Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Dalai Lama on Working with Anger

A Handbook for Living
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week

Q: Let's say that someone makes you angry. Your natural response to being hurt, your immediate response, is to get angry.... You might think about the event later, even much later, and every time you think about it you become angry all over again. How would you suggest dealing with that kind of situation?

Dalai Lama: If you look from a different angle, then surely the person who caused this anger in you will have a lot of other positive aspects, positive qualities.

Q: But what about if you look for the positive angles of a person or event and can't find any?

DL: Here, I think, we would be dealing with a situation where you might need to make some effort. Spend some time seriously searching for a different perspective on the situation. Not just in a superficial way. But in a very pointed and direct way. You need to use all your powers of reasoning and look at the situation as objectively as possible.

For instance, you might reflect on the fact that when you are really angry at someone you tend to perceive them as having 100 percent negative qualities. Just as when you are strongly attracted to someone the tendency is to see them as having 100 percent positive qualities. But this perception does not correspond with reality. If your friend, who[m] you view as so wonderful, were to purposely harm you in some way, suddenly you would become acutely aware that they aren't composed of 100 percent good qualities.

Similarly, if your enemy, the one you hate, were to sincerely beg your forgiveness and continue to show you kindness, it's unlikely that you would continue to perceive them as 100 percent bad. So, even though when you are angry at someone you might feel that the person has no positive qualities, the reality is that nobody is 100 percent bad. They must have some good qualities if you search hard enough. So, the tendency to see someone as completely negative is due to your own perception based on your own mental projection, rather than the true nature of that individual.

In the same way, a situation that you initially perceive as 100 percent negative may have some positive aspects to it. But I think that even if you have discovered a positive angle to a bad situation, that alone is often not enough. You still need to reinforce that idea. So you may need to remind yourself of that positive angle many times, until gradually your feeling changes.

Generally speaking, once you're already in a difficult situation, it isn't possible to change your attitude simply by adopting a particular thought once or twice. Rather it's through a process of learning, training, and getting used to new viewpoints that enables you to deal with the difficulty.

--from The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.

1 comment:

Constance said...

Nice. I continue to see more skillful ways of understanding others; a good reminder.