The point is: we can control when we get angry and when we let things roll of us. This, I learned from Leonard Scheff's new book, which you can win by reading the interview below and sending in your answers to the questions at the bottom. We'll randomly pluck 5 winners and have the good folks over at Workman Publishing send you the goods!
DI: I learned a lot about how to manage my anger from your book. I never considered myself an “angry person” –but can now see how almost everyone could learn something from the book. Why do you think it’s important to overcome anger?
LS: Basically anger is generated by the reptile portion of the brain and overwhelms or interferes with the rational portion of the brain. Even people who are not very angry have found the book helpful. People who don’t do anger may have an idea that perhaps if they were more angry, they would get more of what they want, more respect etc. After reading the book, they realize that they have been doing it right.
DI: When I was growing up, parents spanked their kids when they were angry at them. Not so much these days. What’s changed?
LS: I think culturally there has been a realization that spanking children doesn’t work. I would suspect that it came from books like Summerhill by A.S. Neill, Doctor Spocks’ books , Rudolph Dreikurs, Children the Challenge. There, of course, remains a lot of anger in child rearing. That might be helped by the Cow.
DI: Is it ever good to be angry?
LS: Basically when anger works, and there is no counter balancing cost, it almost like winning the lottery. So the answer we have chosen for the book is that there is no good anger. If a person believes there is good anger, it is likely that he or she will be wont to rationalize that their anger as good and thus the exception could swallow the rule. A lawyer I worked for a long time ago said: “Never be angry unless you are not.” Faux anger would be a communication choice but that would be a rational choice. There is the Tibetan saying:”Being angry at someone is like picking up a red hot coal with your bare hand to throw at them.” Also: “Anger is as good at solving problems as a fan is at stacking papers.”
DI: In your opinion, who is/was the angriest person of all time?
LS: With a history replete with characters like Josef Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot and mass killers and punishers too numerous to count, it would be almost impossible to award that honor. What we do know is that world leaders who have transformed their anger into compassion have accomplished great things. For instance Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Thersa, and St. Francis. Unfortunately the list of those people is shorter than the list of those on the other end of the spectrum.
DI: What’s the idea behind “Don’t get mad, get effective”?
LS: When we are angry we are limited in our responses, pretty much to revenge or martyrdom. We forego the options that our rational self can offer. People who study the martial arts are told that when you get angry you are likely to lose.
DI: In what ways does anger translate into bad karma?
LS: Karma means so many things that it is difficult to answer this question. Without getting into the issue of future lives, the simplest meaning of Karma is that it is conduct done out of unawareness, specifically, attachment (greed), anger or ignorance (not understanding the true relationship of our awareness to the world around us) is that once you do something out of those motivations to someone else, then it becomes easier to repeat that type of conduct in the future. For instance a child that finds he can get his way by being angry may well go through life repeating that pattern. Also, I don’t think it is anger itself that produces a karmic result. It is the acting out of anger that does.
DI: Talk a little about the process of writing this book. How’d it come about? Who is your co-author?
LS: Some years ago when I formally became a Buddhist, I decided I should do something altruistic to go with my new religion. However when it became clear that I wasn’t going to volunteer at a hospice or the like, I came up with the idea of sharing my experience in reducing the amount of anger in my life. I started giving a seminar on how I had done it at various places around the country. After a while when I saw what a beneficial effect it was having on the participants, I decided I should attempt to reach a broader audience by writing a book on the subject.
Susan Edmiston lived in Tucson in the 1960’s and we dated. She moved on to New York where she worked in various capacities as a writer. (You can Google her for more detail.) When I was writing the book, I hired her to smooth out my writing style. As time went on it became clear that she had substantial contributions to make from her profound knowledge of Buddhism so she became a co author.
Here's how to score the book: Answer the following two questions and send them to me: david 'at' neatorama.com.
1) Cow or Car? Which would you rather see in that spot?
2) Where does this saying originate? “Anger is as good at solving problems as a fan is at stacking papers.”