It is important to understand that you are not your anger. Anger is something you experience periodically.
Anger explodes into your awareness and, after a while, it lets up. You are not the anger.
You the person who experiences and observes your life are separate from your feelings of anger.
Do not take your anger so seriously. Itâ€™s just a moment in time, a wave on the sea of existence.
You donâ€™t have to fight it and you donâ€™t have to join it either. Your task is to disentangle yourself from your anger, not to become your anger. Just let the wave of angry feeling come and go.
Think of it as this: All your feelings and thoughts are projections. You are the movie screen on which they play. While the screen never changes, the images change constantly, and the movie itself changes all the time, too.
When an angry thought or feeling shows up on the screen, wait. It will change soon. The screen doesnâ€™t fight or resist the projections. It merely provides the space for the movie to play out and waits for it to end.
So if the thoughts, feelings, actions, and your observing self are all quite separate, how come they all seem fused in an angry explosion?
The reason is that emotions can drive – very quickly – a patterned set of thoughts and habitual behaviors. And for a few moments, we feel taken over by them.
This apparent fusion of feelings, thoughts, actions, and self is an illusion that our mind creates. Itâ€™s time now to pull each element apart so that your observing self can watch – with mindful acceptance – your anger experience as it really is.
What To Do When Youâ€™re Angry
Watching the Flags
As soon as something occurs that you didnâ€™t expect or wantâ€”whether itâ€™s an event, in a conversation, or the fact of something not happeningâ€”stop what youâ€™re doing and start watching the flags.
These are the red flags signaling that youâ€™re starting to get angry: feeling hot, clenching your jaw, throbbing temples, tight stomach, pointing your finger, making fists, voice getting high or loud, heart pounding, feeling shaky, shortness of breath, and so on.
You watch the flags by looking with mindful awareness at whatâ€™s happening with your body (muscles, breath, heart, and temperature), your posture, and your voice.
Make no attempt to suppress, reduce, or change the sensations. Just ride them out. Stay firmly in your self observer position for as long as the problematic conversation or situation continues.
Watching Your Mouth
Once you become aware of feeling angry and youâ€™re in a situation with other people, switch your focus to your wordsâ€”both planned and uttered. Stop and listen to the words in your head before they take shape in your mouth. What is your anger pushing you to say?
If you are in a social situation and it is okay to do so, just be quiet and say nothing. In fact, if itâ€™s socially appropriate, leave the situation so you can be alone and stay with your surging anger. Itâ€™s best not to talk to anyone for as long as youâ€™re angry.
The reason is that itâ€™s virtually impossible not to sound angry when you are angry and feel like you are sitting on a bomb ready to blow. Even saying something like â€œI love youâ€ may come out sounding more aggressive than kind.
Saying nothing or leaving the situation doesnâ€™t mean suppressing anger or running away from it. Quite the opposite: Youâ€™re actually staying with and attending to your anger. That takes more courage and is much harder to do than to speak out in anger.
If you are expected to say something or itâ€™s socially inappropriate to leave the situation, say as little as possible. Listen to each sentence as you start to say it. Each spoken word is a choice you have that can promote harmony or discord, prevent wounds or make them, solve problems or deepen them.
Learning to Forgive
Unforgiveness is the root of resentment and bitterness. Itâ€™s the key ingredient in the feast of anger that transforms emotional pain and hurt into suffering and misery.
Unforgiveness allows anger to grow and your heart to harden, while breeding judgments, criticism, blame, ill will, and a host of other harmful tendencies.
When people fail you in some way, the natural tendency is to feel hurt, used, robbed, or wronged – like they owe you. This is what you get when you donâ€™t forgive – an ever-present debt to be repaid, with you stuck as the victim. This is why forgiveness is vital.
â€œForgivenessâ€ means â€œfor giving,â€ the release of an imagined debt: softening up to the pain and hurt you experience, giving it loving compassion and acceptance, and then letting it go. When you choose forgiveness, you cut out anger at its root and allow peace to settle in.
What do you do when the anger is hot and raging deep inside of you? In the heat of the moment, itâ€™s sometimes difficult to remember exactly what youâ€™re supposed to do. The answer is: Do nothing and practice patience.
Say and Do Nothing
Although it may not feel like it, you do have a choice here. You can do what your mind and body tell you to do. As in the past, everythingâ€™s pushing you to act: you want to be right and you want to straighten things out.
You could do that – and what does your experience tell you about that choice? Or you can make a choice that seems ridiculous and unnatural and choose to act with patience.
You stop, shut up, sit still, and wait until the hardness of the stirring, raucous, and searing energy gradually soften and cools. You arenâ€™t suppressing here.
Youâ€™re just honest with the fact that youâ€™re angry, or hurt, or sad, or lonely, or fearful, or whatever youâ€™re experiencing at the moment. And you stay with it, without feeding it or reacting to it.
Watch as an Observer
In the heat of the moment, it is guaranteed that your mind will be in overdrive doing its blaming. But donâ€™t get tangled up in what it is doing; donâ€™t respond to it. Just watch what itâ€™s doing from the compassionate observer perspective, and practice gentle acceptance.
Ride the Tiger
Sitting with the discomfort and doing nothing while you feel like exploding is like bull riding; itâ€™s very scary. In that moment, bring attention to the physical experience of anger.
Is there pressure? Is there tightness? Where, specifically do you feel it? Does it have a shape? Observing your feelings will help you see them as separate from you.
Here, perhaps for the first time, you can make a choice to sit and stay with the enormous energy that you have for so long acted to push out of view. And you can do so in your daily life. Once you are still, you can bring compassion and curiosity to the energy and pain.
Look deeply into your experience without attempting to resolve it, fight it, or suppress it, and without acting on it. Just let it be. As you look, see if you can find the pain.
Once you locate the pain, look more deeply behind it for something that you are attached to or that you are holding on to. The attachments will be different for everyone. If what you find seems too big, start with the little attachments that are also there.
Approach this act of patience with softness and curiosity. You do have a choice to hold on here or let go. This quality of patience is very much like the practice of extending forgiveness.
As you practice patience, you may find that letting go of your attachments and resentments can bring a sense of enormous relief, relaxation, and connection with a softness and tenderness of your heart. Patience breeds connection with others where anger does the opposite.