How often do you get angry at something or someone?
Do you ever find yourself losing control of your emotions to the point where you lash out at someone else?
These are common issues faced by those who struggle with anger.
Anger can be one of the most destructive emotions people experience. It’s normal to get angry sometimes. But if you find yourself feeling angry frequently, you might want to consider ways to manage it or channel the anger effectively.
Anger is a natural emotion. It’s a healthy response to stress or frustration. However, if you let anger build up inside you, there’s a chance it could overwhelm you. If that happens, you might end up doing things you might later regret.
Meditation anger release – Meditation for anger management
Anger Management is something that everyone needs at times, but very few people manage to effectively deal with their anger issues.
So What exactly is Meditation for anger management?
Meditation is a way to calm down and healthily deal with anger.
A recent study shows that regular meditators have less frequent aggressive thoughts and feelings.
Meditation is known to reduce our levels of cortisol — a hormone that contributes to anxiety and depression — thus helping us deal better with stress.
Mindfulness meditation has been proven to improve focus and attention. So it makes sense that meditation can also help us manage our emotions. Since anger is a very valid emotion that many people experience in many different ways meditation can for sure help us regulate and manage it.
Meditation has been used as a form of therapy for thousands of years. Its benefits range from stress reduction to improving focus to calming emotions and now some studies even say that meditation reduces aggression.
Alongside meditation, one can also seek out professional counseling services such as cognitive behavioral therapy. This method helps individuals identify their underlying thoughts and beliefs and teaches them new ways to think about situations and react appropriately. CBT also focuses on helping clients understand their negative reactions to perceived experiences which often can be expressed as anger or aggression.
Let us first understand what anger is and how it manifests…
What is anger – Is anger an emotion?
Anger is one of the seven basic emotions, along with surprise, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, and anticipation.
It is usually expressed through a strong feeling caused by frustration, disappointment, stress, hurt, or jealousy. People often feel angry for no apparent reason at all and this is when it can become problematic…
Other times they may become angry when someone says something offensive or untrue about them. The person who gets angry usually shows signs of bad mood such as irritability, impatience, hostility, aggression, annoyance, rudeness, aggressiveness, and nastiness.
It is however important to know that anger is a very valid emotion and when there is a justifiable explanation for feeling this way it is important to express it in a safe way of course
Since it can be quite a volatile and impulsive emotional reaction to something it can also express itself physically. Some examples include: clenched fists, raised eyebrows, and clenched teeth.
Is anger a negative emotion?
The entire spectrum of emotions is valid and important to express – we should not be suppressing any emotions based on them being perceived as negative.
We know that when we suppress or resist anything it festers and becomes worse and this could lead to a bigger emotional outburst later on.
Many people label anger as a negative emotion because most people express it in a very destructive and at times dangerous way – This is due to the characteristics of it being a reactive and often impulsive emotion… but what if we could perceive all our emotions with a neutral lens.
What if we stop labeling emotions as good or bad and therefore start to learn to understand them and regulate them with a lot more ease.
With that being said anger management is not used to eliminate feelings of anger or suppress the expression of it – it simply means to channel it more healthily. Think of it as diffusing a bomb – it lessens the overall impact of the reaction as to not get that ‘explosion’ to occur.
What is emotional reactivity?
We show emotional reactivity when provoked by things we dislike or find to be threatening. A study of emotional reactivity showed that anything that provokes an emotional reaction can also trigger a negative reaction. Traffic jams, grocery store shortages, losing your favorite sports team, and even things as simple as an accident can set off a negative response.
Sometimes, ‘negative’ emotional reactions can even occur in response to something pleasant. Positive emotions are often triggered by negative ones. For example, a pleasant experience such as that of falling in love could be fearfully experienced by some.
Anger is a part of human nature. It is normal and understandable. We shouldn’t blame others or ourselves for feeling frustrated at moments when things aren’t going as planned. Rather than feeling out of control, we should accept the reality of how we feel and work toward becoming more flexible in responding.
By understanding our anger, we can learn how to take responsibility for it. We will then become better equipped to deal with situations that trigger anger in us.
Anger is often seen as being directed toward ourselves, but our minds play a very active part in encouraging our anger. We can learn to control our minds and thus cool down before we act out.
With practice, we learn to see that anger doesn’t need to erupt in a matter of seconds; in fact, once we learn to view anger as fleeting energy, we come to realize that we can be in control of it, not vice versa. We also come to see our anger with more clarity, realizing that it can actually be a healthy emotion if channeled in the appropriate way.
Anger isn’t always bad. Anger can help us identify problems and motivate us to make changes. If we let ourselves get angry about something, then we’re expressing an emotional response. However, if we choose to express anger in ways that won’t damage our relationships or others’ feelings, we’re not being irrational. Instead, we’re taking a responsible approach to deal with our emotions.
As with any emotion, there are ways to express anger healthily and there are ways to express it dangerously – through meditation and mindfulness, we can learn to mitigate the latter.
Anger as a physical response
What anger does to the body
Although anger occurs as an emotional state – when not regulated it quickly becomes physical stress in the body.
As you get angrier, your heart rate increases, your breathing rate increases, your blood pressure rises, and you may experience other symptoms such as sweating and shivering. This is due to your stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, spiking, and your stress mechanism of ‘fight or flight response’ activating.
The amygdala controls emotional reactions while the frontal lobe regulates decision-making processes. When the amygdala is overactive due to an increase in the stress response the frontal lobe experiences an override. Because of this, emotions such as anger can cloud judgment. This makes sense, because if you’re angry your ability to think clearly could be compromised.
Since anger gives rise to stress hormones, which in turn lead to high blood pressure and other physiological problems when experienced in an unregulated way it may be linked to coronary artery disease and hypertension.
Meditation on anger management – How can we transform anger?
In meditating and in applying mindfulness we learn to recognize a feeling as it arises. Usually, we would be immediately drawn into our reaction and it can feel almost impossible to calm down and return to a more mindful state. But practicing meditation can change this…
When we let go of the storyline of being angry about something, we free ourselves to focus on what is happening right here, now. We can choose how to respond to the emotion by choosing to notice it but not react to it. Through the practice of mindfulness meditation and other exercises, we come to know ourselves better and thus see these out-of-control emotional feelings coming up less often.
By implementing these skills in the heat of the moment, we are offered an opportunity to work with anger whenever and however it arises in a skillful, measured way.
Meditation, though, can teach us how to change a rash, reactive mindset into a more considered, responsive, and productive one.
Meditation does not take the anger away (remember this is not the goal). Anger is there, but we can control our reactions to it. We learn to recognize its onset before we get caught up in it.
We’re taught to recognize our internal responses before we act on them. We learn to step back from situations that make us angry. We take time to consider what needs to be done.
So how would we practically do this?
Using the breath to regulate anger
Our breath is a reliable barometric indicator of what may be going on inside us. If our breath was an alarm, it would ring whenever we feel irritated, overwhelmed, impatient, or outright angry. Fortunately, there is a quiet mode of attention called focused attention.
When emotions begin to swell, it’s like there is a fire inside you and your breath gets shallow and quick. You feel as if you’re about to lose control. Your breath and mind go together – you breathe deeply to calm down so therefore breathing rapidly makes us feel emotionally charged and panicked. Deep breathing is a very powerful tool to bring yourself to a more calm and rational state of mind.
The experience of anger can be a powerful force but it also creates fear in many people and therefore is often perceived as a “difficult emotion”. It’s important to learn how to manage anger effectively so that we avoid blowing up emotionally.
Instead of focusing on the heat building inside us, let’s bring our attention back to breathing. Focusing on slowing down the breath by focusing on lengthening out the exhale takes away some of the power of anger as it calms us down and brings us to a less reactive state.
When angry feelings start to swell, it’s as though the body were full of hot, rising air that has nowhere to go; the breath can become shallower and more rapid. Hence why we feel we might blow a gasket.
Our emotional regulation begins by finding a way to release this intensity, and that release is through the out-breath. We bring our focus to the breath and allow the body a deep exhale. And if we continue to exhale two, three, four, even five times the anger dissipates.
Observing anger as it arises in our mind, then letting go of it without clinging to it, is a mindfulness practice. This helps us release the hold of anger by observing the breath and the sensations associated with anger.
Although anger can sometimes seem overwhelming, it is possible to learn to use our emotions as information about what needs to change. To do this more effectively, we need to slow down, tune in to what we feel internally, and then practice being willing to be vulnerable enough to share what we’re feeling. Tuning into our breath can therefore make a real difference to how we regulate our emotions and reactivity.
What the Research and science says
Mindfulness training is useful in both adults and children dealing with disorders such as anxiety, ADHD, depression, and PTSD. However, there is still much work to be done in terms of developing new techniques and treatments. It is however true that mindfulness or meditation practitioners have an easier time in processing negatively perceived emotions.
In a controlled environment, researchers administered a questionnaire designed to measure fear of emotion, suppression of anger, or aggressive anger expression. After eight weeks of practicing meditation, participants showed less fear, more acceptance, and less aggressive expressions of anger.
In another study: Participants entered a lab (some of which were previous meditators others who were non-meditators) and were asked to present a short speech on their life goals to another person (who was an actor). The actor was scripted to deliver a harsh and overly critical response.
Participants were then asked to create a taste test sample of food for this actor that has just been rather bruising to their ego. The participant could choose to add as much as they liked of either hot sauce, lemonade powder, or chocolate syrup to the dish. The actor had to finish the dish regardless of what was added or whether they could handle spicy food or not. The participants’ capacity for vengeance was measured by how much hot sauce they chose to use.
The amount of hot sauce that they used was, therefore, a direct indicator of their aggression or anger reactivity. The results? Participants who meditated before this experiment was conducted were 57% less aggressive and reactive to the feedback than the non-meditators who took part.
The benefit of this finding is obvious: the better you are at viewing heightened emotions as passing states, the less they affect you. So yes, even with occasional flashes of rage, you’re more equipped with a sense of objectivity.
That’s ultimately how you reframe anger.
In conclusion, when it comes to managing your anger, try these three things:
1. Anger clouds our rational mind – find a way to calm yourself before reacting.
3. Remember that although expressing anger safely is important and feeling it is completely valid you don’t always have to act out your anger immediately. You can let it pass through you first.