Assume you are travelling. From a far out place, you have to call a member of your staff and give him instructions to have a particular document delivered to a client. You have just spoken to the client and confirmed you will have the document sent to him within the next hour or so.
You dial the staff member’s number. There is no response. You dial again. No response again. Your mind begins to race. “He must be taking the day off, since I’m not around,” you think. It is an accusation. “He is ignoring my call!” you think indignantly. “One just cannot trust anyone these days!” is the next disturbed thought. You dial again after ten minutes. The phone remains unanswered.
Now you flip. Intensely agitated, you think of all the ways you might aggressively approach this. You imagine giving him a dressing down for being irresponsible (the client is waiting); you think of all the times he has not been alert and has preferred working for your colleague; how he has defied you in the past; how dare he defy you; you cannot let him get away with this; who does he think he is; this is going out of hand; you can do without him; you have fired him!
Your phone rings. It is your staff member. He had left his phone on charging in one room and was settling your files in the other. He cheerfully takes your instructions, (if you have had the good sense of listening to him before shouting him down unnecessarily), and assures you he will reach the client’s place in time.
The effects of assumptions
A lot of the anger we experience is assumed anger. We imagine people actively conspiring against us, and situations being out of control. We stir ourselves up—emotionally, mentally and physically—into a frenzy from mere conjecture.
This has a direct impact on us, especially on the body. It strains the heart and the gut, and induces stress on the neurological system. The brain pumps the body with stress hormones, inducing an aggressive state of alert with several adverse effects. The body stops all healing processes. Digestion stops. Blood pressure rises, straining the heart, the brain and the capillaries. There is heightened wear and tear to sustain such a hostile state of being.
It is assumption, with little or no rooting in reality. With nothing to fight except our imagination, all our stress and its subsequent intense response plays out against our own selves. We end up fighting ourselves—our body, heart and mind—without realising it.
Patience is the antidote to this unnecessary wheel of stress that we create for ourselves, so frequently. While several of us may not be able to stop the anger from rising, it does help to realise that this is pure conjecture and that we must give reality a chance to play itself out. Patience then means to tell ourselves that we may be wrong in our anxious and frenzied imaginings, and that we need to hold our thoughts for just a little while longer instead of jumping to conclusions.
Another method is to turn our attention to something else for the time being, till the truth of the situation is revealed. We could find something to distract us even, in such moments. This helps us buy time, not for anyone else, but our own selves, because were we to act on assumed anger, we would end up humiliating both, the other and ourselves.