Mary O’Malley – Life is sometimes a rough and tumble sport. As somebody once said, “Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries.” I have been experiencing a lot of pain because of degeneration in my spine and when I woke up this morning my mind was just mad, really mad. It was tired of the constantly insistent pain and disturbed sleep.
For most of us, when life is tough, our minds get frustrated and irritated. Then, if the difficulty continues, our minds get angry and even rageful. Think of somebody in a jam-packed rush-hour traffic getting out of their car and raging at the situation and other people.
While most of us don’t get lost in rage, our minds do get irritated and angry. What do we do with our frustrations? We yell at the TV screen or get upset with the overly slow checkout person or dump it on the people closest to us. This doesn’t have to be like the rage-filled person on the freeway. It can be a silent, seething anger, or a passive aggressive anger or a subtly judgmental anger.
Also, for many of us anger is an absolute no-no, so we stuff it deep inside, not realizing that it’s still influencing us from the cage we have tried to lock it in. When was the last time you felt hurt and somebody asked you how you were doing, and you said you were fine? And yet there’s a knot in your stomach, or you are biting your tongue trying not to say mean things or you’re silently planning revenge. Trying to stuff anger is like trying to contain a corrosive chemical that is eating you up from the inside.
And the downside of throwing our anger out there is that we are the ones who pay the price. It’s like trying to throw a hot coal at somebody, hoping we will hurt them. Mostly, we are the ones that are hurt because we come into the closest contact with this hot burning coal.
Rather than just throwing anger out there or stuffing it inside, there is another way to be with anger. To access this, it is important to know that anger is not bad or wrong! Think of a beautiful wild animal that is caged. Out comes its claws and fangs. The same is true for us. When life isn’t the way we want it to be ‘out comes our claws and fangs.’
So how can we be with anger in a healing way? The first step is to acknowledge that you do get angry. In other words, you are not bad or wrong for being angry! Now, it isn’t okay to throw your anger out there. You hurt other people, but most especially you hurt yourself. You disturb your peace when you allow anger to take you over.
The second thing you can do is allow the anger to move. Many years ago, when I was first coming out from under anger’s spell, its force was still very strong for it held years of frustration. So, I would get in my car, (which is a miniature soundproof booth!) and let my anger rage. I first did this with words, allowing my angry one’s story to be expressed. But I saw that it was too easy to get caught in the stories. So, then I learned how to just vocalize the sounds of anger. In other words, I allowed the angry energy to move through my voice. As I became skillful at this, anger moved through me much more quickly. You can also do this through physical movement like racquetball, chopping wood, a long run and even jumping jacks!
I was so glad to discover how to physically move my anger, but I saw that this didn’t bring lasting healing. I then learned one of the most important things in healing anything –Allowing it to be here. I know that sounds crazy, but when you fall into it or stuff anger, all you do is fuel it.
What does allowing look like? When I woke up this morning filled with anger, I went and sat with it. I gave it space to be here and I listened to its view of the world. Anger is just like you and me. We calm down when somebody listens to us and so does anger. As I’m writing this blog a few hours later, vestiges of the anger are still here but I am relating to it rather than from it and touching it with the healing balm of my heart.
So I invite you, just for today, to be an anger detective. Notice when you’re tightening and getting frustrated. Be willing to befriend whatever level of anger is here so you can give it the space it needs to calm down, and you can come back home to your heart.
SF Source Mary O’Malley Mar 2019