How Can I Control My Temper?


Please guide me on how to control my temper. I am actually a very soft-spoken and easy going person. But there are times when I get really really angry and then I just lose it. I think it is basically a reflection of my insecurities and frustrations. I want to stay calm in all situations. Getting angry and screaming utter nonsense is harming me a lot. I am going through a very bad phase and it is only worsening. Please guide me.

—Nivedita, India


Dear Nivedita,

My teacher (and the founder of Ananda and direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda), Swami Kriyananda, described the tendency toward anger as the result of frustrated desire. By contrast, if I have no expectations of another person or no desires as to the behavior or outcome of the actions of others, I will not be disappointed, frustrated or angered when things don’t turn out.

Now, I grant you, this is easier said than done. But a helpful affirmation to use everyday is one I’ve taken from a collection of affirmations created by Swamiji.

Affirmations are based on positive qualities not merely negative ones. There is, therefore, no affirmation for overcoming anger, as such. So I’ve gleaned a few phrases from affirmations on calmness, non-injury, and truthfulness:

“Though the winds of difficulties howl around me, I stand forever calmly at the center of life’s storms. Whatever is simply is. I cannot change it for the mere wishing. I need nothing or no one, I am free. I send out the rain of blessings to all.”

Next time you find yourself having expressed anger, later stop and ask yourself: “What was it I wanted that didn’t happen? Why did I want this?”

Self-righteous anger is that response to injustice to others that affirms truth and compassion. It reflects the courage to stand up for what is right regardless of the consequences to oneself. This type of anger is not what you are dealing with and it is important not to confuse self-righteous anger with thwarted personal desires or insecurities.

At the heart, therefore, of controlling anger is the practice of non-attachment and inner (emotional) freedom from the consequences of the actions of oneself and others. Indeed, a central tenet of Krishna’s teachings in the Bhagavad Gita is the practice of nishkam karma: freedom from attachment to the consequences of actions. Do your best, in other words, and “leave the rest” to God and your own karma.

Breath control can be a useful technique when confronted with frustrating circumstances. It has long been taught by mothers and fathers to their children through time and history, to “count to ten” before acting. Yoga disciplines adds the more effective counsel to practice long, slow, deep, diaphragmatic breaths when confronted with difficult situations. Before making a phone call or going into a meeting…or turning away from a person for a few moments to collect oneself with a few deep breaths before responding….

Best is to practice pranayam (breathing exercises) daily as part of your meditation. The reactive process is intimately related to the breath: sharp inhale when excited (happy, passionate, or angry); deep exhale (sad, disappointed, depressed). The more one learns to control the breathing process the more one finds automatically greater control over the reactive process during real-life situations. The more one employs deep breathing when confronted with strong emotions, the more often deep breathing is the automatic response to difficult situations. Pranayam is the greatest gift of the rishis to the world. It is India’s unique contribution to the library of world how-to-live knowledge.

For now, also, let go of past incidents of anger. Erase their consequences by freeing your identification with your own past actions. The past is past. It cannot be changed. But what you do from today forward can change and purify karma from past actions. Be a peaceful warrior!

Joy and peace to you!
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA