Without communication, no real understanding can be possible. But be sure that you can communicate with yourself first. If you cannot communicate with yourself, how do you expect to communicate with another person? Love is the same. If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love someone else. If you cannot accept yourself; if you cannot treat yourself with kindness, you cannot do this for another person.
Very often you behave exactly like your father, but you don’t realize it. And though you behave like him, you feel you are total opposites. You do not accept him, you hate him. When you do not accept your father, you do not accept yourself. Your father is in you; you are the continuation of your father. So if you can communicate with yourself, then you can communicate with your father.
The Non-Self Elements
The self is made of non-self elements; therefore, understanding ourselves is our practice. Our father is a non-self element. We say our father is not us, but without our father, we cannot exist. So, he is fully present in our body and in our mind. He is us. Thus, if you understand yourself; your whole self, you understand that you are your father, that he is not outside of you.
There are so many other non-self elements that you can touch and recognize within yourself- your ancestors, the earth, the sun, water, air, all the food you eat, and much more. It may seem like these things are separate from you, but without them, you could not live.
Know Yourself First
Suppose two warring parties want to negotiate, and both sides do not know enough about themselves. You have to really know yourself, your country, your party, your situation, in order to understand the other’s party, the other’s nation, the other’s people. Self and others are not two separate things because the suffering, hope, and anger of both sides are very much the same.
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 he/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 person is understanding you, and understanding yourself is understanding the other person. Everything must begin with you.
Care for Your Anger
To understand ourselves, we must learn and practice the way of non-duality. We should not fight our anger because anger is our self – a part of our self. Anger is of an organic nature, like love. We have to take good care of anger. And because it is an organic entity; an organic phenomenon, it is possible to transform it into another organic entity. The garbage can be transformed back into compost, into lettuce, and into a cucumber. So don’t despise your anger. Don’t fight your anger, and don’t suppress your anger. Learn the tender way of taking care of your anger, and transform it into the energy of understanding and compassion.
This is an excerpt from Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh.
Thich Nhat Hanh is such a genuine, beautiful being.
His words are so simple & so true. And he actually DOES stuff, & inspires people to DO stuff.
What he says about anger is magnificent. It is an energy that can be transformed. The cult of ‘anger management’ is a load of bollocks!
I wish more people would listen to Thich Nhat Hanh than listen to that ‘Tibetan celebrity’.
Thanks for a great article. A good thought for the day. Be kind to oneself, in doing so we become kind to others.
Very meaningful and thought provoking.
When I was many years younger, I conceived a huge amount of anger towards another person. I felt she was my enemy. But these feelings made me suffer so much I could not sleep at night. Finally I consciously told myself, “you must find a way to make this enemy your best friend” or continue to suffer. The next day when I came across this person, instead of acting aloof and feeling angry, I decided to say hello and to ask them a question — something about who they were deep inside. This person responded by telling me some things about them I had not known. I asked other questions and the person again responded, with warmth and enthusiasm. By the end of the day I had made a friend, a good friend, someone who was to be a wonderful, caring, responsive friend for all the years we would be in contact. With a heart open to both my own suffering, caused by anger, and the other person, my negative feelings were transformed into compassion, and what’s more, an “enemy” truly did become my best friend.
Is this an article written by Thich Nhat Hanh on April 10, 2019 or an article he wrote in the past??
Wikipedia says he is now living in Vietnam unable to speak and will spend his remaining days there
I am not taking anything away from the article – the date of the article confused me
Like the words of wisdom that Thich Nhat Hanh write in this article.
Thank you. Thich Nhat Hanh always gives beautiful messages and nice philosophy. Developing a positive benevolent attitude toward our inner enemies is always beneficial. However, there are to be boundaries and discrimination in life. Anger is often generated by the fact that we were not aware that the shadow side of some people was more developed than the light side of their Archetypes. When we let these kind of people create unnecessary suffering and pain, when compassion is not balanced with spiritual powers to set up boundaries, to protect oneself and with discrimination it becomes a weakness that costs a high price. There is nothing we can do to change people who do not want to change. There is nothing wrong with eliminating toxic relationships and everything right with looking out for your self-care.