The Cow in the Parking Lot

Simply existing in the city taxes my sanity and drives me to the brink of rage at times (cars almost hitting me, scooters and bikes zooming past on the sidewalk at high speeds, people drunkenly yelling at 2am when the bars shut them out). There are some helpful tips in this Zen approach to overcoming anger. The story relayed by the title immediately gave my mind something to think about: you’re enraged if a car zooms in to steal a parking spot you were clearly waiting for, but what would your reaction be if instead of a rude driver it was a cow that walked into the space and settled down without budging? How you choose to react to a situation is everything. I’m trying this out by envisioning all the city jerks as cows, mooing behind the wheel, udderly clueless.

The five hypotheses about anger: It’s a destructive emotion; the first person damaged by your anger is you; you act irrationally when you act out of anger; if you choose to, you can reduce the amount of anger in your life; as you reduce anger in your life you’ll be happier and more effective.

Recognizing the physical differences you feel when you are angry vs when you are happy reminds you to observe the feelings in your everyday life; see how you feel when you’re angry without acting on it. Examine the way that suggestion and expectation affect our realities. Pause and ask yourself “what’s really happening here?”

Anger arises when we have unmet demands, e.g. my demand that the world around me act civilly, not like jerks. Turns out this is a pretty irrational demand. Demanding respect from a stranger is something that is never going to happen, so I’m only doing myself harm from expecting this.

Anger isn’t an effective tool for getting what we want but it taps into the lizard brain of the amygdala, leaving our rational brain lagging behind. The cost of anger is paid primarily by you, then everyone around you.

Three methods of working with yourself once anger arises: tolerant patience (sit with your pain, see that it’s impermanent), insightful patience (figure out why it’s happening, what the person’s unmet demand is), forgiving patience (have compassion for yourself, forgive yourself, thank the person for the opportunity to work on anger, trade places with your enemy).