Can Meditation Help You Control Your Anger and Aggression?
Can Meditation Help You Control Your Anger and Aggression?
One of the most extraordinary things about anger, is that once it gets a grip on us it can completely overcome us and take us over. We can lose all sense of ourselves in such moments and wind up saying and doing things that we would never normally do. We can even lose all rational sense of ourselves to the point where we would appear to be a totally different person.
One of the things that meditation and mindfulness teaches us it to catch ourselves as quickly as we can when we are triggered into anger and just be with the feeling that arises in us so that we might stop in its tracks the rollercoaster of reactivity that we might be prone to falling into.
Ask yourself whether you consider yourself to be a calm and rational or balanced person in general, and yet you have a tendency when pushed or triggered by various things to vent your anger in ways that might seem to be completely out of character. One of the reasons for this is that the feeling of anger is so unpleasant that it can quickly overwhelm our normal sense of composure. And for this reason it is important to learn to pay enough attention to how we are actually feeling at the moment that we become angry. Because the main trigger to our anger is how we are feeling and not what is happening to us and what is going on around us in that moment. The events that appear to be making us angry are actually only triggers to a tendency towards anger that we are already carrying.
When we learn this we learn that the anger lies within us as a conditioned and learned response… and it is a response we can un-learn.
Now we cannot simply just tell ourselves not to be angry. Doing so might well help us to restrain that anger to a degree, and restraint is most definitely important when we feel compelled to act strongly upon our anger. Telling ourselves not to be angry doesn’t stop us feeling angry. We already ARE angry at that point. But the anger passes in the moment like a match that is lit but given no fuel from which to make a fire. If we can add water and not petrol to a fire it quickly burns itself out. And this is where mindfulness can play a very important role.
If whenever you are angry you can spot the uncomfortable feeling that arises within you at the point of anger, and if you can find it within yourself to just be with that unpleasant feeling before you say or do anything in response, you will quickly learn that the anger is no more than a match. It burns only for a few seconds if it is not given the fuel to ignite. All you have to do is find it within yourself to recognise that you feel uncomfortable and that the uncomfortable feeling has made you angry. Very quickly you will turn away from what you think was the trigger (ie something going on around you) and turn towards what was actually the trigger (which is the charge of energy we are already carrying within us that makes us feel so unpleasant as to make us become angry). To begin with this might sound counter-intuitive, because we are so accustomed to believing that it is the things people say and do around us that make us angry. But in fact this is not the case. Otherwise we would all get angry at the same things. But we don’t. Each of us carries our own level of conditioned responses and all of them are triggered by the charge (literally electrical charge ) that we have accumulated in the past that inclines us towards such reactions as anger, craving, anxiety or worry. Indeed it is not only anger that is triggered by the way we are feeling… ALL of our unhealthy habit patterns of reaction are triggered in the same way; by the charge we are carrying within us and how that makes us FEEL.
Many of you will be familiar with this principle… in our meditation we learn to do more than just pay attention to our anger as it arises, we learn to be with the unpleasant feeling that also arises with it. By being quietly with this unpleasant feeling we can watch how quickly it passes away. In fact, if we can do this; if we can just stop and breathe and watch the unpleasant feeling arise and pass within us, we can see that it really is like a match. If we do not give fuel to it, it will burn out in about the time it takes for a match to burn out… well at least as long as a reasonable long match, but no more. In fact it takes around 90 seconds for the chemicals that create the unpleasant feeling associated with anger to pass away if we can just stop and be with the feeling.
And this is the whole principle behind a campaign that the Metropolitan police have recently initiated called “Take 90.”
It is an initiative that hopes to give any of us who might find themselves overwhelmed by anger and rage a tool that might literally stop it in its tracks before it becomes the prompt to violent and aggressive responses that may end up harming us or others.
I have made a short 90 second audio clip myself with this principle in mind… it is a simple guide that steers you though that vulnerable and crucial 90 seconds when you are most ignited by anger and so most likely to act upon it in ways you later might regret. Almost all of us who do and say things in a fit of anger or rage later come to regret it. This is because there is such a drastic difference in how we feel and feel prompted to behave when we are overcome with anger and how we behave and think normally. Certainly anger never brings out the best in us.
So below is the audio that I recorded as your go to in emergencies if you want to stop anger in its tracks. Maybe you might like to download it onto your phone or devise and try it the next time you feel wound up by things in your life. Try to remember, it is always a match. Matches are dangerous because they can start fires, but really if they are left to burn out on their own they can bring little harm. Try to tell yourself, “Its just a match.” If you can just learn to recognise the feeling and breath deeply in that moment you will see how quickly you can blow it out.
Take 90 Anger Campaign Audio