How Hot Is Your Anger? Cool Yourself Off!
Trying to eradicate anger is like trying to box with your shadow: It doesn't work. Getting rid of it implies either expressing it, and possibly causing emotional damage; denying and avoiding it, which is a way of lying to yourself and can cause depression or bitterness; or repressing it, which just suppresses it until it erupts at a later time, when it can cause even more harm.
"Ducks don't do anger," says psychotherapist Deepesh Faucheux in our recent book, Be The Change. "Ducks fight over a piece of bread and then they just swim away. But people keep processing everything that happens to them. That processing of the story—what so and so did to me, she wronged me, why doesn't he respect me—keeps the energy identified as anger and resentment, instead of seeing it as simply energy."
There are often layers of conflicting feelings hidden beneath anger and trying to make themselves heard, such as hurt, insecurity, sadness or fear. The power of rage is such that it can overshadow these other emotions, causing you to lose touch with yourself and struggle to articulate what you are really feeling. Because you've lost your connectedness with others, anger may really be a cry for attention or for contact; it may be expressing feelings of rejection, grief, loneliness or a longing to love and be loved. Often it is really saying "I love you" or "I need you"; yet you are hurling abuse at others instead.
As Rabbi Zalman Schachter says, "We get to see that underneath anger, there is fear, pain, and sorrow, and we cannot deal with anger unless we also deal with what sustains the anger. We forget how we are hardwired. The reptilian system within us makes sure we are secure and safe. If we do not feel secure, then the dinosaur will rear its head and roar. So under anger is always the question of how safe does the reptilian feel."
If you repress or pretend anger is not there, then all these other feelings become repressed and denied as well. Only by recognizing what is the real emotion behind the expression can there be more honest communication.
Try Ed and Deb's cooling anger meditation
Meditation is not a cure-all—it is not going to make all your difficulties go away or suddenly transform your weaknesses into strengths, but it does enable you to rest in an inclusive acceptance of who you are. This does not make you perfect, simply more fully human.
Cooling Anger Meditation
Before you start this practice and the heat of anger is still with you, breathe into your anger: Breathe in deeply, and with each out-breath, release and blow out your feelings. Then, to calm and resolve your feelings, do the following:
Sit comfortably, take a deep breath and let it go. Focus your attention on your breathing and, more specifically, on where you are breathing. During heated exchanges, we usually breathe very shallow and rapid breaths, high in the upper part of the chest. By calming your breathing, you will also calm your nerves, blood pressure and emotions.
Now bring your breathing down into your mid-chest area, which means breathing more deeply and slowly. Do this for a few minutes, then try to move your breathing even farther down, so you are taking even deeper and longer breaths into your belly. Stay here for a few minutes, as your whole being cools down.
When you are fully chilled, bring your breathing back up to the chest area, and see if you can breathe naturally there, without having to go higher into your upper chest.
Don't Even Pick It Up
In our relationship, we have added a few more ways to work with anger. We are all familiar with the phrase "Let it go," but this can be difficult when it comes to anger, even though holding on just causes further pain and grief. Through awareness, you have learned to let go as it arises. Once something has been expressed and fully acknowledged, immediately move on.
But our favorite is not to even pick it up in the first place! Thank goodness for meditation!
Ed and Deb Shapiro are the authors of Be The Change, How Meditation Can Transform You and the World. They are featured weekly contributors to Oprah.com, HuffingtonPost.com and Care2.com. Ed and Deb write Sprint's The Daily CHILLOUT inspirational text messages. They have three meditation CDs: Metta: Loving Kindness and Forgiveness, Samadhi: Breath Awareness and Insight and Yoga Nidra: Inner Conscious Relaxation. Deb is also the author of the best-selling book Your Body Speaks Your Mind, winner of the 2007 Visionary Book Award.
Keep Reading More from Ed and Deb Shapiro:
Why meditation can strengthen the bond between you and your partner
Get a self-esteem boost!
Calm your mind with meditation