What’s the best way to get rid of anger? Set a time limit
Have you ever thought about how long you’ve held onto anger? Hours, days, weeks, years? According to peacemaker and celebrated monk Thich Nhat Hanh, setting a time limit of 24-hours is a sure-fire way of limiting our suffering. It sounds so simple, and yet many of us haven’t even learnt to process anger let alone get rid of it.
It was a realisation during my podcast Empowered Thinking at Play in which anger was the topic discussed with a panel of women. This advice, so simple in theory, but is it really that easy to do in practice? Having a time limit for getting rid of anger makes it seem more manageable, an emotion to be less feared because we’re basically saying “Ok, you have 24-hours and then it’s time for you to leave me alone…for good.” Why haven’t we thought about this before?
Learning to process anger
Perhaps, then, it’s because of the processing part. When it comes to processing anger, it can especially be more challenging for women when you know that expressing heightened emotions comes with labels such as ‘hysterical,’ ‘crazy’ or ‘emotional.’ Adjectives that are certainly not given to men. As one of my podcast guests, Shabnam, an Iranian living in Luxembourg stated, “When you get labelled, you close the door and shut down from expressing more. And that’s the difficult thing about being labelled, you shut down, you don’t talk, or you don’t express yourself. What I know for sure, is that labeling stops the whole progression and moving forward.
A sentiment also shared by another podcast guest Julie, from Texas who said; “We haven’t learnt how to process anger or been taught that it’s ok to feel anger. Instead, we shut it down.”
The shutting down aspect proved to be a big talking point and the fact that we don’t analyse our anger enough because if we did, we would make better sense of it. Instead, we think that raising our voice will help us to be heard but often all that is heard is the noise level and not the words. What anger really is, when we process it and look behind the anger, is a very powerful word; “Listen” because we just want to be heard and anger can drown out that word or be misinterpreted when you raise your voice. As Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book, ‘How to fight; “Many of us don’t know how to handle our strong emotions and our perceptions can make us angry or fill with despair. To see clearly, we must calm down and look deeply at the root of anger.’
But there are things you can do to help work through anger;
6 Ways to Release & Transform Anger
Question your anger…ask yourself what you are angry about? Is it because of something that happened externally or is there something deeper inside? Dig deep and start questioning to find out the answers.
Process the anger…define what it is you’re angry about give yourself space to process it, so you know how to articulate this anger. Decide what you want the other person to hear, not all the other things you haven’t previously addressed.
Allow yourself to have your reaction … know that it’s ok to feel the way you are feeling and not try to suppress it. Feel your anger, process it and deal with it…ideally within 24 hours. But allow yourself more time if you need to analyse and process the anger a bit more before reacting.
Don’t be afraid to speak out — know you have a right to be angry. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When you get angry, don’t pretend you’re not angry and not suffering. You have to confess that you’re angry with the other person and say it calmly.
Breathe! - throughout all the stages pay attention to the breath, as anger tends to make us breathe quicker which is called over-breathing. Thich Nhat Hanh recommends mindful breathing as an effective instrument to put out the fire in us and adds; “It needs only one conscious breath to be back in contact with yourself and everything around you, and three conscious breaths to maintain the contact.”
Physically release the feeling — that goes for anger, frustration, or any of those emotions we try to suppress or bottle up. Exercise is a great way to release this as Shabnam revealed on the podcast; “For the longest time I had respiratory problems and a friend of mine said this is coming from your suppressed feelings inside your throat. So, I started running and once I did that, I let my feelings out and it cleared my chest.”
Certainly, anger is one of those emotions that needs more understanding so if we can react to it in a more considered way, we can find our peace, and not let it linger well after the situation that made us angry in the first place.
Listen to the full podcast on Dealing with Anger which is part of a series of Uncensored Conversations on Empowered Thinking at Play. Then listen to a meditation on Transforming Anger to get you to a place of bliss.