Dharma Road about a cabdriver/zen student and last night I read a chapter on anger. Something I have been thinking about for some time - and especially in the last several days after several flare ups that I've had. He talked about breathing through anger and that succumbing to it is where the road veers off into dangerous territory. He even suggested a mantra - just say something to get you through the initial feelings. All good ideas.
First, anger happens.
We all get angry. I experience it just like a fever - it rises in me until my ears are throbbing. It is as if an alien has entered my body and is taking hold and then just as soon as that happens it can vanish (that is one tricky alien.) Anything can trigger it. It can be that I am tired and hungry. I can smell something unpleasant. Someone can say something that triggers something too close to home. I can feel injustice or that "life isn't fair" feeling. It can even be something so infinitesimal that I don't know what triggers the emotion - and all of a sudden I am swept up in it as if I was standing on the edge of the ocean and the riptide is pulling me under.
Trying not to get swept up in it.
The key, for me, is to not get swept up. It is to feel the feeling that is happening and to catch it right when it happens. To notice the change quickly.
I should note that I come from a quick tempered family - easily enraged, yelling, slamming doors - so this practice does not come easily.
When I do notice, it is important that I tuck myself into myself by removing myself from others. Leave the room, get off the phone, get out of the store, whatever it is quickly and calmly. Not slamming doors or stomping off. Just excusing myself as quickly as possible.
If I can't get out, then not talking is the very best thing. No one needs to hear me rant. No one needs to see me ball my fists and give them the what now. No one. Instead, just like in the Dharma Road, breathe out through the lips. Feel the air on your lips as you exhale. Seems like a strange idea, but if you are concentrating on the breath it is a little bit harder to get caught up in being mad.
If you still can't get through it the very best thing, and the thing I hate to do the most, is walk it off. Seriously. A fifteen minute walk can do wonders for your mood. You can rant all you want in your head, but after a quick paced walk that feeling starts to drift a bit.
There are no easy answers to being angry.
I just know that sensing it quickly, not giving it more then it deserves, breathing through it and walking it off are quite possibly the best things to do. If you are still angry after that writing, talking with a trusted friend (not venting, not a fan of venting) or even a longer work out can help.
Like I said, we all get angry, it is what we do when it happens that matters.