What are some tools for navigating anger?
Every morning I wake up before my mind does and for a few seconds, maybe even the length of a minute I experience a brief comfortable ocean of empty, floating, almost disoriented relaxation. And then slowly a thought- a memory of some unfinished situation lifts up, crosses through, and catches my mind on fire, setting off a whole series of thoughts and memories which are distinctly painful to experience and which I brace against and want to get away from.
I have observed myself waking up before my mind so often now that the awareness of its presence does not get fully covered up by my active mind and I have a fraction of distance between me and the burning. This enables me to know that that burning pain of thinking is an added thing upon me. It is an event occurring to me. Under the pain of thinking there is the inherent peace into which I wake every day. And I think you do too.
If you are able to make such observations about your own waking process you might discover, as I have, that when the mind catches fire and starts to burn, every thought causes pain. Some times the pain is a mild irritation. Sometimes the pain is an agony.
I spoke of this observation of how my thoughts cause me pain to my husband, and he said, “Well, maybe that’s just how it is. Maybe thoughts just hurt.”
This outrageously zen reply caused a concept connection to occur in my brain. I connected the pain of memories and thoughts to the pain I’d experience in the physical body. If I’d twisted an ankle or caught the flu and gone to bed, I’d wake up in that physical pain of throbbing or fever and I’d adjust my energy to handle it. I would not walk around on the twisted ankle or with a fever. I would lay up with that physical pain until it healed. I’d make space for the pain and wait it out. Shouldn’t that also be how we adjust to burning pain of thinking? What would happen if we started to recognize the condition of our thoughts as either healthy or sprained? What would happen if we stayed inactive while thoughts and memories burn? If I get up and walk on a sprain, I will make that injury worse. If I get up and proceed with business while my brain is on fire, will I not spread fire everywhere I go that day? In the same way we are asked not to bring a flu to the office, do we also not have an obligation to refrain from bringing burning arrows of anger into our environment?
Stay home a bit. Rest your mind. Let it burn without going out into the world and adding fuel for the flames. Are you afraid you will burn forever? Do you think it will take so long to recover you’d get fired, or fail your children, or your friends? Do you fail them when you take time to recover from the flu? Why is our culture so opposed to resting? Could we, as a culture, register the mental-emotional realm as equally valid as the physical realm so that I do not need to give myself the actual flu as a way to keep myself at home to deal with thoughts and frustrations?
We fear that the mental-emotional realm is murky and infinite. It is not. When I have received the flu in the past or obtained a sprain of some kind, I never once entertained the idea that I would be permanently bound to live out the rest of my life with a flu or sprain. I knew I would eventually recover. I have recovered from the flu countless times.
I have recovered EVERY time.
The tools for navigating anger can be found when I realize that I am a healing system. Healing is what I do. It is what we all do. If I am in an angry, frustrated state, I need to register that I have a fever. I need to attend to that anger or pain. I need soup. Literally or metaphorically to address the nature of the unwellness. I need to get off the injury and rest. As I rest, I know it will not be fun. My thoughts will throb like a sore throat and it WILL find its way back to realignment if given the space to do so.
Reality always comes into alignment sooner or later. It is law. How we find our way into that realignment is, in my opinion, one of the most enthralling activities to engage on the planet. It is a creative, adventurous, and brave act that can involve myself alone, a friend, or a group. Healing can be extremely fun to do when we open up to learning what the truth is about our situation.
The truth is not what we think it should be. It is what it is. The challenge at hand is to develop the skills to perceive the truth. This takes nuance and objective, empty curiosity. But we are not totally alone in the effort.
Every enduring sacred text throughout history speaks of the same things. The nonnegotiable Laws of nature. A natural law is an inherent state impossible to argue with. An example of a natural law in the physical realm is: Fire will never be cold. A natural law of the mental-emotional realm is: What I give, I get back.
If I find my mind catches fire upon waking, I would be wise to ponder what behavior I have been offering others. How I am treated is an indication of how I am treating those around me.
I know, I know. They started it. And believe me- I KNOW they started it. But if someone comes into my house smoking and flicks a burning cinder onto my rug then leaves, if I do not put that cinder out, the rug will burn, the room will burn, the house will burn. Will people in the neighborhood stand around and say, “Look at that fire someone else started. They really ought to put that out.”? No, they won’t say that. They will save their own house by putting the fire out.
If you wake up and discover a cinder burning in your mind, find the water, the weight, the rest, the strength to put that cinder out. You will then give people the sort of energy you yourself will enjoy receiving.
Locating tools for navigating anger is about truly realizing life-threatening effects anger has on our bodies and deciding not to allow the burning to continue. Anger is like straight moonshine to the system. It is like hemlock. Anger is a poison, a toxin. And anger is expensive. When it arrives, pick it up and place it out of reach of others. Hold it carefully. Write in simple sentences the thoughts attached to the anger. Write with your non-dominant hand so that it is not easy to put words to your thoughts so that explaining is a bit of a struggle. Identify the core burning ember and then add no other thoughts to that flame. Recognize the root of the pain and then turn away from it. Place no more attention on it. How? I understand that anger is very gripping. It clings. But you find a way to ignore it, in the same way you do not stop and ponder every single piece of trash you pass by on the sidewalk. You move on.
The tools for navigating anger are not objects you can buy. The tools are energetic decisions to simply turn away from a toxic experience. Anger is energy that has gotten stuck in the mire of mental concepts. When we sort through the thoughts that are holding the anger and we take time to correct misguided perceptions, we free up that powerful energy behind anger and fuel our life passions instead of our pain. The next time you find yourself angry, ask yourself what your beliefs are about the situation and really question if your understanding of reality is in fact, accurate. If you are still finding it hard to release yourself from the burn of frustration and anger, I’d love to help you navigate your thought processes and offer objective guidance. Schedule a session!