Depression and anger represent two types of response to a vital impulse or desire which has been thwarted, or to external pressures which try to overwhelm the individual. When we understand the action of the 3 gunas, or qualities of nature, sattwa, rajas and tamas, it is easy to see that when tamas is predominant, the being tends to respond with the symptoms of depression; while when rajas is dominant, the expression of anger takes place.

The gunas are not constant, so an individual may respond at one time or under one circumstance with depressive symptoms, while at other times may erupt with anger. The action of the third guna, sattwa, tends to be balanced and tries to moderate and manage the reactions of the other two; however, most individuals tend to have a predominant trait, and most of the times, this turns out to be either that of tamas or rajas. This means that characteristically, certain individuals will tend to have a specific form of reaction, even though there may be circumstances where they respond much differently than one would ordinarily expect.

In some cases the reaction seems to be out of proportion with the ostensible cause. There is not a simple calculus for how any particular perception, impulse or event will interact in the internal psychological environment. There is a concatenation of forces which together find their expression based on the then predominant balance of the gunas.

Dr. Dalal observes: “Closely related to fear are two other major disturbances of the vital, namely, anger and depression. The Mother says the following about these two feelings:

“…one is almost constantly in an ordinary vital state where the least unpleasant thing very spontaneously and easily brings you depression — depression if you are a weak person, revolt if you are a strong one. Every desire which is not satisfied, every impulse which meets an obstacle, every unpleasant contact with outside things, very easily and very spontaneously creates depression or revolt, for that is the normal state of things.”

Dr. Dalal continues: “Whereas depression is experienced by everyone as an unpleasant or disturbed state, not many realise that the antipode of depression, namely, anger (referred to as revolt in the above-quoted passage), equally constitutes a disturbance. One has only to consider the psychosomatic effects of anger to realise this fact.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Introduction, Disturbances Associated with the Vital, pp. xix-xxiv

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.