Recently, I read one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read: The Cow in the Parking Lot. It’s a book about how to manage anger and while I wouldn’t say I have a temper or anything like that, I have struggled with being angry internally a lot this year. It started off small and slowly grew until I struggled to find a way to manage it. This book helped immensely, and honestly next to Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, I don’t know if another book has ever been so helpful to me in my entire life.
I took notes of various quotes throughout my reading. It doesn’t do the text justice, but I wanted to post some of this here for my review in the future.
“A fair summary of this book is: You are hitting your hand with a hammer. If you stop, you will feel better.”
“There is a physical and emotional high that comes with feeling anger. The physical sensation is set off by the release of adrenaline with its resulting increase in blood pressure. This anger “high” becomes addictive…”
“To act out of moral indignation demands that we pause to consider the best options for putting the situation right. When we act solely out of anger, with little regard for the consequences, we are not pursuing the greater good but are only assuaging our our emotional distress and the result could make the situation worse than better.”
Five Working Hypotheses:
1. Anger is a destructive emotion.
2. The first person damaged by anger is you.
3. When you act out of anger, you will act irrationally.
4. You can, if you choose, reduce the amount of anger in your life.
5. As you reduce anger in your life, you will be happier and more effective.
“Anger arises when we have an unmet demand.” “An internal demand that we make on the world or a persona, and it includes needs, desires, and expectations.”
If you can pause to consider what your demand (or need or expectation) is when you feel anger arising, you will have gone a long way toward changing it.
Four Types of Demands:
- The Important and Reasonable – this one is justifiable and significant.
- The Reasonable and Unimportant
- The Irrational Demand – silly or unreasonable (traffic annoyances/respect from strangers)
- The Impossible Demand – on-going and expressed in generalities
“Holding onto anger is giving someone else free rent in our head.”
“Anger is as good at solving problems as a fan is at stacking papers.”
“When we are angry, we believe that we can set things right only be triumphing over our opponent. When anger is directed at us, we are conditioned to become angry ourselves. We assume that because someone insulted us, we should be angry. But there is no law that says this. Great happiness, and well-being are achieved by another route.”
“The process of becoming less angry and more aware is a two-way street. Reducing anger creates a self-reinforcing cycle: As we become less angry, we become more aware of what is actually happening as opposed to judging what is happening. As we become more aware, we become less angry.”
“Buddhism takes the view that it’s foolish to take the opinion of the outside world, which may fluctuate daily if not from moment to moment, as any serious measure of ourselves. As His Holiness, the Dalai Lama once famously said of himself: “One day Nobel Prize, next day pile of shit!”
In response to viewing the world as unfair, like we are the quarterback and no one is blocking for us:
“.. it can give rise to a vague, chronic anger and the feeling that we are not getting the support and respect we deserve or our fair share of life’s goodies.”
“John Tarrant has characterized Buddhism as “the technology of happiness.” By this he means that it is a system or method to help liberate us from suffering by enabling us to see things as they are not and not as we have been conditioned to think they are.”
“He said one cause of the persistence of anger is that we insist that our lives have meaning. On the surface, the search for a meaningful life might sound exemplary, but he continued, the problem arises when we insist that it be the meaning we choose.”
“To achieve real contentment, we need to examine the hodgepodge of conditioning created by our parents, the advertising industry, and other forces that go into fabricating our myth.”
“Possessions we intend to possess, end up possessing us” or “The two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it.”
“The things that you believe will make you happy are not necessarily wrong for you. The goal here is simply to be aware of them and to see how they affect your life.”
“Put another way, we refuse to take the risk of changing jobs or relationships or control our eating because we cling to these things when we are emotionally upset. By being unwilling to disturb the habitual order of our lives or to endure emotional pain, we allow ourselves to stay stuck in a situation where our demands are not met on an ongoing basis. A general dissatisfaction with our lives can be the result.”
Compassionate Listening: sit quietly and listen with only one purpose: to allow the other person to express himself and find relief from his suffering.
“In spite of some very unfortunate circumstances, I usually remain calm, with a settled peace of mind. I think this is very useful. You must not consider tolerance and patience to be signs of weakness. I consider them signs of strength.” -Dalai Lama
Being angry or acting out of anger radically narrows our choices for dealing with our lives. When we act out of anger, we are acting non-rationally so, when anger overtakes us, some kind of automatic response kicks in; we focus only on assuaging our anger. This is obvious, but bears repeating as it’s usually forgotten when we are in the throes of emotion.
lost opportunity cost – the benefits we could have received had we invested our time, hearts, and minds into something else.
Martyrdom can be a devious, indirect way to express anger. “When we choose martyrdom, the story lines of our lives becomes, “If I am such a good person, why are people so mean to me?” That view colors everything happens to us so that even well-intended gestures are interpreted as hostile acts. It’s not easy to love a martyr.
When we rail against what has happened, we ignore two important facts. The first is that we can’t really know whether what is happening is good for us, the second is that we can’t change it. The issue is not whether we like what is happening but whether we understand what has happened is not subject to change.
“Acknowledging the power we possess in creating our own misery is greatly reassuring. It suggest that we are not passive victims. We are not impotent.” – Willard Gaylin
Anger, in Buddhist thinking, is not a sin in the Western sense of violating a commandment or a law, but is regarded as an emotional addiction.
“You are not expressing your anger, you have become the involuntary instrument of your anger.” – Robert Thurman
The lifespan of an emotion is 90 seconds unless you feed it.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”