Wrestling with Anger Mindfully and Skillfully

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Wrestling with Anger Mindfully and Skillfully

Anger = tough subject. When we feel it, we tend to do one of two things – own it or disown it. Disowning anger involves either denying or projecting. When you deny your anger you push it down, out of awareness. That causes problems once your internal storage capacity has been met. When you disown it by projection, i.e. blaming someone else, it tends to beget a cycle of animosity that keeps on “giving,” and wreaks havoc with everyone’s wellbeing. Both these options are tough to bear.

Anger appears when something is off, out of balance. Its presence can be a signal to grow in understanding and self-mastery, or it can become a way of life where the angry person relies upon it to control and manipulate others. Anger in that case becomes a weapon. But it can also be harnessed as rocket fuel necessary to power out of a bad situation.

Owning it can also be messy. When anger appears on the screen of your awareness, you can feel bad about it, judge it, and blame yourself. This tends to happen whenever the angered person feels powerless – not heard, seen or supported. There is a kind of owning that I believe is healing. Granted, it has taken me nearly five decades of experience to arrive at this juncture.

Recently I had a two-day experience of adrenalin-firing, blood-boiling anger, which has not happened in quite some time. So I am fresh from this experience, full of new insight and wisdom.

At first, I disowned it and projected it at the person whose interactions poked the stick at the hibernating grizzly within me. I went through all the rationale for why this person deserved my wrath and held many brutal conversations in my head. Having the good sense to hold off and not respond to the provocation, I marinated in it and processed it internally. I did the following things.

  • I “welcomed” it – moved inwardly toward it and allowed myself to feel it.
  • I repeatedly dismissed or let go of the attack thoughts and the desire to tear down this person I’d labeled “narcissist.”
  • I inquired into its origin – how had it come to be?
  • I held the intention of releasing it respectfully and effectively.

What I learned in this 2-day process, was anger flowed like waves in the ocean – sometimes regular and constant, other times filled with energy and momentum, like a rogue wave, pulling me into it and tumbling me around. I let go of the expectation of easy resolution and was willing to see this through – so that I could fully metabolize it and not carry around the remnants afterwards.

I discovered I was angry with myself. It wasn’t her fault that I’d overstepped my limits of giving – which at the time I had done without expectation.

I needed to honor the reasons I was angry and understand the origin so that I would not let myself become resentful again. I needed to recognize that I had stepped into the victim triangle – first as the rescuer – helping a neighbor with great physical and emotional need. Then I slid into the victim role when she demanded I give again. It wasn’t long before I became the inner bully, wanting to attack her and defend my honor. When I noted I was feeling righteous indignation – I recognized the narcissist in me. But of course, MY inner narcissist is much better behaved than HERS! In this situation, narcissism and anger were intertwined.

We all carry around some degree of narcissistic wounding. Around the age of 5, we have an unending need for celebration, acknowledgment, and validation of our unique gifts. How can any parent do this adequately, really? It’s a monumental task. So we might internalize the message that we’re not good enough, lovable enough and can fall prey to a deep, pre-cognitive narcissistic rage that shows up later in life. In this case, it appeared when my neighbor made further demands and became angry when I said no, politely.

Once I grappled with my newfound awareness, it was time to take action. I wanted to offer honest feedback and extract myself from the triangle without being the perpetrator, victim or rescuer. This was the most difficult part – to take my interior processing and deliver a message that honored my feelings yet did not cause further harm. I did not want to fuel an ongoing argument.

When negotiating a tricky relationship, it is easier to figure out how to respond when you are clear about 3 priorities:

  • Meeting your objective – feeling satisfied with your outcome
  • Preserving the connection with the person with whom you are in conflict
  • Maintaining your self respect

In this instance, I decided I was not going to nurture further connection and was ready to let go. My first priority was to resolve the feeling of anger so it would not continue to chew on me. Second, I needed to speak my truth, share my anger, yet complete this final transaction without fueling an argument.

I completed my final communication with her, in which I acknowledged my anger for having overstepped my emotional and time boundaries, having repeatedly given my time and resources to someone who does not reciprocate nor acknowledge what has been given. I made it clear this was to be my last interaction.

Following this, I did some conscious exhalations, letting go of all that wasn’t mine, energetically, which we call “non-self energy.” I deepened the release with a forgiveness practice, called Ho’oponopono where I say (internally) to the person, the situation, and myself: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” This practice is about releasing my end of the equation, having learned all I needed to in order to step out of the victim-rescuer-perpetrator triangle. I then focused on gratitude for having recognized the pattern and grown from it. I can now look back on the events and not feel any negative charge about it, which informs me that my work is done.

The next time anger shows up, try welcoming it, working with it compassionately. Let it take you on a journey of insight and liberation. And if you’d rather journey with support, please call on someone who can assist you! There’s no need to make it more difficult. If someone who knows the territory can guide you through and ease your passage, so much the better. Stay true to yourself, your objectives, your self-respect and use only as much energy as is needed to create resolution. Anger needn’t overpower you or others in this process.


About the Author:

Lisa Love, MSN takes delight in helping smart professionals overcome anxiety via an eclectic approach to mind-body healing. Not just a nurse, therapist and coach, she is a bit of a mystic, healer, creative, intuitive, and innovator. She walks her talk and brings cutting-edge practices to her clients that weave together the fields of neuroscience, quantum physics and spirituality, in service of humanity's conscious evolution.
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