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Mindful : October 2013
October 2013 mindful 71 Recently I found myself in an intensive care unit at the bedside of a loved one. Of course, I was filled with strong feelings of shock, fear, and worry. But I also noticed how easily those feelings, and the thoughts accompanying them, shifted into a nger. It projected itself onto a nything in my field of aware- ness, from the staff, to the machines, to myself. I was even angry at the person in front of me who was in need of critical care. Fortunately my loved one sur vived the health crisis, a nd in the days that followed, my experience in the ICU caused me to reflect once again on the nature of anger—to become more keenly aware of anger in myself and in others. Anger causes so much suffering in our per- sonal relationships and in our society. Its effects range from spats with our spouse to wars between nations. Our own anger causes suffering to others, often those we love most, and their anger causes us suffering. A nger and the wounds it causes rever- berate throughout life. In my life and in my work, I have found that there is no panacea, no instant fix, for anger. But I have learned that mindfulness ca n help calm the anger we feel a nd protect us from being hijacked into words and actions we later regret. When I was in the ICU, I felt fortunate that mindfulness training helped me recognize my anger. It allowed me to stay present with compassion for a ll the suffering happening there, instead of lashing out at some per- ceived slight or injustice. Mindfulness illuminated the thoughts of grief and vulnerability that the → Anger can be our undoing, but it doesn’t have to be that way, says Jeffrey Brantley, M.D. Illustrations by Yuko Shimizu Psychiatrist Jeffrey Brantley is the director of the Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction program at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. His forthcoming book is called Calming Your Angry Mind. Cooling the Raging Fires