Anger, Rage, Irritability: How to Use Them Mindfully

Fiery, explosive, caustic and destructive, anger can ruin relationships, even lives.

When we indulge anger, rage and irritability, we do not really FEEL them: we act on them without full awareness of our feelings or of the potential consequences of our actions.  Much can be said on that topic, but I want to keep focused on how to channel these upheavals skillfully.

Using mindfulness, you can channel the energy of these common, human emotions into valuable endeavors.  To do so you must be aware of body sensations.

Direct attention to the body, not the mind.  The mind cannot solve these problems, and the mind cannot skillfully redirect the underlying energy.  Only the body, infused with mindful awareness, can do this.

So bring awareness to the body, shine awareness into the body, as you would shine a flashlight into someplace that is dark.  As you do so, consciously separate from the “story,” from the “reasons” you feel angry.  Keep detached from that beloved story about why so-and-so is wrong, and why you are right.  Why things and people “should” be different from how they in fact are.

Notice exactly what the emotions feel like in THIS MOMENT.  Do you sense heat?  Pressure?  Prickliness?  Swirling?  Try to find some words for these immediate sensations.  Even better, find some imagery: If these sensations were painted by an artist, what would they look like?  If they were smells or tastes, what would they be like?  Practice with them for several minutes.  Notice how difficult it can be to detach from the “story,” from the “reasons” you are angry, and focus on the sensations themselves.  Keep coming back to the sensations.

Now that you have practiced in this way, you are ready to use that underlying, powerful energy for anything that you choose.  Something physical would be perfect: Exercise, dance, practice martial arts.  Or, write that articulate and civil, but strongly-worded letter to the bank that you’ve needed to write for some time.  Or, do some artwork or music.  Just stay detached from your anger-story, and focused on the sensations themselves.

You may be surprised by what happens.


Filed under Anger and Hate

2 responses to “Anger, Rage, Irritability: How to Use Them Mindfully

  1. Very helpful. Thank you for sharing this. I value relationships and have lost them from my angry outbursts. I like how your post gives me a chance to detach from my anger by giving my mind something else to do. Also that I may end up with something creative at the finish is a plus. Something good from my anger energy that’s different.Thanks again .

    • Thanks much for your comments Tess and I’m so glad it was useful. The blog has moved to portlandmindful – dot – com, so I’ve not been monitoring this old blog… catching up on responding to comments! 🙂

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