We have all these opportunities throughout the day to get angry. Each and every time we have the choice to either let the anger become us or let it pass through us.
It is an odd thing to think about anger as a choice- that going for any emotion in fact- but a transformation in the body occurs when an emotion takes hold. But, there is an initial process where, if we catch it, we can consciously decide whether to let the anger reside in us for a while or observe it passing through. If we do let the emotion take hold of us, the body reacts chemically. Perhaps we tighten our muscles in a certain area of the body, our heart rate increases, or there is a flush of adrenaline- in all of these cases we are reacting.
The most challenging situation once an emotion has engaged us is releasing the anger. A good question to ask yourself is, “Does this emotion benefit anyone? Is this anger currently helping me?” There is an adaptogenic explanation behind each and every cellular reaction in our body. The “fight or flight” response of adrenaline and norepinephrine is one of the most commonly referred to sympathetic nervous system reactions that occurs when the body is under stress. Ten thousand years ago this was an extremely valued physical reaction to prime the system to run from serious threats such as tigers or an invading tribe, but in today’s social climate, it is a response initiated more frequently. It has become a learned response. Maybe we get angry while driving to work, we have our cup of coffee and spill some on our shirt and that upsets us, maybe our boss is being unkind- the list goes on and on. But what we don’t think about happening is that when we call on our body to release particular hormones under stressful conditions, we are neglecting other important systems. Our body becomes flush with glucose and fat for heightened muscle function, digestion becomes neglected, we have narrowed vision and loss of hearing- all of these actions are occurring to best aid us for the immediate situation. However we are affected later on becomes background noise to get us through the present moment.
Sometimes it is best to take a breath, or other times to try and take a step away from the anger. When we can separate ourselves distinctly from the emotion we can observe the anger entering our body and then leaving. Too often we only notice an emotion being incited, sometimes it is best to take note of the emotion leaving, simply by saying “gone” or taking note that the emotion has left. This can make the transition away from the anger more swift, and consciously we have decided that we are not angry any more. The body and the mind remember this. It shortens the duration we have been angry, but most importantly the anger doesn’t make a lasting impression on us. If we do not notice the anger leaving, we do not have a distinct time duration for which we are angry, and the body can remain tense for whatever or however long.
Anger is one of the most consuming and detrimental of emotions, along with fear and hopelessness: The Big Three. But perhaps the best antidote is laughter. Ask yourself, “In regards to what is currently making me angry, does it really even matter? Isn’t it funny that this made me angry? Maybe this time I won’t let it bother me.” And have a laugh. Then we notice that the anger is gone.