How to Get Angry Like the Dalai Lama

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Punching with Fiery Eyes

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

I quit Facebook because it was making me angry. The politics, the racism, the hatred, the pointless arguing that never convinces anyone.

All of this was making me angry. It wasn’t good for my Liver Qi.

Some people think that a qigong teacher like me shouldn’t get angry in the first place.

This makes me angry too.

Jesus got angry at the money lenders, the Buddha got angry at his monks, but somehow I’m expected to be 100% free of anger?

Someone once asked the Dalai Lama if he ever gets angry or outraged. He said:

“Oh, yes, of course. I’m a human being. Generally speaking, if a human being never shows anger, then I think something’s wrong. He’s not right in the brain. [Laughs.]” [source]

I totally agree with him. And believe it or not, so does qigong philosophy.

The 3 Types of Anger


Qigong philosophy, which is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, tells us that there are 3 types of anger:

  1. Excess Anger
  2. Insufficient Anger
  3. Appropriate Anger

Two of these are unhealthy. Can you guess which ones?

If you guessed #1 and #2, then you get a gold star!

Think of a see-saw. One side of the see-saw can be up (excess anger), or it can be down (insufficient anger), or it can be perfectly balanced (appropriate anger).

Or if you want another analogy, think of Goldilocks.

Anger can be the bed that’s too hard (excess), the bed that’s too soft (insufficient), or it can be the bed that’s juuuust riiight (appropriate).

Let’s look at each of these different types of anger separately.

1. Excess Anger


Too much anger is the obvious one — the one that gets all the attention. It’s also the reason that anger gets such a bad rap.

You’ve seen this type of anger in action at some point in your life, and it probably wasn’t pleasant.

To illustrate the problems with excess anger, let’s take the example of an abusive husband.

He’s seething with anger, and he frequently lashes out with verbal and physical abuse toward his wife, his kids, and even the dog.

There’s no question that this is unhealthy for everyone involved, including him.

His anger is unbalanced in a way that leads to violence and abuse.

In the see-saw analogy, his anger is up. In the Goldilocks analogy, his anger is the bed that’s too hard.

2. Insufficient Anger

The idea that someone can have too little anger is downright confusing to most Westerners. This confusion is connected to the false idea that anger is always bad.

Westerners tend to think, “the less anger, the better”.

But less anger isn’t necessarily healthier.

Let’s take the same example from above, but this time let’s look at the wife.

If she has been enduring her husband’s abuse for years, then hers could be an example of insufficient anger.

Why doesn’t she leave him, or take steps to protect herself, the kids, and the dog?

It’s not because she’s weak. Her “fed up” switch isn’t working properly.

You’ve probably been in a situation where you finally got fed up. Once that happened, once the “fed up” switch was flipped, you suddenly had the energy, mental clarity, and motivation to make changes.

That’s precisely the energy that the abused woman is lacking.

Her anger is unbalanced in a way that leads to numbness and inaction.

In the see-saw analogy, her anger is down. In the Goldilocks analogy, her anger is too soft.

3. Appropriate Anger


Appropriate anger, sometimes called “righteous anger,” is not only healthy, but essential to human life.

This is the energy that fuels action, the energy that enables people to right wrongs, the energy that fights for justice.

For example, the energy that led Martin Luther King to fight for civil rights — that was righteous anger, especially since it was non-violent.

Another example is the anger that led Susan B. Anthony to fight for women’s rights.

Righteous anger is appropriate to the situation, flows naturally, and then resolves itself.

If you look at the example of the abusive husband and the abused wife — they both represent opposites sides of an anger imbalance. Neither one of them shows appropriate anger.

Anger and the Five Elements


Traditional Chinese Medicine has a core theory called The Theory of Five Elements.

Basically, there are five energies that are represented by fire, earth, metal, water, and wood.

Each of these energies has a list of correspondences. For example, the Water Element is associated with the season winter, the color blue, the putrid odor, and the emotion of fear.

Don’t worry. You don’t need to memorize the chart above — unless you go to acupuncture school, in which case you have to memorize a much bigger and more complicated chart!

(And if you’re already an acupuncturist, please understand that I’m simplifying the Theory of Five Elements here for the sake of clarity.)

For our purposes here, we only need to look at the Wood Element, and the corresponding organ and emotion.

As you can see above, the emotion for the Wood Element is anger, and the corresponding organ is the Liver.

So what does all this mean for you and your liver?

Facebook vs. Your Liver

I mentioned earlier that Facebook was bad for my Liver Qi.

Can you see the connection now?

Facebook was making me angry, which was affecting my Liver Qi.

Eventually, this could affect my entire Wood Element, throwing my whole energy system off balance.

Yes, Facebook is one of the many things screwing with your qi!

Remember that it’s nearly impossible to have appropriate anger on Facebook. The same is true of reading a newspaper.  You simply can’t take meaningful action against every issue you see on Facebook or in the news.

Sorry. Sharing an article on Facebook doesn’t count as a meaningful action.

The anger that I was feeling while scrolling through my Facebook feed was going nowhere. It was just getting stuck. And that’s not healthy.

So I quit. I still use Facebook for Flowing Zen, but I no longer scroll through my news feed.

And my liver is happier for it.

The Two-Way Street


Here’s the fascinating thing about these Five Element correspondences: they work in both directions.

For example, if you injure your liver, perhaps by drinking too much alcohol, then you can actually make yourself angrier.

The Liver Qi gets disrupted by the alcohol abuse, which then disrupts the balance of anger.

In other words, anger can injure your liver, or injuring your liver can make you angry.

If you’re thinking, “That seems like a vicious cycle,” then you’re exactly right! The connection between anger and your liver can snowball in some pretty unhealthy ways.

Balance Your Wood!

By now, I hope you’re starting to see that anger management is really about managing the Wood Element.

When your Wood Element is in balance, then you’ll experience more and more appropriate anger.

Similarly, you’ll experience less and less of the imbalanced versions of anger, like rage or numbness.

In the example above, if we were to harmonize the energy in the wife’s Wood Element, then she would develop the balanced, righteous anger necessary to leave or stand up to her husband. (I’ve actually seen this happen with my students.)

If we were to harmonize the energy in the husband’s Wood Element, then his anger would calm down, and he would gradually find ways to express himself without being verbally or physically abusive.

This is all well and good, but how do we actually do it?

How To Develop Appropriate Anger

If there is something better for managing anger than qigong, I haven’t yet found it.

Acupuncture is great, and a good acupuncture physician should help you to diagnose and treat the imbalances in your Wood Element.

Yoga is also great, although it doesn’t use the Five Element theory. I also think that, when it comes to anger, qigong packs more of a punch, literally and figuratively (see below).

I assume that the Dalai Lama uses sitting meditation, and techniques like Loving Kindness Meditation.

(Click here to read my article about Loving Kindness Meditation, including a free audio — but make sure to READ the article before sending me hate mail. Thankyouverymuch!)

Punching Your Way to Appropriate Anger

Punching With Fiery Eyes, taken during my teacher certification program.

Punching With Fiery Eyes, taken during my teacher certification program.

I mentioned that qigong packs more punch. That was actually a bit of a qigong joke. I’ll explain.

There’s a famous qigong is called Punching with Fiery Eyes. This exercise happens to be excellent for harmonizing the Wood Element.

This technique is found in both the 18 Luohan Hands and 8 Pieces of Brocade qigong sets. The picture above shows a bunch of my certified instructors doing the technique (with Simon leading the charge).

There are lots of qigong techniques that will harmonize the Wood Element, but this one is a great example.

Slow and Soft, or Hard and Fast?

Punching with Fiery Eyes can be practiced slowly and gently, like tai chi.

Or it can be practiced more forcefully, like karate.

If you have excessive anger, then practicing the softer version, with a gentle punch and soft breathing, can help to soften your anger.

If you have insufficient anger, then practicing the harder version, with a forceful punch and a shouting sound, can help to raise your anger to a healthier level.

Whether the energy of your Wood Element is too hard or too soft, qigong exercises like this one can really help to bring it back into balance.

Personally, I just love that the same technique can be used for both types of imbalanced anger. It’s yet another reason to fall in love with qigong.

If you want to learn the Punching with Fiery Eyes technique, then make sure to get on the waiting list for my Qigong 101 program. I teach all 18 Luohan Hands systematically in that program.

Mindfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I’m Anthony Korahais, and I used qigong to heal from clinical depression, low back pain, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. I’ve already taught thousands of people from all over the world to use qigong for their own stubborn health issues. I teach online courses, and also lead in-person retreats and workshops.

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22 Responses to How to Get Angry Like the Dalai Lama

  1. Sonia Green September 20, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    Thankyou, great post! Shared it to Facebook – hope your liver’s OK with that!

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais September 20, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

      Thank you! And yes, my liver is happy that you are helping other livers. 🙂

  2. Sonia Green September 20, 2016 at 4:47 pm #

    PS. I don’t think things MAKE us angry – more accurate to say they TRIGGER what’s already within us. Interesting to observe the triggers & how they evolve. Mindfulness & detachment is key. The Native American story of which wolf to feed helps me. When I feel inappropriately angry, I can remind myself to feed the good wolf of love, hope, ietting go & peace.

  3. Tammy Gray September 20, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

    You must of been reading my mind, this it what happened to me last week end, but I must of been reading yours too, because I was reading all about the five elements, and was punching with fiery eyes!

  4. Juliet Blake September 21, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    This was awesome! I’ve experienced the good and bad type of anger, but never the appropriate kind. When I was younger it was over sufficient, now it is under sufficient. I now internalize everything and it is little wonder that my body is very sick! 🙁 I really need to do the punching with fiery eyes…you’ve inspired me to get back into studying more about qigong. Thank you.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais September 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

      I’m so glad to hear that you are inspired, Juliet!

      I suspect that you have, indeed, experienced moments of appropriate anger. Good parenting, for example, often involves spontaneous appropriate anger.

      But balance is the key! All of us could use more balance, and that’s why qigong is such a wonderful tool!

  5. Vera September 21, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    Goody! The 5 elements theory was always a fascinating subject for me. It is about our integration and balance with nature. And I never had enough explained about it. Please do teach more on this subject! Thank you!

  6. austin judge September 21, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

    I’ve been studying chinese herbalism and to a lesser extent acupuncture and pressure points (both for healing and combat) for about 6 years now. Over the years I gradually changed from a western mind set to more eastern and find that (for me at least) more you understand and use things like five elements or more complex methods you start to see every thing and everyone as more of energy and what have in terms of imbalances/balances in every aspect of life now just emotional health rather and therefore also gain a special sense of understand that shows what someobes struggling people with which helps yourself keep balance to since part of emotions in general but especially things like anger or fear are a lack of understanding somewhere and if you can spot the reasons for example.

    My mom has bad arthritis in her hands from being a policemen for 20+ years, works sometimes 100+ hours a week,never truly rests since she can stand not being super active and recently developed a growth on her liver (non cancerous) and is always stressed.

    which obviouslyrics a huge number of those health issues are liver and spleen (which liver can attack spleen making it worse to). But by understanding all this when she gets mad for no reason and yells at me I don’t take a fence to it or get mad because I understand what’s causing it and know it’s not truly intentional.

    Sorry that was so long guys
    Best of luck on training and life

  7. claire September 23, 2016 at 11:38 pm #

    Thanks for the interesting article. What is your definition of anger?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais September 24, 2016 at 9:04 am #

      Hi Claire.

      How’s this for a working definition:

      Anger is a natural human emotion that raises blood pressure, heart rate, and also increases adrenaline levels. It can range from mild frustration, to annoyance, to intense rage.

  8. claire September 24, 2016 at 8:32 pm #

    Thanks for your reply.

    I should say that as I have been diagnosed with liver excess and am prone to outbursts this subject is close to my heart :).

    The reason I asked how you defined anger is that from what I have read, anger is treated (in psychology at least) as a ‘secondary’ emotion, ie secondary to other ‘primary’ emotions such as sadness or fear. Anger is one way of expressing these underlying emotions (so the theory goes) but it does not necessarily deal with the underlying issues effectively.

    Also anger is commonly defined as involving hostility and antagonism toward others, or a desire that others be punished or harmed.

    These definitions don’t really seem to fit with your descriptions of insufficient or righteous anger so maybe you see it differently?

    Perhaps (in an ideal world!) we could be motivated more by compassion for the victims of injustice (even ourselves) rather than anger toward the perpetrators? Or maybe anger can be directed at circumstances or systems rather than individual humans?

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais September 25, 2016 at 10:03 am #

      Hi Claire. Just to be clear, you were diagnosed with Liver Excess by a TCM doctor?

      I think that Western psychology could really benefit from the Five Elements. When you understand the interplay between the elements, the interplay between emotions becomes clearer.

      For example, fear often leads to anger, but not because fear is necessarily underneath anger.

      In TCM, we could describe it as the Water Element not nourishing the Wood Element. When this happens, anger can be affected.

      The interplay of the Elements is complex, and needs a lot of study. But it’s a cool model, and it really works well!

      I’ll write more about this in the future.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais September 25, 2016 at 10:04 am #

      One more thing. Anger need not involve hostility. Look no further than Martin Luther King Jr. as an example.

  9. claire September 25, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    Yes I was diagnosed by a very good TCM doctor.

    But on your last point, I am still puzzled about what the emotion of anger actually is your view. It is more than just an emotional desire for change I assume?

    All the definitions I have looked at involve that element of hostility/antagonism/harm or something similar.

    I always thought that people like MLK and Gandhi were great not because they didn’t have that kind of anger but because they managed to transform it into something more positive.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais September 25, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

      HI Claire. According to TCM, Gandhi and MLK were angry. But it was righteous anger, not excessive anger.

      As I mentioned in the article, people in the West always assume that anger is bad, and that it’s always hostile. I tried to explain that the Eastern view is different.

      If someone insults you, and you speak up for yourself — that’s anger, but it’s not hostile.

      If someone assaults you, and you get angry back, but rather than hit him back, you press charges — that’s anger, but it’s not hostile.

      Make sense?

  10. claire September 25, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

    I understand what you are saying, but that seems a very broad definition.

    As I understand it you would say that responding appropriately and rationally (without any antagonism or other negative emotion) to any unsatisfactory behavior or circumstance, is a form of anger?

  11. claire September 25, 2016 at 7:42 pm #

    Dalai Lama:

    There needs to be understanding that anger never helps to solve a problem. It destroys our peace of mind and blinds our ability to think clearly. Anger and attachment are emotions that distort our view of reality.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais September 25, 2016 at 8:14 pm #

      Hi Claire. I don’t know the context of this quote. But if we take it as is, then TCM would disagree with his statement.

      But I suspect that it’s a matter of semantics.

      The energy that helps you create healthy boundaries, that helps you to right wrongs, that helps you to fight for justice — that’s righteous anger.

      The energy that the Dalai Lama uses to fight for freedom in Tibet, even after all these years — that’s righteous anger.

  12. voxaesthetica September 29, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    Hey Sifu,

    This is great! Will you do one of these for the metal element? (Including a metal element balancing technique?) I’m so fascinated! Thanks!

  13. Kat October 18, 2016 at 10:24 am #

    I’ve read and as I understand it, anger in children is often the result of sadness or a sense of distance, lack of attachment to their primary carer. If their sadness is not recognised and addressed or from past experience is denied it can morph into anger. A lot of adult anger (this may be the inappropriate type) is caused by childhood triggers (especially parental anger). These childhood events are stored somewhere in our systems and are in turn triggered by the behaviour of our children. Until we understand that we are being triggered and it’s not the child’s behaviour but our reaction to it that causes an emotional/physical response, we remain trapped in that cycle. How many times have parents found themselves thinking ‘I sound just like my mum/dad.’?

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