Special Topics

Modern People’s Mental Issues - Intense Anger

Anger is one of the three poisons of Buddhism. Modern people are easily prone to anger, thereby causing many serious social and family problems. Why do people get angry so easily? What are the concepts or methods to treat this problem?

In Buddhism, anger or rage is called "Dvesa" in Sanskrit, which is one of the fundamental vexations. Anger is referred to as one of the three poisons, alongside greed and ignorance. Venerable Kuan Qian, head of the Chue Feng Buddhist Art and Culture Foundation, believes that, from the point of view of Yogācāra, anger is a mental affliction that is relatively easier to overcome than other fundamental vexations. She remarked, "Dvesa is the vexation caused by the external stimulations from form, sound, smell, taste, and touch." "When anger arises, it is usually gross and violent, which makes one vent their anger uncontrollably on people around them. This will lead one to create unwholesome karma very easily and form bad karmic affinities with others." The Venerable explained that this is why anger is called the "fire of ignorance" in Buddhism. Furthermore, "anger is the fire in mind, which can burn up the forest-like merits", and "one single thought of anger will open a million doors of barriers". These lines refer to the way that the fire of anger can destroy all the merits one has cultivated, and its influence is very huge.

Huang Wenxiang, Dean of Ping An Psychiatric Hospital, remarked that in the process of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy is usually used to suppress a patient's impulses that are caused by anger. First of all, the past experiences of anger will be analyzed, the purpose of which is to guide the patient to think about the thought that arose prior to the past experience of anger. What kind of past experiences does the anger relate to? "Some people are prone to impulsive actions due to anger; however, when their anger is over, they will regret it. After all, the consequences that accompany the anger are often something they hate or even can't bear." Huang Wenxiang explained that before emotions explode, if, through training, one can quickly bring to mind the extremely unpleasant and severe consequences caused by rage in the past, one can strengthen one's ability to become more aware of any physical and mental precursors to anger. This will alert the individual that they are about to be controlled by anger and rage, thereby reinforcing the ability to hit the brakes to stop impulsive behaviors caused by anger. However, using this method to suppress anger means that only when the patient has actually suffered several losses due to anger and, thus, paid a heavy price, can they practice forewarning themselves of the damage caused by anger.

Of utmost importance is to practice dealing with anger in daily life; that is, to observe our own body and mind, at any time, in order to reduce mental afflictions and defilements, so that our mind will not be carried away by external circumstances. "People who are prone to anger usually have more vexations and are more likely to conflict with others." Child and adolescent psychiatrist Chen Zhengxiong suggested that if one has no religious beliefs, one can use calligraphy, Tai Chi or yoga exercises to help become more settled. Once the mind is calm, one's attachment to the Five Desires and Six Dusts of the outside world will not be very strong; at the same time, the possibilities for conflicts with others will be minimized.

Extended Reading:

Modern People's Mental Issues - Too many wandering thoughts

Modern People's Mental Issues - Materialistic Obsession

Modern People's Mental Issues - Chronic Depression

Modern People's Mental Issues - Intense Anger

Buddhist Methods for Training the Mind - The Seven Stages to Regulate the Mind

The Key to Training the Mind—Chan Practice

The Key to Training the Mind—Single-minded, undisturbed concentration through Buddha-name recitation

The Key to Training the Mind—A focused mind through upholding a dharani/mantra

Resource: Issue 316 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Venerable Guo Shyang
Translation: Henrick 
Editing: Keith Brown, Olivia