I’m just a little bit angry today. At AT&T (for not fixing my landline for nearly two weeks), at Time Warner (for raising our TV and Internet rates again), at my husband’s medical insurance (for inadequate coverage of his crucial glucose test strips), at some close relatives for not taking my advice about health matters, and at my hair (because it’s barely three weeks and it needs to be re-dyed).
With all those annoying issues stirring me up, this is a good time for me to have read a new book titled Mindful Anger: A Pathway to Emotional Freedom by Andrea Brandt (with Brookes Nohlgren).
Becoming more mindful of all our gut-level emotional reactions is a great psychological habit that is also good for us physiologically. Learn to allow your brain time to kick in and make sense of what otherwise leaves you helpless with rage. Step back and get some perspective.
Once one recognizes what’s going on inside one’s body and mind, a morning’s anger may become tonight’s understanding. Someday maybe even cause for a wry chuckle. No need to ramp up the cortisol and tighten our arteries.
Brandt, an experienced psychotherapist and expert on anger issues, discusses how unleashing the anger you feel, letting it get out of control, helps no one. Nor does repressing your true feelings, turning passive-aggressive, perhaps even getting sick. So what do you do? Become mindful.
“Mindfulness,” Brandt explains, is “a thoughtful and intense focus on the present moment in which we allow sensations and feelings to reveal themselves without judgment. By quieting our mind, we can focus on the present and explore what our body, mind, and emotions are trying tell us.”
This is not an academic tome, but rather a reader-friendly self-help book, complete with questions, anecdotes, lists of types of anger and types of angry people, exercises, and so on.
Here’s a sample of Brandt’s easy-to-follow approach, from a section in which she explores typical problems encountered by people learning mindfulness:
Free Yourself by Facing Down These Mindfulness Obstacles:
1. You can’t get into being mindful. It’s not unusual to feel anxious or resistant to “exploring your inner world,” says Brandt. Nothing may come up when you try peering inward, if you’re not used to doing so. It gets easier with practice. Meanwhile, try to think about what being blocked feels like. (Ages ago, a therapist [or two] would ask me, “What are you feeling right now?” and I couldn’t answer. Retroactively, I can guess I felt self-conscious, on the spot, anxious that I wasn’t going to get what I needed from the hour, unsettled by the new kind of question, and so on.)
2. You try to control your experience. Some people aren’t used to relaxing and letting feelings come up naturally. No judgments or expectations. “If you keep your approach neutral, you’ll open the doors to honesty—there is no need for shame or defensiveness, for guardedness or withholding the truth.”
3. You don’t want to change your story. We all have preconceived ideas about where we are in our lives. Telling the same negative story about your life may keep you mired in victimhood. “Slow down to see what’s going on inside.”
Keep this valuable piece of advice in mind, as well: “Overreacting in the present is a clue that there might be unresolved issues from the past.”
Hmm, looking back at my first paragraph, it just occurred to me that maybe my extreme frustration with the time-wasters in my life has at least as much to do with my own irritation at my own time-wasting. I suppose if one is as productive as one would like to be, one wouldn’t get quite so annoyed at the necessary trials of dealing with bureaucracies in a complex society. (Score a point for mindfulness.)
See Dr. Brandt’s bloghere.