Friday, August 24, 2012

Rage against the Machine - Part II

Open any of the numerous books on anger management and you'll find many effective strategies for combating anger, from reducing stress levels to cognitive-behavioural therapy. These are certainly worth exploring and trying. I'd like to touch on an antidote which I believe targets the cognitive root of the anger problem.

In a nutshell, the antidote to anger is truth. The notion of truth, however, is multi-faceted, so let's explore how some of  the quality's different aspects can help one deal with some of the triggers of anger - 'board abuse' - identified in the previous post.

a) Everything has positive and negative aspects, advantages and disadvantages. To perceive the truth, one must see both sides. One who angers on account of 'failure' in skateboarding sees only the negative in the experience. By identifying the positive elements as well - I.e. one learns from one's mistakes, one still gets exercise even when failing to land a trick, failure is part of the process of skill development, etc - anger can be tempered or even precluded.

b) Wisdom results from pursuing truth. Wisdom is the ultimate source of human strength,  esteem, and influence. The wiser a person, the less he requires superficial expressions of power to influence others. This is highlighted by the teaching, 'the wise speak softly.' Because they speak from a place of wisdom and feel the potency of their messages, they need not shout them out, for the message will have impact regardless. In contrast, one communicating nonsense compensates by forcing  his message onto others through means such as violence and anger.

c) One who gets angry at others has typically lost sight of their feelings and sensitivities. He has lost his empathic sense and become detached from the truth of the other's being. In our case, the skater has not only lost sight of the value of his skateboard, but more importantly, his own well being which is harmed by his anger.    

d) Anger is usually an impulsive and premature reaction to a situation where one believes he has grasped the situation at hand and sees it worthy of 'indignation'. In fact, however, anyone trying to discern the truth of a matter, from the true nature of an object to the details of an event, must investigate the matter thoroughly. Indeed, one who pursues truth senses that he only ever has a limited grasp of things and thus seldom angers, for anger stems from presumptuous conviction.

e) Joseph was kidnapped by his brothers, sold into slavery, separated from his father for many years, and unjustly imprisoned for a decade. If anyone should have been bitter at life, and particularly at his tormentors, it should have been him. Yet, when his brothers came before him and, as 'Prime Minister' of Egypt, he had the ability to exact revenge, Joseph did nothing of the sort. Instead, he assured them that though they acted malevolently toward him, God sent him to Egypt for his and their benefit. Joseph saw behind the smoke screen of the external world and connected to the beneficent God governing it. Yes, his brothers did choose to sell him as a slave with mal-intent, but God wanted him in Egypt having had those the experiences. Had the brothers not sold him, God would have used other means to send him into Egypt. Truth is about looking beyond the surface of things to their core. Underlying reality, as difficult as it may be to see, is the guiding hand of a benevolent God. Anger is thus never warranted. (Indignation, however, is a different story).  

f) Truth also involves maintaining focus on one's central objectives, without distraction. Unless a person is getting paid to skate (and even then), he does so to enjoy himself through one of the craft's many benefits: fitness, artistic self expression, relaxation and escape from stressors, challenge, skill development, fun, etc. One should savour the gift. And, since no one is forced to skate, one frequently angered by skateboarding has lost the plot and should ask himself: Indeed, why do I skate?                           

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