I’ve been angry this week. Pretty much all week. I’m usually a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-raging-temper-then-it’s-over kinda gal but this week I’ve been holding on to my red mist/black cloud for dear life. Stuff has happened. People have not played nicely. I’ve been properly pissed off.
But today I woke up and thought right, enough of this. Time to let it go.
90 seconds of hell
Apparently that’s all it takes. According to brain researcher, author and TED talker Jill Bolte Taylor, it takes “less than 90 seconds” for an emotion to get triggered, surge chemically through the blood stream, then get flushed out – but only if you let it go.
Problem is you don’t, do you? You hold on to it. Or you resist it completely and it sits there, festering. Resisting anger/fear/pain sucks. It sucks energy and it sucks time and if you let it, it slowly sucks your life away.
Be with the feeling
Often rather than deal with uncomfortable emotions (anger, fear, guilt, pain) you avoid (drink wine, watch TV, engage in a little online retail therapy). But if you pay full attention to the emotion, feel it, acknowledge it – all without judgement or ‘shoulds’, it will dissipate. Sure, it may come back, but you’re in charge. Just repeat the process and 90 seconds later, it’ll be gone again.
Know it’s coming – physical signs and triggers
Listen to your body – chances are it’s giving you physical signs that the emotion’s on its way such as a tensed jaw, increased heart rate, palpitations, a tightening in the throat. Whatever your physical signs, these are your body’s alarm bells so pay attention. Also, know your triggers. If you’re meeting someone who is renowned for running late and lack of punctuality really pisses you off, be prepared and ready to manage the anger.
Breathe and vocalise the feeling
Take some slow, steady breaths to deliver a healthy dose of calming oxygen to the brain. Next, focus on what you’re feeling. Then vocalise it. Don’t judge, just say something like “I’m starting to get angry” or I’m feeling anxious about this”. Labelling your feelings buys you time and allows the logical bit of your brain to weaken the fight or flight response.
Meditate like Richard Gere
Richard Gere reckons meditation helps us access the space between thoughts and helps us restrain our impulsive emotional reactions. He uses a lovely analogy to explain this: we may be all stormy on the surface but meditating strengthens our ability to access the calm water below. And remember, a daily meditation practice doesn’t need to be a chore – see my post on meditation frustration for a few tips.
Anyway, Richard finishes his little video on a nice note, so I’m going to steal it. You can’t stop thoughts, but you can stop your attachment to them. It’s the same with emotions.
Anger – I’m sorry. We’ve had our moments but the moments have passed. I don’t want to rock the boat but it’s anchors up for you. Off you go on your stormy way. I’ve got some deep sea diving to do.