Cool the flames of anger
Mood is so ubiquitous to our lives, lying just beneath the surface of any moment and any connection with another. Often times when life is challenging we can have difficult thoughts and feelings that emerge. When these difficult thoughts and feelings arise, there may be feelings of discomfort in the mind and/or body. We can either push our feelings away or lean in and listen to the wisdom they are trying to convey.
For the month of April, I wanted to give some focus to feelings in my weekly posts always to enhance greater mindfulness and well-being at work and home.
Feelings both positive and negative help us learn from experiences. Listen to the wisdom of feelings. When people feel down, it is difficult to immediately cheer up right away, hence why we may listen to sad music or want to talk about the sadness. Sadness is often telling us that something is out of balance and thus we have to turn towards to discover how to come back into balance.
Did you know that when people feel happy, enthusiastic or excited they tend to take more risks, including financial ones? Yep.
Did you understand that feeling sad can often make us pause and reflect more and choose the safe bet? It is true.
Enjoy sadness, embrace disappointment, and find empowerment with anger.
In the next month, I will share how awareness, compassion, loving-kindness and equanimity help one to cultivate greater balance, being with, and freedom in our response to these feelings. Let us begin…
Be Responsive with Anger
Anger is a feeling I have not given enough space for in my life. Fear and I are good friends, sadness too, but expressing anger got me in trouble as a teenager and even sometimes as an adult in different relationships in my life, so I learned to stuff it. Sound familiar?
Now that I am older and wiser, I can be more welcoming with anger and am learning and growing in how to really “be with” anger.
What is the purpose of anger?
Anger can be thought of as that special invisible shield that is keeping an eye on you, the people around you, and your environment. If someone pushes a boundary that doesn’t feel good, anger will come forward to protect you so that you can reassert your boundary and feel in balance again.
The questions for anger are:
When anger is present, get to know it. Feel it in the body and ask it these two questions, “What must be protected?” and “What must be restored?” These questions allow you to label and then reset your boundaries without hurting yourself or someone else with this anger. When you feel ready to assert your boundary in speech, you will act from a position of strength instead of aggression or passivity.
“What happens if I have a hard time feeling anger?”
This is known as “stuffing or repressing” your anger. When one does this, you are unable to restore your boundaries because you won’t have the strength and/or focus you need to protect yourself. Your anger exists to protect you honorably. If you repress it and refuse to respond to an insult or a boundary being crossed then you aren’t honoring or loving yourself.
Responsive or Reactive Anger
Recently, I had a communication with a very dear friend of mine who has been in my life for several years. This friend and I traveled this Fall for 2.5 weeks together and had an amazing and magical time together. It felt very natural to invite more closeness in our friendship, so I asked for more connection. This friend didn’t know what to do with my request and I think as a result he felt a little threatened (as you may recall my sharing that when we feel a threat we go into our survival mode and react from fight/flight/freeze).
Therefore, as a way to protect himself, he said something that was not considering my feelings. I felt hurt, rejection, and anger. I waited a day or two before responding and really let myself feel the anger around it. I knew that if I didn’t say what didn’t feel good, there would be no chance for real closeness and trust between us and more importantly I wouldn’t be honoring myself.
He expressed these hurtful comments over email and so I emailed him back (I have learned over and over that text and email conversations never go the best, but I make mistakes sometimes just like everyone). I asserted what didn’t feel good and how it made me feel, but I also said something that was hurtful with my “push back.” I consciously didn’t want to inflict harm with my words, but I did. Ouch! for me and him.
Karla Mclaren who is the author of the book “The Langauge of Emotions” says, “If you choose to express your anger at a person who offends against you with an intent to harm, you will be dangerously unguarded. Just as you would be if your castle sentry left his post and went out on a rampage. When your anger is used as a weapon and your territory is left without a sentry, your psyche will have to pour more anger into the situation. If you habitually express your anger, you’ll end up expressing this new infusion of anger as well, and you’ll break your boundaries (and the boundaries of others) even further.” I read Karla’s book several years ago and it is a wonderful contribution to the field of emotional intelligence.
Anger, when it’s channeled honorably, can set healthy boundaries without destroying the boundaries of others. With some clear seeing and compassion for myself and him, I see what got in my way of being responsive and vow to be more gentle and loving even in the face of anger and desire to re-assert my boundary.
It is work to go from our current mis-use and abuse of anger to something more respectful and relational, but it’s probably the most important work we can do.
This week give anger space.
Notice when it comes up when you are driving, notice when it comes up when your expectations aren’t met, or when someone does or says something that doesn’t quite feel “right”. Give it space and then ask yourself the questions:
What must be protected?
What must be restored?
In the restoration piece, you can decide if speaking your truth is necessary or if another action needs to be made.
What is the antidote to anger?
A strong heart. This means that you turn towards the anger with loving-kindness and compassion. You can turn towards your own anger in this way and the anger of another. Try these phrases on and see how you feel, then do something that helps you to feel in more balance.
May I be kind and accepting of this anger.
May I be safe and protected.
May I be healthy in mind and body.
May I find peace and healing.
There is a lot to cover on the topic of anger, so we will be continuing with more wise nuggets next week.
Do you have any wisdom around anger you would like to share with me?
I would love to hear it.