One sure-fire way to get rid of anger is to listen to the wisdom of a monk, notably celebrated peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh who says; “We need to get rid of our anger within 24 hours to limit our suffering.”
This advice intrigued me. Having a time limit for getting rid of anger makes it seem more manageable, an emotion to be less feared because we’re basically saying “Ok, you have 24-hours and then it’s time for you to leave me alone..for good.” Because, as I discovered during a discussion with three women about anger, for my podcast, Empowered Thinking at Play, fragments of anger stay within the body’s memory, like a wound, long after the incident that ignited the fury.
Bottling Up and Suppressing the Fire
Talking out loud about our issues with anger is already a brave thing to do. Not only because it means opening up and exploring the roots of our anger within our lives, but also because as women we often have to suppress our fiery emotions for fear of the labels. Being seen as hysterical, crazy, or too emotional…labels that are certainly not given to men. So, of course, we’re more likely to keep anger locked in the body rather than releasing it to avoid being stigmatised.
This was something that the women on my podcast talked about especially when it comes to one common label women are often given, as Sara Arthur living in Luxembourg, explained; “There was once a disagreement in a meeting and one of my colleagues turned around and said, “Is it that time of the month”? And I said, no, but you know what, mine will go away, what is your excuse? And he didn’t ever say it again. It was one of those moments when I thought “Yes!” The one in twenty chance I had, and I took it. We all saw the funny side of it afterwards, but I was so angry about the whole hormonal thing.”
Another podcast guest, Shabnam, also living in Luxembourg agreed, and added; “When you get labelled, you close the door and shut down from expressing more. And that’s the difficult thing about being labelled, you shut down, you don’t talk, or you don’t express yourself. What I know for sure, is that labelling stops the whole progression and moving forward, and I think labelling is a killer.”
Learning to process
And there is the stigma associated with anger as Julie, a Texan, explained; “A lot of my friends who are black women get this stigma of being an angry black woman which is oppressive and they say that sometimes they get angry because they’re not being heard, being seen, understood or being listened to. I know that is also my experience. So, I got really upset when I was told I was being difficult for showing anger and I was like you’re not even listening to me. That experience is real for our black sisters on top of being women. And in our country (America) there are so many reasons to be angry. That anger can be almost paralysing, and it takes so many different forms. We shut it down because we haven’t learnt how to process it or been taught that it’s ok to feel anger and to process it in a healthy way so that it doesn’t come out in a way that isn’t destructive.”
While hearing these comments during the podcast I had a ‘eureka’ moment and realised that anger really is an emotion which is saying listen to me, but it often gets misinterpreted when you raise your voice. Often, we think that being more vocal/shouting will help but all that’s heard is the noise level, not the words.
So maybe it’s a good idea when we are angry to say to the other person ‘Listen’ so you can explore what is behind the anger. I don’t think we analyse our anger enough because if we did, we would make better sense of it. But there are things you can do to help work through anger;
5 Ways to Release & Transform Anger
Question your anger…ask yourself what you are angry about? Is it because of something that happened externally or is there something deeper inside? Dig deep and start questioning to find out the answers.
Process the anger…define what it is you’re angry about give yourself space to process it, so you know how to articulate this anger. Decide what you want the other person to hear, not all the other things you haven’t previously addressed.
Allow yourself to have your reaction … know that it’s ok to feel the way you are feeling and not try to suppress it. Feel your anger, process it and deal with it…ideally within 24 hours. But allow yourself more time if you need to analyse and process the anger a bit more before reacting.
Don’t be afraid to speak out — know you have a right to be angry. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When you get angry, don’t pretend you’re not angry and not suffering. You have to confess that you’re angry with the other person and say it calmly.
Physically release the feeling — that goes for anger, frustration, or any of those emotions we try to suppress or bottle up. Exercise is a great way to release this as Shabnam revealed on the podcast; “For the longest time I had respiratory problems and a friend of mine said this is coming from your suppressed feelings inside your throat. So, I started running and once I did that, I let my feelings out and it cleared my chest.”
And lastly… throughout all the stages remember to breathe, as anger tends to make us breathe quicker which is called over-breathing. Thich Nhat Hanh recommends mindful breathing as an effective instrument to put out the fire in us and adds; “It needs only one conscious breath to be back in contact with yourself and everything around you, and three conscious breaths to maintain the contact.”
Certainly, anger is one of those emotions that needs more understanding so if we can react to it in a more considered way, we can find our peace, and not let it linger well after the situation that made us angry in the first place.
Listen to the full podcast on Dealing with Anger which is part of a series of Uncensored Conversations on Empowered Thinking at Play. Then listen to a meditation on Transforming Anger to get you to a place of bliss.