One day, the Buddha and a large following of monks and nuns were passing through a village. The Buddha chose a large shade tree to sit beneath so the group could rest awhile out of the heat. He often chose times like these to teach, and so he began to speak. Soon, villagers heard about the visiting teacher and many gathered around to hear him.
One surly young man stood to the side, watching, as the crowd grew larger and larger. To him, it seemed that there were too many people traveling from the city to his village, and each had something to sell or teach. Impatient with the bulging crowd of monks and villagers, he shouted at the Buddha, “Go away! You just want to take advantage of us! You teachers come here to say a few pretty words and then ask for food and money!”
But the Buddha was unruffled by these insults. He remained calm, exuding a feeling of loving-kindness. He politely requested that the man come forward. Then he asked, “Young sir, if you purchased a lovely gift for someone, but that person did not accept the gift, to whom does the gift then belong?”
The odd question took the young man by surprise. “I guess the gift would still be mine because I was the one who bought it.”
“Exactly so,” replied the Buddha. “Now, you have just cursed me and been angry with me. But if I do not accept your curses, if I do not get insulted and angry in return, these curses will fall back upon you—the same as the gift returning to its owner.”
The young man clasped his hands together and slowly bowed to the Buddha. It was an acknowledgement that a valuable lesson had been learned. And so the Buddha concluded for all to hear, “As a mirror reflects an object, as a still lake reflects the sky: take care that what you speak or act is for good. For goodness will always cast back goodness and harm will always cast back harm.”
One doesn’t have to be a Buddhist to see a value in this approach.
How do you behave when someone berates you?
The first reaction is to treat him or her in the same manner. But then sparks fly and you realize that confrontation is not solving the problem. You can try to rationalize that the other person has short fuse, personal problems or is tired after being up all the night. Or just plain mean SOB. Not too much consolation.
I’ve been a target of the outbursts in my surgical times and here are my observations.
The situation arises when the other person can not handle the pressure. It’s either a low tolerance for stress, high stress event, or both.
The urge for retaliation is high.
The other person has a long history of outbursts and is inherently rude.
Imaging the other person naked doesn’t work.
Other people don’t make you angry, you do it to yourself by responding in a certain way.
Withdrawing and giving the other person room worked well for me. In a couple of times the other person later on apologized.
Thinking, or knowing, that the other person has a real problem in life may work.
Implosion or explosion are not the only choices. You can also use anger to your advantage.
Don’t escalate the problem, don’t feed the monster. For some people it’s an addiction and they marvel to see you angry.
The choice is not between suppressing or releasing it. They both harm the person and other people. The proper choice is to manage it.
Respectful, honest and non-threatening resolution is the best albeit not always achievable goal.
After the incident is over – forgive. Forgiving is actually an egoistic trait, lets you get rid of all negative thoughts toward the person in question and then move on.
Forgiveness is a good way to reach an inner peace and also a way to feel good about yourself.
My feeling is that the best way to handle the anger problem is to develop the attitude not to be bothered even by the most extreme circumstances. I know it seems unrealistic, but it often worked for me, particularly at the end of my career in the operating room. Not all the time though. But when I was able to achieve this mental status it worked beautifully. One can feel to be detached from the everyday trouble and watch all the earthly events from the above. I know it seems unrealistic, but it’s possible.
So, control your anger. But for me the best way to cope is not to let it go that far.
That much about dealing with anger directed towards you.
The next post will be about the use of anger as a powerful tool. Real or fake.