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You Will Not Be Punished For Your Anger

anger cartoonI’m sure you may well have heard the quote, “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”

It is widely attributed to the Buddha and even though he never said it I bet if he were around today he’d wish he had and would probably be claiming it to be his on Twitter.

It has been something that I have talked about recently whilst working with a client who is harboring a great deal of anger, resentment and hostility toward another person.

If I told you the story behind the anger and hostility I’m fairly sure you’d nod your head in agreement and say something like, “Yeh I’d be pretty damn pissed about that too. Good for her!

Bluntly put, her reaction is perfectly normal and in many respects even appropriate, but it’s still not useful.

It isn’t solving anything. It isn’t showing the other person ‘what for’ because it’s doubtful he even knows about it. It isn’t even making her feel better about herself by having the occasional vent.

The only person who is suffering is my client.

There are ways to alleviate this suffering, but the short-term pain is so intense that it’s sometimes difficult to implement them.

How Do We Let Go?

Most people when I suggest they forgive somebody who has wronged them are taken aback. After all they were the person who was wronged so why on earth should they forgive them?

And the reason stems from the fake Buddha quote, because our anger only harms ourselves.

Like stress, chronic anger, resentment and even hatred screw with our well-being. They remove our peace of mind, make us more susceptible to disease, can mess with our sleep and ultimately decrease our overall happiness levels.

In other words, we’re allowing the person concerned to carry on exerting power over us sometimes years, even decades, after the original event.

And to compound the issue they rarely even know it.

The starting point with this is to recognize by forgiving you’re not condoning, you’re not giving them permission to act in a similar manner to others and you’re not being weak, in fact just the opposite, you’re showing amazing strength.

What you’re really saying is, “You no longer control my emotions, my feelings and my life”

Put Pen To Paper

Probably the best way I know of doing this is to write to the person and forgive them.

Easy to say, but incredibly difficult for many people I realize.

But ironically and annoyingly, the more resistance there is to do this, the more need there is to do it.

The letter doesn’t even have to be mailed and it doesn’t even matter if the person is dead or alive, it is the sheer act of putting pen to paper that’s important and can be so cathartic for many people.

Send Lovingkindness

Another option is to use the metta bhavana meditation and send the person lovingkindness.

This can create all sorts of resistance too because the last thing we feel toward the other person is love.

But that doesn’t matter because with this meditation we’re merely accepting that we all have our difficulties in life, we all want to be happy and we all find it difficult to avoid suffering.

We can send somebody love without being in love with them. I have sent all sorts of bizarre people love doing this meditation including at one stage George Bush (please don’t tell anybody).

At that particular time I didn’t have anybody I was particularly pissed at in my life, so for the stage of the meditation that calls for us to send love to somebody we have difficulties with he popped into my head.

I’ve sent love to the removal company that ripped us off last year, another coach who took one of my ideas without attributing it and pretty much anybody who has ever ‘wronged’ me.

I totally understand that forgiveness is not always easy, but the benefits that come with it are so huge that it’s worth cultivating.

I’d be interested if you have ever dealt successfully with this topic and if so, how did you approach it?

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27 comments to You Will Not Be Punished For Your Anger

  • Hi Tim, Yes I do practice sending love to people I dislike or have a problem with (I think of it as sending them one of my angels). And of course I have had some serious forgiving to do, just like probably everyone else. Most recently I’ve done it by repeating some basic truths and knowing that the situation was actually freeing me (while in reality I wanted to smash their face in for the betrayal but I knew that was ALSO a lie because everything does work for good, whether we can see it or not). I think it’s something we release over time, or at least it took me 3 years to actually do it completely.

  • Rob

    Hey mate. I totally agree that we only harm ourselves by harbouring resentment, anger etc.

    There are two other techniques worth mentioning.

    1) “Cutting the ties”. You visualise yourself bound to the other person by a rope, then you see yourself cutting that rope, with the other person drifting away from you peacefully. I’ve not used this technique myself, but a hippy friend of mine swears by it.

    2) “Just stop thinking about it”. I had some employment problems around a year ago that sent my stress levels sky high. The situation was all resolved in January this year, but occasionally I find my thoughts straying back to the people I felt I had wronged me. I realised it was making me feel crap, and I didn’t feel like forgiving them, so I simply decided that whenever I found my thoughts dwelling on that situation, I’d consciously redirect my mind onto something more pleasant. This works wonders for me. It also reminds me of the mindfulness technique I use in mediation.

    Similarly, when I was a nipper, I was devastated by breaking up with my first love. After something stupid like 12-18 months of pain and hurt, I decided that I just needed to stop thinking about her. Again, that speeded up the healing process significantly.

    • I like 1 or any use of visualization.

      I think #2 will depend on the person. For some (like yourself) it will work well, my only concern would be with serious issues like physical and mental abuse it may burst back onto the scene years later and much more intense.

      I think it probably depends on the severity of the problem and whether we can disassociate from it easily enough.

  • Tim, what a brilliant and i must say very topical article for me. Last week, without meaning or wanting to i fell into a well of old angers and resentments. I was miserable and ended up sick from the stress of being so unhappy. I finally managed to find my way out by talking about it to someone who heard and understood but didn’t pander or feed the anger.

    But the real shift though, came when i was able to see how the person who was hurting me was hurting in the first place and just that thought triggered a quite natural compassion which was easily followed by loving kindness. So with a few minor variations your article captured my experience perfectly!

  • I do the ‘run over’ visualization. Usually visualize driving over someone and the anger goes away. Then I feel bad I ran them over. This visualization gets bad because then I feel sad and depressed I ran them over.

    So I stopped that visualization and now still have a tough time forgiving. I try to do the what would my higher, better self do? Or what would I want someone else to do if I asked for their forgiveness.

    Learning forgiveness is a like a muscle. We got to forgive often, daily, frequently and always. We have to forgive the small transgressions so we can forgive the major offenses people commit.

    As you point out Tim, forgiving others is really for ourselves – to take away the power others have over us.

  • Joan Harrison

    You will be punished for your anger! I found it extremely difficult to forgive when someone had wronged me until I realized that by hanging onto anger I was feeding the other person and ultimately the situation! This concept can be so difficult to get your head around and sometimes it is near impossible to walk away, but in learning to do so you are actually freeing yourself.
    If others have done you wrong and there is injustice, they will have to pay their dues – that is how the world works you just need to learn to trust the process.

  • Ed McGuigan

    A little off topic Tim but the other aspect of anger management for me is to express your anger towards the person who really caused it and then let it go. I used to feel really terrible after blowing up at somebody but I have learned to simply accept that while it is not great to blow a fuse, it’s not such a terrible thing either. I have a work colleague who is a sanctimonious know-it-all and after he accused me of condoning the Boston bombing because I commented that when governments march into other people’s back yards some of the blow back will always include terrorist attacks on domestic civilian targets. I let him have it ( he is a bit of a twat to be honest ). But he got both barrels and now it’s done with. No poring over the wreckage for weeks, berating myself for being a bad person etc.

    Of course, phase 2 is just not getting upset by his silliness. I certainly don’t hate the guy and I felt no lasting anger. He’s not talking to me now but in a way that’s a great result. Now I don’t have to nod credulously when he expounds one of his conspiracy theories.

    • LOL _ I have had that conversation many times!

      Some times anger is an appropriate and even healthy short term response.

      It’s when we feed and nourish it that it becomes a problem.

  • Pete

    Tim, great article, just found your website and YouTube videos. Brilliant. I personally use a meridian tapping/NLP process – Faster EFT- that works remarkably well for me and has brought much change and relief to my life with daily aplication. I even went to a 7 day traing by Robert Smith in OKC which was amazing . So I aim at the feeling in my body, own it and embrace it, associate as much as I can, and tap as long as it takes to let it go, and then thank the person or situation for the healing. With practice it really works.

    • Sounds interesting Pete, would definitely be interested in a guest post on that at some stage if you’d want to.

      Absolutely no worries if you’d rather not though.

      • Pete

        I would be honored. I’m very impressed so far with what you have to offer. I have read and tried many things over the years with varying success. But as I’ve gotten into my 50′s, things really started to build up, and my coping skills involved addictions, anger, blame… The Faster EFT protocol and training have given me my life back and now I am trying to learn as much as I can from professionals in other complimentary modalities as well to be the best practitioner I can, to heal myself and touch others along the way.
        Let me know how and when I can share.

  • Hi Tim,

    Thanks for sharing your article on anger.

    I have found that anger just leads to more stress in my life.

    Not to mention, anger also causes people to think and act irrationally. We also lose focus on important tasks (which is why they say to avoid arguments while driving).

    I personally also find that putting pen to paper helps. It’s a great way of venting!

    I always feel better after “venting” and it helps me forgive others easily.

  • Not to mention, anger also causes people to think and act irrationally. We also lose focus on important tasks (which is why they say to avoid arguments while driving).

    GREAT point. When we are really angry our limbic system has hijacked our critical thinking facility which makes reason difficult to access.

  • I agree that writing helps anger before it swallows you whole.

  • It is truly better to let go of the anger. Never let the anger control you and cause more problems to your life. If you have an enemy, try to forgive. It is very challenging but like what this post is trying to tell us, our anger will just hurt us more. Nothing good will happen if you try to seek revenge or think about the bad things. You will never become peaceful and happy if you don’t move on.

  • Tim, another predictably spot on blog. I remember when I first began my coaching practice I worked with a client with huge anger issues. We brainstormed together about possible healing outlets and the idea of writing to the person who had wronged her emerged.
    ( probably by me! ) I remember, clearly, how the client was almost paralyzed by the prospect of putting her thoughts to paper, even though there was no question it was not to be delivered to the person she was angry at.
    Your comment about the amount of resistance being relative to the needfulness to write out the thoughts/feelings is absolutely true; I even use it as a gauge as to how much to “encourage” a client towards pursuing this technique.

    • Yeh that ‘encouragement’ aspect can be a bugger to get right!

      I think if we can truly help clients understand that they are not condoning the behavior and they still don’t need to like the person, then that can go a long way.

      Interestingly this came up in a meditation group I am in yesterday. The teacher, Bodhipaksa, even pointed out that sending lovingkindness to somebody who you have difficulty with doesn’t necessarily mean that difficulty will go away.

      It may, but that’s not really the point, the point is at that moment we are recognizing that no matter what they did or are doing, they are still a Human Being who wants to be happy.

      It can be a tough concept to explain for sure.

  • Hannelie Snow

    Being angry at someone else is almost like the hate cliche – Hate is if you drink poison and hope the other person will die. So with relating the two … how has being angry helped you lately? Had any fun? No, isn’t about time you try something else that doesn’t waste your time and energy?

    This helps me when struggling with anger. For me anger and hate can easily become one if left to fester too long. Lots of us are just scared to use the hate word. But I have seen anger grow quickly into hate. Not easy to manage, or control for that matter. I think too many humanoids still have too much primal human instinct of clobbering the other dude/dudette.
    I always try to separate the action from the person. I can get angry at what you did (action, words) but it does not necessarily mean I want to clobber you, … although the visualisation is fun.
    Difficult … but possible …. persist

    • Yeh good distinction between being angry at an action and angry at a person.

      Everybody does things that can make others angry, but on the whole people are just doing their best.