A monk decided to meditate alone, away from his monastery. He took his boat out to the middle of the lake, moored it there, closed his eyes and began meditating. After a few hours of undisturbed silence, he suddenly felt the bump of another boat colliding with his own.
With his eyes still closed, he felt his anger rising, and by the time he opened his eyes, he was ready to scream at the boatman who had so carelessly disturbed his meditation. But when he opened his eyes, he was surprised to find that it was an empty boat that had struck his own. It had probably gotten untethered and floated to the middle of the lake.
At that moment, the monk had a great realization. He understood that the anger was within him; it merely needed the bump of an external object to provoke it out of him. From then on, whenever he came across someone who irritated him or provoked him to anger, he would remind himself, that the other person was merely an empty boat, the anger was within him.
Continue the conversation. Eventually, with enough compassion and insight on your side, you can begin to extinguish the fires of hostility by extinguishing anger with patience and understanding… It’s hard to continue treating someone harshly when they continue treating you well. In helping them relieve these feelings, you not only help them but you also help yourself, since you no longer have to deal with them as they were.”
There was a young boy who used to come to Plum Village every summer with his little sister. Every time he fell over and hurt himself, instead of coming to help him, his father would shout at him. The boy vowed that when he grew up, he would never be like his father. He vowed that if he ever had children and one of them fell down and hurt themself, he wouldn’t shout at them; he would try to help them. That was his firm determination. Then one summer when they were at Plum Village, the little boy’s younger sister was playing with another girl on a hammock, when the hammock broke. She fell and her knee was bleeding. The boy found himself becoming very angry, and he just wanted to yell: “It’s your own fault! How could you be so stupid?” Because he had been practicing simply noticing his feelings, without acting them out, he stopped himself from shouting. Instead, he turned around and practiced slow walking.
As he walked, he recognized that the energy of anger he was feeling had been transmitted to him by his father. If he didn’t practice breathing mindfully and sitting calmly and peacefully, he was going to become exactly like his father. In Sanskrit this is called samsara, the habitual continuation of negative or destructive behavior. The boy had a sudden urge to go home and invite his father to practice sitting meditation with him. When that good intention arose in him, all his anger and resentment toward his father began to dissolve. The boy was only twelve years old. For a person of any age, but particularly for a twelve-year-old, it is a remarkable achievement to have an insight that transforms our afflictions. If he is capable of it, we certainly are as well.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Generally speaking, if a human being never shows anger, then I think something is wrong. He is not right in the brain