|Gimme Three Steps to Anger Management (inspired by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song, Gimme Three Steps)
Let’s start out with three short stories that really speak to the heart of the problem of anger. Then we’ll continue with the three steps to controlling your anger through a powerful technique using mindfulness. So, here’s the first short story:
Gimme Three Stories…
Story #1: Letting Go
In How to Let Go of Unresolved Conflict, the author shared this Bill Clinton story about Nelson Mandela:
“Mandela made a grand, elegant, dignified exit from prison and it was very, very powerful for the world to see. But as I watched him walking down that dusty road, I wondered whether he was thinking about the last 27 years, whether he was angry all over again. Later, many years later, I had a chance to ask him. I said, ‘Come on, you were a great man, you invited your jailers to your inauguration, you put your pressures on the government. But tell me the truth. Weren’t you really angry all over again?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I was angry. And I was a little afraid. After all I’ve not been free in so long. But,’ he said, ‘when I felt that anger well up inside of me I realized that if I hated them after I got outside that gate then they would still have me.’ And he smiled and said, ‘I wanted to be free so I let it go.’ It was an astonishing moment in my life. It changed me.”
Story #2: The Burden
Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the roadsides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk across because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks approached her, then lifted her and left her on the other side of the road. He then continued his way to the monastery.
In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, “Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman.”
The elder monk answered “yes, brother.”
Then the younger monk asks again, “but then Sir, how is it that you lifted that woman on the roadside?”
The elder monk smiled at him and told him “I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her.”
Read More Zen Stories, Click Here
Story #3: Nothing Exists
Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.
Desiring to show his attainment, he said: “The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received.”
Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.
“If nothing exists,” inquired Dokuon, “where did this anger come from?”
Read More Zen Stories, Click Here
Anger can be very self-defeating and destroy relationships, hopes, dreams, opportunities, and friendships. As Zen tradition says, it is one of the three poisons of the mind, along with greed and ignorance. We need effective ways to deal with anger.
I developed a mindfulness exercise (click here to download full version) which is very powerful and can help in changing your anger patterns—perhaps not at once, but over time. Everyone can get angry.
“Yet even highly realized masters admit they sometimes get angry. This means that for most of us, not getting angry is not a realistic option. We will get angry. What then do we do with our anger?” (What Buddhism Teaches About Anger, Barbara O’Brien)
Gimme Three Steps…
And You’ll Never See Anger No More
Step 1: Watch…see your anger, feel your anger, hear your anger, touch your anger by connecting with your body. Feel the tension developing in your muscles as they tighten. Feel the adrenaline pumping up your heart rate. Simply—or not so simply as the case may be—you need to become mindful of the anger stirring inside of you. Watch every aspect of the anger in your mind and body.
Try to say this to yourself: “I am mindful of the anger swelling up inside of me. I can feel its ugly head awakening and rising through my body and mind.”
Step 2: Accept…be completely honest with yourself. Anger many times is the result of an expectation that does not get fulfilled. Sometimes the expectation is repressed and your anger is difficult to understand. Sometimes anger comes from fear. Sometimes it is right in front of you! In either case, you need to give your anger a warm hug. Don’t tell yourself you’re not angry and cover up for your behavior. The reality of anger is that we are always responsible for it. You make yourself angry and you are the only one to blame. You have a choice and anger is an ugly choice. Don’t feed it! Accept it and move on.
Try to say this to yourself: “Come here anger and let me give you a hug. I am accepting you, but I will not give into you. I am acknowledging you before I let you go forever.”
Step 3: Modify… now, let go of your anger, exercise your choice to not let anger build up inside of you. Change your thought from anger to compassion. How? Become compassionate for yourself and what or who you are angry at or with. Develop the same compassion you would have for a wounded animal or a lost child.
Then project that compassion onto yourself to heal your wounds and not inflict anymore mental or physical harm onto yourself or others. We need to cut the head of anger off. We need to pull its seed from your mind so it cannot continue to grow. It’s not easy, but remember… what you can control is your reaction in this moment.
Try to say this to yourself: “I am changing my thoughts of anger for thoughts of compassion. I am like a wounded dog. I feel compassion for myself and I spread it to everyone around me. This is awakening me to an opportunity to grow.”
Give yourself these three stories and three steps the next time, anger shows its ugly head. You have the tools and skill now to pull the seed from your mind.
To learn the technique attend a workshop or download the ebook version of The Ten Paradoxes FREE at www.wheresmyzen.com/books.
Paul Harrison AIA
aka Master Nomi
Architect, Author, Creator of the Zen Advantage Program™ (ZAP)