A Hindu saint who was visiting the river Ganges to bathe found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples smiled and asked:
‘Why do people shout in anger at each other?’
Disciples thought for a while, one of them said, ‘Because we lose our calm, we shout.’
‘But why should you shout when the other person is right next to you?,” asked the saint. ‘You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner.’
Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples.
Finally the saint explained, ‘When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.
What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small…’
The saint continued, ‘When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper, then they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.’
He looked at his disciples and said, ‘So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, do not say words that distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.’
The story testifies to one key aspect about anger – it’s an alienating emotion which we can’t afford. Think about it… when we are angry we feel misunderstood and have a deep wish to be heard, but ironically, our tone of voice achieves the exact opposite. It’s a shame as we might be communicating a valid point but because we spit fire, our words close, instead of open, the situation to a solution.
It’s also quite evident that by shouting the person we hurt the most is us. It all boomerangs back in the form of elevated cortisol levels, increased heart rate, and planting of ugly seeds in our minds to ripen in the future.
Having said that, I realize shouting is a strong habit, a truly hard one to break. In reality, the lesson from the poetic parable is extremely difficult to apply as our hard-wired instinct is to simply get it all out – “tell them how it is!”
Having cultivated this attitude our entire lives it may seem like an impossible feat of brain acrobatics but change is possible. If anything, this should only remind us on the amount of effort one should exert himself in order to transform.
The key to anger management is to cultivate enlightened attitudes (as the one proposed by the Indian teacher) when we’re sober (not angry), and commit our minds to practice what we learned during the next onset of frustration. In order for the space between frustration and shouting to appear, one simply needs to take three or five deep breaths deeply into the abdomen to reset the physiological response and allow one’s pre-frontal cortex to kick in and process the situation with more emotional intelligence.
See if you can remember this: shouting creates a distance, crushes relationships, and has a devastating boomerang effect for both health and future happiness. When angry just BREATH, give it a moment then respond. If furious – get away, retreat and wait, then respond. A moment of patience is worth more than gold.
P.S. Got anger? Download my FREE report called “7 Secrets of Anger Management from Ancient Wisdom.” I’ve spend years gathering the advice that is presented in it. If you’re on a spiritual path this could be a life-changing e-book for you. (You’ll find it in the upper right corner.)