If you kick a stone in anger, you’ll hurt your own foot.
We all know anger. At times it shows up as a burning rage – as if a hundred red horses are tramping all over the mind, all wanting to destroy, to lacerate, to devastate. The tongue wants to be unleashed and express every bit of wrath as it is, without mincing, without editing. The body shivers and quivers with fury. The eyes glint with tears. And then there are those milder forms of anger that most of us experience daily – irritation, annoyance, frustration.
Either way, we all recognize anger. We have seen its myriad faces in our own lives. And most of us also realize that once a full-blown rage is expressed and subsides, all we are left with is emptiness, remorse, guilt, and sometimes even broken relationships. And if that’s not enough, frequent bouts of anger or unexpressed resentment can harm our body. Recent studies show close links of anger with serious health issues like cancer and heart diseases and also minor problems like headache and acidity. So much to lose, so little to gain – and yet many of us are angry too often. Let’s understand what anger is and look at some very interesting options to transcend it, to transform it and use all that sparkling anger energy creatively.
Understanding and Dealing with Anger
I believe that we ‘create’ anger in our own lives and the reason for this is, that people get angry as many wrongly perceive anger as a means of power and stimulator of action. If one does not know how to consciously conduct one’s life, anger becomes a poisonous substitute. Many use it to go beyond fear, or to uproot inhibitions, but anger is a wrong identification of oneself with what one is not. This naturally leads to ascribing reasons outside of oneself for various situations of life. The moment one sees the other as a source of unwanted situations, bursting forth into anger is the only way, forgetting that anger is temporary loss of sanity.
Anger is a corroding emotion. It is a natural, but negative emotional response to stress or opposition. Anger is a wild fire, a forest fire which spreads from shrub to shrub, from tree to tree, consuming everything that comes in its way.
This fire needs to stop. But we can tackle an effect only if we first know the cause. What causes anger? Very simply put, anger is caused when there is a difference or distance between a desire and reality. For example, You want a good job but are currently stuck at an unsatisfactory one. The natural effect of this is irritation, frustration and anger.
The very first step of dealing with anger is to identify – what is it that I want that I am not getting?
Once you know the cause of dissatisfaction, you could follow the C.A.R. principle:
“C” is for change – if it’s possible for one to change the situation, they should.
“A” denotes accept – if change is not possible, acceptance is the only way. What you resist, persists. Acceptance may help.
“R” is for remove yourself from the situation – if you cannot change and you cannot accept, the only answer is to get out.
Changing definitely appears to be the most positive of all the solutions. If I am angry with something or someone, I want to look at all the options I have to change that.
There are in fact some rather interesting and exciting options that seem to work wonders for me. Here are just a few:
There is something about age-old observations that always work! Anger management is a recent practice but anger has obviously been around ever since man was. Since centuries man has realized that breathing played an important role in his emotions. When relaxed, his breathing was even and deep; when agitated it became shallow and jagged. Since breathing responded to emotions, he wondered if emotions would respond to breathing. It did. Even such a seemingly difficult demon called anger can be tackled effectively with just a few long, deep breaths. Without realizing it, your body will relax, heart rate and blood pressure will go down and in about 20 counts all that burning fury will be released along with the carbon dioxide from your body. Once the anger is spent, you will be able to look at the anger-creating situation rationally and find a way to get out of it.
Meditation helped me in a big way. It helped me practice witnessing sensation. To be equanimous and not react to it. For example, recently I was traveling by train and someone pushed me from behind. Instead of saying sorry, he shouted at me. The intense burning sensation in the whole body began. Mentally, I was about to abuse him. But in moments, the witnessing started. I observed what was going on within – the anger, the agitation. I didn’t like how I was gelling and immediately cooled myself. The anger that would have lasted for hours earlier, now evaporates in minutes and I am able to have a peaceful day without letting someone else’s bad mood spoil my own.
There is nothing that connects two human beings as communication does. Ninety per cent of anger within one’s life, especially for us women, will come from relationships. One of the best ways to communicate hurt feelings is to speak in terms of “I” and not “you”. For instance, if a wife is angry about her husband not giving her enough time and is feeling dejected and insecure, she needs to bring up the conversation saying, “ I feel hurt because…” and not “you make me feel hurt”. In the second case the conversation is likely to be closed even before it begins as the husband will already be on the defense and not open to hearing what his wife is feeling. Anger needs to be managed by taking responsibility for it – by understanding that this emotion is yours and you need to handle it effectively. Others will help if you are helping yourself.
When emotions are high, the first thing to do is to zip up your lips and get out of the anger-creating stimuli. Isn’t it true? When in rage we often say so many things that we regret later. Anger is often triggered by a stimulus – the best thing to do when super angry is to remove yourself from that stimulus. Remove yourself for at least ten minutes and when you come back you are both much calmer and will actually listen to the other without the ego getting involved!
Choose the way of forgiveness! Forgive and be free! Every night, before you retire, go over the happenings of the day. Has someone cheated you? Has someone offended you? Has someone hurt or ill-treated you? Has someone spread scandals against you? Call out that person’s name aloud and say, ‘____, I forgive you!’ ‘____! I forgive you!’ You will have a peaceful night’s sleep, and beautiful dreams!” I must confess when I started this practice, it seemed too simplistic to work but yet I tried it. Since the past five years, I have been ‘forgiving’ everyone. The first few times I felt nothing as I said the words in my mind. It sounded like empty words. But somehow after a week of repeating this I actually felt compassion for the person who had hurt me – the bitterness melted into forgiveness and even understanding. I feel weightless and relieved of the horrible heaviness of anger.
Silly humor can help defuse rage in a number of ways. For one thing, it can help you get a more balanced perspective. When you get angry and call someone a name or refer to them in some imaginative phrase, stop and picture what that word would literally look like. If you’re at work and you think of a coworker as a “dirtbag” or a “single-cell life form,” for example, picture a large bag full of dirt (or an amoeba), sitting at your colleague’s desk, talking on the phone, going to meetings. Do this whenever a name comes into your head about another person. If you can, draw a picture of what the actual thing might look like. This will take a lot of the edge off your fury; and humor can always be relied on to help unknot a tense situation.
Does anger have a useful role at all? Yes, it does. Anger is one of the greatest incentives to take action. When someone criticizes you for being sloppy or a bad dancer, don’t get mad. Do something about it. Most great achievers have got where they are because they took criticism seriously and decided to improve themselves.
Indeed, anger is coupled with a whole lot of sparkling energy which when used creatively can be of great use. So use it and hey, you will lose it!
Let’s begin with remembering the simple fact that for every minute of anger, we are losing out on sixty seconds of happiness!