Below is a summary of various approaches to anger. They obviously will
be most efficient when used with a calm and concentrated mind, either during
meditation or at the moment you realize that something needs to be done about
your anger. Obviously, the problem during an actual difficult situation is to
have a calm and concentrated mind – a regular meditation practice can be of
great help then! One of the best ways to really make progress with
understanding and changing the functioning of our own mind is to try out
analytical meditation, combined with these clues. See also Meditation on Anger.
Antidote 01 – Patience..
Patience is the main antidote to anger. As common wisdom says: just
count to 100… During this time, any of the below methods can be effective. The
most effective method will depend on the actual situation. Especially in our
age of rush and intense change, patience may not be seen as a positive quality,
but take a minute to think about it – impatience can easily give rise to a
general feeling of anger.
Antidote 02 – Realisation of the
Noble Truth of Suffering..
Once one understands that problems and frustration are a basic fact of
life, it can reduce our impatience with our own unrealistic expectations. In
other words: nothing is perfect, so don’t expect it. If I believe that things
should be perfect, it is almost unavoidable to feel disappointed and hurt.
Antidote 03 – Understanding
As explained in the page on Karma, the real reason for our problems are
our own actions, which are in turn caused by our own negative states of mind.
If someone makes us angry, it can have a sobering effect if we dare to think
that the real reasons for this situation are our own past actions, and the
person is just a circumstance for our own karma ripening.
Antidote 04 – Changing or
Basically, we can find ourselves in two types of unpleasant situations:
ones we can change and ones we cannot change.
- If I can change the situation, I should do something about it instead
of getting all worked-up and angry. Not acting in such a situation will cause
frustration in the end.
- If I cannot change the situation, I will have to accept it. If I
don’t, it will only lead to frustration and a negative and unpleasant state of
mind, which will only make the situation worse.
For reasons unclear to me, Westerners (including myself) appear to have
big problems with accepting unpleasant situations which we cannot change. Could
this be a result of impatience (a form of anger) with imperfection (an
Do consider the wisdom in the following remarks:
How does this effect my Buddhist practice?It doesn’t.These reported events are like an arrow shot at my heart but it lands at my
feet.I choose not to bend over, pick it up, and stab myself with it.”
Antidote 05 – Realistic
For example: someone accuses me of something.
- If it is true, I apparently made a mistake, so I should listen and
- If it is untrue, the other person makes a mistake. So what? Nobody is
perfect. I also make mistakes, and it is all too easy to label the other as
“enemy”, in which case a helpful discussion or forgiving becomes difficult.
It may also be worthwhile searching for the real underlying reason of
the problem. Of special importance is to evaluate one’s own role in the
situation: my own fears, insecurity, being very unfriendly, or not being
blameless (like leaving home much too late for an appointment and blaming the 5
minute delay of the train).
Antidote 07 – Realisation of
See the page on Wisdom. To summarise it briefly, if one deeply realises
the emptiness of inherent existence or interdependence of the other person, the
situation and oneself, there is nothing to be angry about. The realisation of
emptiness is therefore the ultimate means of ridding oneself of unrealistic negative
emotions like anger.
Antidote 08 – Equanimity..
Equanimity means that one realises the basic equality of all sentient
beings; others want happiness, just like I do. Others make mistakes just like I
do. Others are confused, angry and attached, just like I often am. Is the other
person happy in this situation, or just struggling like I am?
Antidote 09 – Openness..
Be prepared to be open for the motivation of others to do what causes
you problems. Talking it over and being prepared to listen can suddenly make a
problem acceptable. Have you ever noticed the difference when a plane or train
is delayed and nobody provides any reason for it? People very quickly become
irritated and hostile. Then when the driver or pilot explains there is a
technical defect or an accident, suddenly waiting becomes easier.
Antidote 10 – Relativity..
Ask yourself: is this situation is actually important enough to spoil
your own and other people’s mood? Is this problem worth getting upset in a life
where death can hit me at any moment?
Antidote 11 – Change Your Motivation..
In case a situation is really unacceptable, and another person needs to
be convinced that something is to be done or changed, there is no need to
become upset and angry. It is likely much more efficient if you show
understanding and attempt to help the other understand the need for change. If
one needs to appear angry for some reason to convince the other person of the
seriousness of the situation, one can think like a parent acting wrathful to
prevent the child from harming itself.
In general, to be really effective one needs to reflect on quite a
number of aspects in one’s own mind like: forgiveness, peace of mind, fears,
self-acceptance (no acceptance of others is really possible without
self-acceptance), habits, prejudices etc. A list of aspects to start with is
given in the page about the mind, under the 26 non-virtuous mental factors.
Antidote 12 – Watch Your Hands..
An interesting suggestion from Jon Kabat-Zinn, from ‘Wherever You Go,
There You Are‘:
“All our hand postures are mudras in that they are associated with
subtle or not-so-subtle energies. Take the energy of the fist, for instance.
When we get angry, our hands tend to close into fists. Some people unknowingly
practice this mudra a lot in their lives. It waters the seeds of anger and
violence within you ever time you do it, and they respond by sprouting and
The next time you find yourself making fists out of anger, try to bring
mindfulness to the inner attitude embodied in a fist. Feel the tension, the
hatred, the anger, the aggression, and the fear which it contains. Then, in the
midst of your anger, as an experiment, if the person you are angry at is
present, try opening your fists and placing the palms together over your heart
in the prayer position right in front of him. (Of course, he won’t have the
slightest idea what you are doing.) Notice what happens to the anger and hurt
as you hold this position for even a few moments.”
Antidote 13 – Meditation..
Last, but certainly not least, meditation can be the ultimate cure for
completely eliminating anger from your mind. In the beginning, one can do
analytical meditations (like this meditation on anger), but meditations on
compassion, love and forgiving reduce anger as well. Ultimately, the
realization of emptiness eradicates all delusions such as anger.