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Frenemies No More: Mindfully Extinguish the Flames of Anger

Updated: Apr 21

As a disclaimer, EnvisionCo Blog is reader-supported. Some links on this site are for additional informational purposes whereas some others are affiliate links (don't worry, these will be clearly marked as such). When you click through an affiliate link on our site and sign-up for a service or finalize a purchase, we may earn affiliate commissions. This of course is at no additional cost to you. Additionally, EnvisionCo Blog is for informational and educational purposes only and is in no way intended to be a substitute for therapy by a trained mental health professional.

In our journey toward emotional well-being, we've ventured into the intricate world of anger management. As we've learned, anger is a universal emotion that seeks to alert us when something needs changing. Anger holds significant influence over both our physical and mental states. Last article, we embraced the fire of anger by exploring the inner map of our anger and identifying our triggers and reactions. We also discovered the drawbacks of trying to suppress our anger, haphazardly expressing our anger, and unintentionally fueling the flames of anger by repeatedly rehearsing anger episodes. We closed that article with a call to befriend our anger. Much like we would explore the profile of a person before accepting their friend request on social media, we will explore our own anger profile and how it manifests in our lives. We cannot work with anger mindfully until we become familiar with it in this way. But how do we then navigate our own anger profiles and befriend our anger thus transforming this fiery emotion into a force for positive change? Let's uncover the secrets to taming the fiery beast within and finding serenity amidst the storm.

How Long Does It Take for You to Get Angry?

How long does it take for you to go from 0 to 60mph? The onset of anger refers to the amount of time it takes you to transition from a feeling state of calm to one of anger once triggered. Some people can get angry in literally the blink of an eye. Whereas with some others, there is a slow build up over the course of many hours. Factors that affect our anger onset speed include our temperament (whether we are impulsive/reactive vs. patient and composed); whether we have been down this road before and thus are more sensitive to our readiness to act; whether we are already grappling with other stresses; and whether we have effective stress management strategies for regulating our emotions. When we take the time to notice our onset pattern, we become more attuned with ourselves and our early warning signs before our anger escalates into a full-blown reaction.

How High Does Your Anger Go?

The intensity of our anger refers to the strength of our emotional response. Some people may experience mild irritation or annoyance whereas some others can become enraged or furious. Unique to each individual, there are additional factors to consider. Is the situation being interpreted as a threat to your wellbeing, identity, or values? How emotionally aroused are you? Meaning your heart rate, muscle tension, or adrenaline release. Are there any cognitive distortions at play? Are you magnifying the perceived injustice or offense? We get so used to arguing our distorted thinking points that we forget to pause and argue against them. When we understand what factors contribute to the intensity of our anger, we are better able to develop personalized techniques to keep us from spiraling out of control.

How Long Does It Take for You to Get Over It?

The cooldown is the time it takes you to come down from anger and return to a state of balance, calm, equilibrium. For some people, it is easy to cool down and move on to the next thing. Whereas, some others simmer with resentment and hold on to grudges. Which are you? Do you find that you ruminate, thus fanning the flames of anger by dwelling on past grievances and replaying angry thoughts? Do you have adequate conflict resolution skills and thus are able to effectively communicate your feelings, address underlying issues, and reconcile with others? Do you have a support network (friends, family, religious, mental health professional) who can provide understanding, perspective, and guidance? Having this type of insight to your anger profile can not only help you work mindfully with your own anger but may also be a frame of reference in dealing more skillfully with the anger of others.

Anger Recovery Takes Time

Beware of the refractory period. You can't bypass it. Anger has an adaptive function; it warns us when something needs to change or when something is blocking us. When we become angry, our fight or flight response is triggered. This alert system mentally and physically prepares our bodies for survival. Our bodies literally prepare to respond to a threat (whether real or imagined). Once in this state, a person's ability to reason is diminished. Angry people talk and act without thinking. Ever heard the expression, "blinded by anger"? There is some truth there. You see, the angrier a person becomes, the less likely they are to logically process information. So please know, an angry person is not open to solutions because the reasoning part of their brain is offline so to speak. The body takes about 20 minutes to return to normal after a full fight or flight response. Allowing for this refractory period is a critical part of any anger management strategy. The refractory period lasts from the time the flame ignites until it begins to cool down. You can't bypass this. So if you didn't catch it early before the anger escalates, you have to wait it out.

Befriending Your Anger

Our anger is a part of us that has a role or job in helping us navigate life. It helps us to adapt and survive the world around us. At times, it can become extreme, especially in times of great distress, trauma, or injury. Overall, it's role is to protect us. Shifting our focus from viewing anger as an adversary but as a part of us that serves a protective function in our lives is one way we can begin the process of befriending our anger. But why would we want to befriend this volatile part of ourselves? Why would we do this at all?

The job of our anger is to protect us against anything that will lead to vulnerability, pain, or injury up to and including our deaths. So despite the disruption it can cause, that overarching purpose of anger is to keep us alive and safe physically and mentally. Our anger has a positive intent, and it works hard at its job. It is weird to think of it in that manner, I know. However, once we do, we can release the adversarial approach we have and no longer view anger as a frenemy, we can begin to adopt a more compassionate, curious, nonjudgemental stance. Here's an anger mindfulness meditation to try out.

Begin by finding a quiet and comfortable space where you can sit or lie down in a relaxed posture. Close your eyes gently. Check in with your body, feeling the places where it makes contact with either the chair or floor.

Take a few deep breaths, completely filling your chest with air then completely releasing the breath. Bring your attention to the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your body, using it as an anchor to ground yourself in the here and now.

Think back to a relatively recent time when you experienced anger. Start with something small; you don't need to choose your worst anger episode. Envision and experience what happened, feeling the anger again. Stay within your safe zone.

Often other emotions come up when remembering an angry episode. It could be sadness. It could be fear. If this happens, gently acknowledge their presence and ask that they step aside while you stay in contact with the feeling of anger. You can even let them know that we aren't going to try to change the anger or direct it to stop doing its job. We are just going to sit with it.

Where in your body do you experience anger? Remember to keep taking deep breaths as you explore. Notice how it feels in your body. It might be a tightness in your chest, heat in your face, or a knot in your stomach. Does the sensation increase or decrease in intensity as you notice? Does it change or move? Is it warm or cool? Without judgment, simply observe these sensations as they arise.

Now practice bringing compassion to the anger. This feeling is a normal part of being human. We all experience it at times. See if you can embrace your own anger much like a loving friend or family member embraces another. What happens as you hold it in this way with compassion, tenderness, and care?

When you feel ready, say goodbye to this feeling. Slowly and gently bring your attention back to your breath and stay with it for a while. This will help give your emotions time to settle into the spaciousness of your breath and awareness.

Notice the sensations of your body, the sounds around you, and the feeling of the ground beneath you. Take a few more deep breaths, and when you're ready, gently open your eyes.

Different huh? Yeah, I know. Very few times in our lives do we just sit with ourselves or sit with our feelings in this manner. Remember that mindfulness meditation is a practice, and it's okay if your mind wanders or if you find it challenging to work with your anger at times. With patience and persistence, you can cultivate greater awareness and acceptance of your emotions, leading to a deeper sense of peace and well-being. You can download the Anger Mindfulness Meditation in the EnvisionCo Store to reflect on your insights. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below if you feel comfortable doing so.

Word of caution. If you find that it is challenging when you try the meditation, please know that this is okay and don't try to force it. As I tell my clients, all feelings are valid. If you have difficulty with any other emotions that show up (i.e. sadness or fear) refusing to step aside, this okay. Never would we want to barge past our defenses. This may be an indicator to try this meditation another day or more importantly elicit the help of a trained mental health provider as there may be a deeper issue or concern lurking beneath the surface. And no matter how much I may wish it to be a fix-all, the truth is this blog is for informational purposes only and is in no way a substitute for psychotherapy. So if you have a history of mental illness, if you know or even sense that there are some intense feelings hiding due to a history of trauma, do not try this exercise. Reading about it yes but trying it, no. Please seek out a therapist local to your area.

Help is a click away.

 If you are interested in locating a therapist local to your area, please visit Find a Therapist, Psychologist, Counselor - Psychology Today. Often times, there are providers in your locale that provide in person counseling/therapy sessions. If there are no providers within a 30-50 mile radius to you, do not give up. Some providers in your state offer virtual sessions. If you are in immediate crisis, please contact the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

Though universal, anger is definitely an emotion that can be hard to deal with. It is primal; it often affects our thoughts and feelings; when unleashed in an uncontrolled manner, it can be quite damaging to relationships; and it can lead to harmful consequences (destruction of property, assaults, murders, arrests, legal issues, financial issues, etc.). It can manifest in various forms, from a fleeting irritation to intense rage, and its effects can range from minor discomfort to profound consequences. However, by gaining insight into your anger dynamics, you can develop personalized strategies for managing anger more effectively, fostering healthier relationships and enhancing your overall well-being. Understanding and managing your anger profile is essential for cultivating emotional intelligence and healthy relationships. By engaging in self-reflection, exploring triggers, understanding expression patterns, developing coping strategies, and befriending your anger, you can empower yourself to navigate anger more skillfully and constructively. Please remember that wherever you are on this journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading.

Affiliate Links to Follow:

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"Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath." ~Thich Nhat Hanh


Here at EnvisionCo Blog, we try to keep ads to a minimum making our blog entirely reader-supported. We may feature links on this site for additional informational purposes. From time to time, we may feature other links which are affiliate links (and these will be clearly marked). When you click through an affiliate link on our site and sign up for a service or finalize a purchase, we may earn affiliate commissions. This is of course at no additional cost to you. However, if you like what you see and would like to make a donation to help us keep ads to a minimum, we would greatly appreciate it! Nothing fancy. We accept the price of a cup coffee with as much gratitude as we would the price of a tank of gas!

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