bit more,” was his answer.

More, and then some more!

chateau

The size of the average American home was 1000 square feet a few decades ago. It is now almost 2500 square feet. Our garages, basements, and attics are bulging with stuff.

Households in the US owed a total of $11.83 trillion at the end of 2014, up $117 billion as compared to the previous quarter (estimated by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York).

And yet we want more.

Do you need it?

Who care anymore about need!

Necessity used to be the mother of invention. Now, invention is the mother of necessity. How did we ever get along without this gizmo in the past, we ask ourselves in the store, while whipping out our credit cards.

Yet, a report estimated that 85 million phones were lying unused in the UK in 2013.

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

-Marcus Tulius Cicero

I want it!

“It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.”

-Bertrand Russell, 1872

content

“Contentment comes not so much from great wealth as from few wants.”

-Epictetus, 55 AD

Cost of stuff

We pay for things with money at the store. Then we pay some more. Personal storage revenues in the US are over $24 billion a year. Some of this storage is short term, but a lot of stuff languishes in these “warehouses’ for months, if not years. Stuff we thought we needed enough to shell out money for in the first place.

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

So why do we buy things?

One-upmanship is part of the answer.

limo

“My house is bigger than yours, my car is bigger than yours, my wife is prettier than yours. So I am a better man than you, buddy,” we seem to be shouting, figuratively, from the rooftops.

Sense of power

camels

In ancient times, the chief of the tribe was the man with the most camels, or goats, or oxen, or whatever. His possessions were the symbols of his power. He was the one to establish rules for the tribe to follow. He also, more often than not, had the opportunity to mate with the woman of his choice, and often more than one.

Even today, the rich and powerful (aren’t they the same?) seem to play from a different rulebook.

 Envy

This green-eyed monster has more control over our lives than we care to admit. Bertrand Russell said that envy was one of the chief reasons for human unhappiness.

The feeling of envy arises when a person sees a quality or possession that somebody else has, and wishes that either he or she acquires it, too, or that the other person loses it.

Many a person has bought a boat, a car, or jewelry, based on envy, and then regretted it.

Aristotle defined envy as “the pain caused by the good fortune of others.”

Envy is often the result of poor self-esteem. The envious person feels empty inside. The Latin term invidia for envy means “non-sight.” Envious people are often blind to their own qualities and covet those in others.

Happiness

shopping

People buy stuff, convinced that this will make them happy. They refuse to acknowledge the rather obvious fact that things are transient. Material possessions fade, lose their shine, malfunction, and eventually disintegrate. Where is the happiness in that?

Security

A well rounded person feels secure in himself or herself. People lacking that sense of mooring wander from object to object, wrapping themselves in blankets of possessions, seeking in external objects a value that can only come from within.

Loneliness/emotional response

It is said that when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. The truth is slightly different. Lots of people try to apply the balm of material goods to hide the pain they feel inside: whether it is loneliness, or emotional loss. We all know how that turns out.

Advertisements

sale

We live in a consumer society. Data indicate that we consume twice as many material goods than we did fifty years ago.

The market place is flooded with goods and products churned out by factories all over the world. Media outlets of all kinds have a responsibility to make sure that we buy that stuff, whether we need it or not.

The average person in the US is exposed to at least 5000 ads daily. Businesses pay for ads, because they work. And the consumer society goes on, leaving people, for the most part, no happier than before.

We are selfish and greedy

Not much needs to be said about that. Selfishness is a survival mechanism for the species. Carried to extremes, however, it becomes counter-productive.

So what now?

Shop till you drop is bad for human happiness. It leaves people emotionally drained.

We need to simplify our lives.

For that, we need clarity of thought.

More on that in subsequent posts. Please stay tuned.

Find Happiness Today: Quit Digging!

There is a law of holes. When you are in a hole, the first thing you need to do is to stop digging.

The road to happiness and satisfaction is full of potholes. Some of them are tiny, and only make your car sink and jump a bit. Others can swallow you up, car and all.

Most of us insist on digging our own holes, and then we work day and night to make them bigger. Yet we insist that we are pursuing happiness.

Desperation

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

desperate

Why are people unhappy? Why are they dissatisfied?

Because they keep hurting themselves by making wrong choices.

Ignorance

We do not know where we want to go.

If you want to see the Eiffel Tower, you should go to Paris. If you follow the road to New York, and expect to see the Eiffel Tower there, you will be disappointed.

If you pursue material objects, and luxuries, and get no lasting joy, don’t be surprised. You’ve followed the wrong path.

We wear masks

masks

“How are you doing?’ is no longer a question. We automatically answer, “Fine, thanks,” smile sweetly, and move on. Most of the day we have our party faces on. Smile, shake hands, say “Have a nice day,” and keep on trudging. How do we really feel deep inside? We dare not ask ourselves that, for the answer is too painful.

So we avoid introspection, we avoid solitude, we avoid serious thought.

We have a spouse, 1.5 kids, a house in the suburbs, two cars in the garage, and a free-range chicken in the pot. We must be happy.

We demand guaranteed results

An annual raise is considered a right. Whether the employee’s work is satisfactory or not.

We want all our kids to be A-students, to get on the honor roll, to gain admission to the college of their choice, to find marvelous jobs, earn tons of money, and live happily ever after.

Life does not always play out like that. Disappointments are inevitable. Yet we don’t always teach ourselves or our kids how to deal with them.

Instant gratification

This is one of the biggest holes you can dig for yourself.

vacation

Borrow several thousand dollars, fly off to Europe, live it up for a week, and then spend the next year or more trying to pay off the loan.

Buy a fancy car, just because your neighbor has one, and work overtime for five to ten years to meet the monthly payments.

Desires, expectations, and reality

Society does not teach us to control our desires. Newspapers, TV, magazines, the internet, all of them want us to buy, buy, buy. The latest phone, smart watch, smart car, smart socks.

We can no longer distinguish between what we want and what we truly need.

gadgets

The consumer society and modern advertising create an insatiable demand for things displayed attractively in stores or on the internet. We buy the latest gadgets, and a month later, it is time for a different flavor. And we think this will make us happy.

There is also a disconnect between our expectations and reality.

Expectations

Desires keep surging in our bosoms. We then expect them to be fulfilled.

A college graduate expects immediate placement in the job market. If you get a Harvard MBA, you tend to think that companies will knock on your door day and night, and you will drown in offers to become the CEO of this company or the other right away.

Again, harsh reality often intervenes.

Patience and tolerance

Society has devalued these solid, age-old virtues to the point where they have become undesirable.

The modern prayer seems to be, “God give me patience, and please give it right now!”

This is another hole we dig for ourselves, impatiently flitting from pleasure to pleasure, unable to smell a rose and appreciate it fully before being drawn to another shiny flower, and then another.

Tolerance is not weakness

     Matra sparshastu Kaunteya sheetoshna sukhadukhadah

     Agamapyino anityaah taans titikshasva bharata  (Gita 2:14)

We blast the air conditioner to Arctic temperatures to keep out the warmth of summer, and set the thermostat to boiling to combat the chill of winter. Our predecessors did not die off in alarming numbers when the weather changed, but we demand a monotony of indoor temperatures, because we are unable to tolerate summer or winter. And our bodies become softer because of that.

In the verse above, Lord Krishna, a Hindu god, is teaching his disciple Arjuna the importance of tolerance. He says that feelings of heat and cold, pleasure and sadness, all arise from the interaction of external stimuli and our sense organs. All of these feelings are transient, they come and go, and you should therefore learn to tolerate them.

cold

Transient feelings and emotions

This is yet another hole, a hole in our thinking.

We allow our understanding of reality to be so distorted that we cannot distinguish between what is transient, and what is permanent. Most sensory pleasures are transient. A shiny BMW loses its luster, and the heady new car smell, fairly swiftly. Down the road, it becomes just another car. Especially if our neighbor buys a gorgeous Ferrari. Which ceases to give him pleasure the moment the guy down the block buys a personal jet.

Emotions are the same. Nobody is angry all the time. Nobody is sad all the time (except in cases involving mental health problems). We need to learn to take the rough with the smooth, without getting bent out of shape. The tide does turn. One just needs patience and tolerance.

A cruise ship sails smoothly over the waves of the ocean. A row boat bobs up and down wildly with each wave, always on the verge of tipping over, making no forward progress.

rowboat

As you negotiate life, which one would you rather be? You can read more about this here … http://goo.gl/xm1Mn9

Don’t dig holes for yourself!

hole

  • Being happy and satisfied is not that difficult.
  • Mostly we need an attitude adjustment.
  • We need to stop creating problems for ourselves, and then making them worse.
  • Focusing on appropriate actions, keeping desires under reasonable control, setting realistic expectations, and having a clear-eyed view of reality will set us on the right path.
  • Not letting transient set-backs knock us down, and learning to differentiate between the truly valuable, and merely fashionable, will stand us in good stead.
  • Tolerance can build strength and happiness.

Want to read more?

These issues, and more, are discussed in further detail in my E-book, “How to Lead a Satisfying Life: 11 Universal Lessons from the Gita,” which is available here … http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00W5TGM1U

 

 

 

Choose Today: How Not to be Angry

Wouldn’t you just love to have everything go your way?

Your spouse does everything you want him or her to do, even before you express your wishes.

Your boss gives you a raise before you can ask for it.

The red traffic lights all turn to green just as you approach them, and traffic jams dissolve before you get snarled up in them.

Well, dream on. Real life is not like that.

Welcome to reality

robot

You don’t really control much of anything at all, if you think about it deeply enough. You can control your actions, barely, if you work hard at it. Everything else… well, good luck!

Frustration begets anger

There are many reasons for people to get angry. We have discussed this in detail in a previous post at http://goo.gl/3Q6Moz. A major cause is the frustration resulting from the realization that things are not going the way you want them to go.

And, by the way, others often don’t do what we want them to do. Ever notice that? That can make you fly off the handle, too, if you are not careful.

Disappointment and worry

worry

We tend to have expectations of how people should behave, how things should turn out, how our lives should unfold. Yet nobody has all of his or her expectations met.

Unmet expectations, constant worry, and disappointment can all be expressed as an outburst of anger.

Why worry about anger?

Many authorities warn us about the dangers of uncontrolled anger.

An Indian epic of philosophy and religion, the Gita, warned us about a living hell on earth thousands of years ago:

          Trividham narkasya idam dvaram nashanamatmanah

          Kamah krodhastada lobhastasmadetat trayam tyajet  (Gita 16:21)

This Sanskrit verse tells us that there is a door which leads the living soul to hell and destruction. This door is made up of three parts: anger, uncontrolled lust/desire, and greed. All three of these evils must be rejected forthright.

When to seek help

When anger interferes significantly with your lifestyle, your work, your relationships, it is time to take action. Some steps you can take yourself, while others are best done under the supervision of professionals.

Know thyself!

There is no way you can get a handle on your anger issues unless you first take a step back, sit down in a quiet place, and ask yourself: “What makes me angry?”

It is not that difficult

You do not need to reinvent the wheel here. Most people get angry with issues related to family members, friends, their careers/ work environment, or traffic problems.

traffic

Most of the triggers involve a feeling of loss of control, or things not going according to your plans or wishes.

Identify the major situations and triggers which set off a spasm of anger, and preferably write them down.

Confine yourself to major or frequent issues. As they say, don’t sweat the small stuff.

What do you really want?

This is often the crux of the problem. We want X to love us, but he or she loves Y.

We want the cars ahead of us to get a move on and get out of our way, because we are getting late.

We want the book we wrote to become an overnight success.

When it doesn’t happen, we get angry.

We need to ask ourselves, “What do I really want to happen, which is not happening?”

Logic dissolves anger

Logic

Once you start thinking things through calmly, your brain starts taking control, and your emotions stop pulling and pushing you all over the place.

Distorted thinking, rapid-fire decision making, and impulsive, aggressive action are the hallmarks of the anger response. Shining the light of reason can help to dispel the darkness of emotion and anger.

So solve the problem!

When you explode in anger, you are reacting (quite often, over-reacting).

Let’s get away from that, identify the problem, and then try to solve it.

Once you find out what makes you angry, and what you would like to be different, it is time to ask yourself: “Can I do anything about it?”

Tried controlling others?

It usually cannot be done. The only one truly under your control is yourself, and your own actions. So quit trying to control the world (or your spouse)!

Light a candle

Candle

Don’t just curse the darkness!

Once you identify a problem, try to think about solving it in a different way. Instead of blaming others, make an attempt to change your own behavior and expectations.

Suppose you and your spouse are often late for your appointments. Instead of ranting and raving at your significant other, and blaming them for always making you late, ask yourself if they are overworked. If you help lighten their load, they will appreciate it, and have more time to get ready.

Change yourself, and perhaps others will notice it, and be more motivated to work with you to solve problems rationally.

Other techniques

We have discussed time-outs, yoga, deep breathing, mindful meditation, exercise and their role in anger management in a previous article at http://goo.gl/v9dQ0d.

Avoiding grudges, practicing forgiveness, and use of humor are also beneficial techniques.

Professional help

Seek the help of trained specialists:

  • If your own steps to manage your anger do not show satisfactory results.
  • If you cause harm to others during your outbursts.
  • If your anger causes problems with your job and career.
  • If you do things in a fit of anger which you wish you had not done.
  • If you have had problems with law enforcement agencies as a consequence of your actions when you were angry.

Epictetus of Rome (55 AD- 135 AD)

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

“When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”

The philosopher emphasized that external events cannot disturb your equilibrium, no matter how nasty they are. Only you can do that, by deciding how you will react emotionally to those events. Choose wisely and thoughtfully.

The Gita, again

Gita

          Shaknotihaiva yah sodhum prak sharira vimokshanata

          Kamakrodhotabhavama yogama sa yuktaha sa sukhi narah (Gita 5:23)

This verse tells us that there are waves (usually giant waves) of uncontrolled desires and uncontrolled anger that all human beings experience during their lives. The true yogi, the one who has mastered yoga, and the truly happy person, is he or she who is able to tolerate and ride out these waves.

Summary

  • You have a choice.
  • Choose not to be angry, but to solve the problem.
  • Choose to be a yogi.
  • Choose to be happy.
  • There are many techniques and many pathways to a happy and satisfying life. Read more about this in my book “How to Lead a satisfying Life: 11 Universal Lessons From the Gita,” available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00W5TGM1U.

 

Want to Control Your Anger? Learn How to Breathe!

scuba

Okay, you can breathe out now!

Most of us do not know how to breathe right. And that worsens stress and tension. But let us back up a little first.

React already!

Split-second decision making is the essential survival mechanism all human beings have been blessed with. Without it, the species would have died off long ago.

Not safe! Run!

run

When we find ourselves in a novel situation, we must decide quickly whether we are safe or not. And then we have to act promptly and aggressively, if there is the slightest risk to us or our loved ones.

The anger response is part of this scenario. And there lies the problem.

Anger response

This is a simplistic response, for a good reason. In dangerous situations, we cannot afford to indulge in nuanced, balanced, and detailed thinking. We need to simplify the information available and make snap judgments.

This ability served our forefathers well, and kept them safe. But it is hurting us.

Shoot first, aim later

shoot

This was fine in the past, and is still fine in emergency situations now. But most situations where we get angry are not emergencies. At those times, we need to pause, evaluate the information we have, and then ask ourselves what else could be relevant. Then we van weigh the pros and cons of aggressive action, versus perhaps no immediate action. But the anger response does not allow us that liberty. It tells us, “Ready, shoot, aim.”

The road to destruction

Krodhaat bhavati sammohah sammohat smritivibhramah

          Smritibhranshat budhinasho budhinashat pranashyati (Gita 2:63)

The above verse, in the ancient language Sanskrit, is from an Indian epic of philosophy and religion, the Gita. Here the Hindu god Lord Krishna is explaining to his disciple Arjuna the sequence of events which leads to human beings losing their way and sliding down the slippery slope of self-destruction.

He starts out in the previous verse by saying that a fascination with sensory gratification is followed by anger when our desires are frustrated. In this verse he explains that the accumulation of anger often leads to rage, confusion, and bewilderment. That can proceed to a loss of memory and perspective, which in turn impairs one’s intellect. What follows is the complete destruction of a life.

You hurt yourself

rage

We often feel angry at others, but this emotion ends up hurting us more. Violence and aggression are common results of anger, and they can lead to painful outcomes at work, or in family situations, and even legal consequences.

Chronic anger has its own associated problems: chronic stress, feeling on edge, and at times, feelings of guilt, remorse, and shame.

There is also a connection between chronic anger, chronic stress, and cardiovascular diseases.

Your enemies

A little bit of Sanskrit from the Gita again:

Kama esha krodha esha rajoguna samudbhavah

          Mahashano mahapapma vidhayenamiha vairinam (Gita 3:37)

Here Lord Krishna describes the two major enemies of mankind: desire (especially uncontrolled desire), and anger. They are all-powerful, and capable of swallowing everything and everyone in their path.

Thus we have to fight them.

Manage thy anger

Most human beings will get angry at some point or the other. Eliminating anger may not be possible.

Thus, the goal should be to manage your anger to protect your health and safety, as well as that of people around you.

Primum non nocere

This is part of the Hippocratic oath for physicians: First of all, do no harm. This also applies to anger management.

Thus the first few steps you take ought to be directed at preventing violence.

Time out, walk away

walk

Quite often, this may be all that is needed.

Recognize that you are angry, and that reacting aggressively and violently will probably make matters worse. So, if at all possible, leave the scene of action. If you are angry at a person, tell them that you will discuss the situation later, excuse yourself, and leave. Take a walk. Go to the park. Or go to a different room.

Buying time

That is what the above actions amount to.

Problems are created when you act in anger, without thinking things through, in the heat of the moment.

Even in the middle of an argument, it is helpful to tell yourself to STOP!  Then ask yourself why you got angry in the first place.

The very act of trying to think actively and rationally will have a calming effect.

Then remind yourself of what could possibly go wrong if you yelled and screamed and exploded in a full-blown outburst of rage. Think of what that action could possibly achieve.

And then make a conscious choice: about how you should respond, rather than letting your anger push you helplessly into an involuntary response.

Yoga

 

balance-405513_1280

Many forms of yoga are helpful in long term anger management.

One of the easiest, simplest, and most relaxing of yoga poses is the shavasana, or the “corpse pose.” Regular practice of this pose is of significant benefit in stress relief and anger control.

I have described the details of this yoga pose in a previous article, and you can read about it here … http://www.shivharsh.com/?p=18

Deep breathing

deep breath

This has been studied in detail, again for stress relief and anger management.

Breathing exercises are some of the basic tenets of yoga practice. Even in day-to-day life, you can hear people say, “Take a deep breath,” when giving advice to somebody ready to explode with anger.

Don’t we know how to breathe?

Turns out, we don’t.

We breathe, on an average, about 20,000 times a day. And most people do it incorrectly most of the time.

We spend most of our time taking shallow and unconscious breaths. We also frequently hold our breath, especially if we are excited or tense. And that is just not a good way to breathe.

Baby breaths

Take the time to watch a young baby breathe. It takes slow and deep breaths, using its belly.

Things start to change fairly early for us as we get older. People tend to suck their stomachs in and puff their chest out, causing tension in the muscles. It also makes us “chest breathers.” We breathe rather fast, and expand only the upper and middle parts of our lungs. This is inefficient for proper air exchange.

To get a better feel for this, pay attention to how you breathe, when you get a chance. Notice if your belly moves in and out, or your chest does, with each “normal” breath. Also count how many times a minute you breathe.

Push that belt out

To start, find a peaceful place. You can sit up, or lie down. Then consciously take a deep breath in, imagining the diaphragm going down into your belly. Imagine, or visualize, your belt move outwards as you breathe in. Then slowly let your breath out.

With practice, you can slow your breathing to 8-10 breaths a minute, instead of the usual 14. There are people who can slow it down even more. And this has been shown to be of significant benefit, to your physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Slow, deep breathing done for about 20 minutes a day, is a very effective anger management technique. If you can’t do it all at once, even taking 3-4 deep breaths hourly while you are awake will calm you.

Other techniques

anger manage

Anger management has been studied in detail, and elaborate programs have been devised to help people.

Other forms of yoga, mindfulness meditation, rational emotive behavioral therapy, and techniques focusing on problem solving, rather than reacting, have all proven to be useful. Even simple things like “counting to ten” before you react to a stimulus which triggers anger can help.

There are also specialized programs devised by professionals, with good results.

We will discuss some of these in more detail in further posts.

In summary

  • Anger is a damaging emotion, at times hurting the one who feels it even more than the one toward whom it is directed.
  • Effective programs and techniques are available to manage anger.
  • If you have issues with anger, please take the first step, to recognize and acknowledge it.
  • Then you can move forward, and control it before it controls you.
  • Stay tuned for more updates
  • If you would like to read more about anger, happiness, and a satisfying life, you can find it in my book, “How to Lead a Satisfying Life: 11 Universal Lessons From the Gita,” which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00W5TGM1U.

 

Do You Know What Makes You Angry?

Superman

“I’m mad, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

“Don’t get mad, get even!”

Comments and advice about anger are pervasive. People get angry, and then do something about it: act on it, get even, whatever.

It usually makes matters worse.

Act on your anger?

We have all seen examples of problems this can create.

The idea of revenge, of getting even with the person who has wronged you, of hitting out at whomever has made you angry, can be very enticing, especially when you are in the throes of your strong emotion. However, doing that can often hurt you more than it hurts the other person. And it frequently does not solve the problem.

As Mahatma Gandhi believed, an eye for an eye will eventually make the entire world blind.

So bottle up your anger?

That is not very helpful, either.

It is far better to understand your anger and its manifestations. This can be a prelude to making realistic plans to control your anger and channel your feelings in a more healthy direction.

Why are you angry?

This is the most important question you must ask yourself when you get angry, or at least as soon as you are capable of rational thinking after your anger eases up a little.

Unless you can identify the underlying reasons for your anger, it is unlikely that you will be able to control the damage it does.

Judging situations

We have a storm of thoughts constantly raging in our minds. Thoughts are essential, because they determine our actions.

So when we are in a novel situation, our minds immediately go to work. We first evaluate the conditions and quickly decide whether we are safe or not.

This is a built-in evolutionary response. If our ancestors did not perceive threats quickly and respond to them right away, they had to pay a heavy price. It was essential for survival that they evaluate and act promptly.

We still have those mechanisms in us, but they do not always function as they were designed to. Also, not everybody learns the skills needed to view reality objectively.

So we can misinterpret reality, and that can make us angry.

Response to a threat

Anger is a very common response whenever we feel that we or our loved ones are facing a significant threat. The signs and symptoms of anger, which we are all familiar with, are the result of hormonal changes in our bodies, with the underlying aim being to help us to deal with the threat rapidly and aggressively.

tiger

Adrenaline pours into our bloodstream, our blood pressure and heart rate rise, and the blood flow to muscles increases. We are prepared for “fight or flight.”

All of this happens very fast, with our thinking simplified in order to just assess the threat and respond immediately. Detailed and nuanced thinking is put on the back burner.

What threat?

Sorting this out can be challenging.

The threat might be real, and it might be directed at your body.

If you are in school, a bully could be threatening you with bodily harm. As an adult, you could be assaulted by another person.

At times, the threat is to your loved ones. And that can make you even more angry. In the animal kingdom, if a baby bear faces an aggressor, the mama bear gets very vicious and fights off the invader. Human parents can behave similarly.

Threat to property

An intruder could enter your home and attempt to rob you. Most people would respond to this with anger as a prelude to violence.

Threat to ego

This can provoke anger which is often misplaced, and uncalled for.

“How dare he/she say that/do that to me!”

In strongly patriarchal societies, men can have inflated egos, and misconstrue simple comments from their significant others as direct challenges to their “authority,” or ego. This triggers a spontaneous, angry response, which can, at times, escalate into a violent outburst of rage.

Members of certain groups can take offence if they hear statements from their colleagues which they consider to be “disrespectful.”

There are also people who have a rather distorted sense of self-esteem. The slightest blow to that image they have of themselves is poorly tolerated, and can lead to outbursts of anger.

Gang violence can be a manifestation of the above phenomenon.

Threat may be imaginary

anger

This is one of the major problems we notice when we explore the emotion of anger in detail.

Real threats provoke anger, and that can be beneficial, as we try to urgently deal with an unexpected danger to life, limb, or property.

However, people can also imagine threats, and perceive threats which do not truly exist, except in their own minds. This leads to an unthinking angry response, which can hurt them.

Take a married couple, for example. One partner says or does something, which the other person does not like. It might be an innocent act, but the other person might take it as a deliberate slight. This can provoke either an outburst of rage, or sometimes passive anger, which can remain pent-up, and lead to chronic resentment. If there is a lack of frequent, honest communication, this can become a recurrent behavior pattern, driving the partners apart, and even leading to divorce.

Childhood conflicts

angry child

Not everybody has a perfect childhood. Many adults, however, can reconcile themselves with those experiences, and develop healthy attitudes as grown-ups.

Some people, on the other hand, are unable to move beyond the traumatic childhood events, which again could be real or imaginary.

A child who faces rejection from his or her parent, friends or relatives may carry a sense of bitterness, failure, and resentment into adulthood. This can cause a poor self image and a rather fragile ego. As an adult, such a person can become hyper-critical of others, and react angrily to otherwise ordinary comments and occurrences.

Unrealistic expectations

People may have an image of their abilities which is not shared by others. This leads them to feel that they will achieve certain financial or career goals, and when that does not happen, they feel disappointed. In some people, this disappointment turns into chronic bitterness, resentment, and anger.

Similarly, many people expect their friends, family members, or colleagues to act in a certain way, which may or may not be realistic. When faced with a different response, some of these these people can get very angry.

Loss of control

We are not always in control of events in the world or even in our lives. Unexpected things happen with surprising regularity in the lives of human beings. Some people are able to deal with it reasonably well, while others are not. This loss of control is a common cause for anger in many people.

Our desires or goals are interrupted

Angry

“I wanted to lead this project, but my boss has appointed John instead.”

“I wanted a diamond ring for my birthday, but my husband bought me a washing machine.”

“I want to earn a million dollars in the next five years, but the job market does not understand my unique skills.”

Feelings of entitlement

“I am smart. I should have a better job/more money/better girlfriend or boyfriend/bigger house/better car.”

Learned behavior and genetics

There are households in which one parent or the other always reacts to any unpleasant event with uncontrolled anger. Children in these households grow up without learning healthy methods of dealing with disappointments. Many of them are chronically angry as adults.

Workplace environments can also produce similar results. If your boss is constantly yelling and screaming at his or her subordinates, you might pick up those behavior patterns also, and start thinking that that is an appropriate way of dealing with others who report to you.

There is also a school of thought which believes that some children are predisposed to be more angry and irritable, and this persists in later life.

Frustration, skills and the blame game

GOLFER

A lot of people who get unduly angry repeatedly have poor social skills and a low tolerance for frustration. They have limited problem solving skills, and often blame others for their problems and their outbursts of anger. Their perception of reality is often distorted and one-sided.

Summary

Things are not always going to go the way we want them to go. People are not always going to behave the way we want them to. That is the nature of life. We need to learn to deal with this. Yelling and screaming and blaming others will not get us far. We have all seen people who do that, and most of them end up hurting themselves or their loved ones.

On the other hand, we have also seen people who react to similar circumstances in a more calm, relaxed, and mature manner. They focus on solving problems, not just on assigning blame.

We can learn to cope with our anger. For that, we need to understand what makes us angry, and then we can go on to acquire anger management skills.

We will deal with that in our subsequent posts. Stay tuned.

What about you?

What makes you angry?

How do you deal with your anger?

Please let us know.