What Are the Disturbing Attitudes?

The three poisons—ignorance, clinging attachment, and anger—create various disturbing attitudes within us:

  • Attachment
  • Anger
  • Closed-mindedness
  • Pride
  • Jealousy

All disturbing attitudes share the factors of ignorance and selfishness:

  • Ignorance or self-grasping ignorance: We don't understand who we are or how we & other phenomena exist. We keep grasping after the identity of an independent, solid self.
  • Selfishness or self-centered thought: Out of this ignorance, we put a disproportionate emphasis on I, me, my, mine. We each think the world revolves around us, that we are the most important.


Attachment is an attitude that overestimates the qualities of an object or person and then clings to it. Attachment includes clinging, craving, & desiring sense objects.

  • We project onto people & things qualities they don't have, or exaggerate what they do have.
    • Attachment is an unrealistic view and thus causes us confusion.
    • By eliminating the false projections, we can release the clinging.
  • Certain basic misconceptions feed our attachment:
    • Things, people & relationships don't change.
    • They can bring lasting happiness.
    • They are pure.
    • They have a real, findable essence.
  • Attachment lays the foundation for dissatisfaction; no matter how much we have, we always seek more & better.
    • We're unhappy because we have the mind of craving & desire, not because we don't have something. When we give up the craving, our minds are at peace.
    • Instead, we can think, "What I have is good enough."
    • If we're content with what we have, we can still work to improve things, but our minds will be relaxed.


Anger (or hurt) typically arises when we feel like victims of others' harmful deeds.

  • Many people live with a "victim mentality," feeling helpless, mistreated, & fearful. Is this an accurate view?
    • The more we understand the working of our minds and the functioning of cause & effect within our mental continuums, the more we'll understand that our present interpretations (as well as past actions) have played vital roles in the evolution of what we experience.
    • We bear some responsibility for what's happening to us, so we take responsibility and act to improve our situation.
  • In disagreeable situations, we can ask some key questions, such as:
    • Am I perceiving the situation accurately?
    • Is anger an appropriate reaction?
    • (Considering cause & effect) Why is this happening to me? Do I repeatedly find myself in similar situations? If so, why?
  • We can deflate our anger in various ways:
    • Remembering that every situation has many perspectives from which it can be viewed. It would be difficult to prove that our views are the only correct ones.
    • Remembering that something else could have happened to prompt the other person's harsh words, e.g., she's having a really bad day. There's no need to take it personally.
    • Remembering that the other person just wants to be happy and avoid problems like we do. She may be using a confused method, but we all know what it's like to be unhappy. Why be angry at somebody who is unhappy?
    • If we really did make a mistake and someone points it out, why be angry? She's showing us how to improve ourselves.
    • If she's truly accusing us unjustly, why be angry? We know it's not true.


Closed-mindedness is an attitude that doesn't want to look at a new idea or event.

  • It makes us tight, prejudiced & defensive.
    • We don't want to examine any new idea which could shake our stubborn conceptions and/or leave us feeling lost.
    • With open minds, we are tolerant. With open minds, we approach every idea & situation as an opportunity to learn and to share with others.
  • After logically examining a new idea and checking for evidence to validate it, if we don't agree with it, we can still be calm & friendly with those who do agree with it.
    • We can appreciate whatever others say because it challenges us to think and thus increase our wisdom.
    • We can approach conversations with joy in learning, rather than with a judgmental attitude that has already decided the other person is wrong.
    • We listen, reflect, grow & share, while we re-examine our previous ideas.
  • We don't have to defend our ideas or beliefs.
    • There's nothing in an idea that makes it inherently ours.
    • Fear of seeming foolish if our ideas are proved incorrect comes from caring more about reputation than discerning what's true.


Pride is a conception, a way of viewing things, in which we inflate a quality we possess (physical beauty, strength, education, social class, talent, etc.) and consider ourselves superior to others.

  • Underneath it all, we don't really believe we're good.
    • We mask our insecurity and poor self-image by being proud.
    • This looking to external sources for self-validation, praise & acceptance doesn't lead to happiness and self-respect; these can only be attained via internal development.
  • Pride is one of the chief obstacles to increasing wisdom and developing inner potential.
    • Proud people are self-complacent.
    • They don't want to and cannot learn from others.
    • Their pride imprisons them in a stagnant state.
  • Pride is often confused with self-confidence; humility is often mistaken for a poor self-concept.
    • In reality, people who are self-confident are also humble, for they have nothing to defend or prove to the world.
  • We all have the potential to become a Buddha, one who has eliminated all obscurations and fully developed all beneficial qualities.
    • Knowing that our precious Buddha nature can never be lost or taken from us gives us a stable & realistic basis for self-confidence.
    • We can accept ourselves for who we are and have faith in our ability to become kinder & wiser people.
  • When we have good qualities, others will naturally perceive them; there's no need to proclaim them.
  • How can we reduce our pride?
    • Since pride is a mistaken & narrow attitude, developing a broad view enables us to see the situation more realistically.
    • Wise people feel gratitude—not pride—towards others.


Jealousy is an attitude wherein we can't bear the happiness, wealth, reputation, talents & good qualities of others.

  • Jealousy is based on our incorrect interpretation of a situation.
    • Extremely self-centered, jealousy thinks: "I can't tolerate another person having the happiness that I want."
  • The antidote is to view the situation with a more open mind, considering not just our own happiness, profit & loss, but that of others, too.
    • Remember that others want happiness, too; others enjoy receiving things & opportunities, praise, etc. just like we do.
    • Why not rejoice when someone else receives something good?
    • We don't always have to have the best or be the best; focus instead on doing our best.
    • We can look at other living beings and see their talents, their beauty, their inner qualities, and respect their good qualities.
    • Whenever we respect good qualities, we are opening ourselves to generate those same good qualities.
    • When we respect others, we don't have to be #1 in every situation.

There Is Hope!

We're not "stuck" with the disturbing attitudes.

  • Right now, attachment, anger, closed-mindedness, pride & jealousy may be habitual.
  • We can become more habituated to constructive attitudes and less accustomed to the disturbing ones.
  • Once we recognize the misinterpretations & projections that the disturbing attitudes are based on, they begin to diminish, and wisdom & compassion increase.
  • We are responsible for creating the causes for this to occur.

Recognizing the Disturbing Attitudes

We need mindfulness & introspective alertness in order to recognize the disturbing attitudes when they appear in our minds.

  • Mindfulness prevents us from getting distracted from our determination to act, speak & think in beneficial ways.
  • Introspective alertness makes us aware of what we are doing, saying & thinking, and if it notices a disturbing attitude, it alerts us to the danger.
  • Taking some "quiet time" each day can help us develop these qualities and remind us to direct our attention inward.
    • It's good to review what has happened each day:
      • What we did & why
      • What others said & did and how we reacted
      • What we thought & felt that was expressed & unexpressed
    • Quiet time gives us the chance to "digest" what we experience, to be aware of what we thought & felt.
      • We may notice some progress and rejoice.
      • We may notice an uncomfortable feeling and be willing to admit when we had unrealistic or harmful attitudes.
        • No need to judge ourselves for having them.
        • No need to feel guilty about them, nor should we ignore them.
  • When we do discover these uncomfortable emotions, we can resolve them by practicing the antidotes summarized in the table below.

Summary of the Disturbing Attitudes and Their Antidotes

Definition Antidotes
Attachment Overestimates the qualities of an object or person and then clings to it Eliminate false projections; remember that everything changes, nothing brings lasting happiness, and nothing has a real, findable essence; eliminate craving by thinking, "What I have is good enough"
Anger Arises when we feel like victims of others' harmful deeds Ask yourself whether you are seeing the situation accurately (there's more than one perspective); ask whether anger is an appropriate reaction (e.g., is it personal or is the other person just having a really bad day?); remember, if it's true, then be grateful for the feedback; if it's not true, you know the truth, so why be angry?
Doesn't want to look at a new idea or event Logically examine the new idea and check for evidence to validate it; approach conversations with joy in learning, rather than with a judgmental attitude that has already decided the other person is wrong; appreciate the opportunity to expand your thinking and gain wisdom
Pride Inflates a quality we possess (physical beauty, strength, education, social class, talent, etc.) and we consider ourselves superior to others Recognize the underlying insecurity & poor self-image; develop self-confidence by remembering our Buddha nature; develop a broader view that sees the situation more realistically; recall that a more appropriate response to our qualities is gratitude for all those who made them possible and helped us develop them
Jealousy Can't bear the happiness, wealth, reputation, talents or good qualities of others View the situation with a more open mind, considering not just our own happiness, profit & loss, but that of others, too; remember we don't always have to have the best or be the best; remember others also want happiness; remember that respecting others' good qualities opens the door to developing those qualities ourselves