Menu
Announcement: Want to share your story in the next Tiny Buddha book? Learn more here!

Catch Anger Before It Catches You

“For every moment you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m not an angel. In fact, my husband used to lovingly call me a “fierce creature.” This fiery inclination can be due to inborn temperament, but it can also be a result of post-traumatic stress or similar brain-impacting life events.

It’s taken a concerted effort, over many years, for me to become more loving, tolerant, and peaceful.

But I still lose it from time to time. Like today, for example, it must have been a triple critical day because I lost it three times in a row. 

It started with an unusually frustrated phone call with a relative. Then, an empty granola bar box made me furious enough to fling it across the room.

Lastly, a well-meaning guardian at the visitors’ center of a private yoga resort challenged me. Yes, heaven forbid, I walked up the driveway, but honestly I didn’t cross the gate.

In fact, I was in my car, about to leave, when she came flying over to warn me the resort property is off limits without a guest pass. I became curt and defensive, cold anger seeping through. After all, I’ve already been on the grounds at least a million times.

Indulging in Anger Harms Your Health and Happiness

In each case, I was caught in an almost automatic response. But I quickly recognized the error of my ways. Why? Because, in addition to harming others, I know that indulging in anger harms my own health and detracts from my own happiness too.

Take a moment to tune in to yourself the next time you get angry. By doing so, you can discover anger’s harmful impact for yourself.

When I’m triggered by anger, I feel an upsurge of energy at first—almost a high—as adrenalin surges through my body. But this feisty response quickly dissolves into feeling all churned up. If I start replaying the scene in my mind, easy to do, the emotional turmoil can keep on for days.

On the other hand, genuine regret might pop up. Then I feel bad about myself. I get caught up in how to fix the mess, pulled between my self-righteousness and an ardent wish to let go. 

Almost always, healing the wound I’ve imposed takes considerable time—time that could have been used for better purposes if I had only held my tongue.

Anger is like a boomerang. It always comes back to haunt you in negative ways.

Scientific research verifies how chronic anger is injurious for your health. In fact, anger especially hurts your heart. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease can result from an untamed anger response. Anger may be implicated in diabetes too.

When aggression activates the body’s “fight or flight” system—the adrenalin response—the immune system also goes on hold. This can cause further wide-ranging effects. All this means that angry people are more likely to get sick. 

In addition to the physical effects, no one likes to be around a raging, irritated, or frustrated person. Anger just makes you look ugly and unapproachable.

Taking all the ill effects of anger into account, who would knowingly act in a vexing way? While anger may seem out of our control, that’s not truly the case. The mind is pliable and flexible; it can be trained. You can learn to cultivate love, patience, and tolerance in place of aggressive ways.

How to Turn Anger Around

Once you’re already caught in anger’s snare, what to do? When I lose it, like I did today, this is how I intentionally turn anger around and sculpt a new route of joy and happiness in my brain.

1. Take responsibility.

Whatever the circumstances, anger comes from within. I take responsibility for my emotion and don’t try to pin it on anyone else.

2. Breathe.

I allow myself time to calm down. I don’t re-engage until my heart and mind feel steady and clear.

3. Apologize.

I backtrack and apologize for my errant words. Harmful words endanger trust in a relationship.  An apology may not immediately repair the hurt that’s occurred, but it’s the right thing to do and creates the space for healing to take place in the right time.

4. Transform the Negative Energy.

Think a positive thought. I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes, understand their perspective, and counter my anger with love, patience, and tolerance. 

5. Resolve.

I resolve to never express another angry thought in words or deeds. Not to even let an angry thought tumble around in my mind endlessly. I know I can’t stop difficult thoughts or emotions from arising in the mind because they are the result of long entrained habits; but I don’t have to fuel or act upon them.

Realistically, I will probably trip up again, but setting a positive intention steadily reorients my behavior in a positive way. 

6. Forgive Yourself.

I’m only human. I forgive myself.

7. Move On.

I let go of any thoughts about the event. It’s over and done. Better to stay in the present moment than rehash the past or artificially construct a future, which may never come to pass.

Catch Anger Before It Catches You 

Anger tends to create an explosive mess that quickly becomes more and more entangled. Isn’t it smarter to avoid anger in the first place if you can?

Love and patience are the two most powerful antidotes to anger.

The tendency to get angry slowly erodes when you actively cultivate love and patience every day. Just as darkness cannot exist in the light, love and patience will outshine anger every time.

An easy way to cultivate love is to recall a memory of a time you felt deeply loved as a child or as an adult. If it was a moment of unconditional love, all the better, but any glimmer of love will serve as a spark.

As the sensations of love begin to arise in your heart, allow them to grow stronger and stronger.  Bask in this feeling of warmth and then start sending love to your self by softly repeating the phrases, “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe.”

Next, progressively extend these feelings of love to your family, close friends, strangers, and even people you dislike. It might be hard at first, but little by little, through dedicated training, you will be able to encircle the whole world with love.

Another way to inoculate your mind and heart against the vagaries of anger is to reflect on the benefits of patience each day. Consider how patience will help you become:

  • More peaceful and gentle
  • More open, flexible, and relaxed
  • Easier to get along with
  • Able to turn around negative circumstances
  • Grounded, courageous, and confident

By infusing your mind with the wonder of patience again and again, it will be easier to pause and meet dissatisfaction or anger with a more enlightened response.

The aim of our practice isn’t to suppress or deny anger. When anger arises, don’t try to push it away. It will only grow stronger if you do. See it clearly and apply love, compassion, and patience to melt anger away.

Isn’t it clear? We’ll never find happiness with anger by our side. Anger immediately disrupts our own mind.

By cultivating love and patience, even just a few moments a day, you’ll gradually overshadow anger and feel greater peace and contentment too. And, should anger ever come to visit, like on my triple critical day, you’ll know exactly what to do.

Photo by www.CourtneyCarmody.com

Avatar of Sandra Pawula

About Sandra Pawula

Sandra Pawula is a freelance editor, writer, and inner explorer.  She shares simple wisdom for a happy life at Always Well Within.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://www.michellebarryfranco.com/ Michelle Barry Franco

    I loved this article. I am far more quick to anger than I want to be and I love the mix of research and practical, simple guidance you shared here. I am often frustrated by the rhetoric in the world that “women should connect more with their anger” for two reasons: 1. I am a woman and I have no problem “connecting with my anger” so I feel completely misrepresented in that whole idea, and 2. I know that when I “connect with my anger” I feel worse and make bad decisions that I often regret. Thank you so much for writing this article, Sandra.

  • Sandra Pawula

    I’m so happy this article resonated for you, Michelle. I appreciate the different angle you offer on women and anger. Most of the women I know are very dynamic and forthright! You’ve underlined the key point so well: we often feel worse when we express anger and it can easily lead to actions that are not happy ones. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  • Niyati

    This is a really good article! I lost my cool with someone today and was feeling guilty about it and then just happened to read your post and it made so much sense! I think with practice one can watch their anger, learn to control it and eventually turn it around. Thank you for the very useful pointers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joy.c.holland.9 Joy Christin Detor Holland

    I am reading these words after having heard of a terrible tragedy involving a shooting at a school. Messages like yours are necessary and important because we as humans have natural responses to situations in which we feel out of control…it is our choice to react to external, or release the response as we create from center. The tips you share are wonderful ways to choose to create. As you have stated: “anger is like a boomerang….and…love and patience are the two most powerful antidotes to anger”. May we move forward, collectively, in love.

  • Sandra Pawula

    Hi Niyati, We’re all just human so naturally we’ll have moments when we lose it. It’s easy to move into feeling guilty about it, I do that too, but if we can decide to use those flashes of anger as an impetus to learn about and watch our reaction, as you say, we’ll find so much more happiness and ease. I’m glad you found these pointers useful. May you be well and happy!

  • Sandra Pawula

    Your thoughts resonate so strongly as we all witness the serious danger that anger, frustration, and unhappiness can unleash in tragedy like today’s. As you say, it’s up to each of us to learn that although anger may arise we can release instead of react in rage. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maia.duerr Maia Duerr

    I so much appreciate your honesty in this post, Sandra! It’s refreshing to know that even folks who practice meditation and mindfulness are prone to some intense emotions, including anger. This article offers so many helpful ideas and practices to work with the energy of anger and to transform it into something that has the potential to actually do good in the world. I often try to remember that anger is not a ‘bad’ feeling, simply an energy and it really is my responsibility to work with it in a way that does not cause more harm. I’ve learned a lot from this post about how to do that.

  • Sandra Pawula

    You’re right Maia, anger is just an energy that is going to come up now and then depending on the strength of our past habits. I think regret is a healthy emotion, but it doesn’t help to get down on ourselves when we lose it. The best thing – like you say – is to realize we’re not stuck with the habit of anger. We can learn to turn it around and be happier and health for it! Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • http://www.vidyasury.com/ Vidya Sury

    When I received the Tiny Buddha newsletter, I was so thrilled to see you had contributed a post, Sandra.

    I find it hard to associate you with anger.

    While anger, as a temporary reaction is natural and often necessary, nurturing it or using it as a regular response is no good at all. I find it very hard to become angry – and my folks and friends actually believe I am incapable of being angry. I do get angry, but only when I hear of injustice or when the elderly, the very young and the under-privileged are ill-treated. That makes my blood boil.

    I personally shun anger, because it is a waste of emotion. It is best to get over something and move on and my logic is – if we’re going to do that, why not sooner than later. Life is too short to nurture feelings of anger towards others. Love and compassion are far better alternatives, and that’s my currency because I believe in peace.

    Thank you for a beautiful post. As Joy commented, incidents like the shooting at the school bring on a sense of anger….yet, one can’t help feeling sorry for someone who would do that. The heart just aches.

    Hugs, Vidya

  • Sandra Pawula

    I appreciate your insightful words so much, Vidya. Until we understand the harm anger brings to ourselves and others and train our mind accordingly, as you have, anger will still arise from time to time. But, as you point out, it’s really not helpful to nurture such a response and make anger grow bigger and bigger. I like the way you see anger as “a waste of emotion” and your choice of love and compassion as the prime currency.

    I grew up with a harsh, frustrated, and easy to anger parent. Those are the behaviors I learned as a child so it’s been a journey to minimize those reactions in my life, but a very worthwhile one. “Fierce creature” in this case refers to the John Cleese movie where the animals are really soft and cuddly behind the mask.

    Thank you for waving the victory banner of love, compassion, and peace. It all starts with training our own mind. And thanks for your enthusiasm for my post here at Tiny Buddha. I’m so honored to be able to share with the Tiny Buddha community!

  • http://www.vishnusvirtues.com/ Vishnu

    hi Sandra – anger happens to us like a natural reaction. I like the 2 ideas you propose to combat anger – patience and love. Trying to infuse those two qualities in our lives everyday and being conscious about them can help us proactively combat the arisal of anger in us. I think you’ve inspired me to focus more on these 2 qualities for the new year.

  • Sandra Pawula

    Hi Vishnu,

    I’m with you! I’ll be focusing on love and compassion in the new year too and patience is part of that constellation. How wonderful, we’ll be on the same train. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

  • Flora Brown

    Sandra,

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience with anger. Like Vidya, it’s hard for me to imagine you angry, but it also shows that we are all susceptible at some times in our lives.

    In addition to the points you made, I’d like to stress that withholding or suppressing anger is a deadly option. Too often unexpressed anger festers and explodes on to someone or in situations that have nothing to do with the onset event. Those of us who were raised to always keep a happy face no matter what, must learn to acknowledge anger and follow the steps you’ve suggested.

    Recognizing that anger is a human reaction that we can handle makes it so much easier to forgive ourselves.

  • Sandra Pawula

    This is a really good point, Flora. I agree completely. I don’t suggest suppressing anger at all. Being inauthentic is also harmful to ourselves and others in certain ways. The key, as you say, is to acknowledge what’s arising in our mind and then find ways to work with it that will not be harmful. Thanks for adding this angle to the conversation.

    Forgiving ourselves is really important too!

  • witchke

    It is a good article. And it is true , sometimes anger lives a whole own live. That isn’t healty but I think sometimes you may be angery. We aren’t perfect, we are human en anger is often a part of us. In some situation you may be angery I think.

  • Gail Brenner(AFlourishingLife)

    Hi Sandra,
    This is such a thoughtful and well-written article about such an important topic. Thank you. After reading it, I came away really understanding the futility of anger. It doesn’t serve any relationships. And even if change takes place as a result of an angry response, say in seeing the injustices in the world, in the end it is only intelligent action that makes any sense. This makes me want to see anger, then put it aside and let love guide.

  • Sandra Pawula

    That’s true! We’re all human and anger will arise in our mind from time to time. It’s not a good idea to suppress it. The interesting thing is that we can train our mind to simply be aware of the anger and then the anger will dissolve on its own and, usually, we’ll be left with more clarity. With more clarity, it’s much easier to resolve a situation for the better.

  • Sandra Pawula

    Hi Gail,

    You really put your finger on the main point: the futility of anger. In the end, anger just harms you as much as any one you feel angry toward. We can’t deny injustice, but anger isn’t an especially effective way to resolve injustice. I love this slogan: “let love guide”.

  • Liz Roberts

    I was going to post a thank you to Sandra for her article, but find I must give thanks to both you and Sandra. Sandra, thank you for sharing your wisdom. Joy, thank you for sharing your your feedback with us all… yes, let us move forward collectively in love, through love we regain our strength and conquer all. Warm wishes to you both for a wonderful holiday season and a New Year filled with much light and joy!

  • Sandra Pawula

    Joy is amazing, isn’t she! Thank you for your appreciation and good wishes. Yes, let us all move together in love. Wishing you peace and happiness.

  • Mark

    My problem is i want the anger to stop now.

  • Sandra Pawula

    Hi Mark,

    I appreciate that wish and it’s a positive aspiration. If we can look directly at the anger, it can really help to loosen it up realizing that it is just another passing, impermanent emotion But it takes some time to cultivate that stability in meditation. On the other had, it might be helpful to look at the discomfort you feel when anger arises. I wish you the best with this as I know anger’s not easy to dispel but it’s possible with time and practice.

  • anne tula

    thanks for this thoughts..i guess i’ve really awaked in my nightmare dreams..it helps me to realized all the things that i wont never ever do it again..i was thinking before that i only feel this kind of feelings..but when i found out this..wow!i mean it was splash on my face to realized what i’ve done before..and really i was so thankful to this page..

  • vik

    This solution are extremely help full….thanks….

  • vik

    Nano tassa bhagavato arahato Samma Sam buddhassa…..

  • smart

    Get High Quality Anger and Self Improvement PLR eBooks And Courses At digimonial.com/self-improve