For most of my life, I have been a notoriously angry S.O.B.
At age 27, I actually started fighting in the cage in order to have a healthier outlet for my rage.
The other day, a student asked me, “How do you deal with your anger these days?”
Short of stepping into the octagon, this is what I have to offer:
Nothing good comes from ignorance.
As yogis, there’s phenomenal pressure on us to be perfect. But ignoring it, pretending we’re indifferent, or that we’re unaffected by it will not invite you to successfully integrate anger. (In fact, just the opposite—pretending it’s not happening drives it deep into our psyche.)
Instead, I start by acknowledging it, “Right now, I am experiencing anger.”
Or, more accurately, “Right now I’m fucking angry!”
Sit with it:
Literally sit with the anger.
Integration requires isolation. Some people may be able to achieve this in a public yoga class, but I’ve found it’s most productive to simply sit on my ass.
I prefer to process anger in a comfy chair, alone in a room, with no one to disturb me while I fume. There’s no one in harm’s way if I happen to hurl invectives across the room.
Play with it:
The small, angry self is like a child, so be kind to it.
Model your tactics of engagement to fit it. Don’t look too long or too close at it, or you’ll lose it (in a number of ways).
Instead, tactfully play with engaging and disengaging with it.
Distract it with something that constitutes play for you. Then take a break and ask it pointedly, “What are you angry about?”
A little later, “How long have you been feeling like this?”
Later still, “Do you like feeling like this?”
And so on…
The answers inside you may surprise you…let them.
Meet anger with kindness and forgiveness.
The gentle application of rationality and reason will begin to gently assuage and disprove it.
“If __________ (event from the past) wouldn’t have happened, would you still feel this frustration?”
“If you achieved __________ (unfulfilled desire in the present), would you be happier?”
“Are you really mad at __________ (person in your present), or is there a deeper reason for the anger?”
Then sit back and gauge its reaction.
Observe it closely:
Observe anger closely and decide wisely when more work will hamper your productivity. (Like a child, the small self gets tired, hungry, and fussy—especially as it cries itself out.)
When that time comes, have the wisdom to shut it down. Go out on the town, smoke a joint, do a yoga practice, or watch some Will Ferrell.
The small self—including its expectations and attachments—is not you. But its kind and successful integration is imperative to our transformation and transcendence back into pure consciousness.
Accept and forgive it:
Anger (like hatred, love, etc.) is a necessary emotion—a gift that’s been granted to us for a reason…even if we don’t understand the exact “why” of it.
It’s worth mentioning that the person who asked me this inspiring question is one of the kindest people who I have ever encountered.
I’m not perfect, and sometimes it helps me to remember that even the most caring among us are often besieged by anger, sorrow, and judgmental behavior…just like us.