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Before You Blow Your Top…

Before You Blow Your Top...

Before You Blow Your Top…

Very often when someone triggers our anger, there is a strong impulse for us to say something hurtful or spiteful in return. This is practically a reflex action.  And, if we give into it, we are acting on automatic pilot — a dangerous thing in the relational world.  It might feel good at first, letting it all hang out, telling them what we think of them, but often we regret it later for the damage it causes to our relationship with the other person.

So, how do we avoid blowing our top?  We choose to work with our anger like any other challenging emotion.

First, we hold it compassionately in our awareness (not suppressing it), watching for and refraining  from any impulses to act out.  This is one of the reasons why some kind of contemplative practice is so valuable for daily living. Mindfulness practice in particular gives us the ability to gain this perspective on our strong emotions.

Secondly, we try not to judge ourselves or blame others for our anger.  Instead, when we are away from the triggering event, we can start to inquire as to what the anger is about.  We can listen compassionately to our inner dialogue of anger and ask ourselves: does it seem familiar, like an old story we have experienced over and over? Does it require us to do something that might be different than the way we have usually reacted before?

Gradually, as we work with our anger, the patterns and meaning become clearer to us.  We begin to act with more intelligence.  We no longer respond with knee-jerk reactions.  Rather, we listen to our anger and it becomes a window into our own underlying issues.  And, if we are brave enough to face those issues, we are well on our way to enjoying more satisfying relationships.

Robert Cornell

LMFT | Westminster Center



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