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Does It Ever Pay To Be Angry?

Does It Ever Pay To Be Angry?

No one can really enjoy getting angry. Getting angry is like drinking poison or being stuck in glue; it can arise out of nowhere and often overstays its welcome. Anger can make enemies out of friends or family, and depression is often its bedfellow. Our physical body gets tight, breath shortens, while mind and emotions get twisted. Anger is an unwanted guest that moves into our house leaving us unable to carry on with life as normal, constantly appearing and reappearing in our heads.

Anger is a single match that can burn an entire forest. It hurts, causes pain and anguish, it can leave people feeling like they’ve been run over by a truck. It creates an immediate separation, as egos pull back and rear their heads like cobras. Even justified anger is full of venom.

So how do we deal with this intruder, this thief in the night that steals our sanity? How do we let anger know that this is not the way we want to live, that enough is enough?

It’s not as if we can just stop anger — it’s usually way too powerful and arises quickly, in a flash, out of nowhere. There’s no point in repressing or denying it as it’ll just make itself known in another way and will gain strength. There are occasional times when anger can be used consciously, without the accompanying emotional turmoil. As Sri Swami Satchidananda says: “Keep your emotions in your pocket and use them when appropriate.” But such times are rare. More often it is a reaction of the ego-mind demanding immediate release.

If expressing anger causes all this angst then is it possible to turn it around? Can we say hello to anger, hello my friend, what are you here to teach me? Can we invite it in for a cup of tea? Can we turn shit into gold, or grow roses out of the roiling mud?

Perhaps the best way is by staying fully present and aware of whatever is being felt. This means seeing it, naming it, breathing into it, while keeping the heart open and the belly soft. Repeat: soft belly, soft belly, soft belly. Pay attention and see if the anger is actually a cry for help or love, and keep breathing. Through meditation we learn to just watch and not react.

Mindfulness invites us to make friends with the whole of ourselves just as we are, which includes witnessing and knowing anger. It grounds us in basic sanity so we can be aware of our feelings and not get swept away by them. There is a half way place between expressing anger and repressing it, a place where we can rest in awareness and mindfulness. That way we make friends with any arising feelings and have a breath’s pause before the urgent need to express them also arises.

When we lose connectedness with each other there is a deep longing to reconnect, to come back to our meeting place, whether we are aware of it or not. This is important, as the alternative is being overcome with rejection, grief, or loneliness. But the reconnection needed is really to ourselves, to the truth of who we are, and to our heart.

For us, there’s no more appropriate way to initiate this awareness than with the exquisiteness of meditation, where we sit quietly, breathe, and are aware of feelings, stories, and justifications, followed by a deepening quiet and stillness.

Related
How to Transform Anger Into Creativity
7 Simple Ways to Keep Calm Around You

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Ed and Deb Shapiro

You can learn more in our book, Be The Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, Jane Fonda, Ram Dass, Byron Katie and others. Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at: EdandDebShapiro.com

115 comments

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11:48PM PDT on Oct 31, 2013

Anger, when it rears it's ugly head, must be followed with an awareness of WHY. Count to ten, breathe, see all facets of the problem at hand, then defuse it rather than build on it, or things will escalate to hate, retaliation, and all the other foot soldiers that drag you down. It can be done, patience is an acquired asset, takes some work.

10:05AM PDT on Oct 27, 2013

I'm not sure its always wrong to feel anger. It's wrong to let it control you; to let yourself become nothing but that, but I found the anger I felt at my father's alcoholism drove me to become one sober person when a friend implied I might be walking down his path. It's what you do with your anger that matters. If it galvanizes you to useful, courageous, creative and productive action - that's its noble purpose. If it makes you bitter and destructive, then it has become a poison.

4:53AM PDT on Sep 18, 2013

No it doesn't (unless you are an Angry Bird).

8:28AM PDT on Sep 11, 2013

thanks for sharing.

4:35AM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

Thanks

8:42PM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

I think we need to be angry about world pollution, poverty,homelessness and abuse of animals, children and the elderly. We need to find solutions to these problems while we are angry, like use our anger as fire from within us to make the neccessary changes out there in our communities, world in general.

11:02AM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

Anger is neither good nor bad (no emotion is) it's the action or reaction done in it's name that is positive/negative, harmful/productive, acceptable/unacceptable. Anger being an alert to a possible problem, though it may not be to do with the issue the anger is being expressed over.

10:08PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

A little more depth would be nice.

11:50AM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

anger is an emotion in everyones makeup. just don't let it turn to violence.

11:04AM PDT on Aug 18, 2013

Its ok to be angry when wronged, however, excessive over reaction not good. Sort the problem & move on otherwise the source of anger can be detrimental to your physical & mental health!

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