What flavor is your anger?
Since my last post on feelings and specifically anger, I have been exploring the different types of anger. When mindfulness is present, I am able to observe the various flavors of anger that arise and pass. We often have a tendency to push away difficult feelings, suppress, and push down, but what we resist, persists. Expressing our anger may have had unpleasant outcomes. For example, we may have been shamed or told, “young ladies and gentleman are seen, but never heard” so we don’t allow ourself to feel anger. I have been a person who has had some fear of anger, but in my repression of it and not giving it space, it leaked out in other harmful ways. We don’t need to fear anger. Instead give it space and get to know all its flavors so that you can use it consciously.
“Usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.”
― Malcolm X
Speak to Anger
This week, I noticed there were a few encounters I had with people in my life, who threw me a bit of a curve ball. I was expecting things to go a certain way based on their actions and words, and then they did the exact opposite. Grrrr… At first, I noticed frustration, then disappointment, then sadness, and then fear. I labeled each one. Frustration, Disappointment, Sadness, Fear. Labeling is a simple acknowledgement that allows one to be mindful of feelings, to turn toward instead of push away.
Feel the BURN
Yes, this is the slogan of Bernie Sanders and I couldn’t resist sharing the play on words 🙂
What does this look like? When we slow down enough to really turn our attention to the body, we can bring an open, curiosity. Research has found that our emotions ONLY last 90 seconds, if we simply allow ourselves to be with our feelings. In order for our feelings to just be feelings, we have to turn towards the physical sensations in our body. This is what I felt in my body.
Frustration feels hot and like a bubbling kettle of sensation in my stomache. I notice that I can turn the flame of anger on high if I stay with my story, but I can also turn the dial down to a low simmer if I just allow myself to sit with the feeling.
Disappointment feels heavy in my heart, a slumping of the shoulders is present, and I feel like I want to curl up into a ball.
Sadness came pretty immediately once I allowed myself to feel disappointment, and the heaviness in my heart deepened, and then tears started to fall. The sweet release of sadness to help my body come back into balance.
Then a hint of Fear, showed its scared little face. Fear was tied up in a story that my mind created about what happened. It went something like this, “What if this never happens, etc, etc, etc.”
When I realized I was lost in thought, I brought my attention back to the body and simply asked myself, “What is happening now?”
We often don’t allow ourselves to feel our feelings because we get lost in story (thought) about the feeling and then the feeling is churned up again. However, if we pause, we can turn towards the body with curiosity and compassion, and eventually the feeling will pass and release.
Be Compassionate with Anger
I have been studying Buddhism for the last 10 years by reading the “sutras”, speaking with mentors of mine, and going on silent meditation retreats. The Buddha taught that the antidote to anger is loving-kindness and/or compassion. We can practice loving-kindness and/or compassion towards ourself or to the person who is upsetting us.
I noticed for myself that when I was experiencing the feelings above, I automatically spoke to myself in this way, “Hi, sweet girl it is going to be okay. I am here for you.” This kindness towards myself, feels very sweet and tender and I always feel better.
A mindfulness practice helps us to investigate all our feelings and from here we can gain the wisdom underneath the feeling. Every feeling has a need and we can investigate that need after we allow ourselves to feel.
The two questions that I continued to ask myself with each flavor of anger was, “What needs to be protected?” and “What needs to be restored?” These questions are helpful because they allow me to restore my boundaries and be here for myself in the discomfort.I can meet my need for security and re-assurance with the next actions I take.
The Opposite of Compassion is Criticism
It is not helpful to criticize or judge our anger or that of another. Does this sound familiar? “Just get over it already!.” or “Oh my gosh this is so old, why are you still holding onto this?” Anger is here to tell us that a boundary has been violated and until we fully feel our feelings and what is needed to feel safe again, we will NOT be able to move towards true forgiveness of ourselves or another. Be kind and patient with anger and allow it to be here in all its flavors.
What flavor of anger are you most familiar with?
- Passive Aggressive Peanut Butter Cup
- Resentment Rocky Road
- Volcanic Vanilla Bean
- Pissed Off Pistachio
- Disappointed Dulce de leche
- Impatient Irish Coffee
- Mad Mint Chocolate Chip
When mindfulness meets anger, we can explore it and allow it be used for good. Anger has a power and we can use it to inspire, to lift up, and to create meaningful change. There are many things in this world to feel angry about, justifiably so. I personally feel fear and anger about climate change. It is a BIG issue for the world and I am using my fired up fudge ripple flavor of anger to fight in service of the earth. With mindfulness, we can use anger consciously and not create harm.
What flavor is your anger and how does it feel in your body?
I look forward to hearing about it.