Mindfully Taming the Anger Within

I’m sharing a nice little meditation on anger the from other day from Elisha Goldstein’s blog Mindfulness and Psychotherapy.  I like how he differentiates between anger and aggressiveness/hostility. Also in the article, but not in the excerpt below he  talks about how anger can be a creative and important motivator. It’s not a bad or wrong emotion. The only thing bad about anger is if it’s expressed in a way that ends up being destructive rather than creative.

I’ve excerpted a bit of the article below:

How we express this anger does make a difference.

Daniel Goleman writes about how the expression of anger can be a good thing. It is at times our outrage over injustice that moves us to action to help. It is our anger over the atrocity in Darfur that creates the motivation to help out, or maybe it’s the anger in getting abused that leads to the cry out for help, or if you’re a teenager, maybe it’s the anger over mom or dad just opening your door without knocking that leads to a discussion around new boundaries. Goleman calls this “constructive anger.”

It’s not that we need to express anger without emotion, because then we’d be like robots. It’s that we need to learn to express anger without acting out with aggression. It’s this aggression that may breed more aggression. In his book Taming The Tiger Within Thich Nhat Hanh writes about how anger could be held mindfully. We can see our anger as a child within us that needs to be taken care of. He endorses the idea of noticing when you’re feeling aggressive, taking time-out to care for that struggling emotion and then returning to the scene in a calmer state. At this point it is more constructive to express the anger.

It’s the differentiator between anger and aggression or hostility that makes the difference. Learning to become aware of the space in between the stimulus and our reaction is a practice that can get better over time. The next time you notice anger, see if you can take a moment to pause and breathe and acknowledge your anger, without judgment.

This anger is not good or bad or right or wrong, it is simply an emotion that you are experiencing right now. If it is very strong, excuse yourself from the situation, see if you can practice being kind to yourself in this moment as you are struggling. Sometimes we find that underneath the anger is sadness or another emotion. (read the rest)

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