Anger can be a difficult emotion to experience. It is highly activating. It gives us adrenaline and energy to act – or REACT. It can be quite automatic and often feel out of our control.
In interpersonal situations, anger is an important messenger – it communicates to us that our boundaries have been crossed, feelings have been hurt, and it can motivate us to communicate our feelings and assert our boundaries. But anger can also be intoxicating. We can become overwhelmed by it and it can take on a life of it’s own, causing us to react and act out in ways that we may later regret.
Interestingly, there is often a more vulnerable feeling underneath our anger (like a hurt feeling, feeling disconnected from another, a need that wasn’t met, or not feeling heard, seen, or valued by another). Rather than feeling that “softer” more vulnerable feeling, anger comes in to protect us. And there is nothing wrong with protection, but when our angry reactions become habitual patterns leave us feeling worse, then they may no longer be so helpful. While the anger is valid, in that it is signalling a hurt, the volume (intensity) is just turned up a little too high. That is, the *feelings are valid,* but when we slow down the reaction, it give us more space to *respond more skillfully,* rather than succumb to old ways of reacting that may leave us feeling worse.
Mindfulness helps us to slow down this process and reflect on:
(1) what happened (the situation)
(2) the feelings experienced
(3) the thoughts (interpretation) of the situation
(4) the urges (in response to that interpretation)
(5) the action(s) we take
(6) the consequences of our action(s)
Our thoughts (interpretations) can be VERY convincing, especially with a whole lot of adrenaline behind them. But remember that not all thoughts are facts and that our perception is highly influenced by strong emotions.
Tara Brach, psychologist and mindfulness teacher discusses a mindful approach to anger, involving responding rather than reacting in her article and talk: https://www.tarabrach.com/anger-responding-not-reacting/