Dealing with Anger

by Charles Hastings

What sort of person are you?

We humans are social animals and not only what we communicate by words, actions and gestures, but also the emotional charge behind it, affect the person we are addressing and those around us.

Some of us are relatively calm, but some of us have a very volatile temperament and it seems like the slightest thing can make us erupt at any moment. And for most of us it is difficult to keep our emotional balance in the moments of extreme stress that we all encounter sooner or later.

Many people feel that anger is a good thing. On a personal level we can defend ourselves and our principles. In society it gives us the energy and courage to fight injustice and to support worthwhile causes. However courage and clarity are not the same as anger and its partners, fear and hatred. In fact when we get overpowered by our emotion we lose our clarity and everything becomes distorted.

If we examine how the process of anger starts, we can see that an initial stimulus leads to a reaction. One thought leads to another, often in very rapid succession, building up to a complex tangle of ideas and emotions. The focus of our anger becomes a caricature and we lose our objectivity. How can we retain our clarity, maintain the power to act appropriately, to discern when something needs to be changed and see the most effective way to do it, when our mind has become so unstable?

We might have imagined that having started to practise meditation we would become miraculously calm, patient and kind. It can be disappointing to see the habits of a lifetime still take over. We might feel that we are made a certain way and we will never change.

However, if we can notice an emotion arising at the very beginning, we can learn to just relax with it, to let it go without struggling but without getting carried away. Our mind is endlessly productive and, rather than struggle with our conflicting emotions, it is simpler to come back to the source, the starting point, in the present moment. This is not just true of anger: our obsessive desires can take us over in the same way and of course there is the subtle jealousy or pride we may feel when we look at other people’s achievements or our own. And there are underlying fears and anxieties that come to the surface as we become more aware.

A regular practice of meditation, developing an awareness of how things arise in our mind and how they disappear, allows us to have a more peaceful relationship with ourselves and others, but this takes time. If we are impatient and expect speedy progress we are just reproducing the performance based habits of our culture and creating more tension.

Imagine Clarity's courses provide a reliable basis for training the mind, with a structure that naturally supports regular practice. Revisiting our inner experience each day, we can come back again and again to the present moment, and gradually find the peacefulness below the surface of thoughts and emotions. If we can revive that mindfulness in small moments during the day, gradually, even imperceptibly, mindfulness becomes a natural process. With an increased sense of inner stability, it becomes natural to be kind to ourselves and kind to others.

Charles Hastings
Image: Hari Nandakumar/unsplash.

If you are new to meditation, or if you are simply seeking to revive, clarify and stabilize your practice, the ten-minute daily meditations of the series Meditate Day by Day are for you.
If you have some experience and feel ready to plunge into a deep investigation of the mind, discover the course Great Insights Through Mindfulness. The title is not an exaggeration. This is “a journey into the very nature of our own existence from the inside out”.
In a mind that can become calm mental stability and clear awareness can develop hand in hand. This naturally allows us to face life’s challenges with less stress and greater precision. But as Matthieu Ricard insists our mindfulness should also be caring mindfulness. Our mind is flexible, and habits of impatience and irritability can gradually give way to powerful instincts of kindness and compassion. The course Exercises for a kind heart will enable you to discover your own capacities for love based on your everyday experience.

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