In a perfect world everyone would be happy and live peacefully. People would let their perceived obstacles roll off their backs knowing that it is temporary and they would realize any misunderstandings or misconceptions are filtered through their eyes and experiences.
Realistically, this just doesn’t happen. People get caught up in the ego and function from a place of anxiety, fear, disappointment, frustration or hurt. This is when anger comes into play, mostly when one feels a situation is unjust or that they have been unfairly treated.
A couple decades ago, we were told hitting a pillow or screaming at the top of our lungs was the best way to let out the rage, but these old school techniques have since been proven unconstructive. The old anger management methods were only meant to control anger in an immediate ‘feel better’ fix, but buried feelings that would likely resurface later. Newer techniques have encouraged people to face their anger so that it could be properly processed and resolved.
So how is this done?
1) Become the Observer of Yourself
In order to work with anger, we should recognize the feelings that come with anger are not representative of our personality, rather an impulse or sensation triggered by our expectations or thoughts of a person or event. If you can step back and become the observer watching yourself with this passing feeling, the anger will dissipate.
We can do this by noticing our angry feelings as we have them. This isn’t easy as it only takes a split second for anger to arise and most of us are too caught up in the emotion to be a spectator of it. Practice staying with those negative feelings, not trying rid yourself of them. Accept the circumstances and your reaction to them.
The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking.― Eckhart Tolle
It’s not what happens to you but what you think about what happens that determines how you feel. Although extremely difficult in the beginning, you always have the option to stop, observe and learn from the anger rather than react to it in your same old thinking patterns.
2) Feel the Sensations in Your Body
Once you’ve started observing yourself, notice where in your body you feel the anger. Some people feel tightness in their stomach, others experience a pressure in their chest or a rapid heartbeat. You may feel an emanation of heat or a tingling sensation. Take the time to observe where you manifest sensations in your body when you are upset. These responses will help you recognize when your anger is brewing and you may, over time, be able to diffuse the emotion before it surfaces.
3) Embrace the Anger
Many spiritual teachers encourage people to treat their angry emotion as a child. Be patient and have self-compassion and loving-kindness for the feeling. Embrace it as if you are a mother comforting your upset child. It may seem strange at first, but give yourself a hug and let yourself know it’s going to be okay.
4) Take Deep Breaths
After observing your emotions, you can also bring yourself back to a calm state by following your breath. Sit in a quiet room without distractions and take a deep breath through your nostrils while completely filling your upper body with air, hold it for a few seconds, then release the air in one long breath. Do this 5-10 times. The intention is to create that space between your breath and the awareness of the feeling. This simple act of deep breathing will help to continue the dissipation of the negative emotions.
Once you’ve returned to a state of inner calm, explore what sort of triggers normally bring out your anger. We want to become the witness or observer of our feelings by pulling ourselves back to notice the person who is getting upset. After enough mindful practice, you will start to understand what makes you angry and recognize the bodily sensations that let you know when this strong feeling is about to pay a visit. It is from this space of awareness that you can work on catching and transforming anger back to a more peaceful state of love and compassion.