In the face of anger, whether our own experience of anger or when we are in the presence of someone else's anger, many of us feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or afraid. Situations involving anger can be very alarming or shocking to the mind, and while those triggering situations are part of life, it's important to know how we can cultivate awareness and flow through the situation without attaching to our mind's stories and becoming reactive. When we can bring in awareness, we can make conscious choices instead of letting our emotions run on autopilot and push us in to fight, flight, or freeze. I recently experienced a triggering situation involving my experience of someone else's anger, and my inner voice gave me some amazing perspectives that I think will be helpful.
As humans, emotions are a natural part of our daily lives. When we experience triggering situations, we often try to stuff our emotions down, pretending they aren't there or trying to feel what we think we 'should' be feeling. In the face of triggered emotions, it's important to know that it is okay to feel however you are feeling. You don't necessarily need to feel and process those emotions in the moment of the trigger, but give yourself the time and space to remove yourself from the situation when you can. Once you are in a safe and neutral space, allow yourself to feel and process the emotions that came up, instead of judging yourself for the fact that they arose in the first place.
Strong emotions get stuck in the body when we repeat our mental stories over and over. For example, if you experience someone else's anger and feel fear in yourself, your mind might tell the story that you should have controlled yourself and your emotions better, that the other person's anger is your fault, and that in order to avoid that anger in the future it is your responsibility to do better. Your mind might play the situation on loop, repeating the story and causing you to relive those emotions. When this happens, those emotions are driven deeper and deeper into the body until they become stuck. When we experience a difficult situation or an intense emotion, one of the best things we can do is give ourselves space to release the mental story about the situation, and instead just let it be. Let the situation be what it was without trying to mentally make sense of it, and let your emotions be what they are without trying to mentally control them.
Speaking of controlling, when our mind tells the story of what we should have done better to avoid the situation in the first place, we often find ourselves thinking to the future and determining what we need to do to prevent it from ever happening again. This form of mental control can help us feel more on top of the situation, but what it really does is give us an excuse to avoid the emotions we are feeling in the present. After a triggering event, give yourself permission to let go of the future, and simply exist in the now moment.
Following through on all of these steps requires high levels of self-awareness. Instead of allowing ourselves to be overtaken by the situation or our emotions in the heat of the moment, we have to practice cultivating the awareness to see what is happening beneath the surface. We can only make conscious choices about our reactions and actions when we aren't caught up in automatic patterns. Cultivating awareness takes practice, but tapping in to the inner voice is a great way to practice stepping out of mental activity and into a more conscious place.
The most important lesson my inner voice gave me around anger is that we aren't trapped. We don't need to spend our lives constantly trying to plan for the next difficult situation or control ourselves to prevent other people having strong reactions to us. Constantly trying to control the world around us would be like living in fear of the next tornado, constantly making decisions as if a tornado was about to touch down on the ground next to you and not allowing yourself to enjoy the sun when it shines. We do not have to be trapped by our fears about what could happen in the future. Instead, we can allow ourselves to be prepared and conscious of the fact that another difficult situation will inevitably arise because we are human, and choose to live in the knowledge that when something happens, we will be able to handle it when it arises. But we don't have to stay trapped in fear of what comes next. We can let ourselves stay present and grounded in the now moment, and allow life to flow through us in each moment.
7 simple daily practices to cultivate more alignment, inner peace and presence, starting today.