It’s Okay to Be Angry: Now What Will You DO With It?

I’ve been a little angry the last few days.  Actually, that’s not fully true.  I’ve been a lot of angry at some points.  As I’ve talked about before, there are people who push my buttons, and there are happenings that create what, I think, is very justified feelings of anger.  But, I’m not particularly good at feeling ok about anger.  I didn’t really learn how to handle anger constructively in my youth.  I don’t come from a family culture where there was calm and easy expression of anger, and the midwest isn’t exactly known for being a great place to be really open about your feelings.  So, when I’m angry, I feel really bad and guilty on top of the anger.  That’s useful, huh?

12 Angry Men are Angry!

Anyhoo, last night and today, I’ve been trying to remind myself that feeling anger isn’t bad in and of itself.  It is a natural emotional response, as normal as fear, happiness, sadness, or excitement.   The important thing is what we do with the anger.  Do we experience it, attempt to understand it, deal with whatever has created it, and move on?  Do we hold on to it and let it simmer and roil around inside?  Do we lash out at others, spreading negativity?

It seems to me that we don’t always have a choice about the experience of an angry emotional feeling, but we do have a choice about how we respond to that feeling.  Responding with calm and compassion and an intent to let go of the anger is far more likely to be productive for everyone involved.  The Buddha once said “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”  I believe this to be true, in both psychological and physical ways.  Anger not only creates mental stress, but studies have shown that it is bad for our physical bodies.

Letting go of an angry emotion isn’t always easy.  The Dalai Lama suggests the following process:

If you are able to recognize the moment when anger arises, you will be able to distinguish the part of your mind that is feeling anger. This will divide your mind in two parts-one part will be feeling anger while the other will be trying to observe. Therefore anger cannot dominate the entire mind. You are able to recognize that anger is harmful and maybe develop an antidote to it. View your anger objectively. Try to see the positive side of the anger-causing person or event.

That last part seems key.  It’s so easy to focus on what is hard or bad about something that causes us anger.  Finding the positive is difficult, but it’s there.  So, today, I’ll be pondering the wonderful things about the people that have been connected with the feelings of anger I’m having.  I’ll be considering how the pain of arthritis has lead me to yoga and that’s wonderful.  I will be accepting my experience of angry feelings, not chastising myself for having them, and then trying to move on in a positive way.

How about you?


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14 Responses to It’s Okay to Be Angry: Now What Will You DO With It?

  1. yvonne says:

    Anger in and of itself doesn’t happen on its own – it’s a secondary emotion.

    And it’s always in response to one of two emotions: fear or sadness. When someone is not comfortable dealing with being afraid or being sad, it results in anger.

    It took me forever to learn that and retrain myself how to deal with being angry (all the time. It got to be exhausting.) But the first step is to recognize that you’re being angry. The second step is then to ask yourself what you’re angry about and whether that makes you feel sad or afraid. And then deal with it from there. It’s not for the faint of heart and requires some serious self-discipline, -awareness, and honesty.

    It used to be that something would happen, and I’d be all the way past my tantrum before I would go back belatedly and reflect on steps 1 and 2. Then at some point, I could recognize step 1 for what it was while it was happening. And then slowly, I could calmly recognize step 1 and move right on to an inner dialogue with step 2. It took me a long time to get to where I am now!

    • theveganasana says:

      Well, I’ll certainly buy that anger tends to come with fear, but I’m not sure it’s always an issue of not being comfortable dealing with fear. Could be. Part of my point above was that it’s not “wrong” to feel anger. Regardless of what other emotions it’s connected to, I think it’s normal to feel angry sometimes. I definitely agree with you that being angry all the time is exhausting and that it’s a lot of work to learn how to work through anger.

  2. yvonne says:

    oh yeah – it’s totally normally and ok to experience anger. There can even be righteous anger, like when we see a great wrong.

    But for the people (like myself) who didn’t learn how to properly deal with anger after it arises, I think a lot of people don’t look deeply enough into why they’re angry. And ultimately, like a lot of things in this world, if you don’t understand the root of something, you’ll be left addressing only the superficial.

  3. yvonne says:

    One of the best things that ever happened to me in that relearning period, was coming to the realization, “It’s not worth getting angry over this.” 🙂

    • theveganasana says:

      Oh man, isn’t that the case! I just said that about some of my youngins the other day. Their lives will be much nicer (and so will mine) when they realize that many things aren’t worth arguing about.

  4. Olivia says:

    It’s okay to feel anger because it is an emotion and has to be recognized. What is hard is to deal with it or worse when one acts upon it.

    My friend said that with the technology and the advancement in life today, 95% of the things we get angry about is really stupid and nothing to be angry about. I think he was right.

    • theveganasana says:

      I’ve gotten pretty good at not getting angry about things online, but once in a while… When I first started participating in online communities it was so bad. Now, when I start to feel that, I log off (mostly).

    • Allison says:

      I tend to think 95% is a little high. But you are spot on when you said that it’s how you deal with the anger. That is certainly the most important thing to realize here. Anger is definitely part of our human nature and is nothing to be ashamed of unless we react inappropriately. I don’t get worked up to much on social networking sites. I generally consider the source and move on to something else or sign off. Some people make comments that simply are not worth getting worked up over.

  5. Thais says:

    Here is something that might work for you because it certainly has worked for me. Next time you are angry at someone, or something, instead of allowing your mind to run a million miles per hour about why you should or shouldnt feel angry, just bring your attention down to you body. what is it doing? how does it feel? if you are quivering, intensify it. If your fists are balled up, ball them up even more. Exaggerate all your body’s defense. If you want to stop your feet – do it! If you want to hit a pillow – go for it! You want to get all that energy OUT of your body. Pretty soon, you will start feeling different emotions, maybe fear or loneliness. Just allow anything to come up to have space to be. Processing your emotions through your body is the best way to learn how to “deal” with anger. Just a thought =)

    • theveganasana says:

      Paying attention to your body is such good advice for dealing with anger, because I think we mostly ignore it and focus on how the mind feels at those times.

  6. yogi mat says:

    The mistake is one of psychsomatic sovereignty. We feel we own the anger outright, it is ours to control, manage and contain, and this escalates into hurt and mindlessness and all manner of unpredictable outcomes because it it not the way things are essentially. More often than not people will say don’t BE angry and project the wakening of a slumbering reptile within THEIR psyche, let it go and we have the freedom to GET angry or behave in an angry WAY but as soon as conditions around us are more conducive to other emotions we can adapt instantaneously and be prepared to mediate and meditate on what exactly just happened – apologise – laugh – forgive – assert – whatever. If we see our body-mind more as being part of a wider dysfunctional community of loathing and fear and not as an isolated biological entity bound up with all manner of fears and anger and hate we are free to change that self-centred attitude and empathise and most importantly – move on to something more positive?

  7. This is a great post as I can understand how you feel. When I am angry, I do not deal well at all… usually exploding right away and as that quote highlights, I am the only one who is suffering. I need posts like this to remind me to try and take a step back when I am angry and that when it happens it is ok. Sometimes being a yogi, we’re expected to not get angry, but of course that isn’t always the case. At least I can hope that we are a little more aware of that anger and try to deal the best we can with it. : )

  8. Allison says:

    Because of the home that I grew up in, where angry outbursts were the norm, I been one to hold my anger in. Which probably isn’t the healthiest way to handle situations. However, as am moving into my early forties, I am much better at communicating my anger or discontent. It’s just a way of clearing my brain of what upset me in the first place and at that point I am able to move forward. But you should never feel guilty or ashamed for having angry feelings. Remember the old proverb “This, too, shall pass”.

  9. Victoria says:

    I grew up in a home where anger or negative emotion expression was not allowed, ever! Very few emotions were allowed and nothing was allowed to be ‘too much’. I am an impassioned person who feels everything deeply. I had to stuff and swallow so much that my feelings almost always happened in bursts. It was very unhealthy and has taken years to deal with and I still fail regularly with frustration, it becomes anger.

    I do find that when my feelings ‘grow’ in to anger more often then I can deal with adequately, it is almost always due to hormonal imbalance and/or the function of my liver. If I am having more then one or two ‘cranky’ days that are leading into angry outbursts it is almost always due to poor self care that is over taxing my liver or truthfully my hormonal cycle. Both of which can be controlled and cured with diet and exercise. It has nothing to do with fear or sadness. I have had years of ‘assistance’ in identifying and expressing my feelings. I have got that down. What I have learned is that there is something that is anger and it has nothing to with anything other then not liking something that has happened, and I am entitled to think and feel angry with that situation. I learned about liver function and anger when I was in treatment for NASH, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. According to my Chinese Medicine and Naturopathic doctors feeling ‘angry’ (or fatigued) frequently is a symptom of poor liver function and women are prone to moodiness, sad but true. It happens and it is OK. What is not ok is to hurt other people with our words and deeds, especially when they are based on how we ‘feel’ at the moment. Feelings are fleeting, thoughts are solid and based on fact. I say own your anger, but if you find you are ‘angry’ and can’t identify the thoughts of why then look inside to your body, perhaps it is telling you something.

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