Few of us want to admit that we get bitchy, shout, or lose our temper -- we prefer to see ourselves as being wonderfully tolerant and serene. But anger is something that we all experience at different times, whether toward a parent, partner, friend, or even ourselves. Many times anger is justified and limited to the matter in hand, but it can also be very destructive and go beyond the immediate situation, like a single match that can burn an entire forest.
Trying to eradicate anger is like trying to box with our own shadow: it doesn't work. Getting rid of it implies either expressing it, and possibly causing emotional damage; denying and avoiding it, which is a way of lying to ourselves and can cause depression or bitterness; or repressing it, which just suppresses it until it erupts at a later time when it can cause even more harm.
"Ducks don't do anger," says psychotherapist Deepesh Faucheux in our recent book, Be The Change. "Ducks fight over a piece of bread and then they just swim away. But people keep processing everything that happens to them. That processing of the story -- what so and so did to me, she wronged me, why doesn't he respect me -- keeps the energy identified as anger and resentment, instead of seeing it as simply energy."
There are often layers of conflicting feelings hidden beneath anger trying to make themselves heard, such as hurt, insecurity, sadness or fear. The power of rage is such that it can overshadow these other emotions, causing us to lose touch with ourselves and struggle to articulate what we are really feeling. Having lost our connectedness with each other, anger may really be a cry for attention or for contact; it may be expressing feelings of rejection, grief, loneliness, or a longing to love and be loved. Often it is really saying "I love you," or "I need you," yet we are hurling abuse at each other instead.
As Rabbi Zalman Schachter says, also in the book Be The Change, "We get to see that underneath anger, there is fear, pain, and sorrow, and we cannot deal with anger unless we also deal with what sustains the anger. We forget how we are hardwired. The reptilian system within us makes sure we are secure and safe. If we do not feel secure, then the dinosaur will rear its head and roar. So under anger is always the question of how safe does the reptilian feel."
If we repress or pretend anger is not there, then all these other feelings become repressed and denied as well. Only by recognizing what the real emotion is behind the expression can there be more honest communication.
Meditation is very important here because it not only invites us to witness anger, but also to get to know and make friends with ourselves. It gives us a midpoint between expressing anger and repressing it, a place where we can voice our feelings with awareness and acceptance. It also gives us the ability to see our feelings and not be swept away by them, even to see anger before it affects us.
Meditation is not a cure-all; it is not going to make all our difficulties go away or suddenly transform our weaknesses into strengths, but it does enable us to rest in an inclusive acceptance of who we are. This does not make us perfect, simply more fully human.
Don't Even Pick It Up
In our relationship advice we have added a few more ways to work with anger. We are all familiar with the phrase "let it go", but this can be difficult when it comes to anger, even though holding on just causes further pain and grief. Through awareness we have learned to let go as anger arises. Once something has been expressed and fully acknowledged, we immediately move on.
But our favorite tip is not to even pick anger up in the first place! Thank goodness for meditation!
Cooling Anger Meditation
Before you start this practice and the heat of anger is still with you, breathe into your anger: breathe in deeply and with each out breath release and blow out your feelings. Then, to calm and resolve your feelings do the following:
Sit comfortably, take a deep breath and let it go. Focus your attention on your breathing and, more specifically, on where you are breathing. During heated exchanges we usually breathe very shallow and rapid breaths, high in the upper part of the chest. By calming your breathing, you will also calm your nerves, blood pressure, and emotions.
Now bring your breathing down into your mid-chest area, which means breathing more deeply and slowly. Do this for a few minutes, then try to move your breathing even further down, so that you are taking even deeper and longer breaths into your belly. Stay here for a few minutes, as your whole being cools down.
When you are fully chilled, bring your breathing back up to the chest area, and see if you can breathe naturally there, without having to go higher into your upper chest.
How do you deal with your anger? Do comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Tuesday by checking Become a Fan at the top.
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Our latest book won the 2010 Nautilus Gold Book Award: BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Jane Fonda, and others.
Our 3 meditation CD's: Metta--Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi-Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra-Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: www.EdandDebShapiro.com