Mindful anger means experiencing the emotion in an: 1. awake, 2. deliberate, and 3. self-nurturing way. Let’s break this down a bit so we can see how to love ourselves through difficult moments.
Last week, I had an experience that allowed me to practice this. The experience felt insulting and unprofessional. It seemed like someone was trying to sabotage my work for their own ego-propping (which has been a familiar theme in my professional history). In the moment, angry energy flooded my body with heat. My heartrate and breathing quickened. But I knew it wasn’t the right time (or the right person with whom) to address the situation. So, I went on to my Pilates class (which was, thankfully, the next thing in my schedule) and tried to steady my breathing.
Mindful Anger = Self-Compassion
Tara Brach, Buddhist psychologist and meditation teacher, offers advice about showing compassion to ourselves when we’re in the midst of upsetting emotions. She calls this the RAIN of Self-Compassion, and here’s basically how to do it:
Recognize what is going on.
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is.
Investigate with interest and care.
Nurture with self-compassion.
I try to follow the meditation when my emotions feel overwhelming. It helps me practice mindful anger. So, while part of me was doing my Pilates exercises that day, another part of me was being a friend to my inner self. I noticed where my emotions were showing up and placed a hand on my heart where I felt them. It’s okay to feel this. You’re safe. You have the right to be angry and complain about this.
After class, I remembered that worst point of contact with the situation and shook with outrage again. Because I could still feel this intensity, I called one of my three favorite venting people. With this person, I spewed all the forceful, profane things I wouldn’t say to anyone else. I really let it rip. He understood . . . but mostly he just listened. He asked questions and helped me investigate the situation, which gave me validation for feeling the way I felt.
A few hours later, I felt better. My attitude shifted to let me see the possibility of an honest mistake in the situation. I wanted to listen and understand and I knew it would ultimately be okay.
That evening, after arranging to conference about the situation, I went to bed early and slept hard. I woke up feeling clear and calm. In the conference that morning, I knew what to say, because I’d taken care of myself in all the moments leading up to it. I expected a positive outcome. And that’s exactly what happened: The meeting led to a solution and increased mutual understanding.
Homework: Think of a time you used mindful anger. Could you give yourself some compassion about whatever difficult feelings you have right now?