Some people have trouble giving themselves permission to feel anger — it goes “underground,” reappearing in disguises ranging from depression to anxiety. Others have a hard time letting go of anger: They feed it in order to stay in control or distract themselves from a hurt that hasn’t healed. They can’t control what happened, but they can control their rage.
Either approach — pushing anger away or feeding it — leads to a rut of unhappiness. The key to getting unstuck? Allowing the feeling to just be calling on the loving presence that surrounds us, not holding anything back — and then relaxing and releasing it so that it moves through and away, like a cloud floating across a summer sky.
How do you increase your tolerance for uncomfortable emotions like rage? By summoning them through awareness and offering them to the vast loving presence that surrounds us. No matter what you call this presence, it’s capable of holding and dispelling difficult emotions — 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 curiosity and kindness, sense the emotion as it registers in your body. Notice how it feels as a physical sensation.
- 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 loving attention, invite the emotion to just be. Let yourself feel it fully — don’t resist it or hold back any part of it.
- At the body level, it may feel like an intense weather system is moving through. Notice how sensations arise, stay for a time, and then fall away as others arise.
- Begin to widen the lens of awareness to include the space outside your body. Expand outwardly until you sense yourself in the vast space of the outside world. Sense the ground below. Sense the trees, the sky, and 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 the difficult emotion to the larger space, and release it as fully as you are able. Relax and release it a little more. Let it dissipate and float away like a passing cloud. Rest in this spacious caring presence that holds all.
For audio recordings of select mindfulness meditation practices, please visit Dr. Ferretti’s website Present Heart.
For an introduction to loving-kindness meditation from our sister magazine:
For more guided meditations from Dr. Ferretti:
Dr. Louise Ferretti is a clinical neuropsychologist serving children and families in western New York. She has been exploring mindfulness and heart-opening practices for over 20 years, with experience in Vipassana and Tibetan meditation traditions. She recently completed the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program developed by Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach. She has taught mindfulness to children living with mental health challenges, and offered heart-opening practices in faith communities seeking a deeper contemplation on love. She’s also Chief Editor of the magazine Kindfulness.
This article originally appeared in Kindfulness (Buy on Amazon, $12.99).
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