Dissipating Anger

Posted on August 4, 2018

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“There is no such thing as releasing your anger; there is only rehearsing it.”
                                                                                                               – Thich Nhat Hanh

For a while, I used to struggle with intense bouts of rage. I used to fly off the handle quite easily. My relationships were tumultuous at best. My husband used to say that I would easily be the best person in the world if I wasn’t such an angry goon. Throwing stuff was common for me. I have even hit myself to prevent myself from doing harm to property or others. This is not easy for me to write.

Then things changed a few years ago. I tried a simple technique my mom used to ask me to try. I walked away from a fight. And then another. Then another. And I spent a whole year without having any significant anger outbursts. What I learned was that creating space between the impulse and action is the most important thing.

I recently came across the quote by Thich Nhat Hanh and it dawned on me that it is true. The more I got angry, the angrier I got. And the angrier I got, I hated myself. When I hated myself, I felt others hate me or that I didn’t deserve to be loved. And it was a vicious, vicious cycle to say the least.

This year, I began meditating daily. On average, I meditate an hour a day. The purpose of the meditation is to purify the mind. To loosen the grip of ego. To promote a sense of peace and well-being. What I find is that I am more relaxed, flexible, forgiving and non-judgemental to myself and to others.

This does not mean that I never feel angry. And last night I had a great brush with rage. I finished my last client of the day. I was exhausted. My period is due so my physical energy is greatly diminished. Got some veg pho for dinner – my go-to comfort food. I dumped the entire contents into a bowl. It was filled to the brim. I realized that but was too tired to but a plate underneath the bowl. I made the decision to carry the steaming hot bowl with my bare hands up the stairs to our TV room. Five steps up and my hands felt like they were holding fire. But I kept on. I got to the TV room, but some of the broth spilled on to my clean laundry. Sid said, “Careful. It’s spilling!” And I yelled back, “Leave me alone will you!” He was clearly taken aback and was quite upset. Rightly so. We had both spent the day cleaning the house. He yelled back. I yelled back. He unplugged the internet – oh, he knows how to get to me, LOL! So I threw the TV remote. Flung it across the room. I picked up the hot bowl of soup and walked right back down the stairs to the dining table. This time the fire inside me was hotter than the fiery bowl I was holding and I didn’t feel anything.

As I was eating, I was fuming. But no words were coming to mind. Just could feel my nostrils flaring and my heart racing. I ate, but I also automatically began observing my breath. I was enraged. I could feel it.

After I finished dinner, I decided that I would go up the stairs and kick and strew the clothes I had folded painstakingly all day to show how angry I was. How dare he instruct me to be careful! But something had shifted. I walked up the stairs. I went to the TV room where Sid was sitting. And I said, “I am sorry I lost my shit. The bowl was super hot in my hands and I was upset with myself for not bringing a plate under it and I got angry with you instead.” As soon as I said that, I noticed my breath. Calm. Heartbeat? Normal. Mood? Neutral. Soul? Surprised!

He said he was sorry for yelling at me too. Then we carried all the clothes up to our beautiful walk-in closet and organized them. We went on to do more chores as well! It was unbelievable.

I tried to analyse why and how the shift happened. And here’s what I came up with:

A. Even though I huffed and puffed, I managed to create space between me and the situation.

B. Observing my breath unknowingly connected me to my lifeline.

C. I didn’t judge myself for losing my shit. In fact, I remember thinking, “Boy! This PMS is exhausting and hope that the period comes soon.” Before when something like this would happen, I would talk down to myself, “You will never learn. There you go again. You’re a terrible person.” But instead, I somehow gave myself the compassionate response that I wanted from Sid. This is where it all changed.

D. The practice is alive inside of me even when I am not trying. And that comes from daily practice – this would not have been the outcome even a year ago!

E. By this time, the practice of peace and equanimity is stronger than the practice of anger.

I am now a lifelong observer of breath. My calling in life is to be compassionate. And I start with myself. And that is how I dissipate anger.