Managing anger through mindful self-regulation

It is part of the human experience to feel anger, as well as other strong emotions like fear and resentment. From a mindfulness perspective, the question is not “Why do I experience these emotions?“ or “Is it ok for me to feel this way?” Rather, we let go of the questions and simply bring acknowledgement and kindness into the situation before taking any action.

A young woman participating in a SHINE program told the story of how, before her SHINE experience, she kept her bright red lipstick in her pocket. Whenever she got angry or felt she would explode, she put it on so that “they would see whose mouth the words were coming from.” She said, “My words could cut real deep.” She took that lipstick to her job at a fast food restaurant. When a customer was rude to her, she would put on the bright red lipstick before exploding back at them.

One day, she told us, a man was yelling and cursing about how nothing was right with his order. “I looked at him and reached in my pocket looking for my lipstick before yelling right back at him. But then I remembered what we learned last week: Is what I’m about to say an improvement on silence? I decided to keep the lipstick in my pocket. I smiled at him instead, folded over the top of his bag, handed it to him and said, ‘Have a nice day, sir.’”

Taking a moment to pause in the midst of a stressful situation allows the punch of strong emotions to soften a bit, and our inner wisdom to arise. We are then more likely to speak and act in ways that honor the greatness in ourselves and others, and bring about a peaceful outcome.

Try this next time you find yourself in a challenging encounter and notice anger arising. Better yet, practice it right now by bringing to mind a recent situation when you felt angry, or perhaps triggered by another strong emotion:

  • Pause and sense where the emotion is arising in your body.
  • Take 3 – 5 easy breaths, allowing the air to fill and soften that place in your body.
  • With kindness and a gentle tone, ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say or do the wisest action or speech?”

With curiosity, notice and reflect on your experience of this simple practice. Your observations are valuable feedback and will strengthen your mindfulness muscles, making it easier to regulate yourself the next time you are provoked.

To what one breath can do,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *