Understanding and Processing Anger

How we deal with anger
1. Stuffer (not aware is there)
2. Hider (aware is there, but do not show, then dump it)
3. Dumper (store it up and give it to someone else)
4. Venter (let it out)
5. Triangulator (goes to someone else to complain about it)

Managing own anger
1. Recognize signals:
• Triggers
• Self talk
• Body talk
2. Stop acting out (self-discipline):
• Coping self talk
• Managing body stress
3. Focus on issue:
• What do you need?
• From Self
• From Other(s)
4. Decide on a strategy
5. Implement

Skills
1. Use “I” language
2. Describe in neutral language the issue, the behavior
3. State how you feel
4. Describe the effect on you
5. Be specific about what you need/want
6. Listen and response assertively and emphatically
7. Describe your intention

Processing anger through mindfulness practice
1. Acknowledge the feeling/emotion
• Gently acknowledge the arising of anger “This is… anger/frustration/fear
• Be completely present. A gentle presence.
• There is no need to change your experience in any way.
Gentleness means that we are not struggling against our present state of mind.

2. Inquisitive Awareness
• Let go of thoughts and concerns from your object of anger; feel the anger itself.  Let go of the storyline and images around the anger. Stay present with the experience: the sensations of the anger within yourself.
• Explore the physical sensations of anger without judgment.
• Where is the anger in the body? How does it feel? Does it have a temperature? A texture?
• Notice how the anger is not that solid and fixed.
Drop the Storyline
The storylines include all of the thoughts and images and internal dialogue that usually come along with anger. Such a storyline could be a memory that we keep replaying in our mind. It could be a scenario that we project about the future, such as someone we are going to get even with in our family or at work.
Feeling Anger in The Body
What does it feel like to experience staying with the energy or experience of the anger itself? Where do you sense this anger in your body? Is it a feeling of coldness? Is it hot and agitated? Is it dark? Is it moving or still? Is it big or small? Is it in your throat, your head, or your chest? What are you really feeling? We simply let go of the concepts and stay present with these sensations and feelings.
May discover that anger is not solid and fixed
During meditation we see anger arising in the midst of a lot of space. We may see that the anger is transparent, moving, made up of parts, thoughts, concepts, memories, and sensations in the body, expectations.
Awareness allows us to see that anger is not a solid, permanent. It has components and parts. It is changing and shifting.  In this way, we do not have to fear the anger.

3. Warmth and Acceptance
• Bring the physical sensation of anger closer to you.
• Hold it with acceptance, affection, and warmth.
• Melt anger away in a non-dual way.
Openness or compassion allows us to melt the energy of the anger, and embrace the sensations. We move closer to the experience, rather than pulling back. Now, there is no duality between “me” who is feeling anger, and the “thing” that makes us angry. This allows us to “touch” the anger and experience it directly.

4. Further Open
• Let go.  Open up into the space and experience the room around you.
• Where do you feel the sensation of anger now?
Simply let go, release, open, expand, and let be. The basic instruction is to open the eyes and experience the space of the room around you.

Processing anger through the body in therapeutic relationship
1. Monitor the feeling/emotion
• Gently acknowledge the arising of anger in the body. What does it look like?
• Arousal (hyperarousal)—body inflates and tenses (neck stiffens, spine locks, mouth clenches) faster heart rate, increase in blood pressure, extreme alert.
• Collapse (hypoarousal)—body contracts (chest sinks in, neck shortens) lower heart rate, feeling heavy and spaced-out.

2. Attend to bursts of arousal and vitality
• What sensations do you notice in your body? Where is it in your body? Your throat, chest, head, or? Is it big or small? Does it feel hot? Is it moving? Track and describe the body sensations
• Orient to the present moment, notice what is pleasant in your environment (plants, trees, rocks, pets). Now what do you sense in your body? Describe sensations.
• Alternate between tracking and describing anger sensations in body and pleasant sensations in your body so that the energy of aggression moves through the body out.

3. Attend to drops into collapse, immobility and rest
• Describe what you see (tight jaw; fist clenched, tight shoulders, flinching arm, jittery leg, narrowing muscles around the eyes)
For example, when you notice your clenched fist, what do you sense in your body?
• Invite slow movement: what do you imagine your fist wants to do?
• Support expansive movement, work slowly to bring attention to the inner sensations of the viscera and outer sensation of meeting resistance. Notice changes in skin tone from pale to red to splotchy.
• Alternate attention between contraction and expansion.
• Allow to settle and integrate

4. Further integration
• As sensations settle, invite internal images to emerge. Explore a particular one. Does it have a color? A shape? How does it move along in time as you observe? How does the image impact you? Move you?

References

Haddigan, K. (1999). Dealing with Anger in Conflict Situations. New Westminster: Justice Institute of BC

Sakyong Mipham (2003). Turning the Mind Into an Ally. New York: Riverhead Books.

Stanley, S. (2011). Embodying the Narrative. [PowerPoint slides]. Lecture series presented at Sleeping Dog Farm, Victoria, BC

Trungpa, C. (1988). The Myth of Freedom. Boston: Shambhala