How to: Stop being angry in 3 steps / by Anita Cheung

Note: This post was originally featured on Girlvana Yoga. While the original audience was teen girls; learning to live with, and let go of, anger is something for everyone. 


By our teens and early 20s, we are all bound to experience some sort of heartache. Whether it's a breakup from a romantic relationship or a big fight with your best friend, it's easy to write off the other person as a terrible human being and play the role of a victim. What does playing the victim entail? It means using language like what was mentioned earlier. It paints a story in which you were wronged. While it doesn't seem like your choice of words is hurting anyone (especially if the other person will never hear it), the truth is- what you do to others, you do to yourself. Anger creates separation. It emphasizes the "otherness" of other people and is in direct contradiction to one of the underlying beliefs of yoga- that we are all connected. When you send out negative feelings into the universe, it is bound to come back eventually in one form or another.

So what's a gal to do?

 

1. Breathe.

First thing's first- breath in and breath out. When someone does something that upsets you, avoid acting out in the moment as anger clouds our judgement. Take it from me, I know it's easier said than done. If it means turning off your phone or walking away from the situation, do it. Take some time to digest and let what happen sit with you. (Better yet, let it roll over you. If this comes easily to you, you can skip the next few steps and move along.) Just like you notice your breath in yoga and meditation, can you notice your anger? Anger is an incredibly powerful emotion and you can actually feel the heaviness of it in your body. It might be a clenching feeling in your chest, or a bubbling pit-like feeling in your stomach. Whatever it is, know that it will pass.  Similarly, you will also feel when the anger has left you as you'll suddenly feel like a fog has lifted and you can think about things a little bit more clearly.

Remind yourself: what good does it do for me to hold on to this anger? How does this anger serve me? The answer to this is that it doesn't. Anger only perpetuates negative energy in the body. It is also incredibly distracting and takes your attention away from all the wonderful things in your life. 

2. Dissect.

Now that you're feeling more level-headed, see if you can dissect the situation. There are multiple sides to each story and it's important to remember that your truth, isn't necessarily the truth. What this means is that you bring a certain perspective and certain expectations to all of your interactions just as much as someone else, with a different history, brings his or her own perspective, personality, and expectations to the table. See if you can figure out where your friend (boyfriend, girlfriend, sister, mom, cousin, etc.) is coming from. Why might he/ she feel the way he/ she does and act the way he/ she does? See if you can figure out why the situation blew up in the first place. Was there a miscommunication or misunderstanding somewhere? Were there expectations that weren't made clear? Rather than rushing to label someone, see the other person for what they are: a person with their own feelings, thoughts, opinions and perspectives. Just because these things don't line up with your own feelings, thoughts, opinions and perspectives, it doesn't make the other person wrong. It just makes them different. And how boring would this world be if we were all the same? When we rush to label someone as a terrible person (or whatever label of your choice), we are missing out on the opportunity to see them as a person. Instead, we create this story in our minds of the kind of person they are and we start to find things that they do/ say that back up the story in our eyes. Instead of seeing the person as a whole, we only see the negative.

3. Move forward authentically.

The key word here is authenticity. Just because you can now see where the other person was coming from, it doesn't necessarily mean that everything is instantly better. It doesn't undo the past, however, it creates understanding and understanding is a prerequisite for love and clear communication. At the end of the day, whomever it is that we are fighting with (BFF, sibling, family member, boyfriend/girlfriend), is someone we love.  I'm not saying that once you complete step 1 and 2, it will be guaranteed that you will be BFFs again as if nothing happened. What WILL happen, is that you will be better prepared to have those tough conversations to repair your relationship. You will come into each conversation and relationship with a blank slate. You will understand that you have certain stories and expectations in your head and so does the other person. You will know that others are as you think they are- whether you see their amazing or terrible qualities is all up to you. You will have the tools to be understanding and empathetic.

I know this all seems easier said than done. I don't admit to have it all figured out myself either. However, like yoga, like gratitude, and like many other things we take on in life- it's all about practice.

 

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