I have found that fear, anger and irritation are like an affliction, and a serious impediment to open communication and healthy relationships of all kinds. Discovering methods to deal with these challenging emotions is essential in leading a healthy well-balanced, harmonious life. It is important to realize that anger has its own function, intelligence and logic and so we should not entirely try to eradicate it. After much trial and error, I have come up with my own practice for regulating strong emotions and being patient and more authentically responsive through these six steps to mindful anger management and intentional responsiveness. Spirituality can be the medicine for all that afflicts us.
1. Recognizing: Notice with equanimity a familiar stimulus which habitually pushes your hot buttons and triggers an unfulfilling, retaliatory response such as harsh words or unfair treatment, which might very well provoke retaliation in kind. Stop for a moment, however brief, to breathe, reflect, and simply relax.
2. Recollecting: With remindfulness, remember the downsides and disadvantages of returning hatred with hatred, anger with anger, harm with harm. Buddha said, “Hatred is not appeased by hatred. Hatred is appeased only by love.” And recollect the upside—the significant advantages – of practicing patience, forbearance, tolerance and stoic acceptance of karma and its repercussions. In this second step, find and mine the sacred pause. Rest in it.
3. Refraining and restraining, through reframing: See things through the other’s eyes/point of view; cultivating feelings of genuine compassion for those who harm you, knowing that they are merely sowing the seeds of their own unhappiness and bad karma. Examine things from the others’ perspectives: turn this over like a stone to see all sides, recognizing others’ suffering. To take it one step further, practice recognizing the adversary or critic as a teacher, a friend, an ally in helping us develop patience and overcome unconscious, habitual, and unproductive reaction patterns. The most difficult person or situation can become our greatest teacher, our greatest opportunity.
4. Relinquishing: Give up habitual conditioned reactivity and let go of impulsive urges in favor of more consciously chosen intelligent responsiveness. Accept the fact that such urges arise, don’t suppress or indulge them. Let them be without acting on them and you will find that they ultimately dissolve.
5. Reconditioning and deconditioning habitual reactivity through remindfulness: Recall the entire situational dynamic you have now reviewed, while refraining, relinquishing and reflecting on how little it will matter in a few months and years; letting go of unwholesome reaction patterns.
6. Responding appropriately, intelligently, consciously, choicefully–proactively, rather than reactively: In some cases, this may translate into doing nothing or in other cases responding with equanimity; ultimately making wiser, more skillful decisions based on conscious awareness and experience.