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Lashing Out is Losing Control; Calmness Is Strength and Power

Calm Man

“Self-control is strength. Right thought is mastery. Calmness is power.” ~James Allen

I would like to share something personal with you. It’s the story of how I first glimpsed what true strength and power is and where they come from. I hope this story helps to further illuminate your journey through life.

I remember one day when I was in the back seat of my parents’ car. I was probably about thirteen years old. We were parked in a hotel driveway, waiting, though I can’t recall why.

After a few minutes, another car pulled up behind ours and the driver began to impatiently honk at us. Soon he began to scream and curse as well. I turned and saw a man whose face was bright red, scarred deeply by wrinkles of rage and bitterness.

The driver had obviously lost control of his emotions, as it was impossible for us to go anywhere with his car blocking us in. It was as clear as day that we were stuck until he moved. What on earth did he want us to do?

My father sat in the driver’s seat, gazing into the rearview mirror. His face was strained with confusion, trying to figure out how to process what was happening.

My father is a great man, always striving to do what is right, strictly honest and keen to help others. Finally, somewhat frustrated, my father opened the door so he could go and speak with the impatient man in the car behind us.

I remember feeling afraid when he stood up because I knew that the other person was really angry.

I watched my father begin to walk toward the other car. As the car horn continued to blow, my father abruptly stopped and paused. He seemed to be contemplating something, and it appeared as if his entire being softened.

Slowly, he returned to the car and sat back down. My father’s expression was one that I had never seen before on him: a look of straining and struggle with a hint of shame. Eventually, the other man drove off and that was the end of the incident.

The image of my father’s face profoundly affected me and was forever tattooed in my memory. I was just a young child and, in my mind, my father was perfect. He was my hero and I idolized him.

He is not a large man and I have never known him to fight; yet I felt a tinge of disappointment that he hadn’t stood his ground and confronted the other man. I felt that he had retreated. And my impression was that he felt the same way.

A few days later my father shared with me a dream that he had the night before. In his dream, I had beaten up the man who was honking the horn.

At the time, despite being young, I was a black belt in Taekwondo. I remember wishing that I really had beaten him up. I wanted to get even with the man who had embarrassed my father.

I became full of anger. I imagined myself beating him up again and again yelling, “This is for my father!”

I was angry, partly because he had hurt my father, but mostly because he had hurt me. He revealed to me a flaw in my father’s character: he was afraid and perhaps not strong enough to fight back. It left me bewildered and, for the first time, I realized that my hero wasn’t perfect.

Something deep inside me was forever changed.

Years later, as a college student, a friend and I went out for a meal. While eating, an acquaintance of ours lost his temper and began yelling at my friend. My friend listened silently, showing no change in his demeanor.

Eventually, the man finished yelling and my friend quietly stood up and walked away without saying a word. I was so impressed by how calm he was.

Later, I asked him how he managed to keep his cool. He smiled and told me, “A strong person is not one who knocks other people down; it is one who does not let his anger get the better of him.”

I was stunned. I knew that he was completely right. Who demonstrated more strength: the person who had lost control of his temper or my friend who had kept his?

These words touched my soul and aroused in me an understanding of where true power comes from: it comes from within. And inner strength dwarfs physical strength.

That night, this realization lingered in my mind. As I was digesting this lesson, suddenly I remembered the incident with my father and the horn-honker, many years before.

A voice within me asked, “Who was the stronger man?” and chills slowly crept up my spine as I realized that it was, in fact, my father. While the other man had allowed his rage to overcome him, my father had controlled himself.

The other man had lost; he lost to himself when he allowed his emotions to take over. My father, on the other hand, had stood victorious over himself, conquering his own emotions, commanding them down. The other man was a slave to his passions; my father was the master of his.

It was then that I saw my father for the truly strong and courageous man that he is. The weak and easy path would have been to return anger with anger, yelling with yelling. But my father had the strength to resist this; he had the power to calm his mind while a tempest raged about him.

It was in this moment, that my own path became a bit clearer. I realized that I must embark on a journey of conquering myself, because I now knew that I did not want to be a slave. The only other option was to master myself, to command the hidden forces within.

When you feel negative emotions rising, threatening to overcome you and make you into their puppet, remember that the strength and power needed to maintain calmness lie forever within you.

Calm man image via Shutterstock

About Richard Kronick

Richard Kronick is an author, teacher, coach, speaker and Huffington Post blogger. His mission is to give you practical tools and insights to unleash the massive hidden power within you to transform your life.   Visit his blog (completedthoughts.com) to read more and get a free copy of the eBook, 20 Transformational Life Hacks. Or read more from him on the Huffington Post.

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  • CiCi 404

    Hi Richard-

    Thank you for writing this article! Self control is so hard and its something I struggle with everyday. From something so small as to not eat a particular food to not cursing out the car in front of me. However, each day I meditate and take time to assess the situations before acting with my emotions and each day it gets better and better. Your father was a good man to handle that stranger the way he did. At the end of the day, the person who is yelling is the one who always looks foolish in the end.

  • Bullyinglte

    Richard:
    This is so true. Two years ago I embarked on my mission to stop lashing out. I had a short fuse all my life and was angry at the world. The truth is that anger is only within you and rarely do other care. So my tantrums just made me look foolish. Of course I had developed a habitual problem known in psychology as displaced aggression by taking out on my loved ones what I couldn’t do to those that would overpower me. Because I have been habitually doing this, it is still not gone (one step forward and two steps back). I found Yoga and Meditation and this is helping, but I still have a road to go. You are right, though, in all you say.

  • Cici,

    You are absolutely right, the one who loses control of themselves is the one who appears foolish in the eyes of others, and upon reflection, themselves as well.

    And it sounds to me like self-control is something you no longer struggle with, but have already mastered. No one has absolute self-control, but we can get closer and closer, and that’s what you are doing. If, as you said, you are getting better and better each day, what more could we really want?

    Why be perfect when it is so exciting and empowering to be on the path of getting better and better each day?

  • Bullyinglte,

    I commend you for embarking on your journey of lengthening your fuse. Surely it will bring you greater strength and self-control. You are certainly correct that anger is completely within us: we allow it to grow and we can cast it aside.

    There is a wonderful quote attributed to the Buddha that goes, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.”

    In the end, it really is as simple as letting it go. You said you had a habitual problem with aggression. However, two years ago you began to create a new habit of not lashing out. Practice and repitition is all you need. Soon you will habitually be patient and understanding. Keep up the good work 🙂

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Thank you for an enlightening glimpse into the power of calmness and control. Your dad is a hero and beyond perfect – he is a human who respects others, gives them space and takes charge of his demanding emotions.

    LOVE – thank you

  • Phil Good-Elliott

    Thanks for this story. I would encourage you to consider how a person demonstrating rage and violence is probably not out of control (unless they are truly psychotic, in a coma, or are having a seizure). The person is behaving in ways that are intimidating and *we* feel out of control over them. They (maybe us, too) are using that behavior to try and get us to do something or to not do something immediately. They/we want to somehow “win” a real or perceived conflict. We are no more out of control than when we are walking down the street or chewing gum. We simply don’t want to believe that we/others would willingly behave in such ways. So we make up euphemisms such as “losing control” or “lost my temper” or “snapped” or a million other excuses to avoid responsibility for mean and harmful behavior – anything to avoid acknowledging we used violence towards others to try and get our way. I don’t “get into fights”, I choose to fight with others. When we learn to recognize we can choose to remain calm when others want to fight, we are truly empowered. This is not romantic, not sexy, not macho, not wimpy. It is healthy and may well save you from harming others or yourself. Holding this as a value may well prolong your life. You, Richard, are taking this farther than your father. It is totally okay to want to respond with violence. That’s a clue to your own sense of feeling powerless and wanting to regain a sense of control *over others*. It is not okay to chose to be violent. It is much wiser to be prepared to respond with compassion for yourself in such situations to prevent shaming yourself for not fighting. That takes a lot of strength!

  • Phil,

    Good insight, thank you for sharing. I agree with you that getting angry is also a choice, though a choice usually made without much reflection or analysis, and often not a conscious one.

    Anger is an emotional response which tends to be a subconscious and automatic reaction to a perceived threat. To begin to practice retraining oneself to gain mastery over such reactions (as Cici and Bullyinglte above are doing) takes strength and courage and is commendable. Its fruit is certainly worth the effort!

  • Krithika, my pleasure. I am glad you enjoyed it!

  • Phil Good-Elliott

    And it is so important to make the distinction between the feeling/emotion of anger and the choice/action of using violence. One can feel incredibly angry and full of rage without using overtly violent behavior, mannerisms, facial expressions, etc. Piggybacking on Richard’s comment above, using violence can become habitual and self-rewarding. Practicing non-violence is exactly that – practice. To master it, we practice it. In this day and age, that is radical and evolutionary (not revolutionary). More personal power to us all to build such mastery. And now back to practice!

  • Phil, I couldn’t have said it better: “To master it, we practice it.” It’s as simple as it is profound.

  • It says a lot about the guy who lost control, that all the crap in that guys life, who knows what kind of misery, was heaped on top of your father. It shows a weakness of the guy to conquer himself. It shows a lot about your dad, that up until that point he was somewhat successful at conquering his own life, so as not to dump a load of negative emotion on top of another person just to vent his other frustrations. Good on your dad

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Thank you Richard, for sharing your experience. Unfortunately, we can’t control other people’s actions, and it’s up to us to stand up for what’s right, even if there are disagreements.

    The only thing I can do is laugh at the person’s behavior, especially when they’re making themselves look stupid. That to me is very comical. When my ex-best friend called me every nasty and vile names, I laughed at him. My actions made him furious, since he knew that I wasn’t taking him very seriously. Although his behavior was unacceptable, I don’t tolerate disrespectful behavior from anyone, especially my inner circle of friends. I used my common sense, by ending the friendship.

  • Gabby

    Bullyingite, It’s as if you wrote about me – sometimes the anger and lashing out scares me, I can’t imagine what it must be for those on the receiving end. I desperately want to change. As if the anger and lashing out weren’t bad enough, I feel these behaviors are so selfish and add a tremendous amount of guilt to my being. I hope two years from now to be where you are. Thank you for the motivation to make the much needed changes NOW.

  • Bullyinglte

    You can change and it is in you. Try meditation and Yoga. Practice counting to 10 before responding in anger. It’s all there in front of you for the taking. Don’t expect miracles. Allow frustration to flow through you and find your release that doesn’t harm you or others. Each day is a new day to try again, so avoid frustration, Gabby. I know you can do it as I know I can. It is always two steps forward and one back. Perfection is not real, so don’t even worry about that. I am so glad you are finding motivation. We are all in this together.

  • Absolutely, LaTrice, we cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we react and respond.

  • Excellent point, Jimbob. By choosing to maintain calm, not only does it help us, but it keeps us from, as you said, dumping a load of negative emotion on top of another person and further adding to their struggle through life.

    Life is a challenge for all, but it is easiest for those who strive to make life less difficult for other people.

  • datdamndude

    I deeply needed this. I let my emotions get the best of me in every case. To look at the Sphinx in Egypt and read up on what it means , is so clear now. Thanks

  • It is never too late to start down the journey of self-mastery. Strength and wisdom some from within.

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  • datdamndude

    Thanks, I’m coming to realize that now. Been looking outside of me this whole time.

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