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Mindfully Screaming: How to deal with anger at work

cubiclebuddha profile image Cubicle Buddha Originally published at cubiclebuddha.com on ・3 min read

Wait, what? You want me to scream on purpose? Yes. And I promise this won’t lead to the Human Resources department knocking down your door. In fact, it might even help prevent negative interactions with your peers.

Try the following surprising advice to get truly calm.

Go out to your car and SCREAM.

Sometimes you have a bad interaction at work and it simply makes you furious. The logic center of your brain knows that it’s uncouth to be angry, but let’s be honest… logic has nothing to do with anger. After all we are scientifically classified as animals. Even software engineers like me, who operate in logic all day, can’t escape the feelings that arise when a coworker is being cruel or if the computer just isn’t behaving.

Of course we all hope that we can fight off our anger, but Buddhism has a surprising suggestion: don’t fight your anger. Famed Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh perfectly describes how you can accept and forgive the anger as a way of dissipating it:

“The practitioner knows that her anger is not her enemy; her anger is her suffering baby. She must take good care of her baby, using the energy of mindfulness to embrace her anger in the most tender way. She can say, “Breathing in, I know that anger is in me. Breathing out, I am peacefully holding my anger.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the easiest ways to get through anger that may pop up is to go outside or to go someplace you’re comfortable with and just yell. It doesn’t have to be loud or to sound like William Shatner’s Kahn yell… but it’s just the act of acknowledging your anger.

And once you’ve given yourself permission to feel your anger, you will most likely feel it dissipate.

“People who use venting techniques like hitting a pillow or shouting are actually rehearsing anger. When someone is angry and vents their anger by hitting a pillow, they are learning a dangerous habit. They are training in aggression. Instead, our approach is to generate the energy of mindfulness and embrace anger every time it manifests.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

So the trick is to not act out in a way that masks your frustration, but to really embody the pain. When you are screaming in your car, allow yourself to feel the catharsis that comes with actually expressing your emotions.

Once you stop judging your anger, it begins to feel less important to direct that anger at another person. In fact, you might find that you were in the wrong. Apologizing is not something to be ashamed of and can be very cathartic, and we have advice on how to apologize well. Or, you might find the clarity of mind to transparently share your concerns with your peer. Or perhaps it was something very silly to be mad at. Maybe you will find yourself laughing with your new friend.

Mindfulness is like a big brother who does not suppress his younger brother’s suffering. He simply says, “Dear brother, I’m here for you.”


So what do you think… could you see yourself walking out to the car to scream a little? What have you tried that’s helped to authentically embrace your feelings?

Discussion

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aut0poietic profile image
Jer

I've always had issues with anger and I have to differentiate between "expressing" and "releasing" anger.

The difference for me is intention: Releasing anger has to be intentional, not something done in the moment or even in the same location as the event (even if alone). Taking the moment to take a few deep breaths, walk away, then release the anger in a (mostly) controlled way can constructive for me.

Simply expressing anger can backfire, effectively allowing the expression to be a rote response over time.

As an aside: Have you read "The Cow in the Parking Lot" ?

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cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha Author

Thank you for the comment, and thank you for beautifully summarizing the internal process of accepting the anger. Well done. :)

I have not read "The Cow In The Parking Lot" but it looks really interesting. Is it something worth picking up or is it more of a skim read?

(I would totally pick the book up but I've got a reading backlog that's even longer than my Steam video game backlog haha. Thankfully I'm mostly over my anger, but hey... we all slide sometimes)

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aut0poietic profile image
Jer

I enjoyed the book quite a bit and have read it more than once, but it wasn't something I could skim (YMMV). If I remember right, there was some content from / inspired-by Thich Nhat Hanh, which was what brought to mind.

It's worth reading if you're interested in the subject, but was a bit "self-help-ish" if memory serves. Of course, I've slept since then, so... ;-)

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cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha Author

Haha thank you. Yes, I’m clearly a Thich Nhat Hanh devotee. But that’s just because it’s hard to find Buddhist literature that focus as much in forgiveness. For some reason most of what I’ve picked up has felt, I don’t know... more strict?

So thanks for a fantastic recommendation. I don’t mind the self-help nature. I just clicked purchase. :)

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aut0poietic profile image
Jer

I dig Thich Nhat Hanh's writing as well though I've not read as much of his work as I would like (only have a couple of his books, haven't finished them).

It does seem sometimes that what makes it to the west is less, I don't know, caring, maybe? Not sure I'm doing the sentiment justice. Things like the "enlightenment stick" and the master who "punched his student so hard he found enlightenment." I have it in my head that's Zen tradition, but I may be remembering it wrong.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the book. I think I'll read (finish?) The Miracle of Mindfulness now that I've got Hanh on the brain. That is, if I can pause trying to get Maya up to level 72 before September (BL3!!).

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niorad profile image
Antonio Radovcic
  • Go away from where ever you are at that moment. Go for a walk or go home for the day. Leave the meeting. This is something similar to what you learn as parent when the baby won't stop screaming: Just leave the room for a minute or two, if you feel you're losing control.

  • I ride my bike to work every day and naturally there are always people not behaving appropriately on the street and potentially endangering me. Depending on the severity I use a quick 👎 or🖕. Or a sarcastic 👍. Thankfully I had not yet have a situation where I need to confront the other party directly.

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cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha Author

Great ideas! And you’re so totally right about the baby part. I’m so glad the hospital tells new parents that advice now.

And as a nice metaphor, sometimes when I put my baby down (if I’m getting frustrated) I come back two minutes later to find she’s fallen asleep. So sometimes accepting your anger (but not letting it control you) is a great way to see the anger disappear and for situation to resolve itself naturally. Thank you for the reminder.

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codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne

When I'm at home I use a towel! Anger is useful, it means a boundary might have been crossed. Acting out of anger is another thing!

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cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha Author

Thank you for saying that. That’s great insight. Yes, I have a feeling that people are afraid to talk about anger, but they shouldn’t be!

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codingmindfully profile image
Daragh Byrne

Yes there's a stigma about it. I'm only learning to get in touch with mine and harness it!

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Fulton Browne

I work from home, so when I get mad I just scream at me computer screen, until i loose my voice.

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cubiclebuddha profile image
Cubicle Buddha Author

haha that works too! :) Remote work can be challenging (I'm remote as well). How do you cope with the loneliness and potential alienation?