Anger is big. Anger is monumental. Anger is, well, explosive!
The common myth is that we often think the more spiritually evolved we become that anger just shouldn’t arise in us. But this won’t ever be the case. Whatever your comfort or discomfort level in feeling it, we all must and will experience anger in our lives. It is totally basic and totally human. The tricky thing about anger is that as a standalone feeling it is quite remarkable, awe-inspiring even, but when gone unchecked it gets us into massive trouble.
From a very young age I saw anger in its most violent, unconscious form. It was at once the most intimate, fascinating, and terrifying emotion in my life, thanks to my mom, who as part of her psychosis often flew into insane, fiery, wacked-out rages.
As a kid I used to make fun of how bizarre and unbelievable her anger was, then as a teen I turned my anger at her in on myself. In relationships, I was so afraid of showing any anger at all, that if a friend did something that made me mad, I would break off the friendship. In romantic relationships, I would just cave and bury the feeling.
When I started to work my stuff out as an adult in therapy and on my meditation cushion, the biggest challenge was indeed my relationship to anger. I knew I didn’t have a choice. I knew I had to be shown how to feel and ride it gracefully. And we all do!
Today, I am still amazed by anger’s intensity, its wildly volatile force. But I have also learned to identify the trajectory of anger’s natural path, and when it strikes I am already at the very same time watching it go. In other words, I am already letting it go.
Here are my three key steps to riding the waves of anger:
1. Observe It.
Awareness of the feeling, of the raw power of anger itself is mandatory. Meditation and breathing exercises are great for cultivating this attention. Otherwise we wouldn’t be tuned into the consequence of what happens when we lose our sense of proportion with anger, react to it, and essentially allow the feeling to take us over.
2. Express It.
No matter how we choose to do it, and no matter how seasoned we are in self-awareness, we all have to let anger out or its pressure can literally make us sick. Just like lava flowing out of a volcano, we must create a healthy outlet for our anger. Writing it out, screaming it out (in a safe place), or exercising it out are all great options. The main intention behind this expression is release but also NO HARM.
3. Own It.
Once we’ve calmed down, and in resolution of anger’s organically hot arc, we must acknowledge that we have been angry—to ourselves and to anyone else our anger has affected. Owning our anger, sometimes with apology, sometimes with laughter, sometimes with a subtler “my bad,” is essential in stabilizing and returning to our centers after the storm.
Adyashanti says: “There’s no such thing as never getting angry. Enlightenment can and does use all the available emotions. The idea that enlightenment means sitting around with a beatific smile on our faces is just an illusion.”
See? Even the most enlightened creatures out there get angry! The work is to allow for it in a conscious and responsible way, and to also appreciate its ferocity as catalyst for social change. Anger has after all sparked pivotal movements in the name of justice.
We must however learn to funnel our anger into brave, mindful, and compassionate action. Sounds hard, I know. But this is possible, and a sign of maturity!
Join the conversation. Please comment below and tell us how you relate to anger.