Since anger serves absolutely no purpose, how do we get rid of it? This is the question people have asked me since I addressed the topic in my two recent books: the self-help memoir, Thinking Outside the Chrysalis: A Black Woman’s Guide to Spreading Her Wings and the inspirational journal, 12 Steps to Mind-Blowing Happiness: A Journal of Insights, Quotes & Questions to Juice Up Your Journey.
Well, here’s my simple answer: “Tame & Reframe.” I use the word “tame” because anger is much like an unruly lion. You feel the sensation rise like heat in your belly, and you might think it’s an intrinsic part of you, but it’s not. You might think “I’m an angry person,” but anger isn’t actually your nature. It’s learned. Much like a lion sitting next to you, it’s separate from you. Taming has two steps: acknowledgment and breathing. Once you acknowledge the lion, it’s time to take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing oxygenates the blood and lowers stress levels in the body. Now, you’re in a position to think more clearly. You’ve tamed the lion; now you can reframe your anger.
Reframing also has two steps: empathy and action. Can you see the situation from another vantage point? For example, if someone cut you off in traffic, can you imagine their situation? (Perhaps they’re transporting a sick passenger, or they’re sick themselves. Maybe they’re late for a job interview. Maybe they cut you off by accident. Maybe they’re running from an abusive relationship or their parent died. It could be anything. You don’t know what they’re going through. At the very least you could think, I’m grateful I’m not the type of person who is so discourteous I cut people off in traffic. They must not be having a good life or a good day.) Now, you reframed the situation. Now that you’ve mustered up some empathy for the person who wronged you, mentally wish them well. You can wish their day gets better. You can wish them happiness. You can wish them patience, love or freedom. Now you’ve lowered your own stress levels and you can enjoy your day. You didn’t engage in a situation that could escalate. You can listen to your radio station, audiobook or podcast. Abracadabra! You’re happier.
This approach works. Every. Single. Time. Suppose your neighbor has a Trump sign on their lawn? Grrrr… Notice your lion. Take a few breaths. Empathize. (Perhaps they’re insecure and poorly educated. Be glad you’re not them.) Now you can take some action. Maybe join your local progressive political organization and make phone calls. You might even engage your neighbor in conversation or share literature. Maybe make a donation to a social justice charity or get your own lawn sign or bumper sticker.
Suppose it’s your partner who’s pressing all your buttons. They know exactly what to say to get you riled up. Stare at the lion. Yup. You can see what this is all about. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Okay, so look at your partner. Perhaps they’re desperate to make you angry. If so, clearly they’re unhappy. Draw upon your empathy. It’s sad that they work so hard to trigger you. But what can you do? You can refuse to argue and set up time for a productive and respectful conversation. You can ask your partner to join you in therapy. You can contact a therapist on your own. You can look for a good relationship book to read together.
In the beginning, the “Tame & Reframe” approach might be awkward. It might take a minute or two. In time, it may only be a split second. With practice, you can learn to acknowledge the lion, give it a nod, and respond with empathy and constructive action. After a while, you might even discover that many of the things that used to make you angry have become opportunities for personal growth.
You don’t have to live with the lion. Anger is a choice. If you want mind-blowing happiness, choose the lamb.
I wish you Freedom, Alignment and Effortless Abundance!
P.S. The photo is one of my favorite quotes on anger. The one I reference most in my books is Kahlil Gibran’s, “Exaggeration is truth that has lost its temper.” If you want to learn more visit mindblowinghappiness.com