Today I let anger overwhelm me. It began as a simple inconvenience that snowballed, rather quickly I am ashamed to say, into a blinding anger. In his book, The Buddha Walks Into A Bar…A Guide To Life For A New Generation, Lordo Rinzler calls these “afflicted emotions” The Incredible Hulk Syndrome. The Sanskrit word is actually klesha (not in any way to be confused with the pop singer Ke$ha – don’t laugh the first few times I read the word I was convinced he was talking about her).
I was in the mall today and I was ready to leave when a typical Florida thunderstorm dumped sheets of sideways rain. I was trapped in the mall. In the grand scheme of things this is no big deal and an expected occurrence on any given afternoon during the Florida summers. But, I was headed to meet the person I’m currently dating and I didn’t want to keep them waiting. So this minor set back began to irritate me and make me apprehensive. I finally ran to my car, getting quite wet in the process, which started the tiny snowball rolling down the mountain.
It just got worse from there. I hit every red light between the mall and home. No matter what lane I traveled in I was behind a slow driver. The snowball gained in size and momentum. By the fifth red light I became aware of my anger bubbling. By the eighth red light my clothes were starting to rip and my green skin was starting to show. When I finally met my date I was in full Hulk mode. It was when I snapped at him in the first five minutes of being together that I realized I had to take a step back. What was I so angry about? I needed a few minutes to myself to figure this out.
As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, “Why Am I Angry?“, my anger generally stems from a perceived lack of control. And I was definitely not in control today. I couldn’t control the rain, I couldn’t control the other drivers, I couldn’t control the traffic lights. The only thing I could control was my reactions to these uncontrollable forces, and I failed in that arena as well. The Incredible Hulk was in full swing; tearing up my emotional stability.
When I finally stepped away, I took my dogs into the back yard and I stood on my back steps. I always know I am out of control with my emotions (anger specifically) when my dogs irritate me. If I’m mad at them I am being completely irrational. When I yelled at Lizzy, my black poodle mix, because she wasn’t going to the bathroom fast enough, I knew I’d reached my breaking point.
I stopped everything. I apologized to my dogs, I closed my eyes and took three deep breaths. I filled my lungs completely and emptied them. The breaths were slow and deliberate. I tilted my head upward and opened my eyes toward the sky. I tried to bring all five senses to bare in this healing meditation. I allowed myself to feel the concrete steps under my feet. I could feel the grit and the heat of the day on my heels, toes, and the balls of my feet. I felt the breeze on my skin and I saw the trees billowing as the wind rustled through their branches. I smelled the rain on the air and watched as the dark cloud floated across the sky. I forced myself to stay in the moment. When I felt the anger trying to push forward I looked back to the clouds and took another slow deep satisfying breath.
Within five minutes of beginning this gentle meditation the rain clouds had drifted out of my field of vision to reveal a clear blue sky. Just as quickly as the thunderous clouds vanished so had my turbulent temper. I should have taken a brief moment to clear the anger earlier but my judgement was clouded. I went back inside with the “girls” (my dogs) and I apologized, rather effusively, to my date. Luckily he is a reader of my blog (and often my proofreader and critic) so he understood and forgave me easily.
I am lucky to have forgiving people around me. If I did not my anger could lead me to lose the people I care about. The lesson I take from this is to make sure I douse the flames of my anger quickly. I need to make sure that my Bruce Banner doesn’t have the chance to become the Hulk. The easiest way to do this is to find your breath and find your perspective. Very rarely is the object of our anger worth the lack of control we suffer. I know for me it is not.
How to you stop your anger from getting out of control? How do you control your Hulk? Don’t let anger or any emotion cause you to lose control. Our emotions are neither good nor bad; positive nor negative. It is our reaction to those emotions that take on good or ill connotations.
Always try to remember Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice, “Smile, breathe, and go slowly”. This can extinguish your emotional flames before they are uncontrollable.