Anatomy of Anger and Retaliation
Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj
How does anger arise? Does it only affect us at the emotional level or do we do physical harm to ourselves when we give in to anger? How can we break free from its grip and what are the benefits of doing so?
Dealing with a universal problem
We can safely assume that all of us go through life with some incident happening that we do not like or that hurts us. Some person has wronged us in some way. Maybe someone has said something to hurt our feelings or hurt us physically. Someone might have taken something from us. Maybe someone has cheated, deceived, or lied to us. Someone we trusted might have broken that trust. Power, position, or wealth might have been taken from us. There is always a root cause of a problem between two people.
Our initial response
So, what happens next? We become upset, hurt, annoyed, and angry. We think about what happened. We don’t like it and we can’t seem to forget it, thinking about it again and again. We may even talk about it repeatedly either to the person who hurt us or to others. Some people who have less control over themselves may thrash out physically to the person or take out their anger on someone else.
How our mind escalates the problem
As the incident escalates, we find our thoughts and words occupied with how to rectify the situation. Some people will try to solve the problem peacefully by talking it over with the person who they felt had wronged them. Sometimes we try that, but the other person is not willing to listen to change. Then, we feel we must do something more drastic.
This leads to retaliation or revenge. We begin to think about ways to get back at the person who hurt us, or we think about ways to get even with them. We want to see justice done. Our mind refuses to forget what has happened until we retaliate.
Thus, from that one incident, we end up creating more scenarios and situations in response. The other person then may get back at us for retaliating. A cycle of action and reaction may go on and on, escalating a small situation into a major problem.
In the video below, taped during a winter holiday program in the Chicago area, Sant Rajinder Singh Ji describes the power of forgiveness and how it can help us rise above feelings of anger (excerpt):
Paying the price
What has happened in the process? We have lost our peace of mind. The initial incident may have lasted a few moments, or a few hours, or a day, but we have now spent hundreds of hours and countless days replaying what happened and thinking about how to get even.
In the process, the precious moments of our life have been wasted. Instead of keeping our attention on what can help us, we have wasted the time in replaying a bad movie. Thus, we lose more than the person does to whom we are directing our anger.
If someone has hurt us, we can choose to forgive and forget, or we can choose to retaliate. The choice is ours to make.
Vengeance harms your body
We do physical harm to ourselves when we are caught up in anger, hatred, and vengeance. These feelings cause damage to the body.
There are certain responses in the physical body designed to help protect itself in order to preserve the species. When a living creature senses danger, there are certain hormonal and chemical reactions within the body that help it respond to danger. These hormones cause one to fight or take flight. They are useful for giving the body strength and quick physical responses, such as running or protecting one’s self. But if we interpret daily problems as life-threatening when they are not a threat to survival, then we are responding with the fight or flight hormones for no reason.
The result is that we do not see a need to flee or fight, but we feel threatened. This converts into anger or rage. We become angry over situations that don’t threaten our life. This causes the body to circulate hormones needed to run or protect one’s self over minor situations that are part of daily life. Because these hormones, such as cortisol, are circulating through us when we do not need them to, they end up causing damage.
We know, for example, that cortisone has side effects on the body, so doctors recommend using it cautiously. However, the body’s natural cortisol, when we are angry or under stress, ends up circulating through us, causing stress-related ailments. If one is continually in that state of fear, anger, or stress, those hormones cause a breakdown of other body tissues. This is what causes stress-related ailments such as digestive problems, headaches, heart problems, skin problems, and breathing problems.
Forgiveness is the Answer
The solution for protecting the body against the hormones released by hatred, anger, and vengeance is simple: forgiveness. It is only through forgiveness that we can calm ourselves down and avoid the reactions of hatred and violence.
One technique to develop forgiveness is meditation. The problems of life will not end. However, through meditation we can focus our attention on the peace within so we can rise above life’s difficulties.
Meditation can lead to forgiveness
Through meditation we are in touch with a place of calm within us that gives us the strength to forgive others, overcome anger, and stay calm. We can choose peace and calm which will help improve our physical and mental health, and make for a happier life.