Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby MAV » Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:20 pm

Greetings --

I would like to know if anyone has seen in others and/or experienced themselves a dramatic reduction in the severity/frequency of anger as a result of a meditation practice? I am currently most interested in Goenka's approach, but I am open to any success stories regardless of technique/tradition/etc.

The problem is quite serious. I have a beautiful toddler, a wife that is too good for me : ), and an immensely sweet -- if remarkably stupid -- dog, and they are all periodic victims of my (seemingly) uncontrollable tantrums, which have only increased in severity over the years. I gave up meditating last year -- a Zen-inspired home practice that lasted a few months -- and have since turned to exercise + yoga in the hopes that they may improve the situation. So far, nothing doing. I've tried Western psychological therapies, too, and they couldn't have been less helpful. I'm just so angry.

Two points: There is no regular meditation practice group in my region, and I will not be in a position to attend a retreat until the summer. I am, however, willing to commit hours of my day to meditation if doing so will ultimately yield results.

Thank you in advance for any information/advice you can provide.
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:12 pm

Hi Mav,

What are you so angry about? Anything in particular or just angry about everything? Have you tried to be more empathetic to those around you to get an understanding of how your behavior hurts them? If at first you're not able to see clearly the reason(s) for your outbursts (and seeing clearly may be a long time in coming for most of us-present company included) then you really have to develop some straight up restraint. Nothing esoteric about it: just shut your mouth and do whatever it takes to act like a loving father and husband. I know how enticing anger can be and it is easy to fall prey to it but I have confidence that if you take up the practice of dana and cultivate sila and samadhi you will be able to put this burden down. Here's one of my favorite quotes about anger from the canon:

The noble ones praise the slaying of anger
-- with its honeyed crest & poison root --
for having killed it you do not grieve.

Samyutta Nikaya II, 70

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby David2 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:25 pm

In meditation you begin to recognize that you create suffering for yourself first if you are full of hate and anger.
You also recognize that there is a way without hate and you are able to go that path.
It does not happen over night, but it does happen gradually. I am too still on the path.
You also recognize that you are not your anger. That's very important imo.
You learn to continue your practice even if there is anger.
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby David2 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:31 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:The noble ones praise the slaying of anger
-- with its honeyed crest & poison root --
for having killed it you do not grieve.


Yes, nice quote, but one should kill anger without being angry at the anger, otherwise the anger will get stronger. :spy:
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby Alexei » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:33 pm

Hi MAV,

MAV wrote:I've tried Western psychological therapies, too, and they couldn't have been less helpful.

What kinds of therapies have you tried and how long? Could you tell us more about it?

Is it possible that your work gives rise anger?

It may be that there is some underlying issue. In this case it's better to deal with it directly. If one try to 'slay' it than it can cause severe problems after a while. Like psychosomatics or even psychosis.
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby David2 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:41 pm

Alexei wrote:If one try to 'slay' it than it can cause severe problems after a while. Like psychosomatics or even psychosis.


Yes, this is what I meant, the word "slay" and the word "kill" are easy to misunderstand.
One should "kill" anger with compassion, love and patience, not with aversion.
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby daverupa » Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:49 pm

I'm not about to practice therapy without a license, but a combination of DBT and anapanasati is very likely to help (I know this is the Vipassana section, but I feel samatha is indicated for anger management). I wonder which of these two you have experience with - if neither, well it won't hurt to try them, and if one or both, it'll be very useful to know what you've done and how you assessed progress, as well as how long you spent at the task(s) before you moved on.

Therapy can take years. Meditation usually does take years. A few months here and there doesn't equate to giving it a thoroughgoing effort.

I look forward to your response.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby MAV » Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:05 pm

Thanks to everyone for their latest replies.

First, everything makes me angry. Everything. I have been to therapy in the past and have practiced some cognitive-behavioral techniques over the last year. I can now look back at my anger episodes and coherently describe the limited thinking patterns that created the anger responses. I appreciate that, and will continue to practice the exercises and utilize the concepts in my self-analyses, but I haven't seen any positive changes in my anger responses. They remain irrational and, until I simmer down, the voice of reason that tries to explain them away is treated as an intruder and a potential source of additional anger.

Unfortunately, there is no great, unifying trauma to explain my rage. I was raised by an angry but loving mother, was miserable in high school, dated the wrong girls until I found the right one, and am now very conscious of how lucky I am to have a relatively fulfilling, low-stress job, a good dog, a great wife, and an indescribably awesome daughter. And I am angry at one or more of them on a daily basis. I suppress the fury I feel when, for example, my daughter throws a tantrum -- at least until I can exit the room -- but for how long? She is learning something new each day and what a horrible thing it would be for her to learn my primary approach to problem-solving! (which, incidentally, is nearly identical to her current approach....Yup, I'm an emotional toddler.)

Meditation seems like a remarkably rigorous approach to taking control of one's emotions. I'm hoping to receive encouragement from respondents who have had success with that approach, whatever the tradition. I know that everyone is different, and that these things take time, but following an anger episode this morning where my yoga/meditation was interrupted, I feel hopeless. I also wonder if people who haven't experienced habitual anger can entirely understand what I am describing. I wish I could just "man up" or "get a grip," but that hasn't worked.

Anyway, any/all personal experiences are appreciated and I will take the time to look into/consider any suggestions I receive.
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby PeterB » Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:11 pm

MAV...have you ever had a complete physical work up ? In my experience many apparent psychological situations are at least in part physiological...just a thought.
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby MAV » Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:31 pm

Yes, I've had several over the last couple years. The first was when my wife was pregnant and concerned about my weight, which had ballooned to 260#. Now I'm nearly a hundred pounds lighter and have received two glowing reports. Yet, despite the exercise and diet changes, I'm at least as angry as I was before. I look better and feel (physically) better, but I still can't quietly endure a slow driver, and that fact is infuriating...
PeterB wrote:MAV...have you ever had a complete physical work up ? In my experience many apparent psychological situations are at least in part physiological...just a thought.
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby daverupa » Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:43 pm

I'd like to remark that CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) can sometimes leave one in ones head all the time, and thereby create distance between ones mental life and ones emotional life, a rather unhelpful result as integration of these sorts of dichotomies is essential to the development of healthy response patterns. Mileage varies here, but DBT is a different modality based in large part on Buddhist principles, and might be worth a look. Not all therapies are equal, and your specific case might easily be a matter of needing a different toolbox.

This, as well as my previous post, are not theoretical pontification, but experiential; I can vouch for the combination (DBT + anapanasati) as being of great and continuing benefit given my own complex history as well as a similar lack of a grand unifying trauma. The sankhara that is the human personality is complex, and yet it does not pose an insurmountable problem - as long as one has the proper tools.

I'll stress this just once more: CBT =/= DBT. It might be worth investigating. The DBT module on Distress Tolerance, for example, was invaluable, and a continuing anapanasati practice can only strengthen wholesome results.

:heart:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby Alexei » Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:01 pm

MAV wrote:Unfortunately, there is no great, unifying trauma to explain my rage.


Many people think this way, I used to. But there are always some unhealthy results if one was raised by an angry parent. Especially if it was a single parent.

It's possible that unfinished feelings to the parent hold the key to a mystery.

Just my experience.
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby ground » Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:22 pm

Focus on metta and compassion practice ... gather whatever material you can to train in metta and compassion.
there is no management of anger other than to get rid of it. Are you able to focus anger exclusively on itself?
Anger is the worst of all afflictive emotions, the worst enemy that destroys all merit at the root and leads to great harm and suffering.


Kind regards
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby santa100 » Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:27 pm

Take a Tai Chi class. It'll relax and calm your mind. Beside, the extremely slow and seemingly boring movements are great ways to help develop patience, an effective antidote to anger...
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby Alexei » Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:30 pm

TMingyur wrote:there is no management of anger other than to get rid of it.

I wish it would be this way...
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby twelph » Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:45 pm

I understand what you are going through, and I understand what you mean by there be no underlying primary reason for your anger. For me it felt like my nerves were shot, and I was no longer able to handle any stress whatsoever. It got so bad at one point that bumping my arm against something accidentally would cause a tremor of rage shoot throughout my body, stopping me in my tracks and tightening all of my muscles. Thankfully I have made a lot of progress since then, all through through beginning to understand certain core teachings of the Buddha, and through meditation. One thing I realized is that 1 specific tool will not solve the probem. You need to meditate and also be able to understand the purpose of the meditation.

You mentioned Goenka style meditation, which is a good start. This will help you start feeling the uncomfortable sensations in your body as the anger starts to build. Once you are more in tune with how unpleasant these feelings are, it becomes easier and easier to decide that its just not worth getting angry. I don't practice Goenka's style myself, as I tend to prefer other methods. If you are interested in other methods I would suggest the mental noting technique or Thanissaro Bhikkhus method. You might also want to incorporate Metta into your practice, as this has also proven to have profound effects on practitioners. You need to be able to be kind to yourself for a lot of these techniques to work for you.

As for the teachings you should understand, I recommend the following:
not-self
impermanence
aversion

The best way I have found to study these is through audio lectures, here are a few good resources:
dhammatalks.org - Thanissaro Bhikkhu's site
audiodharma.org
dharmaseed.org

Good luck!
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby Ben » Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:09 pm

Greetings MAV
I have been involved with SN Goenka since 1985. Many people have found practicing vipassana under his guidance to be of benefit and during the evening discourses he relates how he once had an uncontrolable temper which was assuaged through his practice. However, for most people one ten-day course is not a magic bullet that cures them of anger or some other defilement and for the benefits to be sustainable, one should continue the practice post retreat in daily life where the pedal hits the metal (so to speak). Happy to discuss further.
kind regards,

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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby befriend » Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:56 pm

i think embracing a new philsophy on life could be helpful. say there is a slow driver in front of you. are you late for anything?, if you are can you just tell them there was a slow driver in front of you? say it is a little old woman do you think she can help driving slow. she probably thinks its the year 19 dickity 2 and is going god knows where, shes probably going to get lost in a few minutes. and have her driving privelages taking away from her. that should ellicit compassion not anger. say its a asshole teenager who wants to piss you off, so he drives the exact speed limit as an ironic joke. this teenager will suffer from his mean spiritedness and not find peace of mind. which should also ellicit compassion from you. REMEMBER THIS IS EARTH, THIS IS NOT HEAVEN. are you surpised that your toddler throws a temper tantrum when you dont buy her candy? do you get mad at a wolf for eating a sheep??????? kudos on your determination on curbing your anger. oh i forget, i used to be the angriest kid i knew, i actually have broken my hand in 3 places, and dislocated my shoulder and burned a relationship forever. now i woudlnt think of doing that. because of my philosophy. not because of my meditation.
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby befriend » Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:05 pm

to be honest i find the best way to deal with irrational thoughts and flat tires is to just stop caring. who cares if your toddler gets mad, is the world gunna end. not caring seems odd, but its actually is a very healthy way to manage anger and alot of other things. also buddha said buy a gift for all of your family members, hide it, and when you get mad at them, GIVE THEM THE GIFT.
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Re: Vipassana for anger management? Please help!

Postby befriend » Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:10 pm

sorry for all the posts. but when i get nervous, the more i try to get rid of the nervousness it stays there and gets worse. if i dont do anything. i just experience the nervousness and i sense its not happening to ME. its just occuring in space. not that i dont experience the nervous energy anymore but i feel its not happening to me, it doesnt effect my MIND. so im not nervous at all, im happy. this might apply to anger and other negative emotions, just to keep the anger from creating too much suffering in your mind. as the saying goes, the point is not to get rid of all negativity but to have peace of mind no matter what the circumstances are.
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