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I noticed I sometimes feel anger when someone treats me unjustly, or criticizes me or one of my works. I know Buddhism advises waiting, or not acting upon anger. However, every time someone irritates me this way I am extremely tempted to say something mean, or when I get criticized I often delete my works or remove a comment. In a sense, these are respectively fight and flight responses.

What would Buddhism advise to avoid reacting to anger in either way described?

Thank you.

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One of my early teachers suggested:

  1. Externalize the core of anger within yourself as "not me". Meaning, you say to yourself "this is my ego getting angry", "this is my ego feeling hurt", or "this is my ego wants to feel superior" etc. Blame it on the ego, then discipline the ego like a misbehaving child.

  2. identify the source of anger in an attachment. You say to yourself: "looks like I assign too much importance to X" or "looks like I'm overgeneralizing Y" or "looks like I stereo-typically identify A with B while in fact they are not always the same". As you identify the attachment, you know it's not you who's angry, it's your attachment that is angry (ego is made of attachments). Let go of the attachment and the anger will subside.

My root guru also taught a more advanced technique:

  1. See your anger directly as somatic energy overlayed on the body-image. As you look at it directly you can transmute it from whatever it is to pure energy, or in the worst case to regular headache :)
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The first step in dealing with anger is to have a clear understanding of the psychology of anger.

Anger can be defined as an emotion that has the function of giving overriding importance to addressing a perceived injustice in an energetic and focused manner. The perceived injustice can take many forms. As with all emotions, the mental process of addressing an issue in this way is not an intentional action. Instead, it is motivated by a spontaneous and unconscious decision-making process. Usually, the injustice addressed is personal in nature, largely because more abstract injustices are addressed intentionally under selected circumstances. In many cases, anger is imposed upon the perpetrator of the injustice with the purpose of correcting his or her behaviour. Another attribute of most emotions is the engagement of an extremely narrow frame of reference.

The problem with anger, of course, are its unwelcome or harmful consequences. The reality is that anger seldom has valuable consequences. In many cases anger is inappropriate. Although getting angry “when someone treats me unjustly” sounds appropriate, it is laden with potential consequences that can be harmful. This is due to two facts:

  1. your anger is based entirely on your perception, understanding, and assessment of the motives of another person; and

  2. you are certain you are correct in your assessment. This assessment may include dogmatic beliefs about that another person.

    Through your anger, you confront that person with your beliefs about them and you do so with force and with no possibility of dialogue on the issue. Chances are the other person views the situation differently and you do not care. You can end up losing a friend or being viewed as a narrow-minded, self-centered, or even potentially dangerous person. In the meantime, you walk away feeling good that you have successfully addressed an injustice.

The answer to your question: Do not act on your anger, by counting to ten if you have to. And study your anger after it has passed. Consider the possible harm you may have avoided by not acting on your anger. If your anger is violent or out of control, then find a good psychotherapist to find the unconscious causes of your anger.

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    Thank you for the edit ChrisW. By far the greatest harm done by anger is parental anger that causes children to lose contact with their own love, awareness, and innate wisdom. Such anger undermines the emotional development of children for the remainder of their lives. Such anger is the greatest cause of human suffering. This fact is not an "amorphous blob" Dr. Storr. – Ronald Cowen Dec 9 '17 at 9:46
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I think reflecting on how you yourself suffer when overcome by ‘negative’ off any emotion that causes you suffering. Realize and see, understand how you yourself suffer from this anger. You find a way to end it, simply because it’s better for you, not to mention others too. But, of course, you have stop the fight back impulse initially, and then examine how that anger makes you feel. You might find some common theme from the past in there,

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The Chachakka Sutta - The Six Sets of Six has been useful for me when noticeable unwholesome, wholesome or neutral states arise. It is an easy and deeply useful Sutta to memorize and I find its wisdom of great assistance while working to develop a still mind.

With Metta

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Here's a sutta about an ideal way to respond to being "abused and criticized in foul and harsh words, reviled":

Akkosa Sutta: Insult

I think I interpret it literally, i.e. if someone uses harsh words I see it as a statement about their state of mind.

You can maybe take it too far, e.g. if I irritate you and you tell me so, it may be wrong of me to assume that irritation is all your fault.

Nevertheless I think's it's a good sutta.

I'm rather struck by one of the statements in it, though:

Knowing that the other man is angry,
He mindfully maintains his peace
And endures the anger of both,
His own, as well as of the other

I think that's saying that when you converse with someone who is angry, then you yourself will feel some anger. I'm not sure why that's so, whether it's a selfish reaction ("how dare he?!") or a sympathetic reaction.

In summary:

  • Try to behave toward others in a way that doesn't occasion their anger
  • Keep to this kind of behaviour:

    Even so, brahman, you are abusing us who do not abuse, you are angry with us who do not get angry, you are quarreling with us who do not quarrel.

    And avoid engaging in this kind of behaviour:

    When, brahman, one abuses back when abused, repays anger in kind, and quarrels back when quarreled with, this is called, brahman, associating with each other and exchanging mutually. This association and mutual exchange we do not engage in

  • If you feel anger then mindfully maintain your peace and endure it.

    He alone wins the battle hard to win.
    He promotes the weal of both,
    His own, as well as of the other.

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Practice the Eightfold Path.

Practice metta and compassion for short term relief of anger.

Practice some form of mindful meditation for permanent relief of anger and suffering.

Maybe you already know but just in case anyone doesn't know, it's good to practice the Dhamma as opposed to just looking at it and studying it intellectually. The Dhamma is something to do, to make good karma with and let go of bad karma.

Practicing the Dhamma is like driving a car to Nirvana City.

If you admire cars, don't start the car and just learn how it can move on the road then that is like only studying the Dhamma. At the most it is like pushing the car to a better place but not clear to Nirvanaville although anything is possible but it would be a very rare occurrence so it wouldn't be wise to count on not practicing and only studying.

That's what I have been taught and what my experience tells me so take it as my opinion as always.

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