Anger is one of the few human emotions that, or so we tell ourselves, we feel completely justified in expressing in a totally unconstrained way when the time is right. After all, when the kids make us cross by refusing to tidy their rooms, or when someone cuts us up at traffic lights we generally feel almost obligated to express all of our pent up feelings towards the guilty.
But what if there was a better and more productive way of dealing with our anger—one that frees us from being controlled or dominated by its vehement nature.
The Venerable Alubomulle Sumanasara, teacher of the Buddhist tradition and best-selling author, proposes that anger is not only damaging to ourselves, to those around us but also creates confusion and dislocation with our Souls’.
In his book, Freedom from Anger: Understanding It, Overcoming It, and Finding Joy, he condenses his thoughts on the topic of anger and anger-related emotions and within it offers an approach to anger that fits into both the structures of the Western mind and the constructs of the Eastern spiritual framework of Buddhism.
In opening his book Alubomulle Sumanasara expresses the personal opinion that
Sharing your life with anger is contrary to the Universal law of living….
This being the case, then how exactly do we cope with the stresses of modern life and with the sheer number of emotional triggers to which we are subjected during the course of an average day?
The answer, to a degree, is to be found within the opposing force to anger—that being love; for whilst the former is a destructive energy that can introduce disunity into our lives the latter is quite the opposite, it is a unifying power that heals and expands our life experience.
Sumanasara identifies several different types of anger in his book. These range from pure out-and-out hatred through to rage, envy, resentment and even arrogance.
Whilst all of these different levels of anger emanate from within ourselves their triggers very often originate from outside of ourselves.
We nvariably find that it is people and their perceived irrational actions that represent the most common triggers to setting off anger within ourselves—though as the author points out, we can equally become just as angry with ourselves for our own failings.
The way to resolve both these things is through compassion—both for ourselves as well as for others. Another approach is to learn to become accepting of the imperfections that are inherent within ourselves, others and even within life itself.
The author explains how specific elements within the current state of human consciousness form fertile ground for the development of anger.
These include the sense of deflation that we feel at the hands of someone or by some thing, anger formed through theft and personal loss, internal brooding upon personal hurts but most of all through an over-development of the personal ego.
In part two of Freedom from Anger: Understanding It, Overcoming It, and Finding Joy the author looks specifically at the psychospiritual processes that so often invoke the destruction of happuness as a resiult of anger.
He feels that sometimes this is process is acerbated as a result of associating with other angry people, frustrated and negative people.
In part three Sumanasara explains how people who do no not experience anger, or who have bred it out of their emotional ssytems, deal with the sort of difficult people and challenging circumstances that others find so often trigers off their own anger.
With reference to stories and teachings from Buddhism the author reveals the different spiritual approaches that calmer and more reflective individuals can train themselves to devlop in order to conquer the anger demons and to learn how such personal traits as humility are important personal characteristics to develop.
Other technique, according to the author, includes the ability to remain at peace with oneself all of the time and to create what he refers to as an ‘immovable heart’.
Part four, titled ‘The Solution to Anger’, looks at specific techniques that can be employed when applying alternatives to erupting angrily in any given situation. This includes specific advice for parents when dealing with difficult children, on letting go of self-importance, self-loathing, competitivness etc.
Whilst wisdom, understanding the broader issues in a situation and patience can all help with dealing with anger it is laughter, or so the author advises us, that is the greatest dispeller of anger.
As Alubomulle Sumanasara himself states,
Learn to laugh and the world becomes a funnier place.
This is a book that will, I am sure, make some readers angry—which is a shame as that is completely contrary to its authors intention.
Why should it do so? Well, the reseason, to my mind, is that the simple wisdom and kindly advice on offer by Alubomulle Sumanasara for coping with anger exposes how overly complicated the approach by Western psychologists to the subject, is.
Given that anger is such a prevailent force in our society it may well come as a shock to discover that, if the author is to be believed, our resolution to this problem is quite simple and is to be found within the tenets of Buddhist philosopy.
In this regard I found his arguments most convincing and very well presented. Whilst they are presented within a Buddhist framework this spiritual framework it does not dominate his ideas—ideas that really require no such beliefs and which will resonate equally with any Buddhist, non-Buddhist or secular perspective.
Whilst I would agree that this is not a book that can cure those individuals who suffer from the sort of deep personal and psychological issues or traumas which so often create pent-up anger and self-loathing, I found it to be an excellent book—one that offers some great advice to those, mainly as a result of the stresses of modern, day-to-day living, who invariably have to cope with living with a short fuse.
What is most impressive about this book, other than the insightful way it manages to drive into the heart of anger, is in the way it is constructed. Rather than comprising chapter upon chapter of interminable psychowaffle it takes one consideration surrounding anger, comments upon it is a succinct and thoughful way before moving onto the next page and the next topic.
Goodness, I wish a few more books were written this way for it is a far superior way of disseminating important information in more easily manageble chunks as well as offering the reader space to consider and digest each series of ideas.
So, this is, in my opinion, a book that cuts to the chase, illiminates the BS that ordinarily surrounds the subject of anger and which successfully argues the case that anger, contrary to a what psychologists suggest, is not an unevitable aspect of the human psyche. Instead the book offers much more, asks little from its reader in return and serves up a wonderful blast of refreshing spiritual insights into a condition that blights all of our lives to one degree or another.
Freedom From Anger identifies the roots of a thoroughly modern problem. It then moves beyond them and offers an effective course of personal remedy and anger resolution that will result in the return of joy, peace and happiness to us all. Highly recommended!