Breathe Deeply – and let go of anger

We don’t always respond ideally, but that doesn’t mean we should continue acting stupid if that was our first instinct.

We humans are a messy bag of emotions. We like to think we are rational beings, but the reality is, our brains are at the mercy of the stimulus around us, our conditioned responses to those stimulus and whatever chemicals may currently be in our system as a result of the food we just ate, drugs taken or disease.

What this means is that despite our best intentions, we don’t always respond “ideally” under stress. But just because our first response to something isn’t ideal doesn’t mean we should dig in and be extra special stupid by doubling down on the stupid to justify our initial response.

If you want to be rational, here’s how you do it. When you notice that you behaved badly, note it and decide to behave differently going forward.  Is this easy? No. It requires self-reflection which is a habit that must be practiced. The good news is that the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.

How do you practice it? When you notice, yourself experiencing a negative emotion, have compassion for yourself. Yes, you heard me! Compassion isn’t just for other people, it’s for yourself.  Feel compassion for yourself and the negative emotion. It’s amazing how quickly this helps you get out of the negative emotion and into a more rational head space.  Once you do this – take a deep breath – from the belly (one of my therapists told me we hold stress in our belly muscles – I have no idea if it is true or not, but I do find doing this helps me to relax).  Once you have felt compassion for yourself and taken a breath, you can now think about the person who made you upset or triggered you or whatever. Think of them with compassion. Are they a demon? No. They are a frail flawed human.  Feel sorry for them and let go of the anger that you were experiencing.

Does this work?  Sometimes. It’s one of those skills that has to be practiced. What you will notice when you start is that it’s kind of hard to do. But if you practice it, it will get easier and will eventually become a habit. And once it’s a habit, you will find that even though you have your moments, you recover from them more easily instead of digging that hole deeper and deeper.

If you want to learn more about how to control your anger, take this course by Dr. Leon Seltzer.

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