How To Deal With Anger - The C.O.P.E Method
By Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel
We fill our lives with dramas that rival the Greek Tragedies. We play the lead actors reliving the stressful scenes, keeping the conflict alive and ever present. Anger begins to dominate our thinking. However, who are we really angry at? When someone like a boss, a lover, a friend, or a family member pushes our button, are we most angry with that person because he or she mirrors what we most dislike about ourselves?
It is easier to attribute blame to someone else, letting that serve as a distraction from the root cause within the self. Rage has a way of adhering on the cellular level causing mind/body damage. Emotional damage is readily observable as are some of the physiological effects: rapid heart beat, and acid secretion due to the fight or flight response. However, the rage that is forever housed in our cells returns to haunt us more subtly as it suppresses our immune system and manifests in back and joint pain, and diseases occurring in target organs symbolically corresponding to our rage. According to Chinese herbal medicine the liver is the organ where resentment is stored. Therefore in order to be of sound mind and sound body, and in equilibrium, we must confront our rage instead of allowing it to distract us with bodily symptoms of aches and pains as we suppress our feelings.
Exhale Your Anger
To face anger is to objectify it. We must look at it like an impartial observer instead of a participant. This is extremely difficult to do during the heat of the moment. Breathing exercises help to oxygenate the brain to restore clarity and relax the heart. Instead of just counting to ten, practice taking ten breaths through the nose by inhaling to the count of two and exhaling to the count of four, that way we exhale more toxins and negativity than we inhale. Think about relaxing the heart while inhaling and exhaling.
Identify What Really Hurts
Now we can pay attention to what body part is afflicted by our rage. For example, does our head, back, neck or stomach hurt? Each organ provides a clue to what we are feeling and why. Do I feel unsupported in my back or am I inflexible in my neck? Does my stomach hurt because I feel like my solar plexus has been attackedóin others words, my ego.
Reinterpret the Scenario
Next we can pretend to advise a friend. We are all great at advising others. What would you tell your friend to do in this situation? Now that we have distanced our perspective, we can reinterpret the scenario. Shed the anger and negativity and reinterpret the drama with kindness, compassion and love. Not because we are saints, but because we are selfish. By reinterpreting the scenario with love, we de-stress. Stress depletes our energy reserves and costs us creativity, clear thinking, joy of living and health. By reinterpreting the conflict, we are letting the other person be right, too. And we all know that everyone has an ego and that we all want to be right! Every view has another perspective. What has a front has as a back. Take a random sample of witnesses to an accident, and see how many different accounts are cited. As John Milton said, ďThe mind can make a heaven out of hell or a hell out of heaven.Ē If you are experiencing road rage because another driver cut you off, realize that it had nothing to do with you personally; the driver may have had to get somewhere fast and didnít even realize it! Let it go; donít teach him or her a lesson! Take your ego out of it!
By COPEing: Consciousness of the scenario, Objectivity, Practicing reinterpretation, we increase our Energy reserves. The added benefit is that we expand our hearts and souls with kindness, compassion and forgiveness.
Another method for regaining our balance is to exercise. We can walk off our anger to slow the pulse rate and relax our breaths. If walking is good, is running even better? Running isnít a good idea because when we are angry our pulse rate is already high and running could drive it further and trigger a cardiac episode. Also, we donít think clearly when we are enraged. We could be unaware of traffic or obstacles in the road. Vigorous exercise in anger means that we are not focused on the mind/body connection and could get hurt, twisting a ligament or falling. A great exercise for ridding the body of anger is to assume a horse stance with knees bent and abdominals tight, extending the arms out and keeping the elbow joints soft, letting your palms hug a punching bag, Then squeeze your palms in hard into the punching bag as your arms extend straight (not bending the elbow) for 3-5 seconds, working up to 10 seconds. Remember to breathe. Squeeze the anger right out of your body. Let the exercise mirror the mental component, serving as a physical affirmation. Do 3 repetitions. For a more advanced move, squeeze the punching bag as you maintain a full squat position. Note: punching the bag is contraindicated. Try to center yourself like athletes do with a positive visualization and mantra.
After you have walked off your anger and worked the punching bag with a static contraction, you can assume a Lotus position to meditate on letting go. Instead of sitting on a hot bed of anger, try sitting on a cool flower. Then bless the person who has angered you. Everyone makes mistakes.
You can be assertive, but do not become aggressive. Learn to forget your anger by foregoing the incident or the words. Then you will be able to forgive the other person and most importantly deal with what you didnít like about yourself.
Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Brooklyn College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIR 92.7 FM in New York City and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com