Anger, I learned, is one of our body's mechanisms for letting us know that we are in distress. Although anger can feel uncomfortable, physically as well as mentally, it can help to motivate us to address our underlying needs, desires, and perceived threats. Personally, I know that I only get angry when I feel threatened so, in my case, the anger (really fear) I feel is really trying to protect me. But, most of the time, that threat isn't real; I'm living in the past. Controling that fear, and subsequent anger, can be helpful in regulating both my body and my mind. Dharma explained to me that unprocessed anger can lead to things like conflict, social isolation, shame, depression, and even getting yourself thrown in jail! None of those are things I want, or need, in my life!
Not everyone processess anger in the same way. Some choose to hold it in, while others will explode into rage, striking out with words or fists. I learned, too, that some of us are predisposed to anger, either through our biology, how we were treated by others in the past, or from what we've observed from family and friends. Even the media can influence our anger. Sadly, the Dharma explained, few frog and even fewer humans, want to address their anger. Instead, we frogs tends to hop away, and humans will flee, from the uncomfortableness of our emotions. This is never a good idea and doesn't help anything, long-term, even if it feels good in the moment.
There is a better way to deal with anger. My wise teacher says that it's a combination of self-reflection, mindfulness, self-compassion, and self-awareness. And I believe him!
Mindfulness means having present-moment awareness; being aware of what's happening in the here and now, rather than letting past events color your thinking. This awareness allows us to ponder all the choices that are available to us in any given situation...rather than rely on our default setting of fear, anger, or rage. Dharma reminded me that studies have shown a direct link between mindfulness and our ability to differentiate between different emotions. We may think we're angry but, instead, it's really something else. We can't fully understand this if we aren't living in the present. Once you become aware, it makes moving on to self-compassion easier. Mindful beings are aware of their own suffering; they are accepting of themselves without judgement. They know they are deserving of love and care. Self-compasion, the Wise One pointed out, isn't the same as self-pity, nor is it self-indulgence. What is is, is acceptance of oneself; warts and all. Everyone has flaws and it becomes much easier to accept them in others when we can accept them in ourselves. We no longer feel the need to "judge those who may not be up to our expectations. Those expectations disappear when we are mindful and have compassion." Dharma says that self-compassion can lead to greater emotional resiliency and stability...lessening the negative effects of emotions, like anger and fear.
When practiced together, mindfulness and self-compassion can reduce reactivity, stregthen autonomy, promote emotional sensitivity, and help us to understand the historical sources of our hurts. They can open us up to safer, more effective communication. And let's face it, name-calling never settled anything effectively!
Before he ended our session this morning, the Dharma Frog reminded me, "Anger makes the frog small; forgiveness allows him to grow beyond what he is." Self-love, self-compassion, self-awareness, and mindfulness helps humans to see their shared humanity. This, of course, bodes well for decreasing anger.
As always, the Dharma Frog makes wonderful, thought-provoking sense. Through the years, I've come to trust his wisdom and I rely on it to live a more peaceful, harmonious life. Learning from his wisdom, has kept me out of trouble more than once! I am grateful to him for his never-ending patience, kindness, and tough love. And I am very happy to share his lessons with you each and every Wednesday.