Anger happens to everyone; it’s how you handle anger that’s important.
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Simple practices for resilient happiness from Rick Hanson, PhD

If you've been struggling with overwhelm or unexplained stress, you may have some trauma that is affecting your long-term health and well-being. If that sounds like it may be true, you might want to check out the Trauma Super Conference, where you'll delve into its impacts, get a variety tools for recovery, and start on a path of healing and personal growth.

Are you feeling cross?

The Practice:

Turn Anger into a Peaceful Heart.


Let’s be realistic: it’s completely normal to get angry... with our partners, children, in-laws, clueless boss—or ourself. There’s no need to feel guilty about anger itself. The real question is, what can you do about it? 

On the one hand, anger is a healthy emotion. It shines a bright light on things that should be different—like a child’s incessant whining, a partner’s broken agreements, or some stupid workplace policy that keeps you from your kids—and energizes you to try to change them. Bottling up anger numbs your other feelings as well, and it wears on your health. Acting like you are not mad when you really are is inauthentic and —if you have kids, it teaches them to put on a false face themselves—not a good lesson. 

On the other hand, anger can be an emotional roller coaster that stresses the body and can create bad feelings for hours. And no other emotion has such an impact on relationships. For kids, when Mom or Dad gets mad, that’s scary and often overwhelming since their parents are so big, powerful, and important. In an intimate relationship, frequent anger is very wounding; after a while, anyone would start wanting to step back from a person who’s angry a lot of the time. 

Fortunately, there’s a healthy middle path between tight-lipped self-censoring and boiling-over rage.


Stop Things from Building Up

We usually get mad in two stages. First, there's the priming: tension, frustration, bodily discomfort, fatigue, gripes, etc., which mount up like a growing pile of dynamite. Then comes the firecracker that sets it all off.

During the priming phase, try to defuse things before there's a blowup. Here are a few ideas.

  • Don't overgive. One trick is to imagine asking your future self how you will feel if you commit to taking on yet another task. Another is to adopt the blanket policy of never agreeing to anything until there's been adequate time to think it over.
  • Blow off steam along the way. Try not to accumulate a residue of irritation from individual interactions.
  • Take a break before reaching the breaking point. Most people become quite frayed by the time they've been alone with a young child, or staring at a screen, or dealing with other people for three or four hours. Make it a serious priority to find some way, any way, to take a break before the pot boils over.

Understand What's Making You Angry

When anger arises, there's typically more to the story. Let's say it's Wednesday after work, a mother is in the store with her three-year-old son, and all she wants to do is get home, make some dinner, and relax. But he wants some candy, she says "no," and he throws a major tantrum. People are staring, she feels mortified. Somehow, she gets him out of the store and into her car, and then she really yells at him. In that moment, the intensity of her anger is at least a six or seven on a ten-point scale.

But now, let's change some of the elements of the situation. Suppose it's a Saturday morning instead, and she's feeling rested and relaxed. How intense do you think her anger would be in that case? Probably less: maybe one to three on the anger scale. Or suppose that she's at home, not out at the store, when her son throws his tantrum; no one is watching, and she doesn't have to care what anyone is thinking. How angry do you think she'd be then? Again, probably less.

Fatigue and embarrassment can amplify feelings by five or so points while having nothing to do with the actual seriousness of a situation. But when the "amplifiers" in life are understood, suddenly there's a lot less to be mad about.

Key Ways to Turn Anger into Peace

  • Don't let things build up, don't over give, blow off steam as you go along, etc.
  • Understand the thoughts or ways you are perceiving things that are the true sources of your anger.
  • Try to sense down to the softer emotions beneath anger, like hurt or fear; acknowledge those to yourself or express them to others.
  • If you feel like you're going to blow up, walk away or call a friend.
  • Get professional help if you are directing anger at yourself or others in harmful ways.
  •  Ask your heart for guidance.

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Internal Family Systems: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness

with Dr. Richard Schwartz

Dr. Rick and Forrest are joined by Dr. Richard Schwartz, creator of the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model of therapy, to explore how we can integrate all the aspects of who we are. They explain the IFS model, the nature of parts and their roles, and how we can use this knowledge to increase self-awareness and deal with common problems. Then Rick and Dr. Schwartz dive deep into the nature of the “Self,” where it comes from, and how we can tune into and strengthen it.

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Mind & Life's 2024 Summer Research Institute

Applications for "Awakening Compassion in Times of Division: Breaking and Coming Together" are now open. This unique event brings together researchers, practitioners, contemplatives, and changemakers to collaboratively address global challenges. Hosted at the Garrison Institute in New York from June 2-8, the SRI will focus on topics like fostering compassion in an interconnected world, addressing barriers that create division, and understanding the social impact of planetary emergencies. Applications for this unique learning experience close January 29th, learn more and apply here


Watch last week's meditation and talk on The Wise Effort of Letting Go of Self, and if you haven't yet, join me every week for this free, live offering.



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Under the press of everything you have to do as a parent, combined with feeling tired and frazzled, it’s only natural to feel a little distant from your mate. But as the saying goes, “love is a verb,” which means that an intimate relationship ultimately rests on how we act toward our partner. Often it’s very small things that make a big difference.


If you've been feeling anxious, afraid, or worried you may want to check out my mini-course on Dealing with Anxiety to learn 5 simple but powerful practices for feeling calmer, safer, and more capable.

Making Great Relationships

Get 50 simple practices for solving conflicts, building connection, and fostering love in my newest book that is now available wherever books are sold.

"Recognize anger. Feel it, don’t suppress it. Explore it and find whatever is valid in what it is telling you. Also look beneath it, to the hurt or sorrow or outrage on behalf of others. Help yourself open to and include all of yourself."

Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

JUST ONE THING (JOT) is the free newsletter that suggests a simple practice each week for more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind. A small thing repeated routinely adds up over time to produce big results.

Just one thing that could change your life.
(© Rick Hanson, 2024)

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