How to Not Let Your Anger Control You

The following was taken from a talk by Thich Nhat Hanh.  While not exactly word for word, it is very close.  I found it very helpful and maybe you will too.

You say you want to control your anger, but controlling anger is like suppressing anger. To suppress the anger means that it is always there.  So, rather than suppressing the anger, you need to transform the anger.

img_2307The antidote to anger is compassion.  There is no other way. But how do you generate compassion?  You generate compassion by recognizing suffering. The suffering in the one with whom you feel anger is the cause of the action and words that make you suffer.  The anger in him waters the anger in you and the anger in him waters the violence in you.

When you understand your own suffering you can understand the suffering of the other person. It is only compassion that can transform the anger and violence.  The work of compassion is to look into your own suffering and the suffering of the other person and try to understand the cause. This is the way to generate the energy of compassion.

There are those who think we can take the take of anger out of us like a surgeon. But you cannot do that with anger. You cannot take anger out of you; you can only transform it to something else.  Anger can be transformed into understanding and compassion.

There are those who try to take it out. There are those who advise you to vent it out. They tell you to go to your room, lock your door, and punch or hit your pillow – 10 minutes or 15 minutes. They believe that Top-12-Bird-Photographers-in-the-World-Alan-Murphy-Scissor-tailed-Flycatcher-20this will take the anger out of you. They think it is safer to hit the pillow than the other person. But this doesn’t really work. Rather than getting it out, it can make your anger stronger because it is like rehearsing the anger.

It is good to get in touch with your anger. The Buddha teaches that this is good but to do this the Buddha teaches us to breathe in, get in touch with your anger, and embrace it tenderly.  Look deeply into your anger.

In the practice of pounding the pillow, you don’t get in touch with your anger. Instead, you are a victim of your anger. You are not in touch with your anger and you are not in touch with the pillow.  You are only hitting it. In fact, if you are really in touch with your pillow you know you are only hitting a pillow and it is funny to hit a pillow because a pillow is innocent. So if you can’t get in touch with a pillow by hitting the pillow you can’t get in touch with your anger by hitting it.

Anger Becomes the Object of Mindfulness

Buddha recommends that you come home to yourself, recognize the anger, and hold it with mindfulness. This is called the mindfulness of anger.  To understand mindfulness, you must know that mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. When I drink my tea and become aware that I am here and now drinking my tea, that is mindfulness of drinking. And when I breathe mindfully, that is mindfulness of breathing. And when I walk mindfully, that is mindfulness of walking. So when I come home to myself and recognize my anger and hold my anger, my anger becomes the object of mindfulness. It becomes the mindfulness of anger.

falling-leavesThere are two energies. The first is the energy of anger. The second energy is the energy of mindfulness.  And in order to have this energy, you have to practice breathing and walking mindfully. With the second energy, you recognize the first energy and embrace it tenderly, not suppressing it. Instead, embrace it tenderly like a mother embracing her suffering baby. And when the energy of mindfulness is embracing the energy of anger, you suffer less. It’s like the sunshine embracing the lotus flower and the lotus flower gets the energy to bloom.

When you use the energy of mindfulness to embrace your anger, you suffer less, you get relief. If you look more deeply and find the cause of your anger it may be that it is your wrong perception or your lack of capacity to see the suffering of the other person. If you can identify your wrong perception or you can see the suffering of the other person, suddenly that vision and understanding make compassion arise and you can transform.

This practice always works.

If you would like to see the talk for yourself, here is the YouTube link:

If you would like to know more about Tich Nhat Hahn, take a moment and look at an interesting interview Oprah Winfrey had with him in 2013: