Angry at your computer?

Thank you to commenter Paul who brings up probably the most common cause of frustration – our computers:

“Anger in me comes mostly (these days) from computer-related glitches: printer fails to works, something ‘disappears’ from the screen, things are present on the screen that i don’t know how to remove. Mostly the anger arises because I’m in a hurry.
I’m trying to understand the source of this anger which is in fact deep in me I think.
Any thoughts?”

Paul astutely and correctly observes that the source of the anger is deep inside, as it is for all of us. It is as if a sleeping dragon awaits a little poke, whereupon he roars into action. This is an accurate description of dosa.

Others may see it differently, but in my mind, our frustration with computers is primarily due to our expectations. Because things often work well and quickly, our expectation is set that it should always do so. When it doesn’t, it’s a personal affront! But think of it this way — our systems often work so well that we take them for granted. We don’t expect the printer to wear out, we don’t anticipate that it’s software will go out of date. We assume (correctly or not) that we are protected from viruses and spyware and when there is a breach, it feels very much as if the innermost sanctum of our home has been invaded by barbarians.

I am no stranger to the frustration and fury that a malfunctioning computer system can provoke. When I started using a PC, back in the 80’s, frustration was part of everyday usage. Rebooting to try to resolve glitches was a daily occurrence, and took several minutes each time. Days were spent holding on helplines, trying to figure out what was needed (almost always a software upgrade or patch). Then things got easier, hardware and software became more reliable. However, the software required to protect a home computer from viruses and other malware grew to such a degree that it started to overwhelm the operating systems (please forgive me if this sounds like jargon). Within the past year I gave up, in frustration, and switched to an Apple MacIntosh. Converting systems, of course, brings its own set of frustrations, but I expected to spend time learning a new system, and it has worked out well.

What can we learn? Look in to the feeling of anger when it comes up. Check what the mind is rebelling against – is there an assumption that things SHOULD be a certain way? That accidents shouldn’t happen, that breakdowns shouldn’t occur? Well, they do, regularly and frequently. And people often do not behave in ways that we want or expect them to. So how can we inoculate ourselves against these incorrect assumptions and anger? No one answer can suffice, we have to figure it out one situation at a time. But for me, I try not to promise to deliver something from my computer system quickly (in less than a day). When I do, inevitably, the printer that’s been reliable for years breaks down completely, or the promised document can’t be found, or the software unaccountably chokes. So I build an insurance policy of time into my planning and promises. Usually.

If we avoid provoking the sleeping dragon of dosa, over time his muscles will wither. By applying patience and wisdom to our everyday challenges, we gradually learn how to avoid exercising the dragon.

1 Comment

Filed under Anger

One response to “Angry at your computer?

  1. In the middle of reading your post I left the computer for a minute. When I returned, my Internet session had “closed unexpectedly!” How appropriate. I think often about those three defilements: greed, ill-will, and delusion (lobha, dosa, and moha). They are invariably intertwined – one leads to the next in a cycle. Possessiveness of material goods, possession of time, even possession of a self-identity, are all manufactured delusion, we are greedy about having them, trained by consumer culture to cling to them, we become insecure, we are worried about someone else lessening their value or stealing them, then they fade, or lose value, because they are impermanent, then we weep or grumble. We are so sad as a species, yet the Buddha was kind enough to point out a way to limit this distress, even to the extent of being able to bring it to a close, so really we are fortunate to face difficulty because it means we can be kind to one another, because we all are in the same samsara. Happiness and thanks for your blog.

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