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How do I deal with repressed anger?


Hi Andy, I have a question about repressed anger. I’ve been meditating for about seven weeks now. The first four weeks were fantastic, I noticed I was much calmer, I didn’t snap at the kids, my insomnia was much better. But for the last few weeks, it’s like all my repressed anger has come to visit. I seem to be saying exactly what I think, it’s like I’ve developed Tourette’s. Is this normal, and how do I control it? I would like to be able to respond with compassion and kindness even when I am dealing with someone difficult, but the anger seems to overwhelm me before I can step back from it, note it etc… Would appreciate your feedback.

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Andy's answer:

Well done on getting started with the meditation and it’s great to hear you experienced so many benefits, so early on in your journey. Now for the interesting bit... Do you remember the animation right at the beginning, the one with the ripples on the pond? If not, maybe take a look now.

In fact even if you did watch it, it’s well worth taking another look. As you can see from the animation, when we begin to meditate, we usually experience a calming of the waters. The result, for most people, is a little more peace of mind. In fact the water is so still in contrast to how it was before, that we almost can’t take our eyes off it. But after a while, whether it’s through boredom or curiosity, we begin to notice what lies beneath that still surface. In short, we are able to see the mind in a whole new way. It’s as if the lens has been cleaned, or the focus sharpened. At this point it’s really important to say that what we find can be something or nothing and neither is right or wrong. If it is something, it can be sadness or joy, anger or excitement, or a mixture of every possible human emotion. As we become more aware of it, so we begin to let go of it, but in the process we often feel those emotions more intensely. It’s often described as ‘coming to the surface’, perhaps like bubbles rising upwards. The good news is that when they reach the surface they dissolve. However, as you have experienced, this transition is not always seamless and can sometimes be uncomfortable. One reason for this is that the emotion can be very intense, or concentrated, so it can take a little longer than we would like. It’s usually just a build-up of unprocessed emotion from over the years. Another reason can be the way we interact with the emotion as it arises. If our stability of awareness is strong (that’s our ability to watch thoughts and feelings without judging them or getting involved) then we will be able to simply let it all go. But if it happens very early on, when we are still learning to develop that stability of awareness, then it can be more problematic. The reason is that we tend to get involved with the emotion as it rises. We tend to identify with it, think about it, and just generally get caught up in it. When we do, we almost inevitably act it out - be that through speech or action. Again, the good news is that this is temporary and will pass soon enough. It will either pass because it runs out of steam or because your awareness gets stronger. Usually, it’s a combination of both. So rest assured that all is as it should be. As much as possible be aware of that emotion, allow it to be as it is and try not to rush the process of letting go. When around others, know that this tendency is there and be confident that just because a thought arises in the mind, doesn’t mean you have to act on it or say anything. The more you practice this, the easier and more natural it becomes. Warm wishes, Andy

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