Whilst I was at the Krishna Village, a monk came to spend an afternoon with us, to share his knowledge. The topic was about Understanding Anger. A subject I am very interested in.
Of course, there are a number of ways to deal with anger and after listening to him, his advice struck a chord and I really wanted to share it, in the hope that it might be useful to you.
I think we are often in the mindset, that although we can control our own anger, there’s not much we can do about how other people react. But after listening to him, we absolutely have the power to diffuse a situation.
How do you react?
With anger, everyone is a victim, whether you are the one lashing out, or the one being in the firing line of someone else’s rage. We are often told that anger is ‘bad’, that we should control it more and not act out. However, anger is a valid emotion like every other emotion, and we need to find ways in which to process it, healthily. The emotion itself isn’t bad, it’s how we deal with or react to it, that can make it ‘bad’.
In terms of our own emotions, we have all acted out in fury over a so-called wrong-doing, or lashed out because we are tired, hungry, irritated, hormonal. Wham, before you know it, that fire has been released. And sadly, most of these angry outbursts tend to be taken out on those we love.
Understanding anger and how it feels
The trick is to be mindful of how the anger feels in our bodies. There are cues, if you listen carefully. And this why, slowing down and being mindful of ourselves day to day is so important. The more you stop and check in with how you feel throughout the day, the more you become aware of how emotions sit in your body.
Anger has a quality about it, internally, heart rate starts to go up, gut starts to feel uncomfortable, heat starts to rise in the body, that fight or flight response has kicked in. You know that feeling, right? How often do you catch yourself before all hell breaks loose?
You have a choice
When we are faced with someone else’s anger, we generally make things worse, by standing up for ourselves and defending our position, we don’t think about how we are contributing to the fire.
His advice and a great analogy is to think of a traffic light.
This is when someone is shouting at us, they are in full rage. They are not thinking about what is coming out of their mouths at this point.
This is your time to STOP, breathe, AND don’t say a word. Just listen. Anything you say now will only trigger more fury. Think of the last time you were in an argument, was trying to talk to the person helped at all? As much as you want to react and ‘protect’ yourself, don’t. (Obviously, if you are in danger of physical abuse, then this isn’t the time to sit and listen). This is incredibly hard to do, but the more you practice it, the easier it will become. Give the person your full attention and really listen to what they are saying. You might not agree with what they are saying, and this is not the time to disagree. If you must, wait until the emotions have settled.
Once the person has vented, or there’s a break in the shouting, this is when you tell the person, that you have heard what they have said and you need some time to think about it before responding. At this point, you don’t want to make it worse. If you can, give them a time frame of when you can talk again. In this way, you are able to move away from the situation, and gather yourself. Trying to solve anything in the emotion mind is futile. You now have the opportunity to take responsibility for your behaviour and think of the cause and effect of your actions. And ask yourself questions, why did this person react like this, what happened that caused the fury, could you have contributed to their outburst. Something else he said that I hadn’t considered is, if you take time out from an argument, you might see that you did in fact trigger something in that person, even if you didn’t mean to.
After the agreed time or when you feel calm and in wise mind, get back to the person and apologise for triggering them. Make it clear that you didn’t mean to upset them, and be sincere. Speak from your heart.
Hopefully they too will apologise for their reaction. But this isn’t up to you. Once you have said sorry, and it only has to be said once, what they do after that is their business, or their Karma.
Acceptance is key
Some people may never accept responsibility for their behaviour and may continue to blame everyone else. If this is the case, then you need to ask yourself if you are able to tolerate them. Which the monk said is, extremely hard, even the most tolerant and spiritual monks can ‘lose their stuff’ (his words) when faced with those who are natural born antagonists.
I hope you find this useful. I know I can certainly benefit greatly from his words of wisdom.
Here’s to being kind and mindful in the face of adversity
Check out my post on Self Care here. Taking care of number one i.e. You is imperative if you want to handle conflict in a more effective way