Anger Management

Eyes wide open. Cheeks flush. Heart palpitation accelerates at an alarming speed. Nostrils flare up. Breathing quickens. Body heats up.

I am angry. I am frustrated. I am anxious.

Growing up, I was constantly reminded of my anger management issues at school and home. There were countless days spent in detention because of my inability to conform to rules and regulations. I was labelled as a troubled kid. I thought of myself to be a troubled kid. And so, I wanted to be better. I wanted to be liked by my peers, teachers, and family members.

In my senior year at high school, a classmate asked my emotionless form class teacher, “Why don’t you show anger or frustration when you are provoked? You seem nonchalant.” Her reply, “I have learned to build walls around myself. If something upsets me, I simply put a wall up to protect myself from feeling that emotion. This way, I will never have to feel sad, angry, upset, etc.” The classroom went silent.

Over the next many years, I would put this teaching to practice. Whenever an unpleasant emotion appeared, I squished it with every ounce of energy I could muster. I would shut my eyes tight, clench my fists, curl my toes in, and still my entire body. I wanted control over my emotions. When I felt they were controlled, I would mentally build blocks around that emotion in an attempt to protect myself from feeling that again. Tears were not allowed, in my past world, because they signified failure — failure to keep myself in check and control myself. I needed to be in control. My mind did, at least. There was a strong belief in me that once my mind gained control of my body, everything will be alright.

Fast forward ten years later, BAM! An almost non-stop onslaught of triggers appear. The mind eventually tires. Emotions surface. Tears flow constantly. Reality hits.

During one of my therapy sessions last year, I spoke about anger. I spent a good chunk of my life suppressing anger because I thought of it to be a negative emotion. Nothing about anger can be good. People would hate me if I were to be angry because they would rather see a happy, bouncy and smily me. Anger brings an individual down, and when that happens, everyone steers clear from that person. I certainly do not want to be that person. I want to be a well-liked person. So no, I will not be an angry person.

Boy, was I dead wrong.

My mentor asked, “So if you see social injustice in male-dominated communities, will you feel angry? If so, is that anger a bad thing? If your boundaries have been crossed, is it wrong to feel angry?” I looked at him in pure astonishment as his words sank in. Tears welled up in my eyes. I understood what he was telling me.

Many of us have been conditioned to think that unpleasant emotions such as anger, anxiety, and frustration are bad. When it surfaces, we simply switch into an auto-pilot mode to squish that unpleasant emotion away. Some of us could run, sleep, eat, drink, cry or just build mental bricks to shield ourselves from that unpleasant emotion. Unless we have been taught how to manage our anger in a mindful way, we would not know how to deal with it otherwise. We know one thing: We want to be happy and free, and this unpleasant emotion is deterring us from feeling blissful. Unfortunately, unpleasant emotions are termed “unpleasant” for a very good reason. They are exactly what they are: unpleasant.

Through my yoga practice, I have come to understand that there are no good or bad labels to emotions. There are only pleasant or unpleasant emotions, and our bodies are intelligent to make a clear distinction between the two. If ever in doubt, just watch your breathing patterns, and you will figure it out. Pleasant emotions are easy to deal with — we are blissful, on cloud 9, smiling, laughing, and forever young. Unpleasant emotions on the other hand are heartbreaking, raw, excruciating, and dark. They touch tender spots in us that makes us feel ripped apart at times. They bring us into a whole different dimension. We see red and black in the fiery temples of pain, leaving us with the choice to stay or run the hell away. Tough choices.

Should we choose to run away, we succumb to burying the pain deeper into ourselves. Once the pain dissipates, we think, “Yes! I’ll be pain free from feeling this emotion!” Little do we realise that we simply masked the emotion into our mental and physical psyche, and they are never gone.

If we choose the latter, we are courageous warriors who are willing to face up to our truths. Not all our truths are pretty and angelic. When we learn to embrace our dark side with compassion and love, we grow as individuals. We understand that it’s perfectly alright to have an unpleasant emotion because no one is really upset at us other than ourselves. The ego that wanted control in the past has to understand that he/she is – the ego. As we start to awaken our senses, we begin to realize that it’s just the ego speaking and not our true self. When we balance both unpleasant and pleasant emotions, our body calms down and we can communicate our truths in a mindful manner without simply reacting recklessly in the situation. The pain never goes away but we can learn to recognize and channel it mindfully.

I wish someone taught me this during my younger days because it’s essential for our survival. Switching to auto-pilot mode, or living an unfeeling life is depressing and unsustainable. We are hindering the growth of our mental and physical psyche, which in turn disallows the maturity of our spiritual psyche. We can constantly run away but unpleasant emotions stay with us forever. This is our body, our experience and our life.