Wednesday, January 27, 2016

9 Steps to Mindfully Deal With Another's Anger

One of the most challenging experiences for many people is handling people who are angry at them. When someone is angry at you and blaming you for something, it can trigger all kinds of internal responses. Some people respond fearfully and want to run away. Others respond fearfully, but then turn it into anger and fight back verbally or physically. Others can freeze up entirely. In many respects, dealing with an angry person can strip us right down to our most basic, animalistic impulses.

But obviously, we can do better. We can offer other people more mindful responses even if they aren't offering the same. If we don't, then we will simply continue the cycles of pain and suffering that are gripping this world.

Cycles of Pain and Suffering

On this note, let's talk about some mindful steps to deal with angry people and potentially shift relationships towards healthier interactions.

What Is Anger?

We all like to believe that we know what anger is, but let me offer my definition for today's post. Anger is a projecting of energy away from the person. Certainly, some people get angry at themselves, but when they do this, they're funneling energy away from some pain point inside and then hitting themselves in a different way. It's like punching yourself in the left arm when you feel a stabbing pain in your right hip. Of course, most people don't realize they're doing this or that there is a deeper pain to face. They're just upset, and they want to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling as soon as possible. So they project their anger out at other people, organizations (Tons of people love to blame the government for all kinds of things), situations, things, and just about anything else you can think of. People will send this energy anywhere they can but the source of the internal pain.

However, I do want to be clear that energy is not uncomfortable. Our resistance to the movement of energy is what is uncomfortable. If a river flows unimpeded, it flows effortlessly. But if you throw a bunch of rocks in the water, soon it becomes frothing. Things get really churned up. As people become more conscious of themselves, they are like a melting river that has long been frozen. The cracking of ice and flowing against rocks creates all kinds of inner friction that wasn't there before. There is a tendency to blame meditation, the spiritual path, your spiritual teacher, God, and anyone else conveniently nearby. People can even be angry at awakening and becoming more conscious!

That's the nature of a lot of anger. We direct it away from the real issue instead of turning towards it to find out what it is really about and what hidden beliefs and old wounds are being triggered.

9 Steps to Dealing With an Angry Person

Oftentimes, there's that one difficult person we have to deal with that triggers us the most. For today's blog post, let's say that person uses anger as their way to vent their upset energy. To be sure, not everyone does this, and many people do it to lesser degrees. But for today, we'll talk about the person who likes to yell and blame you for things that are not your fault or are so tiny of issues that there is no cause for such excessive upset.

Step 1 is to remember to breathe when the situation is actively happening. You cannot think clearly unless you are breathing, and breathing calmly and slowly will help you to remain calm.

Step 2 is to realize that what the person is upset about has nothing to do with you. They may have some amazing stories about what you did or did not do, but when people are that upset (abiding you haven't done intentional, egregious harm to someone or something), it's not a sign that you have done anything wrong. It's a sign of all the things going wrong inside of the person.

Step 3 is to remove yourself from the situation to regain your own inner balance and figure out what you've been triggered about. A lot of times, people get triggered to "fix" the problem that is being shouted at them in the moment. But rarely do angry people want you to fix it. They may act like you should, but really they want the internal thing to stop hurting. They probably do not realize this, and you have no power to fix someone's internal space.

Step 4 is to return to the person and engage with them about the outburst after you both have calmed down. This is appropriate if the person is sober and willing to engage with you about the issue. See if you can create a new way of discussing issues. If the person doesn't want to admit there's a problem, you can talk to them, but don't expect much in the way of mindful engagement. If the person is actively resisting your mindful engagement, then step 4 is a step that you do because it feels true to you as part of speaking your voice.

Step 5 is folded into step 4. In this step, you set boundaries. Especially if someone is physically violent towards you, boundaries are vital. You are not here to be abused! If they are too violent and out of control, then leaving the situation and potentially getting help is critical. Some people need a greater amount of intervention if they are physically violent towards you, others, or themselves, and you don't need to do this on your own. You probably can't if the person doesn't want to see their problems.

Step 6 can occur if the person has meaningfully engaged with you in step 4. In engaging with them, you may have set up words and ways of phrasing to start to change the interactions around outbursts. By this I mean, if someone is having an outburst towards you, you might say, "We've talked about these outbursts before. Please don't project your anger onto me. Can we take a few breaths to figure out the deeper issue?" This is just one way to talk about it. I encourage you to come up with your own non-threatening language with the angry person in your life. Having calmly discussed these things in advance, there may be some space for you to help them shift their focus and energy away from anger. If the person doesn't attempt to engage in a different way, then hold your boundaries whatever those are for you. Return to step 4 later on to continue to discuss things when the person isn't angry.

Step 7 is an ongoing one: do your inner work! The fewer triggers you have inside of you, the less someone's verbal anger can bother you. It's still not fun, but it's more like hot air. It just blows by. As I said, if someone is physically violent, no amount of your inner work changes them, and it is important to safeguard your physical safety.

Step 8 is to reach out to others to help the person if the issue continues and the person continues to be unwilling to change their behaviors. The more out of control someone is, the more external help they may need to see their problems and make changes. You are still not in charge of fixing them, and fighting back only continues cycles of aggression. You can take a stand on things like protecting your children from an abusive spouse, but do your best to do so without elevating your voice or speaking from anger. Getting external help is a step that you should come to if it feels intuitively true. Once again, the angry person is the one at fault so long as you are doing your inner work.

Step 9 is to leave entirely. There's a great big world of people out there willing to engage with you from a space of love. Let this one person go until they can get the help they need. Sometimes, leaving is the only way to get the person's attention of just how bad their behavior has been.

No Way to Fix Another

The really is no way to fix another. Unless Divine intervention wakes them up, most people stay stuck in their issues for their whole lives. Those who do try to change will do so slowly, so having patience is key for those who do engage with you and want to face the issues behind their anger. But patience is not submission. You don't give up and say, "Oh well, that's just how they are." Nope. How they are is a choice, and you have your choices too. Do you like being yelled at? Do you like being hit? The clear answer is an emphatic, "No!" But tons of people stay in abusive situations thinking that they deserve it or aren't worthy of love.

And for more on those topics, please check out these past blog posts:

What Is Love?

Feeling Like You're Not Enough

Love and the Search for Validation

Highly Sensitive People and Being Around Angry People

Even if someone is just angry at themselves, that energy can be felt. It can feel like a shockwave hitting you in the chest, the head, or wherever you are most physically sensitive. It is not fun. Part of why highly sensitive people become reclusive or are confused as being introverts is precisely because of the way different energies feel to their bodies. For you, doing your inner work is even more vital because unless you dig a hole and live underground for the rest of your life, you're going to be exposed to people sending out various levels of energetic anger, fear, depression, sadness, and so on. Even some forms of excitement and elation can be too much for a highly sensitive person.

This really is because this type of individual has plenty of buried issues. The more clear this type of person is, the easier it is for them to know their own energy. This allows you to define your inner energetic boundaries. In knowing what is you and what is someone else, it's easier to disengage from the energies to which you're exposed. The more sensitive you are and the more upset energies you experience, the more vital having a spiritual practice to root out your issues becomes. Because without any inner issues to blow up, you'll just feel all these energies moving by and through you but without being upset by any of it.

Healing Yourself of Your Issues

While you can do the above steps to more mindfully engage with or mindfully leave angry individuals, it does come back to doing your own work as I've mentioned repeatedly. If you don't have issues to trigger, then what others verbally and energetically do has far less impact on you. If you want your mother to love you in a certain way, then her yelling at you will be really upsetting. The issue here is the search for validation and love, which is a huge issue in relationship to one's mother. Our mothers all carried us inside them, and that created a deep and powerful bond. Rewriting any unhealthy desires and issues from that connection can take time, but it can be done.

As can healing many other issues that get ignited. And anger can help you find a lot of these issues inside of you. So if you find yourself upset by someone who is angry at you, at another, or at themselves, take a few more deep breaths. Slow down. Ask yourself why you are upset? What is coming up for you? Even if this doesn't happen immediately in the moment because things can get really intense, make this part of your practice. In time, you will find yourself returning to a calmer state of mind and more quickly delving into the issues that are triggered inside. In this way, you can become a mindful and peaceful person amidst even the most angry, emotional tirade someone can throw at you.
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