After having one too many people "pile on", I had reached a frustration point that lead to about a minute's worth of tears. I tried talking the anger out of me with my husband (who is patient). It helped but really didn't dispel the anger. We decided to do what we often do when wanting to feel better: go for a good walk at our favorite park. The weather was looking precarious, but I knew that the walking, the rhythm and cadence, would help so we braved it. We did one lap together, but then my husband, who's been dealing with a tender knee, said he needed to rest it, but encouraged me to do a second loop. I readily set off because I knew I could walk faster and that the motion would help me burn off more negativity. I got about half way around when it started to rain. I walked faster, it rained harder. I kicked things up into a light jog, it poured. I waited a few moments at the opening of the woods onto the lake part of the trail thinking it might slow, it rained harder. So, already wet, I decided to just embrace it. After all, I had come to the park seeking to "cleanse" myself so why get upset about a literal opportunity to do so?
As I emerged from the woods I saw a wonderful sight. A large blue-gray heron standing in the gray water against a misty gray sky. My anger dispelled as I stood in awe and wonder. The serenity and beauty of the scene (HE wasn't fazed by a little rain). I kept jogging noticing the ducks and then a second heron--all nonplussed by the weather, by life itself.
What's the point of anger? Well, there are pragmatic reasons for it. If a child runs into the road, yelling out in anger after that child may save her/his life. Anger can prompt action (that can be good or bad depending on the course/nature of that action). Anger can keep you from being a victim--or it can MAKE you a victim. As with most things, it depends on perspective.
I started thinking about the nature of anger and it strikes me that there are different kinds. One is an anger that is constant, a deep buried slow burn. This one is dangerous and toxic to yourself and others. It destroys from the inside out and can make you a vile, difficult person. The other kind of anger is a temporary emotion. It's more like a case of heartburn. It causes you pain, but you need to work through it like you work through digesting a meal that's not agreed with you. In this way, the anger is just an emotional wave--it comes and goes. It has no permanence.
It also helps to get perspective from amazing people. Shortly after I started writing this blog, I saw a headline about a man in North Carolina who spent 34 years on death row and had just been released because dna evidence showed he hadn't committed the heinous crime of which he had been accused. In his interview with the press he claimed he held no anger in his heart and was simply grateful to be proven innocent and released. Wow. I was flabbergasted and humbled. What do I really have to be angry about next to this man? (see link) http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/03/us/north-carolina-dna-frees-convicts/
The fact is that we really can choose how we deal with anger and whether or not we want to harbor it. So what are some healthy strategies?
- Write a journal page where you work out your anger. Are you angry about the state of the world? Injustices? With particular people? Circumstances?
- Now write what you can do about it. If the news media angers you--don't watch or follow it so closely. Check in once a week and vow not to watch news while eating, not to start your day with it, and never to watch before going to bed.
- If certain people tick you off--distance yourself. Let the answering machine get a few calls. Yes, screen. You can choose when to interact in many cases.
- If you have an angry encounter, literally cleanse yourself with a hot shower or warm bath with sea salts/or epsom salts, and lavender. You'll cleanse the negative energy and calm yourself.
- DO NOT EAT OUT OF ANGER. Aggression eating, going for the crunchy/salty, will make you feel worse (and angry with yourself).
- Go for hot tea or hot milk instead. Some nutmeg in the milk or honey in the tea will help soothe.
- If your anger requires a long-term solution like finding a new job, or marriage counseling, or working out earlier trauma through therapy, then plan out how that's going to happen. Take slow, deliberate action. There are lots of support groups and options if you are willing to work through issues.
- See your momentary anger as an opportunity to be thoughtful and to cleanse your body and soul.
- Practice deep, cleansing and relaxing breathing. Seek out calm and quiet.
I leave you also with a link to an article by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who has written books on the subject of anger. He does not recommend "acting out your anger" with therapies like punching pillows as he sees this as training for deeper and more destructive aggression. Instead, he recommends that you embrace the anger and recognize that while it exists in the present moment, that moment will not last forever. That recognition takes away its power.
In Breakfast with Buddha, the two main characters, a food writer and a Buddhist monk, are on a road trip and the monk constantly asks his companion, "Why so angry?" It's a question we should ask ourselves regularly. If the answer is something trivial, then we need to let it go. If it's something deeply buried, then we need to unearth it. If it's all around us, then we need to look within our own hearts and minds. Use anger as a momentary, contemplative tool--not as a destructive weapon against yourself or others. You'll feel better, you'll be better, you'll be less angry, you'll make others less angry.
Yours in peace and love -- Lisabeth