With meditation a habit now, I find it easier to differentiate between the two types of anger: anger that is productive, meaning it spurs me into purposeful action; and anger that is toxic, anger that festers and turns me to hate. It’s still an uphill battle whenever either rears its ugly head, but knowing what I’m dealing with makes the process much more tolerable.
For instance, if the anger I’m feeling is towards a person’s actions and/or words then I know this anger can be a tool. How can I alter my behavior so as not to become like the person who angered me? Do I need to reflect on my thoughts, assumptions or worldview as well? After some self-evaluation I find the anger slowly seeping away; it’s served its purpose.
Now, toxic anger is a whole other beast. When anger turns into hate is when you know you have a problem. You should never waste your time and energy on this kind of anger. It festers until all you can think about is how it should have been, or worse, you start having revenge fantasies. In my experience revenge fantasies only make things worse. I start to blame myself for not having the idea at the time and grow obsessed with creating the perfect plan. For obvious reasons this is not healthy. What would be best is to let go of the incident and keep the past the past. This isn’t easy and will take purposeful action on your part. Tapping is one such way to handle such strong emotions.
1. Identify the situation that’s causing you unease.
2. Become aware of the specific emotions it stirs in you.
3. Come up with a positive affirmation such as “Even though ____ angers me I know I have the strength to let go.”
4. Begin tapping, five to seven times, the specified body points while keeping in mind the reason why.
a. Tap side of hand with four fingers
b. Where the eyebrow is closest to the nose
c. Outside of the eye
d. Under the eye
e. Under the nose
f. The chin
h. About four inches under the armpit
i. Top of the head
5. Re-evaluate yourself. If you feel you’ve calmed down enough, great! But if there’s some lingering resentment, start the process over again.
There is no shame in having to Tap repeatedly for one problem. Strong emotions are hard to glide through and need the extra processing time. Just keep at it until you feel the peace and balance returning to your mind and body.
For a more in-depth look into Tapping, or EFT, The Tapping Solution is a great place to start. Also remember that Tapping works for stressors of all kinds, not just anger.
grace: the condition or fact of being favored by someone
Feelings of inadequacy are daunting. Not believing you aren’t just a waste of space can spiral out of control, deepening an already lingering depression. Even when someone wants and appreciates your company, it’s a lifeline easily snapped by those same feelings. To know in your heart you are loved feels like a privilege denied most days. Everyone around you is all smiles; friends gather wherever you are, alone; your family is a war-zone.
I’d like to think just by being alive, by having a Self that exerts its will on the outside world, I inherently matter. I am myself, an identity with desires and a voice. I am capable of making changes to the world outside and in. I have experiences and thoughts that makeup a Self that is the only Self of its kind. And I am happy with the knowledge that this Self, this “I”, is irreplaceable.
There will be times where it feels like you’re on top of the world: deadlines met, work done ahead of time, meds accounted for, doctors’ appointments set, therapy goals on track; a winning streak sums up your life perfectly. And then you fall off the mountain, hard. Your bones are shaking and your spirits are low. “How did this happen? I was doing everything right. Maybe I can’t do this after all.” When doubts beat you into the ground remember where you were. Yes, you’ve fallen. Yes, you’re exhausted. And yes, getting back on track seems impossible. But you were where you needed to be before all this. That means you’ve already paved a road, now retrace your steps. It might be a breeze or it might be grueling. What matters is that you put yourself to work regaining all you think lost. You’ve conquered this once before, now get to it.
Forgiveness is an act of self-compassion and an essential part of healthy anger. It’s something we do to ease our suffering. Forgiveness has more to do with letting go of toxic anger than condoning the actions of others. When we assertively choose to forgive, we cultivate our ongoing tendency to forgive. Forgiving involves fully accepting when nothing can be done to undo what’s already happened.
– Bernard Golden, Ph.D., When Anger Management Requires Going Deeper
Forgiveness does not come easy. I’m constantly reliving every incident that’s left me boiling over, every word, every body gesture, stuck on repeat. I wake up and my first thought is how so-and-so is such a jerk for such-and-such a reason. How I should have reacted to get my point across. Why people like that don’t deserve my attention yet I keep coming back to them. It feels like I’ve trapped myself in a tiny jail cell with no door.
Choosing to forgive and let go of my anger is an uplifting experience. My body loosens, breathing becomes easier, the oppressive heat leaves my body, my head stops hurting. I can concentrate on things that deserve my attention, activities that make me happy. Yes, sometimes I again fall into the trap of trying to fix the unfixable but as Dr. Golden says, forgiveness is a conscious act. I must continue to choose forgiveness for my own peace of mind.
For the next 30 days I will meditate with these goals in mind: to free myself of toxic anger and learn ongoing self-compassion.
Being gentle with myself has shown me that my life needn’t be an endless downward spiral. While I still struggle with inflammatory thinking on a daily basis I’ve learned to distract. Draw a Zentangle, catch up on blogs I enjoy, read a book or short story or poetry, skim Flipboard. It may not work every time but it’s gotten me one step closer to a healthy mind. And while at times I feel like I’m moving too fast, bounding straight into the wide open arms of Relapse, I choose to celebrate the small victories. I woke up at a decent hour today; I ate three healthy-ish meals; I’m not forgetting my meds; I’m getting to bed at a normal time: all things that account for a pat on the back. If I don’t make the choice to take care of myself, then I’ll never start living.