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Mindful : February 2016
CONTEMPLATION attention can also distort our ability to deal with both new information and knowledge already stored that does not match the current emotion. We can all think of countless examples when we have missed obvious cues or forgotten historical data when we were “blinded” by a strong emo- tion. It’s not called “blind rage” for nothing. Blind and Blaming Although it’s quite possible to get mad at our- selves, the energy of anger is generally directed outward and it’s often linked with blame. This tendency to blame, strike out, punish, and retaliate makes anger especially challenging to sit with, and a big source of interpersonal suffering. When we feel anger toward someone, our sense of “self ” and “other” gets very solid. In this state, we exaggerate all the negative qualities of the other person and become blind to positive attributes, which in turn feeds the aversion. The complexity and nuance of the other is reduced to a monolithic negative car- toon called “the enemy.” We often wonder why we’re angriest at those we’re closest to. For one thing, people who know us intimately also know what can hurt us the most. Someone said, “ Your family knows how to push your buttons because they actually installed them.” But a less glib reason is that it tends to be safer to show anger to an intimate than to a stranger. You can express agg ression to your partner when you’re actually mad at your boss, probably because it’s less likely your part- ner will fire you. We can be frustrated about our- selves but direct our anger outside. It’s uncanny that we can even get quite angry at inanimate objects—a door, a table, a wall, or a shoe. And that very fact reveals something that illuminates what’s really happening: although it feels as if the source of anger is out there, the anger comes from within. Other people are just pretending to be the real enemies. In fact, it’s possible to see them as our “patience coaches,” offering us opportunities to explore and tame the anger habit. If everyone was nice and con- siderate, how could we train in patience, how could we learn to tame our anger? There’s an old story about a man who was sailing his boat on a clear and sunny day, when a dense fog rolled in. Just as he had decided to return to shore, he noticed the profile of another boat coming in his direction. “ Keep your distance!” the boatman shouted, con- cerned about a possible collision. But the → What triggers your anger? Make a list of your hottest triggers. How do you usually react when you’re angry? List your top five anger reactions. Triggers and Reactions Common Triggers Feeling misunderstood or contradicted in conversation Being excluded Lack of control in a situation Common Reactions Coming up with insults Interrupting others Lack of energy and sadness Avoiding eye contact Blame/resentment Feeling like someone is angry or upset with you Physical discomfort Not getting what you want Disrespect and injustice Constructing narratives about unpleasant experiences Making sarcastic or passive aggressive remarks Checking out of tense situations February 2016 mindful 59