The Enemy Within
Confronting Your Challenges in the 21st Century
By Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
I elected to begin with the trait of anger because the Ramban, in his letter of guidance to his son, begins with instruction to control rage. Furthermore, the Arizal says that not only is rage a most decadent trait, but it is also distinct from other negative traits in that commitment of any sin causes a defect in a corresponding part of the body, whereas rage corrupts the entire person (cited in Lev Eliyahu vol. 3 p.21).
In keeping with the reason for this book, which is to assist in the struggle with the yetzer hara as it manifests itself in modern times, one may ask why the teachings of the earlier ethicists are not sufficient. The answer is that the escalation of angry behavior and its broad impact is unprecedented in the history of humanity.
Since the days of Cain and Abel, there has been hatred and strife. The first homicide was the result of Cain's rage at being slighted. World history is replete with wars and violence. However, the extent to which anger has soared and the degree to which we are exposed to it has never before occurred.
Hardly a week goes by in which there is not a report of an incident of explosive anger. A disgruntled worker kills people at his former place of employment. A youngster shoots teachers and fellow students. Acts of terrorism are a daily phenomenon. Furthermore, these are delivered in the utmost explicitness via the graphic media. Awareness of these behaviors can arouse and intensify the inborn trait of anger. Repeated research studies have concluded that exposure to violence on television stimulates youngsters to violent behavior.
Let us not think that the horror which these acts elicit and their condemnation in any way minimize and discourage anger. To the contrary, the Torah tells us that the opposite is true. The Talmud says that one who has observed the humiliation of a suspected adulteress should avoid the use of wine, because alcohol lessens an individual's inhibitions and diminishes one's resistance to wrongdoing.
But should not the humiliation resulting from a sin serve to deter a person from wrongdoing and actually reinforce his resistance to sin? The answer is, No. Awareness of the grave consequences of sin does not diminish one's drive. The awareness that the sin was committed may actually intensify the drive, the punishment notwithstanding.
The wisdom of the Torah was borne out by recent studies. In the hope of discouraging young people from using drugs, some schools instituted a prevention program which consisted of lectures to students about the grave consequences of drug use. But, lo and behold! Research showed that those schools that had this "prevention'' program had a greater incidence of drug use than comparable schools which did not have this program. Why? Because the youngsters were stimulated by hearing about the "highs'' that drugs produced. The consequences of death or imprisonment incident to drug use was not a deterrent.
The pervasiveness of violence in today's world necessitates additional strategies to manage and control anger.
I have pointed out in other books that the Hebrew word for anger, kaas, is used for three different phases of anger, and this may lead to some confusion.
Kaas may refer to the feeling one has when one is offended or provoked. There is no need to describe this feeling. Everyone is familiar with it.
After we feel anger, we may react by expressing our anger in a wide variety of ways, from word to deed. In fact, clamming up and pouting is also a reaction, albeit a passive one. The reaction to the initial feeling of anger is also termed kaas.
The third phase of anger, which is likewise called kaas, is retention of the feeling. Sometimes the anger feeling dissipates, and at other times it may linger for hours, weeks and even years. We may hold a grudge for years against the person who offended us.
The reason that it is important to distinguish among these three phases is because the feeling one has when provoked is a reflex action, and it is not under voluntary control. Just as one does not have control whether or not to feel pain when pricked by a sharp instrument, neither does one have control whether or not to feel anger when one is offended. Inasmuch as this feeling is not under voluntary control, a person cannot be held culpable for this initial feeling of anger.
We do have control over how we react and how long we retain the feeling of anger. Since these phases are controllable, we are held responsible for them.
Yet, because kaas is used to describe all three phases, it may be assumed that it is wrong to feel anger when one is provoked. This is an error.
Proof of this is that Rambam writes that "having kaas is as grave a sin as idolatry'' (Hil. Dei'os 2). Inasmuch as Rambam bases his rulings on the Talmud, there must be a source for this in Talmud. The Talmudic statement is, "One who tears his clothes or breaks things in kaas is equivalent to an idolater'' (Shabbos 105b). It is clear that this is the source for Rambam's ruling, and that his use of kaas refers to the reaction to anger rather than to the initial feeling.
Finally, there is the retention of anger, or holding a grudge. This, too, is under voluntary control. It is of this that Solomon writes, "kaas rests in the bosom of fools'' (Ecclesiastes 7:9). If one retains the feeling of anger instead of divesting oneself of it, one is indeed foolish.
To avoid confusion, I will use different terms for the various phases of anger. For the initial feeling upon being provoked, I will use the word "anger.'' For the reaction to this feeling and the expression of it, whether mild or severe, active or passive, I will use the word "rage.'' And for the grudge or retention of the feeling, I will use the word "resentment.'' I will ask the reader to pay attention to the specificity of these terms, in order to avoid any misunderstanding.
The Torah forbids taking any kind of revenge, active or passive. It is forbidden to retaliate even verbally. If someone who has offended you asks for a favor, it is not permissible to say, "All right, I will do it for you even though you don't deserve it.'' Rather, you must do the favor and remain silent (Leviticus 19:18, Rashi).
A person may say, "I can restrain myself from taking revenge, and I can even restrain myself from telling someone he does not deserve it. But how do you expect me to not feel resentment? My feelings are not under my voluntary control.''
If it would not be possible to overcome resentments, the Torah would not ask it of us. The Torah does not demand of us to do the impossible.
Inasmuch as any expression of a grudge is forbidden, there is simply no purpose in holding on to it. The only one who is harmed by a grudge is the one who holds it, not the one against whom it is held. Carrying a grudge may result in a variety of serious psychosomatic conditions, such as migraine headaches, high blood pressure and digestive disorders. It is certainly most foolish, as Solomon said, to do harm to yourself because of another person's behavior.
An excellent story that demonstrates Solomon's designation of one who harbors resentments as a fool is that of Graf Valentin Pototcki, the Righteous Convert of Vilna.
Graf Pototcki was the son of a high nobleman, and his conversion to Judaism was a threat to the Church, which condemned him to death if he did not recant. Pototcki fled and lived incognito in a small village, where he spent his time studying Torah. The villagers knew his secret but, of course, would not expose him.
There was a young boy in the village who often harassed him, and Pototcki pleaded with him to desist. The boy told his father that Pototcki had shouted at him and, to retaliate, the father revealed Pototcki's whereabouts to the Church. Pototcki was taken into custody and was told that if he did not retract his conversion, he would be burned at the stake.
Pototcki refused to deny his faith and the cruel execution was carried out, with Pototcki's reciting the Shema with his last breath.
The executioner, seeing that Pototcki was unperturbed by his imminent death, said, "You are no doubt thinking that when you get up to heaven you will bring down the wrath of G-d on us.''
"Not at all,'' Pototcki said. "When I was a child, I had little clay soldiers with which I played. One young boy was jealous of me and broke my soldiers. I cried to my father and asked him to punish the boy. When my father ignored me, I thought, 'Wait until I grow up and become the local feudal lord. I will then punish this boy.'
"When I grew up and did have the power to punish him, I was mature enough to realize how foolish it was to make an issue of something as insignificant as a few little clay soldiers, and I did nothing to punish the man who had broken them when he was a child.
"When I get to heaven and realize how insignificant is this puny little body that you are about to destroy, do you think I will make an issue of it?''
That was true wisdom. If we had the wisdom to think how insignificant the incident that angered us really was, we would not retain the resentment.
There are many anecdotes of how our Torah personalities overcame their feelings of resentment. One of them demonstrates not only their divesting themselves of resentment, but also the incomparable level of honesty they possessed.
A man came to R' Eliyahu Lopian asking his forgiveness for having offended him. "I don't recall you ever having offended me. How can I forgive something of which I am not aware?''
After some urging, the man told R' Lopian just how he had offended him. R' Lopian said, "It is easy for me to say that I forgive you, but I am afraid that this would just be lip service, and that in my heart I might still bear a grudge. My statement, 'I forgive you' would be less than truthful.
"Please come back in two weeks,'' R' Lopian said. "In the interval, I will study the mussar writings on how to overcome resentments, so that my forgiving will be wholehearted.''
Two weeks later the man returned. R' Lopian embraced him. "I forgive you with all my heart,'' he said, "and I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to improve this important character trait.''
The Arizal said, "Of all the methods of doing teshuvah, the most effective is to withstand offenses and insults and not react to them.'' R' Elazar Azcari said, "Why suffer in this world or in Gehinnom for your sins? You can dispense with the punishments by refraining from reacting when someone insults or humiliates you'' (End of Sefer Chareidim).
The great merit of forgiving is demonstrated by an incident related by R' Chaim Shmulevitz. "During the Six Day War, we were assembled in a shelter, and we could hear the shells exploding around us. People were saying Tehillim (Psalms) fervently.
"Then I heard an exclamation from a woman whose husband had abused her, and who had abandoned her for ten years, with no support for the children, all the while ada-mantly refusing to give her a get (Jewish divorce) to set her free. The woman said, 'Master of the universe! I forgive my husband for all the pain and agony he has caused me. Just as I have forgiven him, I plead with You to forgive the sins of all who are gathered here.'
'' R' Chaim said, "That our lives were spared was in the merit of this woman, who overcame the resentments she harbored against her husband who had so grieved her.''
Along with the mitzvah of restraining oneself from taking revenge and of not bearing a grudge is the mitzvah not to carry hatred in one's heart. We may sometimes dislike a person for his behavior because we do not know why he is acting that way. Perhaps if we knew all the facts, we would recognize that his actions were indeed proper. This is the principle of "Judge every person favorably'' (Ethics of the Fathers 1:6). This is a derivative of the mitzvah to love your fellow as yourself. Just as you would want to be judged favorably and be given the benefit of the doubt, that is how you should act toward others.
R' Avraham Pam writes, "These days, given the stresses and tension of modern life, many people are irritable and depressed. This may cause them to say things they really do not mean, and they regret having said them. We should keep this in mind and give people every consideration'' (Atareh LaMelech p. 84).
R' Aryeh Levin relates that he was attending a funeral in Jerusalem, and was surprised to see the deceased person's best friend leave the procession early and not accompany his friend to his final resting place. The friend eventually returned, having stopped off to buy a flower pot. "I was incensed,'' R' Levin said. "Why did he leave his friend's funeral to buy a flowerpot? Couldn't he have done it some other time? I did not want to transgress the Torah commandment, 'Do not carry hatred in your heart . . . reprove your fellow' (Leviticus 19:17), so I said to the person, 'Why did you leave the funeral to buy a flowerpot?'
"The man replied, 'My friend died of a contagious disease, and the doctors ordered that everything he had come in contact with must be burned. Among his belongings were his tefillin. I pleaded with the doctors not to burn them, and they told me that if the tefillin were buried, that would be satisfactory. I stopped off to buy a flowerpot into which we could put the tefillin so that they could be buried in an earthenware container as the halachah requires. My friend's tefillin will be buried near him.'
"The anger I had felt toward this person changed to great admiration,'' R' Levin said. "I then took a vow that I would always judge other people favorably.''
It is easy to find fault with others. That is why it is so helpful to say the introductory prayer before the morning service, composed by R' Elimelech of Lizhensk, which reads, "May we see the good traits of others and not their defects.'' Not only is this a valuable prayer in itself, but it also produces the proper mind-set for prayer, as the Arizal instructed, to commit ourselves to the mitzvah of "Love your fellow as yourself'' before praying the morning service.
Anger may occur, as in the following example, when we lack knowledge of all the facts.
I was once driving behind several cars up the ramp of a parking garage. The lead car was moving very slowly, and the driver of the car in front of me was tooting his horn angrily. I was tempted to do likewise but refrained because increasing the noise level would accomplish nothing. Inasmuch as I was already late for an appointment, I could feel the anger building up in me for the driver of the lead car, whose slow pace was further delaying me.
When the lead car pulled into a space, I was able to see the handicap symbol on the license plate. Understanding why it was proceeding slowly totally dissipated my anger.
Nothing in creation is in vain. The Midrash says that when King David wondered why G-d had created insects that are nothing other than annoying, G-d showed him that he owed his very life to two insects (Alef-Beis d'Ben Sira). If anger were only destructive, it would not have been created. There must be a constructive aspect for anger, albeit not for rage or resentment.
The Baal Shem Tov said that all feelings, even those that we may consider to be contemptible, can be constructive if they are properly channeled. Let us see how this applies to anger.
This may come as a surprise to you, but pure "anger'' is not what you may think. We need to re-define it.
Anger is the body's response to some kind of provocation. Pure anger is not hostility, hate or aggression. Those are actually part of the reaction to anger. Anger itself is the way the body prepares itself to deal with an affront. It is a physiological process, in which there may be an increase in the heart rate, tensing of the muscles, increased output of adrenaline, and several other changes.
Anger does not necessarily have to result in hostile feelings. It can be channeled constructively, as we shall see.
The problem is that from early childhood on we allowed anger to develop into hostile or aggressive feelings, and the two have become so closely intertwined that we consider them as one.
A further problem is that our early experiences were such that our reaction to anger usually worked. Perhaps we got what we wanted from parents who appeased us for the sake of peace and quiet. If nothing else, our reaction certainly gained us the attention of our parents. As we grew, we found that expressing anger toward people other than our parents often resulted in getting what we wanted. In other words, our expression of anger was often rewarded in one way or another. When an action is rewarded, we tend to repeat it. In this way, the expression of anger, which I have referred to as "rage,'' became one of our character traits.
Let me state at this point that the notion that "letting off steam'' as a good way to get rid of anger is erroneous. This method of discharging anger is more likely to aggravate the body's response. Contrary to popular opinion, it does not get rid of the anger.
This was stated by the Talmud two thousand years ago. "Rage produces nothing but rage'' (Kiddushin 41a).
Inasmuch as improper management of anger does not lessen it, the anger (body response) may linger on. Instead of returning to normal, the body is likely to maintain its state of preparedness. Even if they are of lesser intensity, many of the physiological changes may persist. This is why improperly managed anger has been found to be associated with an increased incidence of heart disease, high blood pressure, stomach and intestinal disorders, migraine headaches and various muscular aches.
Listen to what the Gaon of Vilna has to say about rage. "The anger response is based on one's assumption that fulfilling his desires is the ultimate good, the prime imperative of the universe. Within every angry person's mind lies the illusion, created by his pride, that everything and everyone surrounding him were created to serve his needs . . . Because anger (rage) is the ultimate expression of pride, anger and a feeling of closeness to G-d are mutually exclusive. One cannot subordinate himself simultaneously to G-d and to his own idolized self . . . Anyone who wants to achieve closeness to G-d must exercise the opposite of pride: humility and self- effacement'' (The Juggler and the King p. 41).
Constructive management of anger is going to require an "unlearning.'' We must detach the body response from the reaction with which it has been closely associated for many years. This is not going to be an easy or rapid process. However, if we appreciate how destructive our reaction to anger may be, and that rage is so grave a trait that the Talmud equates it with idolatry, we should be ready to undertake this difficult task.
Refining our character traits is a most essential if not the most essential component of avodas Hashem. This is often translated as "serving G-d.'' However, the word avodah means "work,'' and work requires effort and expenditure of energy.
It is related that the mother of the Chassidic master, R' Zvi of Ziditchov, would touch her sons' clothing when they returned from shul. If they were not moist with perspiration, she would tell them that their davening had lacked proper kavannah (concentration). The Talmud refers to prayer as avodah shebelev, the work of the heart. If they did not sweat during prayer, they obviously had not been working at it.
How is it that people who are meticulously observant of Torah may nevertheless become enraged and have outbursts of shouting, sometimes using very insulting words and even becoming physical? Why are they not restrained by the gravity of rage, which the Talmud equates with idolatry? The consequences of rage are most noxious. The Talmud says that when a person is in rage, "all the forces of Hell control him.'' And, "If he is a wise man, he loses his wisdom; if he is a prophet, he loses his prophesy'' (Pesachim 66b). Should this not deter one from rage?
I found the answer in people who are addicted to dangerous drugs. They may be fully aware that using a drug may have the most serious consequences and may even be fatal. Even highly intelligent people may not be deterred by this. The reason is that they do not know how to resist the compulsion. Willpower is singularly ineffective. In treating a drug addict you must show him how to resist the temptation. Scare techniques do not work.
This is equally true of expressing anger. We all know the tricks of counting to ten or other devices to forestall rage. Yet, we so often fail to use them. Something more is necessary.
I must again resort to the example of the drug addict. Lecturing and reprimanding is worthless. He must be taught how to resist the compulsion, and this is by no means an easy task. Furthermore, once this is accomplished, he must continue indefinitely to practice the behavior that discourages drug use. Laxity in doing so may result in relapse.
Even if one learns how to overcome rage reactions, the risk of relapse is high. It is necessary to diligently continue these techniques. Ramchal in the introduction to The Path of the Just (Mesilas Yesharim) makes the point that knowledge of what one must do is inadequate. Even knowledge of how one can do it is not enough. Ongoing practice of the techniques for proper middos is necessary.
I learned a simple technique from my father, whom I never saw express rage. He used to say, "The person who is provoking me doesn't understand that what he is doing is very foolish. He thinks he is wise and right. I feel sorry for him that he is a fool. Pity and rage do not go together. You cannot be angry at someone for whom you feel sorry.''
In contrast to "count to ten'' maneuvers, the work at managing anger must begin well ahead of the provocation. If you are familiar with some of my other books, you may say, "Oh, Oh! There he goes again. This is going to be another essay on self-esteem.'' And you will be 100 percent right.
It is simple common sense: The better your self-concept, the less sensitive you are to comments that may be insulting or critical. The more capable you feel, the less you feel threatened by acts against your security.
As I have repeatedly pointed out, self-esteem is not vanity. The statement by the Chazon Ish that I cited earlier makes it clear that self-confidence is not vanity. To the contrary, a self-confident person will be receptive to opinions that differ with his own or to criticism. A person with little self-confidence may feel threatened by these and is apt to be closed minded.
Effective anger-management requires self-esteem. Indeed, mastery of anger is a major undertaking. People with little self-esteem may give up, saying, "That's too much for me. I'm not capable of doing that.'' That is the yetzer hara at work, discouraging a person from attaining mastery over anger.
No challenge is overwhelming when one has Divine assistance. The Talmud states that G-d helps those people who work at observing Torah, which, as we have seen, includes refinement of middos. We need just begin and be willing to make the effort.
Think ahead in preparation for any possible provocation. "Do I want to be in control, or do I want to react reflexively?'' Every intelligent person will want to be in control of himself. But it is important that you actually say this to yourself. "I do not want to be a pawn in the hands of others. I do not want others to control me. If someone else can provoke me to rage, then that person is controlling me. I refuse to let that happen.''
The reason it is necessary to think ahead is because once a provocation has occurred, the physiological anger reaction may compromise our judgment. When your heart rate is increased and your muscles are tense as if in readiness for battle, it may be difficult to think clearly.
So think ahead. If someone will provoke you, what would you want the outcome of your reaction to be? The short-term effect might be that you put the person in his place, but the long-term effect is that your relationship will undoubtedly suffer. Is that what you really want? Were there not times that you regretted how you had responded in anger? Do you really want to do something that you may subsequently regret?
Be honest with yourself on this next one. Do you perhaps gloat or get a kick out of telling someone off? "Boy, did I ever tell him where to get off!'' Anything you enjoy can bias your judgment. But, should you really be enjoying rage? After all, rage is not a commendable trait. Rage should be something that you abhor rather than bask in. If you can develop a feel-ing that rage is repulsive, this may influence your reaction.
The contemporary ethicist, R' Shlomo Wolbe, in Alei Shur (vol.1, p.160) says that a person should keep a journal in which he records his actions and feelings of the day. This is an extremely important method for analyzing and improving all character traits and is very helpful in anger management.
After a provocation, write down what happened. How was I provoked? How did I respond? Just what about that incident caused me to become angry? What did I want to accomplish with my reaction? In retrospect, would there have been a better way to react? If this were to happen again, how should I react?
You may find it difficult to keep such a journal. Remember, avodah means work, and refinement of character traits is avodas Hashem. Needless to say, this journal should be kept in a very private place, because you must be frank and honest in recording all your feelings.
Once anger occurs, it may escalate. It is, therefore, important to catch it at the earliest moment you feel it coming on. If you have prepared yourself for managing anger properly, you should promptly think, "I must remember what I wrote.'' This will bring to mind what you had written about controlling anger, and will enable you to implement these desired responses.
There is a polar opposite to expressing rage, and that is to train yourself, or better yet, be trained not to feel anger. We call this "repression.'' It is not as healthy a maneuver as it may seem.
We have defined anger as the changes in body preparedness. These changes can be directed toward constructive action and this will result in proper discharge of anger. Not feeling anger at all does not discharge it. What happens is that the feelings that are repressed are buried in the subconscious mind where you have no access to them, but from which they can influence your thoughts, feelings and actions in an unhealthy way.
Inasmuch as "rage'' is the way anger is expressed, there is a broad spectrum of rage reactions, from very mild to very severe. Rage does not necessarily require screaming or throwing things. Even a response in a soft voice is technically rage, albeit very mild.
A rage reaction need not even be active. A person can react to a provocation by a silence which can be deafening. The "silent treatment'' is a form of rage.
Passive rage may be more difficult to deal with than active rage. A child or grown-up may react by refusing to do what one is told. A person who was angered by his boss may fail to carry out an assignment. A person may fail to get something done because he overslept or missed his flight by a few minutes. The latter passive reactions are not only very subtle, but may be the result of a subconscious reaction. The person may be totally unaware that his missing the flight was his way of getting back at the boss.
Finally, a person may be angry with oneself. How often are we angry with ourselves because we made a mistake? We may be much more harsh with ourselves than we would be with someone else, and we may punish ourselves for making a mistake.
How deeply you feel anger will depend on your own particular sensitivity, just as pressure on your body may not cause pain unless your skin has become very sensitive due to sunburn, in which case even a soft touch may evoke pain. It is important that you try to understand why you felt hurt by another person, and record that in your journal. You will find that if you build self-esteem, you will be far less sensitive. You will now develop a positive self-reinforcing cycle. Gaining mastery over anger enhances your self-esteem, which makes it easier to increase your mastery.
If you apply these techniques diligently and regularly, you will succeed in managing one of the most potentially toxic traits. But this takes both time and effort. Do not expect instantaneous results.
You may ask: If I succeed in rage management, how does the energy generated in rage dissipate? Also, how can anger be channeled to constructive use?
You will recall that anger is preparedness. If a country expects an attack or wishes to attack, it mobilizes its army. If peace is achieved, it demobilizes and things go back to normal. Similarly, once you decide not to react with rage and you do not repress the feeling, the preparedness changes dissipate and you go back to normal functioning.
Channeling the energy of anger constructively takes a bit more effort and incentive.
The Torah tells us that when the Patriarch Jacob was reunited with his beloved son, Joseph, for whom he had grieved for twenty-two years assuming him to be dead, they embraced. Joseph wept, but Jacob did not weep. Instead, he recited the Shema.
The commentaries explain that when Jacob felt the enormous surge of emotion upon seeing his beloved son alive, he thought, An intense emotion of love such as this should be directed toward love of G-d. He, therefore, recited the Shema.
We are not capable of Jacob's spirituality, but we might nevertheless try to use the anger energy ( = physiological response) constructively. Having avoided a rage reaction, we can promptly turn to Torah study or to reciting a chapter of Tehillim (Psalms). Expending the energy in this way may give one unexpected clarity in Torah and profound kavannah in prayer.
Our great Torah personalities were geniuses in good middos as well as in Torah knowledge. The two go together. One of the reasons they achieved such broad and profound knowledge and understanding of Torah is precisely because they had refined their middos. They redirected their energies and invested them in Torah study.
Isn't there an easier way to do this? No. It is avodah. Looking for the easy way is a trait that we will deal with in a subsequent chapter.
As we have seen, refinement of middos is a prerequisite to Torah and mitzvos. How is this achieved?
The letter of Ramban points the way. He tells his son to avoid rage, because by doing so he will achieve humility, "which is the finest of all the middos.''
The obvious question is: Inasmuch as humility is the finest of all middos, why not begin with humility? Why begin with control of rage which will lead to humility?
The answer is that Ramban had an understanding of human psychology. Humility is a feeling, and it is very difficult to alter a feeling. Rage is an action, which is much more amenable to control.
Once a person has achieved control over rage, he has taken an important step by refining a character trait. This greatly facilitates refinement of other traits.
If someone replaces a shabby lounge chair in the living room, the old sofa now conflicts with the new chair, so the sofa must be replaced. The old carpet is now incompatible with the new furniture, so it must go, then the drapes, the wallpaper, the lamps, etc. The living room is now completely revitalized, and it all began with one chair!
The same is true of middos. The refinement of one trait makes the others incompatible. If rage is brought under control and this is maintained, refinement of other middos will come about more easily. One will still have to learn mussar diligently, but beginning with an "action trait'' will facilitate development of humility and other commendable traits.
Reading Ramban's letter to his son once a week as Ramban suggested and praying for Divine assistance in the effort to overcome rage and resentment will not only result in character refinement, but will also lift the heavy burden of rage and resentment, allowing one to use one's energies much more efficiently.