Updated: Jan 8
Controlling and letting go of anger is possible once you understand what anger is. Then you can wield it as a tool for powerful personal transformation.
Anger can be poison. It can kill a relationship built for years in a matter of seconds. It also poisons the person who acts or speaks on it. It’s often the one who said the harmful words out of anger who feels worse than the words’ recipient once enough time passes. But in that moment of anger nothing can stop you from getting out those last words. The ones you know will cause the most lasting sting.
I know. Prior to my awakening I used to get so angry I’d lose control. In the moment I relished it. Even in the years immediately after my awakening, I was a lot better at managing my anger but at that point in my journey the awareness of humanity’s oneness was a concept I held in my head, but not yet in my heart. As a result I still had my moments.
To not get angry at all is a blissful thing. It only happens when you have a realization that makes you feel the connection between all living beings. It’s a level of samadhi that takes so much work and dedication many may not realize it in this lifetime. This level of realization remains the ultimate goal, but meanwhile there are ways to make it so anger doesn’t act as a poison when it comes around. There are techniques you can use to manage your anger so it becomes an asset. The first step to understanding how to manage anger to your benefit is to understand where anger comes from in the first place.
Hurt people hurt people.
Pain is typically caused by expecting something from someone or something outside of ourselves. It can be another person’s affection or positive opinions. It can be an expectation of having a job or eating at a certain restaurant. It can even be an expectation that someone will be alive or that a partner will be faithful.
These expectations are all forms of attachment. When the Buddha said that attachment is the cause of all suffering this is what he was referring to. Our expectations for things outside of ourselves to be a certain way. His teaching is a way to eliminate these attachments and therefore eliminate human suffering. It’s a lofty goal, but learning to control your anger is nowhere near as ambitious or difficult to achieve.
When those expectations outside of our control inevitably aren’t met, we are caused pain. Anger is nothing more than the result of dwelling on pain for too long. Dwell on it long enough and it festers into hatred. But anger, and even when we examine hatred more closely, are still misguided attempts at love. To be angry at someone or to hate someone is still a way of trying to hold something close, an attempt at controlling it.
It's for this reason they say indifference, not hatred, is the opposite of love. With the techniques you’ll learn here, you won’t have to worry about anger turning into hatred, or about anger poisoning your life, health, and relationships. Instead you’ll learn to wield and manipulate anger so it becomes an asset whenever it arises.
Anything we consider to be a problem is only a problem to the extent we let it be one. Instead of looking at problems as problems, try to figure out how to convert them into solutions.
The first step to eliminating the negative effects anger can have on your life is to stop trying to eliminate anger. Anger, just like every other emotion has its positive and its negative aspects. With all emotions the negative traits are the ones we run into when we don’t exercise that emotion with balance. The more we try to eliminate anger from our lives, the harder it will be to do just that. If instead we can understand what anger is, we can learn to use it to our advantage.
Used correctly anger is a tool that helps us know and push past our limits. When you feel anger coming on, instead of letting it control you, direct it at something it can assist you with. Anger is power, and if you can control that power, you can manifest incredible results you couldn’t have otherwise manifested. The problem it helps you conquer may be related to what’s causing you the anger, but if not just direct it at another issue.
Anger can give you the motivation to start a project and the physical strength to finish one. It can give you the courage to end relationships and to stand up for yourself. It’s one of the most powerful tools people can use to take their power back when used correctly. Misused, it will only give more of your power away. It’s key to ensure you have control over your anger before you attempt to use it in any of these ways.
There are more ways to use anger once you have a firm grasp of it, but the way to be able to use it and not the other way around is awareness. You must be aware of anger coming on before it’s too late. If you’re someone who is in tune with your emotions or generally an aware person, that’s great. For most people in the modern world we are too distracted by work, people, social media, and the million other things vigorously competing for our attention.
“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” ~Eckhart Tolle
Becoming self-aware is another one of those things that’s easier said than done. Once you are aware, an entirely new world opens up. It’s why teaching self-awareness is the primary goal of Buddhism. To be aware is to be awake. Once you’ve achieved self-awareness the rest will follow even without teachings. You can become your own guru.
When our emotions shift, chemical activity takes place inside of the brain telling us to experience a corresponding shift in our minds and bodies. One way to start becoming aware of when you are angry is to pay attention whenever there is any shift in your body’s chemistry. This can be aided by reoccurring situations and thinking about the shifts that occur to your body.
Is there someone at work who irks you every time you see them? You can probably notice a shift in your chemistry as they walk into the room. Does your hair stand up on its arms? Does your head get cloudy? Do you feel a change in the rate or size of the breaths you’re taking? Do you feel warm or flush? Do you feel anything in your physical chest or building up in your emotional heart center?
Starting to pay attention to these physical indicators of emotional shifts will get you started on the path to awareness of your anger. Once you’ve made the practice habitual, you’ll get to the point where you can stop and decide what to do with an emotion. Doing this with anger is a transformative experience. Once I saw how I could control something that used to control me, it opened me up to the possibility that I could control any aspect of my human experience.
“You cannot predict the outcome of human development, all you can do is like a farmer create the conditions under which it will begin to flourish.” ~Ken Robinson
Awareness will take some practice, but as with everything else, practice makes progress. Once you’ve progressed to the point that it’s habitual the subconscious is reprogrammed and will do the heavy lifting from there. The thing that will make the major difference between how fast that reprogramming happens is how much you practice. You can see some improvement with only five minutes a day of paying attention to your emotions. Or you can do it for 15 minutes twice a day and have those results increase dramatically.
Once you do it enough to start reaping the benefits the issue will be wanting to do it all the time, because the rewards are worth it to the highest magnitude. But until then, try to love the process. Make it sacred. If you can find another 5-15 minutes a day to meditate, that’s great, but it if not, try to find 5-15 minutes to be meditative. Observe life happening and take it in without judgement, just observation.
Being meditative is one of the best ways to practice being conscious. If we consciously observe the world that we live in for just a few minutes a day, every day, we can begin to change our programming. We can begin to change the way our subconscious perceives the world. Then with a little bit of effort on our part, we can rewire the neural pathways of brain (upgrade the hardware) and reprogram our subconscious (upgrade the software) so we can build the life we dream of and truly be happy.
Along the way, by taking small actions such as consciously monitoring shifts, even subtle ones, to your emotional state, and taking a few minutes to be meditative every day, you can start to control and embrace your anger. Then you can wield it as a tool to define your limits and expand past them with the ultimate knowing that human beings are unlimited.