Why Do People Shut Down When Angry?

Written by Om Swami

Anger is an expression of an underlying emotion of hurt. If you get angry, it means you are hurt somewhere within, it implies that you are not yet healed, and that you may be hiding your pain, but it needs your attention. Some keep anger within them and many express it through outbursts.

A sage and his disciples were taking a morning stroll by the Ganges and chanting the holy names.

There was a couple in the distance. They were distressed and shouting at each other. The man's wife had lost her gold necklace while taking a dip in the Ganges. Her husband unleashed a flurry of filthy slur and she was shouting back no less.

The saint stopped, turned towards his disciples and said, "When people are angry, why do they shout at each other?"

One of the disciples replied, "Because when we lose our calm, we shout."

"Granted," said the sage, "but why should you raise your voice when the other person is just next to you? He's not hearing you better that way. You can still make your point without shouting at the top of your voice."

They offered various explanations, none with any revelation.

Finally, the sage spoke:

"Anger immediately creates a distance. When two people are angry at each other, their hearts are no longer close, their emotions are divided and they go miles apart. To cover that distance, they yell. The angrier they are, the louder they shout. They are no longer in the mode of love, of acceptance, of proximity. They are unable to hear each other, and they believe they can only be heard by shouting.

"And! what happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other, but talk softly. They almost whisper, because their hearts are very close. There's little or no distance between them.

"When they love each other even more, they exchange even fewer words, and speak softly. They murmur, they whisper, yet they hear each other better. Their bond strengthens, and their love prospers. Finally, they may not even whisper, they only look at each other--silence becomes more potent than speech. That's how close two people can get when they are in love.

"So when you argue, do not say words that break your bond of love and make you distant from each other."

Anger often stems from frustration, and frustration is generally borne out of non-meeting of expectations. Irrespective of whether such expectations are right or wrong, the truth is, when unmet, they cause grief.

Anger immediately has an adverse impact on one's sense of judgment; you are no longer yourself. The damage caused with words may heal over time, but it remains irrevocable and irreparable.

Overcoming anger requires a sense of mindfulness, a little bit of forgiveness, a degree of resolve and certain seriousness. Like all other habits, this can be changed. Anger is not just an emotion but an emotional response.

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