Anger is my Achilles heel. In my memoir Finding Venerable Mother, I talked a lot about my struggle with letting go of anger. The first time I heard Venerable Dhammananda speak, she spoke of anger. “We cannot solve anything with anger. Anger doesn’t lead us anywhere. It is much harder to practice loving kindness and compassion. That is the goal of Buddhism.” Her words resonated deeply with me, and I felt immediately drawn to her.
It’s no surprise that Venerable Dhammananda and I talked about coping with anger in the latest Casual Buddhism. Recently, I got very angry with a close friend who held an opposing political view. We were in a museum, waiting to see an exhibit. I felt my anger rising, my insides twisting like a loaded spring until I exploded with an intensity that shocked me. Afterward, I felt terrible, and the next day I brought her flowers to apologize. “That wasn’t very Buddhist of you,” my friend commented. We laughed and made up.
I was curious, what could I learn from this experience and what could I do differently? I began to question myself. How did I lose it? What were the warning signs? This recent incident wasn’t the first time my friend had defended her position. It always made me mad, but I had never said anything until I reached my boiling point. Caught like a trapped animal, I was no longer in control of my feelings and simply exploded.
When I explained my situation to Venerable Dhammananda, she laughed, “This happens to all of us, even the great masters. When someone expresses an opposing opinion, naturally, we disagree.” She suggested three helpful tips to cope with our anger when we are triggered.
- Take a deep breath.
- Anchor within yourself.
- Try to understand the issue from her viewpoint to see where she stands.
I understand the first two suggestions, but I struggle with number three. How many of us pause and stop to appreciate the other person’s viewpoint? Especially when we disagree with them? That’s hard. If I were to have responded differently, I would have taken a deep breath before opening my mouth.
The bigger question is how do we catch ourselves when we are triggered? Venerable Dhammananda said that meditation could help us. Over time, with practice, we can begin to train ourselves to be aware of our thoughts and feelings. The more we begin to recognize our patterns, the easier it becomes to observe rather than react in the moment.
I know for sure—when we are more compassionate with ourselves, we are more accepting of others. Anger happens and we need to forgive ourselves for losing our cool. We aren’t perfect, and never will be; we can simply learn from our mistakes and continue to move forward.
When was the last time you got angry and how did you feel afterward?
What would you do differently next time?
Post your thoughts on anger and offer suggestions or questions for Venerable Dhammananda on my Facebook page, or via my contact page. Read my story about anger in Finding Venerable Mother. Buy it from the seller of your choice here.