Anger is a difficult emotion. It causes us to “see red”, lose control and spur the situation on with reactions we almost always regret. One of the marks of maturity is being able to handle anger, to acknowledge it and move on from it. Anger is a poison. We all know the saying “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” It’s a common saying because it’s true.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to just drop anger. We don’t know where to put it. We don’t know how to leave it behind. While there are different techniques that work for everyone, here are some of the most profound and useful lessons from writers, teachers, Buddhists and healers. Hopefully you will find one that resonates with you.
Drop it and Relax
Sometimes we’re going to find ourselves completely caught up in a drama. We’re going to be just as angry as if someone had just walked into the room and slapped us in the face. Then it might occur to us: “Wait a minute – what’s going on here?” We look into it and are able to see that, out of nowhere, we feel that we have lost something or been insulted. Where this thought came from we don’t know, but here we are, hooked again by the eight worldly dharmas. Right then, we can feel that energy, do our best to let the thoughts dissolve, and give ourselves a break. Beyond all that fuss and bother is a big sky. Right there in the middle of the tempest, we can drop it and relax.
Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.
‘It’s important to investigate the nature of anger because it is such a powerful energy and can be so destructive. When we can face our anger without being afraid of it, or angry about it, or defenseless in the face of it, then we can come close to it. When we are able to look closely at anger, we can see threads of different feelings – the sadness and the fear woven through it – and we can see it’s true nature. When we can uncover the helplessness and powerlessness that often feed anger, we transform them. In being mindful of these feelings, we actually use the sheer energy of anger – without getting lost in it or overcome by it’s tremendously deluding and fixating quality – to reveal instead the courage and compassion that have been concealed.’
Sharon Salzberg, A Heart as Wide as the World: Stories on the Path of Lovingkindness.
Walk It Off
An Eskimo custom offers an angry person release by walking the emotion out of his or her system in a straight line across the landscape; the point at which the anger is conquered is marked with a stick, bearing witness to the strength or length of the rage.
In Wanderlust, Rebecca Solnit quotes Lucy Lippard
Use It To Practice Patience
Patience has a quality of enormous honesty in it. It also has a quality of not escalating things, allowing a lot of space for the other person to speak, for the other person to express themselves, while you don’t react, even though inside you are reacting
Put It Into An Affirmation
I’m not going to allow my anger to ruin lives anymore. I’m going to vent safely without hurting anyone.
Think About Your Reputation
Before her angry impulses got the better of her, she admonished herself that she was born to win and that one did not win by throwing temper tantrums–at least not outside of one’s own home, which could result in vicious, spurious rumors.
Anna Godbersen, Envy
Use It To Practice Forgiveness
There are an incalculable—even infinite—number of situations in which we can practice forgiveness.
Expecting it to be a singular action—motivated by the sheer imperative to move on and forget—can be more damaging than the original feelings of anger.
Accepting forgiveness as pluralistic and as an ongoing, individualized process opens us up to realize the role that our own needs play in conflict resolution.
Sharon Salzberg, Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection
Put It Into Perspective
Whenever you are angry, take a beautiful object in your house and smash it to pieces. The pity you feel for what you have done is silly compared to what you are doing to your mind: taking a sacred moment to be alive and desecrating it by being angry.