Ann Hunt at Evolve Yoga, a friend and fellow yoga teacher, recently reminded me that we teach what we need to hear or learn. I find myself working a lot with the same old challenging emotion: anger. At first, I pretended to myself that I wasn’t feeling it. Then I came to accept it, but that didn’t make dealing with it any easier. Over the years I’ve cycled through most of the patterns and habits I describe below. So this series – it comes, unfortunately for me, from personal experience. Direct personal investigation, as we like to say here at PYC.
You are livid. Pissed off. That last story about the Buddha and the gift riled you even more. So what to do? This entry outlines a schema for coping with afflictive mind states such as anger. Each subsequent post this week explores portions of the schema.
The angry mind wants to take actions that only serve to fuel the flames. Self-righteous indignation and outrage carry a lot of energy. The mind-body organism can get addicted – anger feels somehow better than the lethargy of depression or apathy and hopelessness. Like a super-hero righting the wrongs of the world, ending injustice and punishing those who have done harm, our ego-identity creates a sense of aliveness and purpose that gives meaning to our resentments and irritations. These become grooves in the record of the mind. We fall into the gutter of blame, or turn to the channel of irk a little more easily with each pass. And, like any habit that becomes an addiction, the long-term (and short-term) effects are poisoning.
So, again – what to do?
Well, first of all – what not to do. Ultimately these three “ideals,” like the yogic yamas, protect us from having to live out the negative consequences, the karma, of an angry outburst.
- Don’t talk about it.
- Don’t steep in it.
- The five day rule.
Finally (finally!) what to do: the following suggestions work with the mind-body-spirit in a way that soothes the nervous system: first by working out some of the toxic chemicals that flood the body during bouts of fight-flight arousal; and then by turning on the parasympathetic relaxation response for deep healing. I call this the grand trifecta of anger management.
- Run it off / Vigorous yoga
- Acupuncture / Acupressure
- Mantra / Metta
This is part of a series of articles about managing challenging emotions. See more in this series: