Rotten Potatoes Meet Anger
How often do you get pissed off? How many times did you get irritated yesterday? How many times did you feel anguish and anger over something or someone this week? Are you still carrying it?
There once was a villager who was perpetually frustrated with everything. Nothing seemed to go his way. He would curse and whine about his state in life. He was angry.
One day, he finally gave in and went to see the local guru.
“I’m miserable and overwhelmed, nothing goes my way, people are idiots, and I am carrying the world on my shoulders,” he said. “I need help.”
The guru listened carefully and gently nodded.
“Don’t you want to know what bothers me about life and about others?”
“No,” said the guru. “But I will give you a task. Once you complete it, I will help you.”
Confused, but feeling helpless, the villager agreed.
“I’d like you to carry a bag on you, and every time you encounter a situation that angers you, and you don’t let it go, I want you to put a potato in that bag. And keep carrying and filling the bag with potatoes for two weeks. Then come see me.”
A week later, the villager returned.
“I cannot handle this stench anymore! And the weight is killing me, too.”
“So why are you carrying it?” the guru asked.
“I was supposed to because you told me so!”
“No, you carried it because you wanted to. Even if I told you to do it, if it is harming you, it doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it.”
This rotten potatoes story was first told in the context of a kindergarten students learning to let go of hate. But I think it is more broadly applicable in the context of anger and adults.
You, too, are carrying your own bag of rotten potatoes.
Every time you encounter a frustration, and allow that frustration to turn into anger—and fester—you’re filling your bag up.
You’re carrying it. It’s heavy. And it stinks.
We all do it. We seem to think we have to be frustrated or angry.
Likewise, we seem to forget that we have a choice to throw it away. Or never even fill it.
Sh*t will happen. People will annoy us. Things won’t go our way. We will feel anxious. We will get frustrated. Frustration will lead to anger. Anger will lead to action that we will later regret. Regret will lead to more anxiety. And the cycle continues.
But it doesn’t have to.
Next time you feel frustrated, ask yourself: What am I getting out of this? Do I feel like I have to be frustrated? Do I really enjoy carrying a heavy bag of stinky potatoes?
What would happen if I let it go?
Spoiler: change would happen. Whenever we consciously decide to let go of a habit that is no longer serving us (like collecting potatoes and carrying them around or getting angry at things out of our control and holding onto them), we trigger an avalanche of constructive change.
It starts small, but it works. Try it for yourself!