An Exploration on Overcoming Anger
Dear Spiritual Explorer: I have worked at overcoming anger that I felt months ago when my brother hurt my feelings. In fact, I have a whole story as to how it was just one more of the things he has done since we were kids. I have tried meditating, praying, chanting, and all those spiritual things you hear about, but nothing seems to work. Do you have any suggestions? Mimi F., Duluth, OH
Dear Mimi: Anger sits on top of hurt feelings and when we admit to the pain that sits below, we sometimes can acknowledge more easily how hurt we truly are. Anger, unfortunately, shuts down all communication and hope of rapprochement because the other person then becomes victim to your anger. So there are two angers billowing around each other, with no hope of harmony. This reminds me of a story that Carolyn Myss once told of a Tibetan monk who was imprisoned for 20 years and when released, he was asked what was the most terrible thing he had to undergo. His shocking answer was,’ When they nailed my feet to the floor, I almost became angry.” This kind of gentleness which was inherent in Tibetan teachings can also be found in Thich Nat Hanh’s book Miracle of Mindfulness. Here he, as a monk, was also forced to undergo terrible things for his beliefs, and yet he was able to practice forgiveness when overcoming anger. My guru Ma Jaya would say that anger destroys the moment, it is so powerful. And we all know how when the person confronts us, for whom we have these feelings, our bodies can feel physically shaken just at the right of them. Anger as a karmic space is deeply explored in The Eleven Karmic Spaces by Ma Jaya.
Some tips for overcoming anger
One of the ways of overcoming anger is to truly see what it does to you. I think we can all acknowledge how our bodies respond so immediately to anger in a very toxic way. Some of us endure a fight or flight syndrome and our adrenals become very stressed. When we cool down, we often kick ourselves for having responded so violently to somebody’s unconscious statements or actions.
With regard to unconsciousness, most people are unconscious, not aware that they are inflicting disrespect or harm on some other. And so when you tell them you are hurt, they sometimes are surprised at the depth that you have expressed of your hurt.
2. Awareness of Victimization:
Someone once told me when I asked for help in overcoming anger, that I was just allowing myself to become victimized. When they said that, I for a moment was shocked out of my habitual response. As a teacher, I have often taught how easy it is to become victimized in a situation, and how we must guard against those situations. And yet, when I get angry, I am saying to myself somebody is hurting me in some manner and I begin to feel consequent powerlessness. Yes, powerless, because anger renders us powerless. When overcoming anger, we can feel a new sense of strength with us.
3. Using Physical and Mindful Action on Overcoming Anger
Now some of these might seem very simple, but as someone once told me, God is in the simple.” We continue to look for some “bolt out of the sky” solution, but here’s some simple physical exercise that can be used in the moment to overcome the effects of anger:
I have been told that the fastest way to change negative feelings is by changing our physical position right away. One of the ways to do that is by moving the eye position. When we are in a negative state, we likely look down. Suddenly looking up will interrupt negative patterns of thinking, allowing us to escape from the the quick sand of bad feelings.
Be creative in some fashion: I like writing and I know that when I write and like what I write, all of a sudden I feel better about myself and then the thoughts that come into my mind appear to be more forgiving and workable. When I am in a negative state of mind, all I can think of is revenge and hurt. None of those attributes will ever lead to harmony, if there is a chance of harmony.
Change Your Space: Take a walk and move your body in a different way. Notice how dogs when they are injured by someone or something, they get up and move. Most of us just sit there and absorb—not good.
4. Talking to the person who hurt you in a kind fashion
Now that is the very most difficult thing to do, especially if you have just written him a letter exposing all her faults as you have remembered them for the last 20 years. He will probably be on the defensive of all of them. That is why people say to simply state how you felt hurt by certain actions. Most likely, again, most of us are self-serving and are only thinking of ourselves at the time, rather than the person to whom we are communicating. Sometimes, not always, people like to become more aware and open to what they have done, especially if they are on a spiritual path. You are lucky if you can find the person who is engaged with you in a contention to be one who attempts to have an open mind. But of course we must be careful not to attempt to seek revenge and hurt them more than the situation warrants. I know somebody who shouted out what I would consider a whole lifetime of pain to somebody who had hurt her feelings; it was quite painful to watch.
5. Sit Down and ask yourself, ” What do you want?”
Write down exactly what it is that you want out of the current situation. Your job is to describe the end result you would like to see. Be clear, realistic and fair. Be specific with your description. Once you have this clearly mapped out and perhaps find yourself drifting into negative thoughts about what you don’t want, you can shift your focus to this list instead. Stay out of the past, thinking about what this person did to you before. Stay with the immediate pain and how you would like that rectified if possible.
6. Bring Consciousness Into your Request
Talk about how you wish to let go of the past and go on from this time. Speak of how you are willing to let go of certain behaviors that you have. Think that you are willing to let go of some of your selfishness in perceiving this person’s behavior as personally disrespectful rather than unconscious behavior. Allow yourself to be more detached when responding to them.
All of these are wonderful steps for overcoming anger, and I wish you the best of luck!
If you have a question about “Overcoming Anger,” or if you wish to explore your karmic habit, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer.