From Pissed to Peaceful: How to Deal with Anger

“If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.” 
—Yogi Bhajan

I think the above quote accurately sums up my reason for writing this blog. I write to better understand the world around me.

Today’s topic is an uncomfortable one for me, and it’s most definitely something that I’d like to move through and heal from. I’m writing about anger, in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of how to process this emotion in a constructive way.

Anger often leads to confrontation. Some people try to avoid both at all costs while it seems that others seek out anger and conflict. For many, anger creates a physical reaction – an adrenaline rush. This could manifest in the form of sweaty palms, a quickened heart beat, and erratic breathing. For others, the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism prompts a “get the hell out of here” response. It’s fascinating how the very same emotion can trigger completely different reactions in people.I became curious about this, so I asked family and friends whether or not their reactions to anger are physical. Some said yes. Others said no.

Does it have something to do with the past events of our lives? If so, should I blame my reactionary ways on my New Yorker father who’s never hesitated to lay on his horn and give someone the middle finger after being cut off in traffic? Or was it caused by the verbally abusive ex-boyfriend who showed me a whole new level of anger? Could it be the fact that my parents divorced when I was young and some of my first memories are of their heated arguments? No. It’s too easy to place blame on my past, and blame only perpetuates the negative emotions.

In a recent podcast interview I listened to, Oprah asked Deepak Chopra what he knows for sure. His response: “Nothing.” This man is considered to be one of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time and he claims to know ‘nothing’ for sure. (Side Note: Here’s the podcast if you’d like to check it out):

I started to wonder… Why do we fight so hard to be right?

Like everything I write about, this blog post was driven by an experience. I decided to write about anger after I found myself in the middle of a disagreement. It happened in public, and it was embarrassing. The details of the disagreement are irrelevant. It’s since become clear to me that it was ego vs. ego, as most arguments are. It was a fight to be right, and nobody wins that fight.

In this particular confrontation, I most definitely experienced a physical reaction. It was like an out of body experience, with negative emotions steering the ship instead of rational thinking. When we’re in this head space, it feels like a moment of temporary insanity. The ego is in charge, not our higher selves.

It might be true that those who grew up in very peaceful homes with minimal confrontation are simply less prone to being pissed. They could simply be less reactionary and less likely to fly off the handle when they’re angry as a result. These are the people I aim to learn from. While the past events of our lives may influence our instinctive reactions to anger, they don’t dictate the future. At some point, we need to take responsibility for the way we show up in the world.

Hatred is like drinking poison and then waiting for it to kill your enemy – Nelson Mandala

I think part of what makes this blog uncomfortable for me is the recognition that I still have more work to do in this realm. When I really go within and think about it, I don’t want to create suffering for another person… ever. I don’t hate the person who I was angry with. It was a passing moment – a little blip in time when we didn’t agree on something. That’s it.

It’s less important to be right and more important to be peaceful. And when it comes to the way we choose to present ourselves in this social media-driven “look how awesome I am” world, it’s humbling to publicly admit our faults. The truth is, I could have handled myself better in that situation.

meandjim
My husband Jim: The most peaceful person I know and one of my greatest teachers

In an effort to further evolve as human beings, we must learn from our mistakes. In doing so, we hope to recognize behaviors that do not serve us or the world around us. Recognition then turns into self awareness.

Noticing physical reactions to anger when they first show up might enable us to distract ourselves from impulses (“Oh, isn’t that interesting? My heart rate is quickening and my palms are getting sweaty.”) From there, we can use tools like breathing to move into present-moment awareness and choose a better-feeling thought.

The intention is to stop the anger in its early stages before it takes on a life of its own. So, the next time I feel a physical reaction to anger, my intention is to bring my awareness to it as quickly as possible. The goal is to get better at this practice and ultimately show up in a more peaceful way moving forward.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Blog comments are always welcome and appreciated. Finally, and with some help from my sweet little sis, I’ll leave you with happy vibes today:

be joyful


3 thoughts on “From Pissed to Peaceful: How to Deal with Anger

  1. Betty Oaks says:

    Thank you for your raw emotional words. There are many of us in your similar shoes. I think you got it right when you say ….just breathe…then you can think about what is happening.

    Your brutal honesty is a gigantic gift to those of us who cannot emote. Thank you dear girl!

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