4 Ways To Let Go Of Anger
“Holding on to anger,” said the Buddha, “is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
I don’t know about you, but I feel the venom coursing through my veins when I’m ticked off, tightening all my muscles, activating the sympathetic nervous system to prepare for the gorilla that is not about to attack me, and tagging my amygdala (fear center), saying, “You’re it!”
For me, anger can be a good thing, a sign that I’m alive and I’m invested in this world. I guess I’m feeling well enough lately that unkind remarks bother me more, things that I would have never cared about back when I was doing death math all the time, not paying attention to what came out of people’s mouths because my sole focus was on getting to the grave.
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But holding on to resentment is no good either, the broken record that keeps on playing the same tune over and over, and it’s not Let It Go from Frozen.
My good friend and writing mentor, Mike Leach, called me up yesterday and said, “I have never seen you use so many capitalized letters and exclamation points in a piece. Are you okay?”
I knew it was time for the Angry Octopus.
Angry Octopus is a 15-minute meditation for children, one of four stories on a CD called Indigo Ocean Dreams, by Lori Lite. My daughter and I would listen to it almost every night two years ago when she was having major sleep issues. The first time I heard it I laughed hysterically. But when I realized it could do my brain some good I paid more attention. Unlike Homer’s Odyssey, this was a story in which I could actually follow the plot.
This octopus wakes up to find his seashell rock garden is a mess. The lobsters traveling across the ocean floor have bumped into it and destroyed it. He is furious. He feels all of his muscles getting tighter and is so irate that he thinks he is going to explode. And then he does! He releases a purplish-black ink into the water.
The poor ocean creature is frustrated and doesn’t like that he is not in control of his body or feelings.
A sea child (mermaid? Still haven’t figured that out) swims by and asks him why he is so angry and why he is sitting in a dark cloud on such a beautiful day. After his five-minute psychiatric intake, which I have no doubt was not covered by insurance, she says to him, “I will show you how to be the boss of your body and your anger.”
Focus On the Breath
First they work on his breathing. She tells him to breathe in through his nose and out through his mouth, taking deep, slow breaths.
This is good advice, because of all the automatic functions of the body — cardiovascular, digestive, hormonal, glandular, immune — only the breath can be controlled voluntarily. The sea child doesn’t quite explain it that way to the octopus, or quote Richard P. Brown, MD, and Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD, but I am going to inject this part because what they write in their book, The Healing Power of the Breath, is quite interesting: