Understanding and Addressing the Mechanism of Anger and its External Cause

If we examine the phenomenon of anger closely we see how it suddenly rises up and overpowers even those who are normally quite even-keeled in their day to day lives. By studying mob psychology, where we see a large number of individuals inflamed in a crowd setting and set into motion to wreak havoc and destroy, or express hatred, we see that on their own many of these individuals would never have engaged in such expressions or acts, but when their rage or anger has been whipped up from outside, they can do things that would be otherwise unthinkable. This secret was used effectively by Adolf Hitler and his minions, and has been used by other demagogues and dictators throughout human civilisation as a means of driving people into the madness of an angry mob action. When asked about it afterwards, people are amazed in many cases of the actions they have undertaken and the feelings they have expressed. What becomes quite clear is that the provocation obviously came from outside and touched something within them that set off the bonfire of the vital energies and emotions.

On a more subtle, day to day level, we may observe a similar action, albeit not as graphically obvious. The impulse comes in from outside, has an ostensible “cause” and something within us gives consent to respond to that impulse and act according to its energy.

For the spiritual seeker, the separation of the awareness from the action, the separation of Purusha as the observing witness consciousness and Prakriti as the active nature, is a powerful tool to gain insight into this process and to simply retune the mechanism to not respond to the provocation to anger, but rather to focus the energies on the higher purposes and principles one is seeking to embody. While this process takes time and some amount of effort, it clearly has the benefit of bringing a substantial amount of peace into the being.

A sage once indicated that anger is a punishment we inflict upon ourselves for the actions of others. Acceptance of the impulse of anger, and expressing it through the being, is a defect which can be cured once one understands the mechanics involved.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The fact that the anger comes with such force is itself enough to show that it is not in you that it is but that it comes from outside. It is a rush of force from the universal Nature that tries to take possession of the individual being and make that being act according to the will of this outside force and not according to the will of the soul within. These things come in the course of the sadhana because the sadhak is liberating himself from the lower nature and trying to turn towards the Mother and live in her divine consciousness and the higher nature. The forces of the lower nature do not want that and so they make these rushes in order to recover their rule. It is necessary when that comes, to remain quiet within remembering the Mother or calling her and reject the anger or whatever else comes, whenever it comes or however often it comes. If that is done, then these forces begin to lose their power to invade. It is easier if one clearly feels them to be outside forces and foreign to oneself; but even if you cannot feel that yet when they enter, still the mind must keep that idea and refuse to accept them as any longer a part of the nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Anger and Violence, pp 296-299