Last updated December, 2017.
note: we link to our free guide to mindfulness and meditation at the end of this article (no email required).
It's time for another installment of "Question and Answer Tuesdays!"
"I have a quick temper, and I find myself getting angry often. I meditate off and on - usually when I'm stressed - and I like what it does for me. But, I need to figure out how I can use it to get over my anger, especially at other people when I feel 'wronged'?"
Anger comes into being because something is happening that we don't want to be happening. Or, because something isn't happening that we do want to be happening.
Maybe it's a barking dog. Or, a scratch on your car. Or, a hole in your favorite shirt. To use your example, you perceive that someone has treated you badly.
Perhaps someone was rude to you. Or, they made you feel threatened or attacked. Regardless, you feel "wronged" and you have a desire to make that feeling go away. This desire gives rise to thoughts and emotions that ultimately condition our behavior and dictate our actions.
These actions might be to keep everything bottled up inside. This can have serious consequences, however. To return to your example, if you choose to suppress or bury anger, it can surface in other ways: stress, aches and pains, illness, unhealthy mental states. Or, you may project it towards others. We've all had situations where we are mad at one person (for instance, our boss or a co-worker), and take it out on another (for instance, our spouse or children).
But many of us don't bottle it up. Instead, we decided to do something - and, that "something" will probably be pointed and confrontational. After all, you're attacking a perceived threat (or, defending against one). So, our actions might be to argue, blame, lash out, or become physically aggressive.
No matter what we do, the process that leads to our actions unfolds quickly. The thoughts, emotions, urges, and other mental activity that arise in relation to the original situation tend to sweep us away, and - as a result - our behavior is usually automatic and instantaneous. In other words, our reactions are habitual and don't leave room for much skillful contemplation. We take the bait of our minds, and drop into the patterns of retreating or attacking.
But, if we learn to strengthen awareness through meditating, we can slow this process down and learn to observe it without getting caught up in it. Instead of giving in to the urge to reply, attack, or defend (or quietly seethe), we can watch that urge as it comes into being, exists, and ceases.
Is it uncomfortable? Sure, especially at first. But, the discomfort isn't permanent either. It, like all of our mental activity, arises and passes - provided we don't give it fuel to persist by indulging it.
Meditating allows us to see the temporary nature of all phenomena directly. We can watch it all unfold in a controlled environment (i.e., sitting and practicing), and - as we get better at it - we can transfer this ability to a non-controlled environment (i.e., daily life). As we learn, first-hand, that we no longer have to get caught up in (be a victim to) mental activity, it becomes easier to apply that knowledge to challenging situations in the real world.
And, our compulsive minds cease dictating who we are and what we do.
The key to seeing benefits, however, is developing a consistent practice. It's not a "spot fix" you only do when you get stressed. Instead, you have to do it every day. It's like building a muscle through exercise - you can't just do it "now and then" and expect to see results.
The good thing about meditation is that it's simple. The bad thing is, most people don't realize it. There are so many misconceptions, and meditating is often steeped in mysticism and complexity: chanting, sitting in funny positions, trying to stop thinking and/or trying to control your mind. But, it's none of that.
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