How Can I Control My Temper?

by Shannon
(Lake Jackson, Tx USA)

Question:

I am not your typical, fly off the handle at anyone for any reason angry person. My anger develops at work. I work in customer service. Being in that career means being treated with a lack of respect quite often. While I can for the most part control my temper if someone is directing their negativity towards me, I have a hard time keeping my tongue when I see that behavior directed towards someone else. My job requires me to give the customer their way no matter what. But I just can't keep my mouth shut when I feel someone is being disrespectful! I truly believe that no one should be disrespected, antagonized or verbally abused and by employers allowing this continued rewarding of bad behavior at the expense of someone's dignity is morally wrong and separates human beings into status classes of consumers ruling suppliers. 

In short I feel extremely passionate about the perceived injustice of the way things are run and see a need to stand up for it but it will cost me my job if I cannot learn to control it. How can I control my anger and stay positive while not feeling like I am sacrificing my principles? I cannot get emotional about this anymore.

Response:

Ok. Don’t look to the temper as if it is any way bad, or need be controlled or suppressed. Make it your friend. Let it be there. If you can allow the temper to arise, without forcing it away, then it will become less and less harmful or threatening to your job.

There is nothing wrong with the temper in itself, but it can become negative and overwhelming when we feel so averse to its existence in us. It is perceived as some kind of inner disturbance, not a pleasant one, and the perceived outer circumstance is labelled as the cause for this anger or temper, which then creates a heightened sense of blame. In fact the outer reaction is merely a trigger for what is already there. It does not directly give you any anger, but it pokes at something inside, awakens the beast, if you like.

See that the temper arises by itself, of its own accord, without your choice. You do not need to control it, but be aware that it seeks to take control of you, or at least control the idea you have of yourself. If this is not resisted, if you do not label the temper, it can not take over action to the point you do something you later regret.

The temper is full of energy. Feel it, don’t label it. When you can allow the temper without needing to be relieved of it, it begins to transform itself into a higher energy.

There is often a common assumption that a temper is required to correct perceived injustices. This is not necessarily the case. Sometimes without the hot temper, action can still be taken, but it does not carry any negativity. This is even more effective on other negative people, since there is nothing in your words or actions to hit and fight with the negativity in them (that as I’m sure you have experienced - is looking for any reason to justify itself).

The temper energy in you may do the same thing. Just watch to see – does it somehow enjoy being aroused or provoked? Is it ever on the lookout for someone to be mad at, or something to correct? Is there any perceived sense of superiority when the temper is in full swing? If you can watch any of these tendencies of the temper, and let them be, then nothing else need be done. It takes care of itself, without any effort to control.

Be out of control. Don’t put limits on yourself or your behavior. If you loosen the reign of control, both inwardly and outwardly, then the aggression of the temper will not be so overwhelming. The temper is often the assumption that “this should not be happening” – this is in fact a huge underlying tone of human misery - to believe that whatever is happening inside or outside should not be like this, it should be different.

See that whatever arises, has already happened. It already is this way. You can not change the fact that was has been said or done, has already happened. We assume that our anger can somehow reverse the effects of what is happening, but often it just makes things worse.

If you realise that the temper is no longer serving you efficiently, it will lose its hold. When you see it as valuable, helpful, then it has a hold over you. You feel as if you need it to get things done.

You say you can’t get emotional about this anymore. So, when the emotions come, see that they are now of no use, They no longer serve you. Don’t resist them, but simply see that the reactivity and temper are no longer of benefit. They are now futile.

If you treat the energy of the temper in you as a friend, not something to be rejected, nor something that can take advantage of you, then it will refine itself, heal itself where needed. 

When I say treat it as a friend I mean let it be there, accept it, welcome it in the very cells of the body. I do not mean you should let its voice control you. You may notice that it is in fact a bit of a crazy friend, it has a certain voice that tries to manipulate your actions, convince you of things being a certain way. Smile at it. See that it needs your belief and allegiance for it to be so powerful. You are much bigger than the temper. You see it come and go. It is not as significant as it pretends to be. It is not something you need to control, just something you can laugh at when it attempts to control you!

If you can drop your arguments with what is happening, drop the argument with what has already arisen at his moment, then you will not be “a doormat” as your mind may claim. You will have the efficient combination of not fighting Life, but being supported by it, one with the moment, and also not burdened with the fear of speaking out.

The fear of speaking out for social reasons is a common one. This is not necessarily wrong, or anything that needs to be removed, but it does not seem to be prevalent in you. Be grateful for this, since it can be a burden that many people carry.

So you need not try to stay positive. Trying to stay positive can sometimes be a burial of the negative. If you feel negative, annoyed, happy or sad, let yourself feel this way. If you give up trying to change how you feel, you will not suffer, and the temper will no longer be the dominant beast that it appears to be.

In short, there is nothing wrong with your behaviour, and nothing that needs to be changed or corrected, other than the simple surrender to the temper, no longer being averse to it, no longer offering resistance to it. It may appear that surrendering to the temper means it can then take over you, that you are open to be controlled. But with inner surrender, there is no-one left to be controlled, the resistance of the temper can not latch on to anything anymore, it has no more resistance to feed on, and it can not stay alive in an environment that allows it to be.

This was an interesting one to answer. I hope it has helped in some way. It felt a bit tricky since I have not met you, but hopefully it was of some use.

When I read your question I was reminded of this YouTube video I saw a while ago, which looks more deeply into who is the one who is really angry about perceived unfairness. Who suffers it? Is this inner person actually real? If you wish to take a look, the link is here, it is a video of a Satsang teacher called Mooji, who is a great guide in this area. The conversation seems to be about unfairness in a relationship, but the enquiry and keeping quiet inside can be applied to any reaction that one experiences. 

All the best

Adam