Some people have trouble giving themselves permission to feel anger — it goes “underground,” reappearing in a different disguise, such as depression or free-floating anxiety. Others have a hard time letting go of anger: They feed it because it helps them feel more in control and distracts them from the hurt that lies underneath. They can’t control what happened, but they can control their rage.
Either approach — pushing anger away or feeding it — leads to getting stuck in a form of unhappiness. The key to getting unstuck? Allowing the feeling to be all that it is — not holding anything back — and then relaxing and releasing it so it moves through and away, like a cloud floating through a summer sky.
How do you increase your tolerance for uncomfortable emotions like rage? Help is always available in the form of the loving presence that surrounds us. You can call on the love you’ll find within awareness but outside of thought and offer uncomfortable emotions up to this everywhere love. This love is so vast that it can both hold difficult emotions and dispel them so you can be free and at peace.
When feeling something like this: I’ve been wronged by someone and can’t shake my red-hot anger. Honestly, I don’t know if I even want to. Feeling this rage comforts me in some strange way.
Explore the feeling like this: There are times in every life when we are harmed by another. Sometimes the person meant to harm us, and other times the harm was committed accidentally. Either way, being wronged triggers a feeling of being out of control, which in turn fuels rage.
This meditation helps you tolerate strong emotions until they subside. There’s space for these emotions to move through without doing harm.
- As you close your eyes, sense your breath moving in its natural rhythm. Now slowly scan through your body, beginning at your head and moving downward, noticing the sensations. When you find an area of tightness or holding, gently invite it to release, to soften.
- Now bring to mind the situation in which you were wronged that brings up strong feelings of anger. Play the memory in your mind. With an attitude of curiosity and kindness, sense the emotion as it registers in your body. Notice how it’s felt as a constellation of sensations.
- Gently scan your throat, chest and belly, naming what you observe —tightness, heat, pressure, squeezing, pulling, stabbing, tingling. Receive the experience without judging it or trying to make it different. With a loving attention, invite the emotion to be all that it is. Let yourself feel it fully — not resisting it in any way, not holding back any part of it. Simply allowing.
- At the level of the body, it may feel like an intense weather system moving through. Notice how the sensations arise, stay for a time and then fall away as others arise.
- Begin to widen the lens of awareness to encompass the space outside your body. Expand outwardly until you sense yourself included in the vast space of the outside world. Sense the ground below, trees, sky, the vast area that surrounds you in all directions. Notice the quality of presence that is here, an open and loving awareness. There is room here for the difficult emotion.
- As you let it play out in its own way, offer it to the larger space and release it as fully as you are able to. Relax and release it a little more. Let it dissipate and float away like a passing storm. Rest in this spacious caring presence that holds all.
For audio versions of select meditations, visit PresentHeart.com.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Kindfulness (Buy on Amazon, $12.99).