As someone who has struggled with a lot of anger in the past, I find that it helps to practice mindfulness when it comes to dealing with anger.
Whenever I feel anger arises, I choose to stop, notice it, and try to understand it. I search for the mental stories inside that feed this anger, and the strategies that the mind tries to use to escape it. Consciously asking the question, “What exactly just happened? Why am I angry?” has helped me to channel my anger in a healthy and productive way.
Anger can also be channeled through creative expression such as writing, painting, building, or otherwise creating. In fact, passion itself can be thought of as anger that has undergone a metamorphosis, being put to a higher purpose.
Problems arise when we feel anger, but let it seep into us without reflecting on it and taking action. When anger is not actively reflected on, it can build up into a pool of discontent that swells and stagnates with time. And when we fail to articulate our anger in some effective way, we often end up turning those feelings against ourselves. This can turn into self-hatred. My mother was one of these people. She turned her anger into deep self-loathing and drank her life away alternating it with the oblivion of drugs.
I don’t believe in dismissing, avoiding or ignoring any aspects that arise with us. There are no bad emotions, just a misuse or misunderstanding of them. All emotions can be valuable teachers, including anger.
How To Heal Your Anger Issues
The best way to heal any anger issues that you have is to change your perception of anger itself.
Living in a Latino family, I’ve learned enough about anger to understanding it well. Anger is vitality and liveliness in its purest form.
By repressing anger, we lose this vitality, this power of creation, and dull ourselves to one of our greatest strengths and allies.
Here are some other ways that anger helps us:
- Anger can be used to arouse and purge other emotions (like sadness) from our system.
- Anger can give you a voice when you felt you had none.
- Anger can force you to take charge of your life.
- Anger can become your fuel for endurance or strength to accomplish your goals.
- Anger can help you quit a job that is soul-sucking.
- Anger can inspire you to eat more ethically (vegetarianism and veganism).
- Anger can force you to get a divorce and improve your life (if you’re in an abusive marriage).
- There are so many possible ways anger can help us when channeled in a mindful and healthy way.
But anger can also be immature. For example, we might feel angry at other people for trying to “steal our freedom” or angry when things don’t go our way. In these circumstances, it always helps to stop, feel, and try to understand your anger. By opening yourself to it and understanding its root source, you will realize that your life and your happiness is your responsibility – no one else’s. This is what I call “mature anger.”
Mature anger is anger used wisely. For example, many sensitive souls out there feel rage and anguish at the state of our planet, and the suffering, extinction, and death of so many individuals, species, and cultures. When approached in an immature way, this anger can create depression, bitterness, and misanthropy. But when approached in a mature way, this anger can become a source of clarity and strength that motives constructive change and compassion for those who are suffering.
It is our responsibility as mature individuals to cooperate with anger.
Finally, many people believe anger is hatred, but it isn’t. Hatred comes from our mental attachment to anger. Spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh have both have spoken about how condemning anger can be a form of oppression.
As Tibetan Buddhists put it, “anger straight from the heart of pure compassion!”
And as Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
“In the beginning, you may not understand the nature of your anger, or why it has come to be. But if you know how to embrace it with the energy of mindfulness, it will begin to become clear to you.”
“Our attitude is to take care of anger. We don’t suppress or hate it or run away from it. We just breathe gently and cradle our anger in our arms with the utmost tenderness.”