Some Skillful Ways of Dealing with Anger

Everybody gets angry, and whether it’s expressed or suppressed, it always brings suffering and stress. Happily, the Buddha taught many skillful ways of dealing with anger.

And as Thanissaro Bhikkhu explains in his article Anger, “it’s useful to divide the anger into three parts: one, the object of the anger; two, the anger itself as a mental state; and three, the physical manifestations of the anger. When you can separate them out in this way, anger becomes a lot easier to deal with.”

For example, the article explains:

“When a flash of anger bursts into the mind it really sets our bloodstream churning. All sorts of hormones start coming out, our heart beats in a different way, we breathe in a different way, and a sense of tension or discomfort develops in the body. Our immediate reaction is that we’d like to get that discomfort out of our system. But if we try to get it out of our system in the usual way, which is speaking or acting under the force of the anger, that just compounds the problem.

Also, the physical reaction confuses us. Sometimes we can actually think ourselves into a better perspective about the anger, but the churning of the bloodstream is still going on and it makes us think we must still be angry. That churning of the bloodstream sometimes lasts along time. After all, our bodies are built for the fight-or-flight response, which takes more than just a few seconds if we’re going to fight, more than a few seconds if we’re going to run away. In cases like that, those long-lasting hormones are useful.

Deep Breath - Melanie Weidner

But when you’re trying to overcome the anger in the mind, the lastingness of those hormones is not helpful at all. So make sure to see that the thoughts and the physical symptoms are two separate things. The mind itself may have calmed down somewhat from the anger, but the physical manifestations are still there, obstructing your view of the mind, so you want to deal with them.

Breathe through the tension. Breathe in a way that gets your heartbeat back to normal. Breathe in a way that gets the level of tension in your body back to normal. You might want to think of the tension in your body as flowing out your feet, out your hands. Open up those energy channels so that you’re not carrying this sense of oppression around. That makes the anger a lot easier to deal with, because you feel less burdened, less irritated, less constricted physically.”

To download the entire article by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (PDF format) click here: Anger


About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

3 Responses to “Some Skillful Ways of Dealing with Anger”

  1. I just “saved” the entire article to the computer. thanks Steve.

    michael j


  1. How Loving-kindness Practice and Meditation Can Help with Military Suicides | Metta Refuge - 2011/08/23

    […] Some Skillful Ways of Dealing with Anger […]

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