On the Anger Habit
Peace Pilgrim

I'll mention here a couple of other habits. One of them is the anger habit. Tremendous energy comes with anger. It's sometimes called the anger energy. Do not suppress it:  that would hurt you inside. Do not express it:  this would not only hurt you inside, it would cause ripples in your surroundings. What you do is transform it. You somehow use that tremendous energy constructively on a task that needs to be done, or in a beneficial form of exercise.

The best way to talk to you about this is to tell you what some people actually did. For instance, one woman washed all the windows in the house, another woman vacuumed the house whether it needed it or not, and another baked bread--nice, whole grain bread. And another one sat down and played the piano:  wild marches at first, then she'd cool down and play gentle things like hymns and lullabies, and then I knew she was all right.

There was a man who got out his manual lawnmower.  Remember, the manual lawnmower has no motor.  You may never have seen one! And he mowed his big lawn.  I was staying next door to him.  Then one day he came over and borrowed his neighbor's power lawnmower.  I spoke to him about it and he said, "Oh, without the anger energy I could never mow that big lawn with a manual lawnmower."  You see, it's really tremendous energy.

Then there was this man who saved his marriage.  He had such a bad temper that his young wife was about to leave him and take their two small children along.  And he said, "I'm going to do something about this!"  And he did.  Whenever he felt a temper tantrum coming on, instead of throwing things all over the house which had been his previous custom, he got out there and jogged.  Round and round the block, until he was all out of breath and the energy was all gone--and he saved his marriage.  It worked.  I saw him again years later, and I asked him, "Well, are you still jogging?"  "Oh, a little bit for exercise," he said, "but I haven't had a temper tantrum for years."  As you use the energy constructively you lose the anger habit.

These techniques have also worked with children. I recall one ten-year-old boy. I was trying to help his mother because she was having an awful time with him. He got temper tantrums and one time, when he was not having a tantrum, I asked him, "Of all the things you do what takes the most energy?" And he said, "I guess running up the hill in the back of the house." And so we found a wonderful solution. Every time his mother saw the sign of a temper tantrum she would push him out the door and say, "Go run up the hill." It worked so well that when a teacher told me she was having a similar problem with a boy about the same age I suggested she tell him to run around the schoolhouse, and that worked too.

Now I'll tell you about another couple. They got mad at the same time, and they decided to walk around the block. One walked one way and one walked the other way, but they met at frequent intervals. And when they could meet amicably they walked home together and discussed what had caused their angers and what could be done to remedy it in the future. This was a very wise thing to do. You should never try to talk to someone who is angry, because that person is not rational at that time.

I'll tell one more story about a young mother. She has three children under school age, and she said, "When I get mad I feel like running, but I can't. I can't leave my three small children. And I usually end up taking it out on them." I said to her, "Have you ever tried running in place?" And I could just see her running in place.

She wrote to me: "Peace, it works wonderfully well. It not only gets rid of the anger energy, but it amuses the children!"

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I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to
conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into
energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted
into a power which can move the world.

Mohandas Gandhi


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Anger destroys the angry person and all those around him or her.  The
angry father can cause fear and terror among his children.  The angry
wife and mother can manipulate with a force and subtlety that can be
felt for years.  Open anger roars through human relations with a
destructive force--a firestorm.  The hidden anger that burns and attacks
and manipulates can last for years.  It destroys the underbrush; it twists
and poisons the ground growth.  And so with us.  The ferocious exterior
flame is uncontrollable except over a long period of work and time.
We must isolate our anger and allow it to burn itself out.

Edward J. Lavin


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