One of the things I find most challenging about practicing mindfulness is doing it when I’m angry. While I’m not the kind of person who loses their temper easily, I do have a tendency to ruminate on whatever is making me mad beyond the point where such an act still remains useful.
There was a time when I felt guilty about this. I wished I didn’t feel angry in those situations and that I could find it easier to brush those feelings aside when they did pop up. Even though I’m pretty good at responding to those things calmly when they are happening, I saw others looking far calmer than I felt when they were in the same kind of situation.
You see, I was comparing how I felt on the inside to how other people were acting. The interesting thing about this is that I had no idea what those other people were thinking about when they responded so calmly.
How someone behaves doesn’t always match up with how they’re feeling inside. For all I know, they could have been looking at my response and wondering the same thing about me. The first time I realized this, I literally laughed out loud.
The cool thing about practicing mindfulness is that it doesn’t require you to change how you feel. In fact, changing how you feel isn’t the point of it at all.
There’s No Such Thing as a “Bad” Emotion
Anger in and of itself isn’t helpful or harmful. Everything depends on what you do with that emotion and what thoughts you entertain when you feel it.
Do you jump to conclusions about what will happen in the future because you’re mad right now? Do you try to suppress it? Do you look for someone to blame for it? Do you assume it will last forever?
On the positive side, can you embrace the fact that this is how you’re feeling right now? Do you think back to other times in your life when you felt this way and remember how you dealt with them? Does your anger prompt you to do something to improve the situation if that’s possible?
There are healthy and unhealthy ways to handle every negative emotion that exists.
Mindfulness Isn’t About Always Being Zen
If the only people in this world who were allowed to practice mindfulness were the ones who are always patient and understanding when they were irritated by the people, places, or circumstances in their lives, there would only be about three of them on the entire planet…and I wouldn’t be one of them.
When I’m angry, I do my best to stop and experience that emotion without judging it or making any assumptions about what it means, whether it’s justified, how I’ll feel in the future, or how I think I should be feeling about it instead.
This is a much easier thing to talk about than it is to actually practice. I’m not going to tell you that I always succeed at simply feeling my emotions without assigning value to them or wishing they were different. Like you, I’m a human being. I have days when I live in the moment really well, and other days when I feel much more like this cat:
(I don’t normally include gifs in my posts, but this one was the perfect illustration for this point. It’s fun to imagine that this cat is a master of mindfulness when she’s not pushing everything off of the desk she’s sitting on. Who knows? Maybe she’s even figured out how to live in the moment while being mischievous!)
You’re in Control of the Process
There have been times when I’ve brushed an emotion aside not because I’m trying to avoid feeling it but because I’ve sat with it long enough.
Just because you’re mad right now doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way five minutes, two days, or a month from now.
This is by far one of my favourite things about remembering to be mindful when I’m pissed off about something.
There is no handbook that says you can’t change your mind or that you’re only allowed to feel mad for X number of minutes at a time. The freedom of knowing I can sit with my anger for as long as is necessary actually makes me less likely to hold onto it.
It’s like telling a child that they’re only ever allowed to have one cookie regardless of how old they’ve become versus slowly allowing them to decide for themselves what they do and don’t eat.
By letting go of all expectations of what you’re support to do, it becomes much easier to stop after one cookie (or one wave of ire, in this case).
What Mindful Anger Looks Like
Mindful anger is…
- Not attached to any one particular outcome
- Open to change
- Focused on what has already happened, not what might happen in the future
- Aware and accepting of other emotions like fear or envy that could be the cause of it
- Not vengeful
I hope you found this post helpful. If you have anything to add to this post, please let me know!