Dealing with Anger
How to deal with the emotion of anger in a spiritual way
Everyone feels angry sometimes, but it's how you deal with those feelings that will determine your contentment and happiness throughout life. It's not surprising that many people struggle with the emotion of anger because the pressure to succeed, in material terms, has never been greater. Society associates aggression and anger with success, while compassion and gentleness is often seen as weak. But anger is destructive - it ruins relationships and will destroy you from the inside if you allow it. It is a mistake to equate anger with power. Anger is a weakness because a powerful person does not need to make others feel fear in order to be heard.
According to the Buddhist belief system, anger is one of the big three negative forces that keep people locked into the cycle of birth and rebirth, blocking you from evolving to a higher, happier existence. (The other two big negatives are greed and ignorance.) Buddhists teach that anger blurs your vision, preventing you from seeing clearly enough to take the best course of action. There is no such thing as 'righteous anger' because all actions taken under the influence of anger will be destructive. Instead of wallowing in anger, take positive action to change the situation that is provoking this negative emotion in you. It's much easier to just feel angry than to do something constructive about the cause of your anger.
Do not feed!
Feeding your anger is the worst thing you can do because it will grow and you and those around you will suffer. Expressing your anger feeds it. This is a fairly controversial idea in a society populated by self help books that tell you to immediately express every single feeling you have! Some emotions are negative and do not need to be given life - breaking the kitchen crockery in anger or calling your partner an unpleasant name should never be allowed to happen. Not expressing anger doesn't mean repressing it, though; you can allow yourself to acknowledge the feeling of anger without expressing it in a violent way, then release it.
Of course, we are all only human and an occasional argument does not spell disaster. But it is much better to step away from a situation before it becomes too heated. Refusing to express anger in a volatile way is very different to refusing to address your own or another's concerns at all. Indeed, if you constantly brush off your partner's worries for fear of a fight, this can cause anger to build in them or, depending on your intentions, could be passive aggression on your part. The healthy solution is to face problems head-on but in a calm and considered way. Screaming rows may give you a momentary release but they set a negative pattern for future communication.
Likewise, venting anger to friends is seen as a mainstay of popular culture but griping just feeds your anger. Talking to a friend is invaluable when the purpose is to offer constructive advice or a new perspective on a problem but if you are merely criticising somebody else for anger's sake, you will just drag yourself down.
Despite knowing that anger is a negative force, you'd have to be super-human not to experience it from time to time. So here are some tips for dealing with anger constructively.
*Acknowledge your anger
If you won't admit you are angry, you can't begin to deal with it. You will keep anger inside you without the hope of freeing yourself from it. How often have you witnessed somebody who is obviously fuming with anger but says they are absolutely fine? You should be honest to yourself about your feelings.
Situation: A friend says something mildly insensitive but without the intention of upsetting you.
Anger: You clam-up and feel offended. Your friend asks you if everything's OK and you maintain that it is. She feels awkward and you feel angry - the atmosphere goes downhill.
Compassion: You tell your friend that you are feeling sensitive about the subject she commented on today. Your anger, in this case, is linked to fear and embarrassment. If her intent was good she will be horrified to have hit a nerve with you and will help you talk about your issue.
Your anger is created by you, not by other people or events. This is a difficult concept to grasp at first as we tend to always say, 'he/she made me angry' or 'this happened and it made me angry'. You allow yourself to be angry. If somebody behaves in a way you dislike, it is your choice, not theirs, whether or not to be angry. Think about the real reason behind your anger is it: fear; disappointment; frustration; ego; power? Recognising the root cause of your anger allows you to get to the heart of the real issue you are having rather than allowing anger to control you.
Situation: Your partner arrives home much later than expected because he/she decided to go to the pub after work.
Anger cause: Are you angry because you are:
Frustrated that he/she's late home again?
Disappointed that he/she didn't communicate he'd be late to you?
Fearful he/she's seeing somebody else?
Fearful he/she is disrespecting you?
Feel a loss of control/power over your partner?
Solution: Work out which is the root cause (it may be a combination) of your anger then you can address the specific issues head-on instead of just arguing and being angry about his/her lateness.
*Release your anger
Acknowledge your feelings of anger. Allow the feelings to wash over you but imagine them flowing away and becoming more and more distant. Visualise a volume control in your mind turning down the angry chatter in your head. It becomes quieter until it fades away. Be still.
The Buddhist practice of cultivating loving kindness to others and to yourself you can help break down anger and remove self destructive feelings.
Visualise: the person you are angry with smiling kindly and being happy.
Reflect: on the positive qualities of the person and the acts of kindness they have shown you.
Mantra: repeat the phrase 'loving kindness' in your head while thinking about the person you are angry with.
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