A few days back I was in a situation where I vividly experienced a spike of intense anger. I usually don’t even like to harm insects. But in that moment, the only thing that stopped me from inflicting intense pain on the other person was fear of consequences, legal or otherwise. For a brief moment, I had no shred of empathy left within me. The amount of pain I was willing to inflict on the person in that moment was wildly disproportionate to the pain he inflicted on me.
What exactly happened?
At a shop alongside highway, one person was extremely rude to me.
It would have been alright if at this point if the person involved had taken a softening action. But he did not. What he did was perceived as “lack of concern, lack of empathy” in my mind.
The anger started building. I tried to politely point out his mistake. However my comment was dismissed. And without giving me a chance to fully say things I wanted to say, that person exited the situation entirely.
I was left with seething anger. But he was gone. I boiled for a while. Then I calmed down.
After a while, I took a deep breathe and started to pay attention to my response with curiosity. Here is unwinding of my emotional response. Peeling the onion so to speak.
First there was a feeling of victimization and unfairness, injustice. Something rightfully belonged to me did not come my way.
Second there was a sensation of lack of empathy towards me.
Now a story was building in my mind. The combined feeling of victimization and lack of empathy led to the projection of future. I feared my own self respect decreasing, me judging myself harshly.
But the most compulsive part of my anger, the part that wanted me to dart out and beat the s**t out of him, came out of a thought that this person, if he gets away, will feel encouraged to do the same thing in future. And he will do it again and again. And he will face no consequences again and again. And the cycle might lead to some kind of apocalypse. This is how I am putting in words, but it was more of a flash thinking.
As if the course of future that was entirely dependent on my response in this moment. If I respond, the situation is corrected. If I do not respond, apocalypse.
This idea of totally diverging future paths of the world, entirely dependent on a very narrow range of choices, is what creates strong compulsion.
But sanity prevailed. I waited out the impulse. And then I was hit with a realization that the future does not diverge that rapidly based on my choices. Universe is very fluid and self correcting. And it always presents me a wide range of choices to be happy and find peace. The bad man will meet his corrective punishment somewhere else. I will be able to move on no matter what.
Those Zen Masters were right again.