3 Key Steps to Riding the Waves of Anger

Angry Waves

Anger is big. Anger is monumental. Anger is, well, explosive!

The common myth is that we often think the more spiritually evolved we become that anger just shouldn’t arise in us. But this won’t ever be the case. Whatever your comfort or discomfort level in feeling it, we all must and will experience anger in our lives. It is totally basic and totally human. The tricky thing about anger is that as a standalone feeling it is quite remarkable, awe-inspiring even, but when gone unchecked it gets us into massive trouble.

From a very young age I saw anger in its most violent, unconscious form. It was at once the most intimate, fascinating, and terrifying emotion in my life, thanks to my mom, who as part of her psychosis often flew into insane, fiery, wacked-out rages.

As a kid I used to make fun of how bizarre and unbelievable her anger was, then as a teen I turned my anger at her in on myself. In relationships, I was so afraid of showing any anger at all, that if a friend did something that made me mad, I would break off the friendship. In romantic relationships, I would just cave and bury the feeling.

When I started to work my stuff out as an adult in therapy and on my meditation cushion, the biggest challenge was indeed my relationship to anger. I knew I didn’t have a choice. I knew I had to be shown how to feel and ride it gracefully. And we all do!

Today, I am still amazed by anger’s intensity, its wildly volatile force. But I have also learned to identify the trajectory of anger’s natural path, and when it strikes I am already at the very same time watching it go. In other words, I am already letting it go.

Here are my three key steps to riding the waves of anger:

1. Observe It.

Awareness of the feeling, of the raw power of anger itself is mandatory. Meditation and breathing exercises are great for cultivating this attention. Otherwise we wouldn’t be tuned into the consequence of what happens when we lose our sense of proportion with anger, react to it, and essentially allow the feeling to take us over.

2. Express It.

No matter how we choose to do it, and no matter how seasoned we are in self-awareness, we all have to let anger out or its pressure can literally make us sick. Just like lava flowing out of a volcano, we must create a healthy outlet for our anger. Writing it out, screaming it out (in a safe place), or exercising it out are all great options. The main intention behind this expression is release but also NO HARM.

3. Own It.

Once we’ve calmed down, and in resolution of anger’s organically hot arc, we must acknowledge that we have been angry—to ourselves and to anyone else our anger has affected. Owning our anger, sometimes with apology, sometimes with laughter, sometimes with a subtler “my bad,” is essential in stabilizing and returning to our centers after the storm.

Adyashanti says: “There’s no such thing as never getting angry. Enlightenment can and does use all the available emotions. The idea that enlightenment means sitting around with a beatific smile on our faces is just an illusion.”

See? Even the most enlightened creatures out there get angry! The work is to allow for it in a conscious and responsible way, and to also appreciate its ferocity as catalyst for social change. Anger has after all sparked pivotal movements in the name of justice.

We must however learn to funnel our anger into brave, mindful, and compassionate action. Sounds hard, I know. But this is possible, and a sign of maturity!

Join the conversation. Please comment below and tell us how you relate to anger.

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  • Rosanne

    Hi Maggie,

    Thank you for sharing your ways of dealing with anger.

    I also experienced an out of control angry mother who later had her thyroid removed, but the angry personality didn’t really change. I was her scapegoat in our family. Now she is old and weak but still very angry. She explained to me recently that Kapok filled pillows and mattresses had been found to be bad for the lungs. I asked her why she had given (only) me an old kapok pillow when I was seven? ( She let me keep it until I left home at 15 even though I had pneumonia as an infant and went on to develop tonsilitis and acute bronchitis each winter, and shortness of breath all the time. That could have been due to being sent barefoot to the chookyard in the cold night winter air while the family ate, so at least half an hour. I didn’t get fed on those nights). She didn’t answer, just gave me her look.

    That may have been a one-off but the following visit she explained that when she was young her mother gave her condys crystals gargles if she had a cold. I asked why she didn’t do that for me and she smugly replied “I mustn’t have had any in the cupboard”. She did though, because we used them for bathing cut feet. I haven’t been able to visit her since. I don’t want to hear what she will say next. I have purchased condys crystals for my next cold, so I salvaged some good from the experience.lol

    I posted this because 0 comments, and I didn’t want you to receive no answers. It has been cathartic too. So thank you again.

  • Rosanne

    Hi Maggie,

    Thank you for sharing your ways of dealing with anger.

    I also experienced an out of control angry mother who later had her thyroid removed, but the angry personality didn’t really change. I was her scapegoat in our family. Now she is old and weak but still very angry. She explained to me recently that Kapok filled pillows and mattresses had been found to be bad for the lungs. I asked her why she had given (only) me an old kapok pillow when I was seven? ( She let me keep it until I left home at 15 even though I had pneumonia as an infant and went on to develop tonsilitis and acute bronchitis each winter, and shortness of breath all the time. That could have been due to being sent barefoot to the chookyard in the cold night winter air while the family ate, so at least half an hour. I didn’t get fed on those nights). She didn’t answer, just gave me her look.

    That may have been a one-off but the following visit she explained that when she was young her mother gave her condys crystals gargles if she had a cold. I asked why she didn’t do that for me and she smugly replied “I mustn’t have had any in the cupboard”. She did though, because we used them for bathing cut feet. I haven’t been able to visit her since. I don’t want to hear what she will say next. I have purchased condys crystals for my next cold, so I salvaged some good from the experience.lol

    I posted this because 0 comments, and I didn’t want you to receive no answers. It has been cathartic too. So thank you again.

  • nicole

    Thanks for posting this. The past few years I have really been growing spiritually and am happy with the person I am becoming, but regardless of how many times a day I stop to appreciate my life and all the beauty it holds, I still burst into angry rages at times. It makes me so sad after I get angry and I hold great resentment within myself at how I get out my rage at times. I think what you posted here may really help me, I plan to practice these ideas and hope to improve my bursts of anger. Thanks very much,
    Nicole.

  • Jack Madison

    Anger is for the weak. Just like jealousy or low self esteem. It’s weakness plain and simple. And if you are emotionally weak then you must read read read and work, work work out.
    You become physically & mentally strong and then learn how to do something spectacular. Maybe it is rock climbing or fixing cars…..Something that empowers you.
    You can allow yourself to wander through life being weak or you can do something about it. We’ve all got problems…it’s how you recover that makes you who you are.