Last updated July, 2016.
It's time for another installment of "Question and Answer Tuesdays!"
"I have a quick temper, and I find myself getting angry often. I've been meditating for a few weeks and like what it's done for me, but this is an area where I need help learning to apply it. How can I use meditation to get over my anger, especially at other people when I feel 'wronged'?"
If someone is rude to you, says something unkind, or makes you feel attacked, your reaction is probably automatic and instantaneous. It's no doubt characterized by defensive thoughts, including blaming others or figuring out how to "get even" with the person who treated you badly.
These defensive thoughts are followed by emotions and urges, which lead to actions and reactions.
Your action might be to do nothing, and keep everything bottled inside you. It will eventually come out, however - either in the form of stress, illness, or lashing out at someone or something else. For example, you're mad at your boss or a co-worker, and you go home and yell at your spouse or children. We have all done something similar, so don't judge yourself too harshly (though, you should apologize!).
Alternatively, your action may be to do so something. It might be something pointed and confrontational, as you are attacking (or defending against) a perceived threat. You will either neutralize this threat or create more conflict, and either option will probably bring additional challenges.
This entire process doesn't have to be initiated by another person - your anger can be directed at something else: a barking dog, a scratch on your car, or a hole in your favorite shirt.
Regardless, you know what it feels like as it unfolds. And, this knowledge is the key to liberating yourself from automatic and instantaneous reactions.
When you know what it feels like, you can develop the ability of observing without getting swept away. You can strengthen awareness of it and, in doing so, stop the actions and reactions that usually follow the thoughts and emotions. You can learn to pause and sit with this "mind-made" activity.
Sure, the urge to do something - to reply, to attack, to defend, or to seethe in anger - is compelling. But, it's just an urge and you do not have to follow it. You can be uncomfortable, you can watch it, and you can learn to let it pass: a consistent, daily meditation practice will allow you to do this. But, it requires practice, discipline, and patience.
The challenging thing about meditation is that it's not something you do "now and then" to overcome a bad day or a stressful situation (although it can provide some immediate short-term relief). Rather, it's an ongoing practice that delivers benefits the more you do it.
Think of it as building a muscle - you workout several times a week, and over the course of months you get stronger. With meditation, you do it every day and over the course of weeks, months, and years, your ability to observe, strengthen awareness, and interrupt conditioned behavior and habitual actions/reactions improves.
The good thing about meditation is that it's simple, although most people don't understand it to be. Most people have the misconception that meditating is steeped in mysticism and complexity: chanting, sitting in funny positions, trying to stop thinking and/or control your mind.
The reality is, it's none of that.
If you're ready to try, we have a free guide - no email required.
note - on our site last week, we published "Meditation explained in 60 seconds." Click the link for a simple explanation you can share with family and friends.
Where to now?
Most of us go through life in a state of distraction, and we don't even realize it.
We are immersed in a never-ending stream of thoughts and emotions. They hijack our attention, and cause the struggles we deal with every day (continue reading)...
Awareness-based behavior therapy
meditationSHIFT's 21-day course
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