Don’t look back in anger
The memories feature on Facebook brings me a lot of joy. I like waking up in the morning and seeing the notification waiting for me, ready with a highlight reel from my life two years ago, six years ago, nine years ago. Today was like any of those other days, I woke up, got ready, meditated and enjoyed a cup of tea in the quiet of the morning. After taking time to acclimatise to my day, I started my morning scroll. A status from when I was 17:
“Well, that feels good.” with 3 comments underneath.
I clicked, interested to see what had gone on in my world all those years ago and was immediately slapped in the face by an ugly display of anger. A boy in my class commented a joke which I did not take to well, so I insulted him, spite and anger dripping off the familiar font. He responded in a similar way and there the exchange ended. As I read it in the quiet of my morning, tea in hand, I blinked back tears for how badly my words had affected him. Nine years ago on that very day he probably saw a status and wanted to reach out, make a comment, even make me smile after a bad day. When he saw that I had commented back he was probably excited to see what I had to say, no idea the malicious words that were waiting for him.
I felt sick to my stomach.
The potency of that anger was so strong that nine years later I still felt the aftershock of it. It turned my quiet morning of reflection into a terrible one full of guilt, worry and shame as the ripple effects continued. I put my phone down and closed my eyes, focusing on that boy. I sent him love, kindness and apologies, well-wishing and healing from past wounds. I also thought to myself and forgave the angry girl that I was. It was at a time in my life where I felt that I had no control over myself, I wasn’t healing and was nearly at complete rock bottom, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. The experience I had on this day isn’t a localised one. We have all done and said things that we are ashamed of, it’s part of growing up, but we (especially those in the West) have been taught a very totalitarian way of handling these experiences; self-hatred, self-flagellation and guilt. None of these emotions are positive or benefit the perpetrator, instead they shame and continue the hatred spiral, making the likelihood of messing up again in the future to rise exponentially, therefore making more opportunities for anger and hatred to multiply and spread.
Today, I would like to ask:
What if we spoke to ourselves with love?
What if through Svadhyaya, or self-study, we could work on the responses we give when we feel the rising warmth of anger?
What if, when challenged, we instead looked within ourselves and acknowledged times in our lives where we have felt hurt or betrayed and could see that this person could just be acting out. What if we could see each other for what we really are; children just trying to figure it out.
Below are some self-study prompts which can help you figure out your own relationship with your anger. Like everything, this is an entirely personal journey and maybe nothing/only one thing from below really resonates with you and that is totally okay. Just take these as loving suggestions and see where the path might take you:
What are healthier thought processes?
We cannot help the way we feel.
You cannot help if a situation is triggering for you, but you can help the reaction you put out into the world.
Understand what your triggers are and where they stem from.
Is your trigger when you feel your power/agency has been taken from you? Feeling judged? Not being heard? Catch yourself and consider – why has this experience hurt/triggered me and where does it come from? The experience I shared above was from a place of feeling victimised, let down and isolation, because I now know what hurts me I can focus on healing these delinks within myself.
Reason is no excuse to attack.
Everyone has their cross to bear and having a trigger is not an excuse to attack others for pressing them. We are not all mind readers – not everyone understands/has the capability to appreciate your past traumas, being able to accept this is key to shifting reactivity to actively choosing responses.
Don’t repress your anger.
Any emotion that we ignore will block energy flow and will leave you restricted, unhappy and latching onto the negativity. Accepting that you feel anger and understanding again where the anger is coming from will help you not only deepen your relationship with yourself but with those around you. Feel the emotion, let it wash over you and know that you are not bad for feeling angry, it is what you do with it that counts.
How do I get rid of the anger in a constructive way?
Leave the space and go outside.
Changing your surroundings and moving away from the hostility can help release the anger because you are getting your body moving, shifting the built up energy and expending it through action, not through an angry exchange. Even if its just for a 1 minute lap outside your house/flat, it really helps!
Take some alone time and space.
When I’m angry I often need time completely alone so I can process and understand my triggers. I struggle badly when there are other energies in the room, especially if I’m in a heightened state, because all the bodies are like loud, white noise in my head. Know that you are allowed space and it’s a healthy boundary to give yourself if you are feeling attacked. My go to phrase if I find myself in an angry exchange is “I’m sorry, but I’m feeling very angry right now and I don’t feel I can get across what I want to, so I need some space to think.” Try and come up with some stock phrases you can say when you are angry and need space, because. Sometimes in the moment it’s hard to articulate what you need.
There are some people who won’t let you do this when they are in an angry state and this is disrespectful of your request. If this happens I recommend repeating the statement or leaving the room/building entirely. You can always go back and make up (if the person isn’t toxic to you) so never feel guilty for expressing your needs; you have the right to make clear boundaries and to stick to them.
Do a sweaty workout.
With all that solar energy you’ll be prime for a sweaty vinayasa or even a bikram session. The quick pace will get you out of your head and into your body, ready to let that negativity go.
Invest some time into your hobbies/self-betterment.
If it’s after the immediate bust-up and you’re still feeling pent up, taking time to do the things you love can help soothe and take your mind off the anger. My partner did this during a particularly difficult period in his life. When anxious, stressed or feeling down he would practice guitar, watch coding videos or brush up on an area that he was interested in. Instead of being consumed by the anger, turn it into something positive that has improved your life. Clean your house. Do your tax returns. Plan a holiday.
Strong emotions make good art. See how your anger takes hold in your body and express it in your most preferred way – sing along to a shouty band, paint a stormy sky, dance to ‘F.U.R.B’ by Frankee (it’s a class), practise some angry, dark make-up. Channeling your emotions creatively/physically will not only purge yourself of the negativity but you will have something physical/tangible which has been born from the bad. Working in this way creates new patterns in your brain which tells yourself that not only are negative emotions not bad, but actually they can fuel you to create something new and beautiful, something that other people can relate to.
Remember, you aren’t a monster if you forget yourself and explode. We are all human and that’s why we call it self-study; it’s a study, not a ‘should already know’. Be forgiving with yourself and kind, because some grooves are so deep it can feel impossible to shift them. Just remember that you are trying, you are shifting and you are making space for more positivity to come into your life. Trust me, it’s so worth it.