Bijgewerkt: 27 mrt 2019
For a long time, I did not know it when I was angry. I could feel sad, desperate, lonely, maybe frustrated. But angry? Not so much. I simply did not learn to express anger and allow it to be there. But anger is wise. Feeling the anger, accepting it to be there, makes us feel more whole and connected. So how to do this?
Two strategies of dealing with anger
The word emotion means 'energy in motion'. Emotions literally move through us energetically in order to give us information about how we perceive experiences. The message of anger says: 'get out of my way' or 'I don't want this'. The energy of anger shows us what is acceptable for us and what not. So it is okay to be angry. But when we deal with it unconsciously it is hard to really benefit from the anger and the wisdom it carries with it.
When the emotion anger arises, we tend to do two things:
1) we ignore it/ keep it inside
2) we throw it out into the world (*&@#!%^#)
When we deal with anger in an unconscious way, we cut ourselves off from love and compassion.
Strategy 1: keeping it inside
When we keep anger inside, (un)consciously ignoring the emotion, it can make us feel powerless and sad. Especially women tend to do this, through cultural transmission we've learned to be polite and sweet. It is not socially acceptable for a woman to get angry. For me personally - and probably I am not the only one - fearful thoughts arise when I actually am angry. The fear comes from the belief that if I show anger I will lose that person, or if I show anger I will not be loved and accepted.
Strategy 2: Puke it out
Anger is an active and outwarded energy. It is difficult to 'sit still' with anger, because it moves so actively inside of us. So when we feel this energy, it can be very challenging not to explode. Sometimes when I feel angry, but I don't express it, it pops up unexpectedly and I behave very flammable. Very easy targets in those moments are: our partners, closest colleagues, our mothers, a stranger in a car on the highway. Here you go, eat that !@%^$#@#! This might release our inner tension for a moment, but 9 out of 10 it cuts us off from compassion and connection. And it is a short term solution. We like to be sustainable nowadays, riiiiight?
Both strategies are very human, very normal. We've learned this probably from our parents, who learned it from their parents. When we deal with anger in an unconscious way, we cut ourselves of from love and compassion. So let's see if we can step up our game of love here ;).
Boil it like a potato
Buddhist Monk and author Thich Nhat Hanh says that negative emotions can be compared to an unripe potato. It is important to give yourself the time to cook these emotions and not react based on them. You also wouldn't eat an unripe potato, no matter how hungry. Now, would you?
To extract the wisdom out of the anger, to connect with what's really up, let's cook that angry potato! If we do so, it is much easier to stand up for ourselves and to communicate with greater love.
Practice it yourself!
You can do this practice whenever you have time. It is really effective when you do this practice when the anger just arose. But you can also do this on a later moment. Doing this practice will give you a clearer mind and information about what's really going, so you can act upon it with love and (self)care.
1) Tune in
Sit somewhere quiet and give yourself 15-20 minutes to sit with your anger. This might sound long, but carrying anger with us for days, or even years... that's is REALLY long.
Take a few deep breaths.
How does your body feel? Take some time to move your attention throughout the body. Like a scanner.
Now connect with the experience that triggered your anger.
What place attracts your attention most (it can be more than one, just pick one)?
3) Zoom in
How does it feel in that spot? Tight, cramped, may be restless? Does it move?
Everything you feel is totally perfect. Just try your best to stay with it, feel it out.
When your mind starts reacting to the physical sensations with stories and negative thoughts, acknowledge them and send them kindly to the 'back of your bus'. These negative thoughts are allowed to be there, but you can decide who is behind the steering wheel (I would choose my most loving, friendly, compassionate self. See what works for you).
4) Observe with kindness
Now keep on focussing on that specific body part and how it feels. Be curious.
You can give the sensations of anger some extra space by breathing into this area.
It is possible and likable that also other areas in the body start to attract your attention. That is very normal. Say hello to them (yes :D), but keep the focus at the place you selected earlier.
If you catch yourself judging yourself or others, just gently move your attention back to the body and what you feel. Keep coming back to that same place you decided to give your attention to for this short but valuable amount of time.
Simply be present in your body by feeling what's going on. Observe arising thoughts, sensations and emotions that come up while you connect to this spot where you feel your anger, like you are watching a movie.
Keep on giving it your kindest attention.
Now practice this as long as you feel is needed.
Stay with the anger until it is soft and digestible. A normal potato needs about 15-20 minutes. Maybe your potato needs a little less or more time.
You can return to this practice any time you like.
5) Thank yourself Check how you feel now, after the practice. Maybe write down your experiences or insights. Be thankful to yourself that you take this valuable time to practice. It's awesome that you showed up to spread more love and awareness! ps. This is a practice. You don't have to be enlightened right away (or in this life even). Just appreciate the little efforts you make. A little goes a long way!
Interested in the audio version of this meditation? Let me know. If there is enough interest I will make one. Please send me an email to email@example.com