Anger is a strong emotion with a strong physical component; sensations such as tightness, contraction, and burning are ever-present, and at times we can stay angry for quite a long time through endless story-telling and separation. Anger is not an unhealthy emotion – in fact, it’s a very important emotion that should be felt and expressed, just in healthy ways. How do you currently experience anger? Do you bottle it up, only to let it explode on the wrong person later? Do you express it through yelling and violence? Assessing the ways in which you express your anger is a great step towards bettering yourself in these demanding situations.
Mindfulness is a practice that has been used for many years now – by attending to what’s fully happening in your mind, body, and spirit right now, you are practicing mindfulness. Now, if you’re feeling angry, this may appear to be the last thing you want to do. After all, much of our anger comes from reactivity, which is essentially the absence of mindfulness! However, previous research has pointed to mindfulness as a necessary practice to working through not only feelings of anger, but practically everything else as well.
For example, in a study published in Mindfulness, researchers assessed participants’ progress in a mindfulness meditation versus those participants who were not assigned to participate in one, as a control group. After 3 weeks of daily meditation practice, participants in this group showed substantially reduced aggressive behavior than what they felt at the beginning of the study – how is this so?
Put simply, mindfulness and meditation allow us to dig deeper than the surface of our emotions. You may be feeling angry right now about something someone has said to you, but what is the deeper reason behind it? Rabbi Zalman Schachter explained this for Oprah Winfrey by stating,
“We get to see underneath that anger, there is fear, pain, and sorrow, and we cannot deal with anger unless we also deal with what sustains the anger. We forget how we are hardwired. The reptilian system within us makes sure we are secure and safe. If we do not feel secure, then the dinosaur will rear its head and roar.”
Take a moment and sit with your eyes closed. Breathe in, breathe out. Notice the sensations that you are experiencing throughout your body. Allow any thoughts that come to mind to gently breeze by. Do not try to control your thoughts. Through mindfulness and meditation, you can find the underlying causes of your anger.
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