How To Use Anger Mindfully: A Real Life Example

“STOOOOOOOOOPPPP!!!” I scream, to no avail. I screech my bicycle brakes, but there is no way to avoid the accident. The middle-aged businessman on the motorcycle hadn’t bothered glancing to the left before blowing through the stop sign, directly into my bike’s front wheel.

He stops the motorcycle and gives me a surprised look and then a glare, as if all this is my fault. He smiles patronizingly and says: “you’re fine, right?” My heart pounds in my ears as I rapidly gulp shallow breaths of air, and I reply: “That was scary.” He gives me another condescending look, this time tinged with boredom, and repeats: “you’re fine. Right?”

I start to get angry. This jerk hits me on my bike because he wasn’t looking, and he’s got the gall to make ME feel like an idiot? What can I do, though? The impact was so minimal that I didn’t even fall off my bike, and my wheel appears undamaged. I am not injured, just indignant. I grudgingly admit that I am “fine” while glaring daggers at him. He shrugs and tootles off on his motorcycle.

I become progressively more annoyed as I bike the rest of the way to the coworking cafe where I work. By the time I arrive a couple minutes later, I feel enraged. I feel so resentful I wanted to explode, and I know I have to do something with the anger-induced energy or pay the consequences.

Ironically, I wrote a blog post on Anger Mindfulness yesterday, so the information is fresh in my mind. I decide to channel my anger into writing a follow-up post using this situation as an example of how to use healthy anger effectively.

Step 1 – Recognizing Anger

When the man hit me, my sympathetic nervous system immediately flew into overdrive, and appropriately so. However, the situation was over so fast that the giant dose of adrenaline had nowhere to go.

In addition to feeling my pounding heart and my labored rapid breathing from the fight-or-flight response, I feel a tight sphere of violent, chaotic angry red energy right in the middle of my chest. This baseball-sized ball of crackling hot fury is not a normal part of my sympathetic nervous system response, so I know this is the anger instead. I also notice recurrent righteous angry thoughts and a desire to slap, punch or yell at the guy who hit me.

Step 2 – Feeling Anger

After recognizing my anger, I acknowledged it. I know it is a normal and appropriate response to this situation, as I was indeed “wronged” and treated unjustly. I acknowledge that I used to think I was a “bad person” whenever I got angry, but that now I am comfortable allowing myself to experience anger.

As I reach my destination and lock up my bike, I go inside. Unfortunately, it was over 90 degrees and 90% humidity, and I had no water with me, so exercising off the energy is inadvisable. I decide to simply sit with the anger for a minute.

I stand in front of the air conditioner as I often do when I arrive at the cafe. I connect with my body, and consciously unclench my hands; I hadn’t even realized they were clenched. I also relax my shoulders and take in slow deep even breaths.

I allow myself to have the angry thoughts for a minute without judging them. I know it is hopeless to stop them or even deflect them, so I just let them be, and recognize them as anger.

Step 3 – Expressing Anger

After a minute or two in front of air conditioner’s heavenly blasting of cold air, I begin to feel restless and know that I need to do something active before the anger overwhelms me. I pace around the cafe for about 15 seconds to burn off the sharpest edge of the anger as I decide what to do next.

I call a friend who won’t judge me for being angry and who also commutes by bicycle. She can’t talk, as she is at work, but she is able to text with me, so I send her text after vitriolic text about how much I hate inattentive drivers and how unnerved I feel. She interjects with “yeah that sucks” and similar responses at appropriate intervals, allowing me to vent.

After ten minutes or so of complaining bitterly, I still feel the burning angry chaotic energy in my mid-chest, but it no longer threatens to overwhelm me. I feel calm enough to do something useful.

Step 4 – Using Anger 

I decide to channel the anger-induced energy into writing about how I am dealing with anger right now. I sit down at my computer and ignore my to-do list, my previously made plans and the people around me.

I still feel too infuriated to do normal work, and the few times I get distracted I feel the anger start surging up in me again, so I ignore the world and simply write. After 20 minutes or so the anger fades to a dull irritation, and I focus on the more technical aspects of the writing and tightening the story that I was previously too angry to handle effectively.

Now that the post is done and the anger and the adrenaline rush are gone, I feel drained, exhausted, a bit disorientated, “wrung out” and ready for a nap. These are all normal symptoms for me of recovering from a fright, though, so I am not worried about them. I am grateful for this experience that allows me to share a real-life example of how to handle anger mindfully.

 How do you handle anger in real life? Have you found tips or tricks that allow you to weather the storm in a healthy way? Do you struggle with it? Share your thoughts below!