Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Is Anger Depleting Your Happiness?

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It’s easy to be patient and loving when everyone around you acts in a kind and considerate way.  But, what happens when someone treats you unfairly or dumps their anger on you?

It’s not easy to hold your temper, is it?  Before you even know it, anger uncontrollably bursts forth.  Recently, my own patience was tested over a four-month period by a liar and a cheat.  Yes, I know that’s not her fundamental nature, but that’s how she acted out.

For the most part, I stayed calm, communicated clearly, and kept a compassionate perspective.  However, there were moments when anger burned so hot, I thought I would explode.  And, in fact, the steam did spill over onto my innocent husband once or twice, which I regret.

The whole affair showed me I have more training to do when it comes to skillfully working with anger.  So I’m redoubling my commitment to catch anger before it catches me, potentially harming myself or another.

As I dig into the art of patience, I want to share all that I know about transforming anger with you.  So let’s begin!

Step 1:  Don’t Get Mad At Yourself

Do you feel self-recrimination, shame, guilt, or self-righteousness when anger arises in your mind or expresses itself in your words or behavior?  Beware!  None of these are healthy emotions to have on a regular basis nor will they bring you happiness or joy.

It’s healthy to feel regret, a wish to makes amends, and a determination to do better next time.  But don’t get stuck in self-flagellation.  Have compassion for yourself when angry thoughts arise and when you actually lose it.  None of us are perfect yet so don’t hold yourself to an unrealistic standard.

The seeds of anger live deep within your unconscious mind.  They may have been planted there in your childhood or, who knows, even in past lives.  Then, the tendency to react with anger was reinforced through repetition over many years.  Now, when triggered, anger will often shoot to the surface long before your rational mind enters the scene.

This happens to everyone so there’s no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed.  The problem is not the arising itself, but what you do with it.

So to start with, it’s important to know you are not your anger.  Anger is just a passing emotion arising in your mind.  As strong as it may seem, with practice you can learn to notice the first flash of annoyance and to let it go before it shoots forth like a geyser.  Of course, this will take time but gradually it will get easier and easier.

Whatever arises in your mind, whatever mistakes you make, accept yourself with love and compassion.  At the same time, know that you have the power to change your mind.  Commit to working with anger until you’ve mastered it.

Step 2:  Fully Embrace the Dangers of Anger

Anger is one of the most destructive forces on the planet.  Look around and see the immense suffering that results from war, violence, and abuse.  All these destructive actions begin in the individual mind.

Anger is detrimental to your personal health and happiness as well.  Consider what your own anger can do to you:

“When people get angry they lose all sense of happiness.  Even if they are good-looking and normally peaceful, their faces turn livid and ugly.  Anger upsets their physical well-being and disturbs their rest; it destroys their appetites and makes them age prematurely.  Happiness, peace, and sleep evade them, and they no longer appreciate people who have helped them and deserve their trust and gratitude.  Under the influence of anger, people of normally good character change completely and can no longer be counted on.  They are ruined by their anger, and they ruin others, too.  But anyone who puts all his energy into destroying anger will be happy in this life and in lives to come.” – the Dalai Lama

Modern science concurs.  Anger can raise your risk of heart disease if it occurs frequently at high levels.  It also activates the stress response, which – if chronic – can cause or contribute to everything from digestive distress to immune disorders.

The next step in working with anger is to really get just how damaging this emotion is.  This can be done by reflecting, again and again, upon the serious consequences of angry words and actions.  You could call this a very simple form of contemplative meditation, an important complement to mindfulness.  In contemplative or investigative meditation, you reflect upon and explore a particular life-changing idea until it’s firmly instilled in your being.

Start by sitting quietly and reflecting on the negative effects of anger for 5 minutes each day.  When an insight dawns, your mind begins to feel tired or disturbed, or you’re ready to finish, let go of the contemplation and just let you mind rest quietly for a few moments.

  • Reflect on times when people have expressed anger toward you.  How did it feel?  What were the consequences?
  • Reflect on times when you spoke or acted aggressively towards others.  What was the effect?
  • Reflect on the anger and aggression you see in the world both close to home and faraway.  Does it bring any good?  What harm do you see?

You can increase the time of your sessions if you wish.  Or try short sessions a few times a day.  Use the practice wisely, however.  It’s not meant to make you depressed or enraged.  If these kinds of emotions arise, just take a break and shift your focus to something positive.

Why do we need to reflect on the dangers of anger again and again?  It’s not enough to have an intellectual understanding of the dangers of anger, which will likely disappear the minute you are triggered once again.  Contemplative meditation moves a truth from your head to the depth of your heart and into the very bones of your being. [Click to Tweet]

You need to be fully convinced that anger brings no good whatsoever.  So much so that as soon as an angry thought comes to your mind, you want to spit it out immediately like a rancid food.  Then, anger will no longer have power over you.  You’ll be able to respond with love, kindness, patience, and tolerance instead.

As a complement to this practice, also contemplate the advantages of patience and its power to deflect and dissolve anger.  Patience – in this context – is the ability to refrain from anger when someone harms you and to feel compassion instead.

Does this mean you should suppress anger?  No, that could be harmful to your health and well being.  The key is to be aware of anger or its related emotions when they arise and to learn how to  release or transform them before they are fully formed.

Getting a Handle on Anger

I used to anger easily myself.  So much so that I finally had an epiphany, took responsibility for my anger, and put these methods to work.  As a result, anger stopped being a prominent force in my life.  Of course, I’m not perfect yet as my recent encounter illustrates.  So I’m grateful for this opportunity to refresh my practice and refine my ability to deflect anger before it causes harm.

There’s a lot to work with here.  So my suggestion is to work with one of these steps every day, if possible, until next week.  I will too.  Then let’s gather back here to share our experiences and learn the next step for working with anger.  In my next post, I’ll discuss catching anger before it catches you.

Remember, no one likes to be around an angry person.  So you can only benefit by developing your capacity to dismantle anger before it causes harm.  By learning to dissolve anger, you’ll enhance your own health and well-being and contribute to a more tolerant and peaceful world.  It’s the best way to secure your own lasting happiness and to contribute to the happiness of others as well.

How does anger manifest in your life?  How do you feel when it does?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

Image Credit (Geyser):  Joggeli

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22 Comments

  1. Jean Sampson

    This was a interesting post, Sandra, because I rarely get angry. I think that I had a Mom who expressed anger sometimes (my Dad didn’t) and I didn’t like it. At some level, I think I decided to be more like Dad when it came to being angry. Of course, it was Mom’s job to discipline me, so Dad got to be the non-angry one and Mom got stuck with the other end of the spectrum which SOMEBODY had to take :). But, as a child, I think I decided that anger was not going to be expressed by me very often. It has always taken a LOT to make me angry. When my husband, who quit drinking last year, used to come home drunk late at night, I experienced a mixture of intense anger and fear ——in fact, I seem to allow fear in where perhaps others would be angry. Things that make me angry are when people hurt others or animals or trees. People here do terrible things to their trees—–topping—–which I always apologize to the trees for and get so angry at the people who did it. The interesting thing is that, before I get angry, I always ask myself, “is this really worth getting angry and upset about?” I wish I could learn the same technique to deal with fear. Humm, I never thought of that possibility before. Once again, Sandra, you have made me think! 🙂 I am sorry you have had to deal with someone who has not been truthful with you—-betrayal is so painful! Underneath the anger, there must be a lot of hurt and sadness if this was a person you loved and trusted before. Hugs!

    • Dear Jean,

      It’s so fascinating to hear how you navigated your childhood to exclude anger as much as possible, Jean. We all adapt and learn as best we can although the experiences can be so painful as a child. It sounds like you had love in your childhood family too. I mix anger and fear together too. And, I think it’s natural and even intelligent to feel fearful of someone who has had too much to drink. I’m glad you have had co-counseling as an ongoing support.

      I understand how you feel about harming trees or animals. That’s a hard one! People aren’t in control of themselves or they would never do such things. It’s so sad.

      I’m fine Jean, but thanks for your sweet thoughts. That experience is behind me. It was a business relationship and I wasn’t close to the person to begin with. But, in many ways, it was a gift inviting me to work more deeply on my response to anger.

  2. Hi Sandra,

    Anger can never deplete happiness because anger is a momentary emotion, it may last a little more than few moments but happiness is ETERNAL, if you have actually found it. Yes, it may ruin peace of your mind for some time, you may regret the outburst but it doesn’t actually affect your happiness. Even long standing feelings of anger for a person, who has given you pain don’t hinder the bliss of happiness.

    At the same time, I agree with you that we need to work on this emotion as it brings nothing positive into our life. I have always felt that the moment it comes, it needs to be expelled. I know it can cause more harm than good to your relationships but it does a lot of good to our own health and mind!!

    I have written in greater detail about it because it has been my companion since childhood, you can find the article in the archives at my blog. Your tips can be of great help for those who need to keep it within bounds. Thanks for sharing!

    • Dear Balroop,

      I think very few people have reached to a level of spiritual development in which they experience eternal happiness! Oh, if only that would be the case! The world would be so different. I agree, even if anger were to arise for such a person it would dissolve in an instant with clarity and compassion in its place.

      Anger is one of the main destructive emotions that stands in the way of finding this deeper and more enduring happiness you speak of. I glad you feel these tips can help people who are challenged by anger. Thanks for your thoughts, Balroop.

  3. Hi Sandra,

    It seems that anger is the spark that ignites a lot of the tragedy, heartache and pain so common in our society. Anger can only prevail when we surrender control of our power. If only we take to heart the suggestions in your post, we could have better relationships and powerful, productive interactions with each other. Thanks for sharing this thought provoking post.

    • So well said, Gladys. At heart, it’s all about surrendering our control, isn’t it? I love the idea of having better relationships and powerful, productive interactions with each other. I’m up for that.

  4. Hi Sandra,

    Very interesting article on anger. I was brought up to “suck it up cupcake” and not express my anger in any way, shape or form. But it still came out, sideways and just a tad on the passive aggressive side. These days I look at anger as a feeling – neither right nor wrong until one either reacts to or responds to the action or inaction that’s churning the angry feelings. In medicine, reactions are bad and responses are good. Anger isn’t a feeling we’re going to erridicate or ever stop the feeling from happening. But we can work on responding rather than reacting.

    • Great perspective, Peggy! I love the idea of responding rather than reacting. I fully agree with you > one of the main keys is not to look at anger as either good nor bad. I think we can gradually change our response to anger and it will gradually arise less often. Thanks for your helpful insights.

  5. Hi Sandra, so sorry for the experience you had but how wonderful for you to be able to handle your feelings in such a positive way.
    I find myself rarely feeling anger, but if I do it dissipates fairly quickly maybe because I’m in the habit of asking myself what’s in my consciousness that I’d experience this event? Somehow simply asking the question moves me into a different space of being.

    • Dear Elle

      What a blessing to rarely find yourself angry! I’m so happy for you. And, I think this is a critical question you’re bringing to the conversation. We need to look at our own mind if we want to shift into another space, whatever the emotion is. I’ll be talking about that more in the next episode of working with anger! Thanks for sharing your insights.

  6. Thanks for sharing this. I love your first point about not getting mad at yourself. There’s nothing worse than compounding a negative emotion by feeling bad about it. I grew up in a house where my dad had no problem expressing his anger, but then immediately felt better and forgave whoever pissed him off. As a result, I’ve always been pretty comfortable sharing my anger with others. Not so for my husband, who has a very negative reaction when I get mad at him. It’s so important to learn how to navigate your anger in different relationships and figure out when expressing anger is a positive thing and when it’s detrimental.

    • Hey Daniela, So nice to see you here! I’m intrigued by your childhood story and how you developed a comfort with anger. Our childhood experiences have such a big influence on most of us. I understand how your boyfriend feels too. I appreciate your sensitivity and willingness to find a way to navigate anger that works for both of you. Thanks for sharing your story, which helps us all learn new ways.

  7. Great topic Sandra. I had a situation when I felt so much Anger at one time that it really affected my health. I also remember how in took my thinking to a very skewed perspective of life. To a place of unfairness, self protection and fear. Definitely not a place of growth…That period of time is what drew me to the work I do now. So I consider it a gift at this point 🙂 I am so grateful to be where I’m at today. Do I still get upset at times? Yes of course but it’s not nearly as charged and it is cleared easily and quickly. Such a better place to be 🙂

    • That sounds intense, Melissa! But, I’m so glad it brought you to where you are today. Your story inspires us to know that whatever might be happening, it can be a source of growth and change. So nice to know you are in this better place! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Great post Sandra. I also think that anger can bring us gifts. The dark side of anger is rage but the the light side of anger can connect us to our passions. It can fuel our fire for success and for making a change for the better as long as we don’t allow it to turn into bitterness. Look forward to reading more….

    • Thanks, Sandy! Yes, I also understand that anger transformed is said to be clarity and that can connect us to love, understanding, and wisdom. It’s all about how we see and respond to the anger. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  9. I think that anger tempts all people every now and again. It’s up to us to handle the pressure and act with respect and calm to others. Is it difficult? Of course! But important decisions in life are never easy, right? However, I think that people don’t have to be ashamed of feeling it if the outside reaction towards others is not too strong. If they are, that’s maybe the moment when people should start with some regular exercises that you mentioned to spend some time with themselves. I agree with you that “happiness, peace and sleep” are the key factors to achieve the positive life. Very good post! In advance, thank you for your reply…

    • Dear Julie,

      I agree, anger is going to trip us all up every now and then. As you say, it’s not easy, but we can do it. And, it will get easier with more practice. I don’t think it ever helps to feel ashamed, but naturally we will all have some healthy regret at times.

      Thanks for your kind words and insights.

  10. Dear Sandra,
    I used to get really angry a few years back. I was so bad when I got angry that I would literally scream, turn red with anger and throw stuff. Yes that WAS me…..not a very happy time in my life ofcourse and it all came out in the form of unrealistic anger.
    I have managed to kick the anger bug in the butt through prayer and meditation. Now I don’t get angry so often and even if I do….my positive affirmations calm me down within minutes. The one thing I swear by when angry is, sitting down and drinking a glass of cool water. Somehow that act calms my nerves and the lets those angry feelings GO far far away.
    Our level of happiness is directly proportionate to the amount of negativity we carry around.
    Loving this topic.
    Much Love,
    Z~

    • What a great story, Zeenat! I’m so happy you’ve shared it with us. Of course, no one would imagine you as an angry person ever. So it helps to hear that you were prone to screaming, turning red, and throwing things. What a perfect testimony to how there is hope and we can all change if we put our mind to it. I think prayer and meditation are very powerful forces.

      Thanks for the cool water tip! I don’t necessarily want to get angry, but if I do, I’ll try it out and see if it works for me too.

      I love your conclusion that our happiness is directly proportionate to the amount of anger we carry around.

      Much love to you, dear Zeenat.

  11. I use to have a tough time with anger. I have gotten a lot better about learning how to deal with it and accept it and let it pass rather than acting on it and making things a lot worse. I agree that reflecting on your pass emotions can be so powerful. I like to look back at times when I was angry and my perspective was diminished and how that didn’t last and that the next time I get angry will be the same way.

    How was the person a liar and a cheat? What did she do to you?

    • Dear Sebastian,

      It’s inspiring to hear that you’ve made such headway in dealing with anger. Looking at our own past can give us such great perspective! Thanks for that suggestions.

      The details of what happened are no longer important! It’s over now.

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