As a little girl, I learned that expressing anger was bad.
So I turned it inwards, which resulted in depression and shame. Boys learn that being angry is better than being vulnerable.
In our society, we see others spewing anger on social media. Endless blame games fester between political parties. Or, on a smaller scale, an unempathetic customer service agent makes our blood boil.
My husband Loïc and I have learned painful lessons about anger in our once toxic relationship. It amazes us that love doesn’t always conquer (at least not immediately).
So, how could we expect whole nations to find peace? In daily life, we all constantly feel divided and disconnected from each other.
How do we deal with anger from a spiritual perspective to foster harmony in the world?
Acknowledging the emotions behind anger
We easily forget during a dispute that anger hides other emotions.
On the surface level, a person’s furious expression makes us want to retaliate or curl up in a ball.
Anger boosts our heart rate and causes an adrenaline rush. It’s a survival mechanism that prepares us to attack when we feel threatened.
So, seeing someone express their anger naturally fires up our survival mechanism as well. Our fight-or-flight response serves to protect us, after all.
But fighting back with a rude remark escalates the argument. Running away can keep us safe for a while, but that doesn’t solve the problem.
In mindfulness meditation, we learn that acknowledging all emotions is key to make peace with ourselves. The same goes for our relationships with others.
We have to muster up the courage to look underneath the surface. Anger can manifest when we feel:
- boundaries have been crossed
When Loïc exploded in anger, my whole body would automatically stiffen. The shouting felt unbearable.
At the time, I didn’t realize that these awful experiences reminded me of arguments with my father. My inner child trembled with fear. All I could do was either recoil or yell back—Loïc and I took hours to calm down.
Just when we thought we were ready to have a discussion, we found that our fight-or-flight response still controlled us. One crude phrase set off the other.
To my horror, my beloved suddenly became my enemy. I had become his enemy as well. How could it be?
We both felt terribly hurt and misunderstood.
Finding a bridge between our stories
Over the years, we got better at remembering that each of us has a vulnerable core.
Buddhist teachings call this part of ourselves bodhichitta—it’s the basic goodness that connects us with all living things. We can also say it’s our true nature.
Our tender heart feels so vulnerable that we do everything we can to protect it, even if that means sabotaging ourselves and loved ones.
When my husband and I gasp in disbelief at the other’s remark, we try to remember with all our might our bodhichitta. Underneath the surface, there’s a small child, who feels hurt and afraid. We search for common ground.
Breathing deeply, we acknowledge our hurts, our capacity to be torn apart in 2 seconds. Our fragile existence.
As scary as it may be, we lay down our weapons.
Then, each of us calmly shares our story, while the other listens intently. We listen to the pain of our enemy. Our own pain might cry out, impatient for our attention.
We make room for all of the pain, without getting caught up in it. Slowly but surely, we reveal the false assumptions, expectations and unmet needs.
We breathe through the addictive desire to be right. There’s always an aha moment when we unearth the bridge between our stories. What surprises me the most:
We all do hurtful things to protect our vulnerable selves. Each of us lives in our own story.
Emotional wounds need urgent care. Oftentimes, we need to feel understood at least a little before we can extend compassion to others.
We ideally join hands with our enemy and take a leap of faith together, knowing that we could be wounded again. To our ego, it might even be the final blow.
But on the other side, we foster peace and understanding.
Trusting the universe to catch us
Loïc and I aren’t perfect at this practice, of course.
It’s a lifelong endeavor. Anger teaches us to return to ourselves to acknowledge our fears, over and over.
Once we embrace our fears, we realize that we don’t have much to lose. Because the universe is waiting to catch us below the cliff. We can afford to seek the basic goodness in our enemies.
Our resilience builds over time. Each time we breathe into our fears, we find strength to have faith and move forward.
By doing our inner work, we can hope to inspire others to do the same—and create a better world together.
P.S. Would you like some free support? Get quick stress relief in a free EFT Tapping session in exchange for a short interview. Learn more.
Annie Moussu is a certified EFT Tapping Master Practitioner helping women build confidence, set boundaries & enjoy healthy relationships. Get her free EFT meditation & guide for people-pleasing.
Further reading to deal with anger in relationships: