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Anger Proverbs: ‘Long to Anger is great in understanding; a short temper unleashes stupidity’ Anger is not a zero sum game. It does not go up, while control goes down and then rebalance after the anger subsides. When a person loses his or her temper, it leaves a permanent imprint long after the anger is gone; a person is never truly the same again. Anger is viewed so negatively that the mystical writings describe anger as idol worship, which is one of three transgressions that a person is required to die for rather than partake in. They describe how the higher parts of a person’s soul is torn from the body. One thing is a temporary evacuation until things settle down, but the language of ‘tear’ implies an indelible consequence. Why is anger treated differently than other emotions that come and go with fewer long term repercussions? Why does anger elicit a comparison to the worship of a foreign deity? A partial answer is that the Talmud explains that the essence of a person is revealed in three ways: through his anger, his money, and his drunkenness. As we will see, anger reaches the very root of a person, and therefore, its effects are channeled upwards influencing everything in its path. To understand anger requires a deep understanding of the spiritual and psychological make up of a human being. At the lowest level, a person has a nefesh or physical soul, something we share with animals. It contains our instincts and largely automated processes. Ascend one level up and we have our ruach or emotional soul, which is the main conduit for action. Finally, our apex is the neshama, which is our spiritual soul. Nowadays, we barely have access to this part of ourselves (In reality, there are two higher levels than a neshama, but they are beyond the scope of this topic). What is important to grasp is that the nefesh is like a horse, while the ruach and neshama act as its rider. Irritate the horse beyond its limit, and the rider is bucked. The horse is left free to damage its environs. That is the prevalent imagery used in the deeper sources. Anger stems from an affront on our nefesh, the horse, the most physical part of our soul. Why is the nefesh our most susceptible target? It stems from a simple Newtonian principle in physics, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This principle describes the physical world, which was made to be acted upon; therefore, our physically inclined nefesh is that part of us which is reactive. Any time that a person reacts rather than acts, it serves to distance us from G-d. By definition, imitatio dei is reaching a point of complete creative action with no reaction. A person controlled by the nefesh has diminished his human aspect because he is at the mercy of his environment rather then the other way around. Now we can answer why it is similar to Idol Worship. In essence, when a person becomes reactive or angry, the nefesh bucks the neshama and ruach, leaving a vacuum in their wake. Any scientist will tell you how expensive and difficult it is to create a space-like vacuum in the lab because vacuums are not a natural part of this world. Nature always seeks to fill up space, and the same principle applies spiritually. If the neshama, man’s connection to a divine power, is toppled, negative forces will seep in to take the neshama’s place. The way to control a wild horse is with a stronger rider. The fight is at the level of ruach, which itself is given strength from the neshama. If a person strengthens his mind, then his emotions can cast a net around the nefesh and control it. King Solomon states unequivocally in Ecclesiastes, ‘Anger lies in the breast of a fool’. Why is an angry person described as a fool? A fool is a person who is disconnected from the mind, and that is why his nefesh is allowed to run unbridled. The disconnection can come from one of two ways, either a weak neshama or disconnection between the ruach and neshama, which is why even a person who is intellectually smart can fall neatly into the category of a fool; a person needs both an IQ and EQ. Interestingly, the word for anger in Hebrew, אף, also means a nose. Even in English the connection is fairly obvious. Often a person is described as ‘seething’ with anger. Anger is closely linked with a person’s breathing rate. An angry person usually takes short, rapid breaths while a person trying to remain calm will focus on taking long and measured breaths. But, as we noted above, the fight for control lies at the level of the ruach or emotional soul. Ruach is the word for air in Hebrew, so we see that our connection to the ruach both spiritually and physically is of essence. Further, the nose is the pathway that takes the outside world and brings it deep inside of us. That is exactly the pathway which leads to anger. The external world stimulates our deep animalistic foundation. Anger is the single most destructive element in man. With this introduction, a person can know where the fight is, and the basic strategy to remain under control. .

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