“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” —Anonymous (often attributed to Gautama Buddha)
All yogis aspire to being peaceful, loving, compassionate people, and yet, anger and resentment are part of the human condition. Contrary to all the quotes and idioms about it, anger is not necessarily a bad thing. How we handle it makes all the difference in neutralizing its potential toxicity, and making it an agent of transformation and enlightenment.
Here are five steps to soften your anger:
1. Sit With It
The combination of egoic attachment and impulse control often has us assign false urgency to situations which raise our anger. Taking a moment of stillness with our strong emotions allows us the opportunity to get more comfortable with the discomfort of anger. It can also halt the escalation of conflict that tends to result from emotional reaction rather than intentional action.
2. Unpack It
My mantra for anger is, “I am not upset about what I think I am upset about.” In other words, there is more to your anger that meets the eye. Whatever the plot of our particular story is, there is an additional subtext that deserves our attention. To dig deeper, ask yourself these questions, “Why is this situation painful? What am I fearful of? Which of my values are being violated?”
3. Use it Wisely
Anger is our inner voice letting us know that our boundaries are being pushed. Diving deep into self-inquiry at these times affords us the opportunity to do some core spiritual detective work. What we discover about who we really are—and what we will or won’t accept in our lives—can be used to make significant and sustainable changes.
4. Disconnect from It
Being a witness to our own drama allows us the room to step back and disconnect from the emotional experience of the human condition. We are more than our feelings. Give yourself permission to feel angry, as well as, fear, pain, or anything else that lays below the anger. And then redirect your attention to the part of you that lives beyond emotion. Go for a hike, take a yoga class, feed your soul the best way you know how.
5. Hold it Gently
The expression and experiencing of strong emotions like anger can upset our status quo for quite a while. What we unearth in the intentional management of anger can shake us to the core. The stronger the anger, the bigger the change that is asking to be made, whether internal or external. Finding compassion for all parties involved cannot be rushed, but is essential to peaceful resolution. In the aftermath of inner and/or outer conflict, allow the awareness to grow, and hold it gently.