Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

When we get angry, we suffer. If you really understand that, you also will be able to understand that when the other person is angry, it means that she is suffering. When someone insults you or behaves violently towards you, you have to be intelligent enough to see that the person suffers from his own violence and anger. But we tend to forget. We think that we are the only one that suffers, and the other person is our oppressor. This is enough to make anger arise, and to strengthen our desire to punish. We want to punish the other person because we suffer. Then, we have anger in us; we have violence in us, just as they do. When we see that our suffering and anger are no different from their suffering and anger, we will behave more compassionately. So understanding the other is understanding yourself, and understanding yourself is understanding the other person. Everything must begin with you.

I loved this book. It provides guidance and structure for how to think about—and how to resolve—heated, angry, situations. It discusses this both from the perspective where the reader is the angry party as well as the perspective where the reader is the person dealing with another angry party.

For a reader that has read other Thich Nhat Hanh books, this one covers a lot of the same ground and could feel a bit redundant. However, I still found value in how the same principles from other teachings were applied here for one hyper-specific topic.

Even within the book it can be a bit repetitious. This is my common complaint about Thich Nhat Hanh books. However, I’m starting to come around to this as it really forces engagement and absorption of the ideas.

If you are still bound and haunted by the past, if you are still afraid of the future, if you are carried away by your projects, your fear, your anxiety, and your anger, you are not a free person. You are not fully present in the here and the now, so life is not really available to you. The tea, the other person, the blue sky, the flower, is not available to you. In order to be really alive, in order to touch life deeply, you have to become a free person. Cultivating mindfulness can help you to be free.

Book cover for Anger
Wisdom for Cooling the Flames
Thich Nhat Hanh