Anger can show up in many forms, including outrage, frustration, jealousy, resentment, fury, and hatred. It also masquerades as judgment, criticism, and even boredom. Like all emotions, it is a complex, ever-shifting state involving thoughts, feelings, and bodily changes. How does anger show up in your body?
For me, it shows up as heat. Prickly heat that starts in my gut and creeps up into my face. It hurts. I don’t like it. I get small, and afraid. At that point, I either retreat (most of the time) or lash out. Neither are heathy for me or the person I am feeling anger about.
I once had a teacher that asked…”can you feel anger, but not BE angry?” Great question. Can I? That seems to be the answer. We need to feel what we are feeling. We need to allow ourselves to feel the heat, the constriction, the fear of feeling anger. But we don’t need to let it make us BE angry. I don’t want to BE an angry person. I want to be love. I want to be forgiveness. I want to be compassion. So here is my little trick. It doesn’t always work, but I am trying to work it. Practice right? And life is giving me plenty of that right now.
When I start to feel that heat rise in my body, I take one long deep breath in, drawing the heat up. I feel the heat rising with my breath. And then I exhale, imagining a release valve, letting the steam out. I feel it, and let it go. Feel it, and let it go.
Stephen Covey said, “our happiness is in direct proportion to the amount of time we place between action and reaction.” This pause with breath gives me time to choose a response, and not live in reaction. There are other alternatives to retreating or lashing out. I can talk. I can write. I can go for a walk. I can take more breaths. I can ask for a moment to collect my thoughts. I can choose to hit delete. I can unfriend. I can…
Feel the anger. But don’t BE angry. There is enough of that in the world today.