This is an excerpt from my new book: Conscious Men, which I have co-authored with John Gray.
What happens when we get angry? Because anger often bypasses rational thought, we may react instinctively in ways that helped us survive in the far distant past but are now counterproductive. In dangerous times, anger could intimidate, control, or stop an enemy by displaying the willingness or intent to become violent. In this manner, anger was a primitive form of communication.
We do the things we most regret when we are angry. Anger is activated by the back part of the brain, the reptilian brain – the seat of the fight or flight response – and often inhibits our ability to make rational decisions from the prefrontal cortex. So without some conscious training, when a man gets angry, he is most likely to do and say things that will not only cause him pain, but cause pain to others as well. This then later causes him to realize that he made a bad decision.
The good news is that containing anger a skill you can practice and be successful at. Here are great some practices for maintaining anger in healthy ways:
When you notice that you are provoked by any outside stimulus and you have been taken over by anger, the key is to simply say something simple like, “I am feeling a little thrown off center; give me a minute.” Another way to say this would be, “I really need some time to think about what you are saying, so let’s take some time out.” Taking a little time allows you to fully digest the gift of the anger without it turning immediately into action. This is the most essential key to great leadership.
When the blood is no longer flowing to the front part of your brain, you cannot hear what that person is saying to you anyway. They are angry, you are getting angry, you are slipping into reactive mode, and you need to find a way to pull yourself out of it. Do not phrase it like this: “I’ve had enough of this BS. I’m out of here.” We have both tried that too, and it did not work quite as well.
The Empowerment Process
Anger prevents you from thinking clearly, being able to learn lessons, correcting yourself, and hearing another’s point of view. Fight or flight bypasses all of that and takes you into immediate action without thinking. After you have taken your time, and you are alone, take a paper or a journal, and go through these steps of the empowerment process. You can also call a buddy to go through this with you.
1. Write down what you are angry about. You can recall other times when you felt angry in the same way, and express yourself in as complete and uninhibited a way as possible. No one is going to be affected by it or hurt by it. Express yourself without any repression. Ask yourself:
What made me angry?
Why did I feel angry?
When else have I felt angry in a similar way?
What is it that I want?
2. Take some time to wait for the answers to come. The more you shift from being angry to recognizing what you want to create for yourself and others, you will feel more energy flowing, and the anger will dissipate. The anger was the frustration of not getting the outcome you wanted. Keep dropping to deeper levels, allowing destructive desires to morph into positive ones: “I hate them… I want to quit… I want them all to go away… I want peace… I want to be respected… I want my gifts to be seen… I want to give my gifts…”
3. Now drop deeper to a sense of deserving.
What is it about my intention that is reasonable?
What do I deserve to have? What do others deserve to have?
What is it that is good for me and others to have?
4. Now drop into a sense of “Yes I can have that. We can have that.” This increases your confidence and ability to take leadership.
This process will shift you from anger to constructive action and also build others’ trust in you.
Celebrate Pure Energy
When you are really angry, it also makes you feel very alive. When you step away from the situation, and go away on your own, you can discover that you have a lot of energy in your body. Sometimes it can be very helpful just to let that energy move.
Arjuna says: There was a time in my life when I had shut down any possibility of getting angry. I had become a wimp. I found ways to get friendly with my primal power, and it helped me a lot. You can growl, you can beat a cushion, or you can hit a punching bag. The idea is not exactly to get something out, as though you are doing some sort of colonic. Instead, the idea is just to come alive with it and to enjoy it. You are celebrating your aliveness. To get good at this, you have to completely let go of the story by exploring your body.
Anger explodes through the top of your head and fills you with light. You can think of it like a thermometer. When you are caught up in the story, the story keeps the temperature at about 50 degrees. If you let go of the story and increase the anger without any story, you can push the liquid in the thermometer up to the 70 degree mark. If you can increase it even more (some people even like to have a baseball bat and a cushion in their room, so they can go crazy), you can push the liquid in the thermometer up to the 90 degree line. If you push through even more and forget everything about why you are angry, you can fully enter into anger for the enjoyment of it. Then you can cause the liquid to burst through the top of the thermometer and to cascade down the sides. If you can allow energy to explode in this way, close your eyes and notice that you are now completely full of light. That is a wonderful way to allow anger to fully move through you so that it becomes light and love. It is a completely non-cerebral process.
From Conscious Men by John Gray and Arjuna Ardagh. You can order on Kindle or as a paperback on Amazon here.