Ep. 19: On Anger

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Whether or not you had a childhood marked by conflict, or grew up in an environment of rage, you have likely – at some point in your life – struggled with anger.

Even in the closest relationships (especially in the closest relationships) anger and conflict are inevitable.

And so, when they show up it’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s not a “bad sign” about the relationship, per se, because what anger is most often showing us is that our basic, most fundamental needs are not getting met.

In this sense, we need anger – it is important and helps us function.

Anger is awake. It’s a signal – part of our human makeup when we’ve experienced a violation to our basic needs – that there’s something going on.

But to understand anger, and to be able to use it in a helpful way or even to move beyond it, we must remember that something deeper lies beneath our rage.

When someone loses their shit over you not sending a text, or when you lose your shit about your partner not calling you to say goodnight, it isn’t about that.

It’s about a deeper need for connection, or safety – something vulnerable below the surface. And that can be difficult to recognize; even more so to name and communicate effectively.

The hard truth?

People hurt each other. We come into relationships with pre-existing wounds from our childhood experiences, from systemic racism, heterosexism, ageism, from a misogynistic and patriarchal society, from traumatic life experiences and the collective wounds of our culture.

So then, in each relationship we create an energy push and pull. We want to move closer, then we pull back… We feel the need to be close then we get a little wounded and we move away or lash out, which results in a reaction from the other person…

We get attached and then we cut our hearts off.

In a relationship, both people are trying to get their needs met, and those needs are often different or even conflicting.

And it’s completely natural that we react. Our limbic brains were wired to react when we weren’t getting our needs met; as we were evolving, we needed that to survive – to react when someone took our food or threatened our safety.

As I’ve spoken about in previous episodes, we humans are evolving.

So what is the next stage of our evolution?

I deeply believe that it involves a more refined ability for compassion, and also less vulnerability to the whims of our emotions that arise from our more primitive brain.

To truly transform and break old patterns, we need to become aware of our own default strategies. How do we react, how do we manage our mind and our emotions, when we are hurt by someone – whether deeply or superficially?

When someone breaks your trust, or judges you or criticizes you, pulls away from you, harms someone you care about… what happens?

We know that what happens initially is we get “hooked,” as Pema Chödrön likes to say. Then we usually lock onto defensiveness, blame and aggression.

When we don’t have a regular mindfulness or meditation practice, all this can happen in milliseconds.

So we also need to ask ourselves: when we get hooked, are we in the habit of calling on some mindfulness and some compassion in our response?

Awareness precedes change.

Today, we dig into why one of the initial steps to addressing our anger and the conflict in our lives is to wake up to our own coping mechanisms. The next is to cultivate wisdom and compassion, for ourselves and for others.

I ask you to consider: how can you interrupt your default behavior and create more freedom in how you choose to show up in the world?

I invite you to remember: you have 100% capacity to respond to what’s going on within you in a way that is wise and kind.

In the end, working with anger is about moving from reacting from a small sense of self, to responding from a more whole sense of our being (which we are totally capable of).

Because we NEVER get our needs met when we are raging.

And if we keep going around eliminating triggers, and leaving relationships, and dropping friendships, and judging, and self-justifying, then we’ll never process the places inside ourselves that need the emotional healing.

This work isn’t easy. And for many of us, it takes a long term commitment to persevere. 

So in this moment:

:: Give yourself some self-compassion.

:: Ask yourself what you need.

:: Then set out to go give yourself exactly that. And rejoice in it.

I promise, you will feel so amazing and FREE when you realize you have what you need within you.

In This Episode You’ll Learn:

  • How to recognize different types of anger – and what is really underneath when it comes to the surface
  • Why, when we act out of our default mode, we don’t actually get our needs met
  • The basic formula for expressing our anger in a helpful way
  • Why it is so empowering to enter ‘emotional adulthood’ – and accept 100% responsibility for our internal experience
  • How to respond to situations that trigger anger from a place of freedom, wisdom, and compassion instead of from our reactive primal brain
  • A handy acronym (HALT) that reminds us to take a moment and ask ourselves if we are feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired when we’re starting to rage – and how to use this to keep from getting ‘hooked’ into self-destructive behaviors
  • How to bring attention to the suffering that anger causes all parties involved – and why it’s helpful to experience the tenderness that this recognition releases


// Need a bit of guidance on how to mindfully resolve conflict when tense moments arise? Check out this PDF based on Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings.

// Head on over to RebelBuddhist.com and get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.

// Enrollment opens soon in Freedom School, my one-of-a-kind membership program that helps you free your mind and free your life. We deep dive into everything I teach here. If you want to be the first to know when enrollment opens and grab the early bird bonuses, go here to get on the waitlist.