Mindfulness of Anger


I’m in a state of rage. I’m thinking about something a colleague said to me the other day and it really ticks me off. I think about things I can say to him in return that will set him straight and force him to treat me with respect. Quietly seething, I plan my revenge. I decide that this person will not be able to push me around anymore! There are things I could do, things I could say, that could really cause problems for him. Or perhaps, I could simply withdraw from contact with this person and do my best to erase his existence from my mind. Then, all at once, I realize what I’ve been doing. I’ve simply been indulging in rage. In that instant I’ve remembered to be mindful.

Taking a mindful stance, I become instantly attuned to my physical and mental state. I notice how my body feels in this state of anger. I notice the tight sensation of heat in my chest, the burning in my throat, the quickening of my pulse. I see that the anger I’m feeling is made up of these unpleasant physical sensations. I recall the thought, This person will not be able to push me around anymore! I realize that this is just a thought that feeds the anger, and that the thought arose because of these sensations of hurt in my body. I also realize that those sensations arose just now because I remembered the words that he spoke to me. I realize that part of me actually believes his words. Otherwise they would have no affect on me.

Okay, I reflect, he may or may not respect me. But I can’t control that. I can only control how I react to what he says. So, if I can’t control him, what am I left with? The answer: my feelings of hurt. So I breathe with them, feeling the heat in my chest, the constriction in my throat, the coiled-spring urge in my arms to strike out. As I do this I allow the thought This person will not be able to push me around anymore! to reprise now and then. As I keep breathing and letting myself be with the sensations without trying to change them, I notice that the heat in my chest and throat has started to cool. And now the thought This person will not be able to push me around anymore! seems pretty silly. I begin feeling more relaxed. I still don’t feel comfortable with this person, and think he probably disrespects me, but the anger just isn’t there anymore. As I keep breathing I reflect, Wow, that anger seemed so real, so solid! Where did it go? Where is it now? Now I think back on the words the person used that hurt me so — ooh, yes, I feel a slight twinge in my chest just recalling them. A little more hurt arises. But that’s okay. The hurt doesn’t define me now. I’ll keep breathing with it whenever it surfaces, recognizing that the part of me that knows the hurt isn’t feeling hurt at all. I’ll forget this, of course. But the thing is, the knowing is always there. It’s up to me to remember it.

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