I’m a firm believer that there is no really negative emotion – even the little venal desires can be channeled to positive outcomes. Anger, however, is an emotion that can be destructive and can get out of hand so quickly. It’s no wonder that we liken anger to fire – hot and blazing. Even the Buddha did so:
Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. You are the only one who gets burned.
The point of this is to address anger as part of a yoga practice. We as yogis and yoginis practice an art that is designed to give us control of ourselves. Very little, though, is addressed to the volative explosive power of anger. Its like a rogue wave in the ocean – destructive and dangerous. No matter how it is expressed – aggressive, passive, or passive-agressive, anger is something that needs addressing, yet rarely is in yogic circles.
This segment focuses on aggressive anger. This type of anger is one that I share, so I am focusing on it because like all yogis, my yoga practice is one that continues and this is something with which I struggle. Thus, as part of my practice and as a yogi, I share this with you.
This kind of anger is like those fires you see burning on the medians when its dry and parched – they are hot, quick-burning and go out quickly. They are also destructive in that they can quickly burn up a hundred yards of median before the fire department can get there in time to put it out.
We have all heard techniques to ‘calm down.” Breathe and count to ten. Remove yourself from the situation. Find a healthy expression of anger. Do something that distracts you from the anger stimulus until you are under control. While these are good at solving the immediate need to control the angry emotion until you are able to deal with it – these are not final solutions. Failing to resolve the anger will only feed that particular beast until you have the emotional equivalent of a Chernobyl-level meltdown.
Agressive anger causes some of the following manifestations:
- hot in the neck/face
- increased and rapid heart rate
- sweating, especially your palms
- shaking or trembling
- acting in an abusive or abrasive manner
- beginning to yell, scream or cry
- out of control
- like striking out verbally or physically
The physical manifestation is indicative of the emotional power of this kind of anger. You would not breathe calmly and count to ten when a fire starts, so why would you do it for your emotional flames?
You must put it out. In the case of fire, you have to catch the fire before it spreads and put it out. In the case of anger, you have to catch the anger before you ignite and light up emotionally. And it’s hard to, because it feels good. Let me repeat that: it feels good to be hot and fired-up angry.
Powerful and filled with burning purpose, aggressive anger can make for change, revolution, and righteous glory. Unchecked, it causes emotional devastation, burnt emotional landscapes, and in the cases it overflows into physical action – assault, domestic violence, and murder.
The roots of aggressive anger run deep – to childhood, internalized trauma, many different things. The key to this is to experience and take responsibility for your anger – it is, after all, yours. Blaming others for making you angry only shifts the blame – this is your emotion, your fire, your responsibility. By ignoring it or suppressing it, you will only make it hotter and more dangerous the nest time it comes.
See how the anger operates, and then work on resolving the emotions. To follow our metaphor to its end – the only way to stop those hot median fires is to not put the burning cigarette butt into the dry grass – to quit smoking.
Meditation and yoga provide opportunities to examine your triggers, to find your smoldering cigarette butts of unresolved emotions and to put those out before they light fires. Besides a workout and blissful experience, powerful tools exist in your yoga practice to find and identify these nuggets that get triggered and resolve them before they trigger such destructive firestorms of emotion.
This week’s yoga sets and meditations will address harnessing and moving past our emotional, reactive selves. If you internalize this fire, it will burn you, in the form of a poisoned emotional life, ulcers, and a host of cardiac and vascular issues. Calm and peace come from eliminating the fire, not containing it and ignoring it.