Friday, August 20, 2004

The Seduction of Anger

The Seduction of Anger

Negative emotions, like anger and hatred distort the soul. Whenever we entertain anger, we are more susceptible to becoming angry the next time a similar situation arises. Anger eventually leads to the more permanent state of hatred. Anger and hatred are such costly feelings to harbour: they become blotches in our souls that will end up sucking up all our mental and spiritual resources.

Everytime we accomodate these negative emotions, we make them stronger, and we let them gain more power over our lives. The soul eventually becomes so warped that a man who is so full of anger and spite is an instinctively repulsive person. One can feel it from miles away.

How then do we prevent anger and hatred from arising? Don't they arrive spontaneously? In a way they do. But often we are also guilty of encouraging their growth. We know anger is seething, but we continue feeding its flame by finding more justification for it. We gather all the negatives together and further reinforce their strength.

Most of the time we choose not to see the positives in a person or situation for our minds abhors ambiguities. The mind has a habit of "digitizing" the world into '1's and '0's. A digitized world makes it easier to handle--because everything is either black or white. Someone is either very bad or very good. If a person is slightly bad, he is very very bad. He is hopeless and stupid. Judgement becomes quick and easy.

We "enjoy" being angry because the emotion of anger gives us a false sense of strength--it makes us feel very right. By reinforcing someone else's "blackness', we emphasize our own "whiteness".

Doesn't anger have any value at all? It does. Anger--like fear--is at best taken as a signal for action. Something is not right and something needs to be done. That something is definitely not more anger but action that will help eleviate the situation.

Anger, pain and fear are all feedback emotions. We are supposed to interpret and analyze their root causes and do something to remove them. These feedback signals help to trigger action that will ensure the stability of the system. And that certainly does not include hurling abuses or bashing the person you dislike.

Anger and hatred are very seductive emotions. When we have so much to be angry about, we have a "cause". We want to lead a revolution to change the world. It could well turn out to be a good thing, but often we just want to inflate our ego. We want to proclaim to the world how self-righteous we are.

Sometimes people say we need to vent our anger--all those bottled up emotions could be very harmful. We need a punching bag. Unfortunately, the more we vent, the more we reinforce the cycle of anger and violence, turning it into an undesirable habit.

It is much better for us to learn to build an early-warning system to detect potential hot-spots, and defuse them before they grow to the point of no-control. To do that requires a mindfulness and awareness of one's thought processes--a subject I've touched on so many times before.

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