The most powerful argument to challenge the irrational thought that causes our anger is to observe the following critical facts about human beings:
- They behave according to the emotions they feel;
- Their emotions are caused by the presence in their minds of specific thoughts, ideas, and beliefs;
- None of them can make themselves think in one way or another.
In other words, we do not choose our thoughts. As a matter of fact, our thoughts first arise on the occasion of events that occur in our lives. The thoughts we have in mind then cause our emotions, and our emotions lead us to behave either in a self-helping or self-defeating way.
So, when we claim that John should not have behaved as he did—a thought that necessarily causes us to be angry—it is worth reminding ourselves that John behaved as he did as a consequence of the thoughts that arose in his mind and over which he didn’t have much control—at least, not at the precise moment when these thoughts popped up in his mind.
For example, let’s hypothesize that John stole something from us. Now, you will most probably agree with me that both the thief and victim share the same idea—that is, they both consider the object to be good, useful, and pleasant to possess. That’s obviously the way we think about this object of ours and that explains the reason why we want to keep it. Similarly, that’s the way John thinks about the object and that explains the reason why he wants to steal it from us. As desire—the most fundamental emotion of all—is present in John and also considering the fact that emotions are the motor of his actions, he will necessarily steal the object from us—unless something prevents him from doing so. John cannot do otherwise considering the specific thoughts that he has in mind about the object in question.
Okay, I can sense you rumbling out there and your thoughts are probably going something like: “The idea of stealing things from others also arises now and then in my mind, but I refrain from doing so. John should do the same.” However, what we often fail to realize is that some other thoughts may arise in our minds, but not necessarily in the mind of John—for example, thoughts about social consciousness, ethical sense, fear of getting caught, etc. John doesn’t have these thoughts in mind—at least, not at the precise moment when he steals the object from us. Theoretically speaking, he could have these thoughts, since we have them ourselves. But these thoughts do not arise in his mind. Even though John is able to think, he doesn’t have the capacity to make himself think. That’s the same thing for each and every one of us.
That being said, even if we choose not to make ourselves angry, nothing prevents us from protecting ourselves against the obnoxious behaviors of others. For example, when the farmer captures the fox that wreaked havoc the henhouse, he does it without being angry. Not only is it in the nature of foxes to eat chickens, but thoughts about having a chicken feast naturally pop up in their minds. The farmer knows that and that is why he finds it thoughtless to damn, blame, or vituperate the fox. The animal is merely acting according to the ideas that pop up in its mind by the law of nature.
Now, if it is so when it comes to foxes, why would it be logical to blame a human being for thinking as he does and behaving according to the emotions caused by the thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that he has in mind?
Once again, I can sense you rumbling out there and your thoughts are probably going something like: “Foxes are only animals deprived of their freedom and determined by their natural instincts whereas human beings are able to think, to weigh the pros and cons, and to choose their actions.” Needless to say I perfectly agree with you. The fact that human beings are able to think, to weigh the pros and cons, and to choose their actions is quite obvious! On the other hand, it is worth reminding ourselves that the human beings that we are only do it when the thought to do so pops up in our minds.
These few reflections can potentially allow us to reduce both the frequency and intensity of our anger. Let’s simply remember that the person who annoys and harms us cannot do otherwise at that precise moment in time.
Anger Can Lead to Procrastination – Part 1
© Chantal Beaupre 2011
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