I once tried to read a mindfulness book on anger*, and I wanted to throw it across the room. If I’m angry with someone, why do I have to do all the work to make things right? Why do I have to be the bigger person?
Sigh. Because I’m a grown ass woman. And it is my own wild emotions I must tend. It is my sense of peace and equanimity and well-being that is at stake. (My health too, as there are well-documented deleterious effects on the heart and the body with mishandled anger.) On the awakening path, it helps to befriend all the emotions.
Anger has a lot of fire. We can let this fire rage, for a bit. Sometimes we need to scream and vent to let that energy move. But at some point, we need to go inward and go deeper to follow it to the root. With self-inquiry we can find what imbalance anger is seeking to right.
Anger provides fuel for positive change. Think of the times you had to leave a relationship or bad situation. Sometimes picking a fight and getting angry focuses life force energy toward making a change. Sometimes anger makes you calmly speak up to voice an injustice and invite problem solving. (Telling the Truth Without Blame or Judgement is the power of the Visionary and the season of Summer.)
Maybe your own rigidity is challenged by life, which often throws us curve balls. Anger can be a loss of a sense of control or a feeling of powerless, or may mask an underlying fear. In grief, anger can arise because it feels more powerful than loss. We can get angry at God, the Universe, or the person or thing we’ve lost.
When I was growing up, I didn’t see anyone using their anger well. My mother often swallowed her anger and so could not use it effectively. My father would come home with unprocessed rage and spread it like a miasma over the whole family. I am still learning how to find the middle way to own my anger and enlist it as a wise ally.
Recently I got angry because of events out of my control. I didn’t want to feel angry, so I did some mindful breathing. I breathed in anger, this dark cloud of bad feeling, and transformed it with intention. I breathed out equanimity, a calm acceptance that I didn’t fully feel. I continued for a few minutes and felt better. This being with what is, rather than fighting it, helped me calm down and return to gratitude.
I calmed down enough to pick up the mindfulness book again. I’m glad I kept it until I was ripe enough to read it. Years later, it makes much more sense.
*Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh