So there you are, you’re there, burning with anger. You know that it’s unhealthy to silence the anger you feel and you’ve gotten to that point where you can slow your anger response down and not be moved to immediately act out your feelings of anger in hostile or negative ways with the person or object causing you grief. But now you may be acting in a harmful way towards yourself via a negative internal dialogue.
What are you without showing your anger to the other person? A punk, a wimp? Some doormat? Maybe you deserve what they did to you or the situation you find yourself in?
If we only focus on the anger and not on the source of the anger we do two things; first we activate our brain’s fight, flight, or freeze system which begins to pump cortisol, commonly referred to as the stress hormone, into our body. This will prime us to fight, flight, or freeze, even if there is no one or no thing to fight or run from. Having cortisol in our bodies for long periods of time can damage us physically and mentally. (This hormone also fuels the negative internal dialogue.)
Second, we miss the opportunity to gain insight on our anger.
So how do we learn to get pass negative internal dialogues with ourselves when we are angry? We take a step back from believing and acting on our internal thoughts and treat ourselves with compassion.
Treat yourself with compassion
Dr. Kristin Neff, an associate professor in human development at the University of Texas at Austin writes that self-compassion has three components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
Self-kindness is being able to accept this reality and your reaction to it with sympathy and kindness. Be warm and understanding toward yourself when you suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. Recognize that being imperfect and failing is inevitable; so much so that, it is far more better for you to treat yourself with kindness and gentleness, than anger and hate.
Common humanity means recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone. Neff writes, “frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation – as if ‘I’ were the only person suffering or making mistakes. All humans suffer, however. The very definition of being ‘human’ means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect.”
Learn to have some perspective on your anger and you are well on your way to being able to calm and heal yourself. Also take the time to reflect on this concept — who you are is made of parenting, friends, genetic and environmental conditions, and more. “Many aspects of ourselves and the circumstances of our lives are not of our choosing, but instead stem from innumerable factors (genetic and/or environmental) that we have little control over.” So just try to do the best you can with what you have.
Mindfulness allows us the space to hold our feelings in a way so that we can choose to act on them or not. Our feelings in mindfulness do not need to be suppressed or exaggerated. We can observe negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, without judgment.
Thich Nhat Hahn, a renowned Zen Buddhist Monk says this:
By paying attention to a thing and seeing it for what it is, rather than becoming drawn into its inertia, we are able to respond, rather than simply react.
According to the practice recommended by the Buddha, when the seed of anger or frustration is manifesting as a mental formation, we should not allow it to be there alone, we should try to invite another seed to manifest, usually we invite the seed of mindfulness to manifest.
The mindfulness is invited up in the mental formation as a kind of energy to recognize the other mental formation, we called it a practice of mindfulness of anger, mindfulness is always a mindfulness of something, when you breath mindfully this is called mindfulness of breathing, when you walk mindfully that is a mindfulness of walking, when you are angry aware that you are angry, that is a mindfulness of anger.
Those who doesn’t has a practice they only has anger mental formation, they allow the energy anger to cause a lot of damages, for those of us who has a practice, we will not let the anger alone, we are always invite the mindfulness to come up to take care of anger, anger is still there but mindfulness is already there in order to take care of anger, this is the practice of mindfulness of the anger.
The job of mindfulness is to recognize, to recognize thing as they are, then to embrace whatever is there in a very tender way, like a mother embraces a child, when the child is suffered, the mother is working in the kitchen but she hears the baby cry, she know that the baby is suffering, so she goes into the baby room and she pick the baby up, she hold the baby tenderly in her arm, and the the energy of tenderness from the mother begin to penetrate into the body of the child, and after a few moment the child feels better, this also happened in the practice of mindfulness.
Non duality means, not only mindfulness is you but anger also is you; not only mindfulness is you but depression is also you, so you are taking care of yourself, you are not fighting against yourself, that is why we said that buddhist meditation is based on the principle of non duality, you are both anger and mindfulness, no fighting is needed, you only need to recognize, you only need to embrace tenderly.
Hopefully by now, we can treat ourselves with compassion after slowing down our anger response. By the way, did you know that treating yourself with compassion has the ability to help you calm down and soothe yourself?
Next up: Understanding our anger.