“I’m convinced that our life journey is an upward spiral. Sometimes it feels like we’ve traveled all the way yet it still feels like we are back to square one.
Believe me, where we are is a deeper and higher reflection of square one. I first noticed this when I was “intentionally” practicing Yama/Niyamas (moral Codes of Yoga). When I thought I practiced all codes (oh well, what an underestimation!!!), I found myself back at the very first one: “Ahimsa” (Not-harming). I realized that I practiced not to harm others, not to harm animals, the earth, the universe but until I unconditionally love and accept myself the way I am, I can’t really practice Ahimsa at its full meaning. As much we love and honor other living beings, we also need to love and accept ourselves. That understanding helped me to deepen my practice for all other codes. The same happened to me with the Reiki principles. I started contemplating and practicing Reiki principles with the first one “Just for Today, Do not get Angry”. As I was reading Martha Beck’s book “Finding our own North Star”, I came to a deeper level of understanding and perspective on how to deal with Anger and that’s why I wanted to share it in this issue.
This principle sounds simple but it’s probably the most difficult principle to practice as it touches a very core essence of us humans; our ego. We should first face it that, if we are humans, we’ll face with anger in one way or other, for as long as we live a human life.
Anger is an emotion that is triggered when we face with a “perceived” injustice. How could he do this to “me”? “I” don’t deserve this. How many times “I” told you not to do “so and so”? Sounds familiar? Anger is very special in a way that, it triggers some physiological changes in body that gives the individual an extra energy and strength to act on this “perceived“ injustice. Don’t we all feel this great boost of energy when we get angry? On the other hand, if not act on, this boost of energy, this “inner fire” can burn us from inside out. It can even be more destructive than not acting on it, if anger persists for over an extended period.
Anger can also be triggered when we don’t come up to our own expectations. Did you ever find yourself saying “How stupid am I”? “Why don’t I seem to understand this, or why do I always get myself into these relationships”, etc, getting frustrated with yourself? Again it goes back to Ahimsa/Non-harming. If we can’t love and accept ourselves, how are we supposed to love others fully?
I think the first thing to do, is to accept that as long as we have an ego, we might face anger, because there will always be something that will push our button in one way or another and this will happen at different levels of our existence and spiritual development. There might always be something different that will cause”anger”. So, we’d better learn how to deal with it.
1) First step to deal with anger is to recognize and acknowledge that we are getting angry. This might not be easy if we are not in touch with ourselves and our body. Anger takes us over in no time. Anger is just like boiling water, once the water starts to boil, you can’t see the bottom of the pot anymore; it’s too late. However if we can catch ourselves before we start to boil with anger, we can at least have a choice for reaction.
2) After we recognize that we are getting angry, the next best thing is to take a deep breath. As our breath is intimately connected to our autonomous nervous system and the mind, taking a deep breath cools the body fire caused by anger and eventually calms us down, giving us a chance to make a decision on how to act on the thing that makes us angry. To take a deep breath, you can breathe deep into your stomach and deepen the breath with each inhalation. You let your abdomen rise to its limit and let fall completely with exhalations. Do you want to give it a try? Take a deep breath now. If you are short-breathed by anger, try counting at least to ten before you take deep breaths.
3) Once we calm ourselves down, try to understand what’s causing the anger? What lies beneath it? After you identify the cause, consider as many options as you can. Can you change the situation? We all know by now that we can’t change the people we interact with, the only way is to change ourselves or control our own behavior (at least stand up for ourselves).
I noticed that most situations that I get angry is not setting proper boundaries or expressing myself properly.
4) One way to deal with the hot energy of anger is burning the fire energy created by anger with physical movement. If you can, try to use this energy constructively (cleaning the toilets in your home, doing excessive yard work, chopping tree stumps, attending kick boxing or aerobics classes).
- Though this makes us feel better, this doesn’t change the fact that we need to deal with the cause of the anger. The best way to replace the fire energy with cooler energy is by articulating ourselves. Articulating exact cause of anger is so important. If we don’t speak up or say why we are angry for, we can’t expect others to figure it out. To articulate it, best way is to try to have a calm and face-to-face conversation with the person that makes us angry. If this is hard for you to do: consider writing your anger. You can write everything bothers you in a notebook, and at least get it out of your system. You can then burn it as you visualize your inner fire burns.
Again sooner or later, we need to face the fact and have to have a face-to face conversation on what makes us angry. I really liked the way Martha Beck described the constructive ways to express our anger, so here again are examples from Martha Beck’s book.
- When you have the face to face conversations, it’s important to have very clear examples instead of generalized statements.
|Useless generalizations||Angry Specifics|
|“You are such a cheap jerk”||“When you didn’t tip the waitress, I felt awful for her and angry at you. You have done things like this before too…”(give other examples, stay specific)|
|“You’re always pushing people around”||“When you told the kids to clean their rooms, you yelled and threatened before you asked them nicely. I’m really pissed off about that, and I’m not going to let anyone treat our kids that way”|
|“You don’t love me enough”||“You almost never seem to be listening when I speak to you, you look the other way or read the paper or say “uh’huh”. That really hurts, and I’m angry about it”.|
- Speak in terms of your first hand experience. Don’t let your anger tempt you into accusations that are not from first hand experiences like “all our friends think that you are….”
- Don’t moralize, just express your feelings. Don’t get into “I’m Right, You’re Wrong”. The fact is that, unless we are God, we don’t know what’s absolutely right or wrong. That’s why we can only speak for our own value judgments.
|“Your way is wrong and my way is right”||“What you’re doing is hurting me, and I want you to stop”.|
|“Any sane person would agree that your way is wrong and mine is right”.||“What you are doing is depriving me of something I really need, and I want you to stop”.|
- During the face to face conversation, spell out what you’d do if nothing changes. It’s important that you decide what to do if the other party is non-responsive. (Taking your teenager’s car keys, stop lending money to your sister, etc.
- If the person is not responsive or unwilling to hear why you’re upset then it means that there is no way to sustain a healthy relationship with this person. In extreme cases, this might mean quitting your job to ditch an evil boss or filing divorce to escape a spouse who ignored your pain and anger for years.
- My favorite reaction to anger, which is also a practice of unconditional love, is to put my self into other person’s shoes. It helps me to understand and reason of their motive. Why are they behaving the way they are? What would I do if I were them?
If you are having problems with sustained anger control; remember there are two more words preceding this first precept “Just for today…” Also remember that everyone that we face in our lives is here to teach us something. No matter how you deal with anger, make sure “Love” leads your reactions, love for others and love for your very self. You are too precious to ignore something that makes you angry or your essential self is too precious to be diminished by your self-anger.