Last month I wrote and spoke about the philosophy of Reiki and introduced you to the Reiki Principles. This time I want to take the precept of “Just for today, do not anger” and look at how you can live without anger each day.

Did you know that there are over 600 words in the English language that describe emotions? The 6 most common emotions that we experience are happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust, fear and anger. To me, that list seems weighted in favour of less favourable emotions doesn’t it?

Why do we even need emotions? What are they for?

Well, they help us identify when our basic needs are being met (or not as the case may be), they help us figure out whether our choices and decisions feel good or bad and they identify our comfort zone and help us set boundaries.

We convey most of our emotional responses via our body language and facial expressions and this helps with interpersonal relationships and communication. Most people are able to tell if someone is happy or sad by their facial expression or the way they are carrying themselves.

Emotions give us the potential to unite as one by working together with forgiveness, compassion, empathy and co-operation. Too often though, we allow anger, fear and bitterness to divide us.

Emotions help us identify what makes us happy – so we need them! They influence our behaviour and help us to move away from pain, fear and disgust towards pleasure and relaxation. If you never felt fear or if you never felt disgust towards something then you would never really make any changes. It would be a very barren world if there were no emotions to feel.

It is important to note however that our emotions are often controlled by our belief system. If we believe something should disgust us then we feel that disgust. This is clear in cases where people have been brought up to believe a certain way of life or sexuality is wrong or disgusting and they then see people through that filter, judge them according to their inner beliefs and then feel an emotion of fear or disgust towards them. This is very apparent in our world today.

Emotions are simply an internal reaction to an external event. You always have a choice how to feel.  Let’s take a look at this choice in action by looking at a simple example: –

You are standing in a queue and someone jumps in front of you. You have a choice how to react here. You can get angry and cause a scene and demand that they move and take their place at the back of the queue. You can calmly point out to them that there is a queue and they should move to the back. You can do nothing and just let it go.

How you react will depend on various factors. If you are in a rush and are feeling stressed then you are more likely to see the queue jumper as a personal attack on your rights! You may feel anger or rage and feel the need to reprimand them for their audacity.

On the other hand you may be less inclined to want a confrontation so you perhaps calmly say “Excuse me but there is a queue” and hope that they move to the back. Your anger may spike if they shrug their shoulders and say “So what?!”

On the other hand if you are not in a rush you may feel there is no point in making a big deal out of the issue and you let it go. The person maybe is only paying for petrol or something and only takes an extra second or two out of your day.

Can you see then how your emotional response depends very much on your current state of mind? Emotions are a complex reaction based on life experience and expectations – hence the diversity of emotional responses to the same situation.

We are emotionally programmed to recognise facial expressions and body language. From an early age, as a baby, you will have recognised emotion from the faces around you. This is part of our survival instinct.  Your brain registers the body language and facial expressions that you see each day – so what are you surrounding yourself with?

If you are surrounded by a loving, happy family environment then you may find that you are more prone to similar emotions yourself whereas if you are surrounded by anger, hostility or violence then you may find it more difficult to express positive emotions such as love and joy. The media, TV, movies, social networks and people we surround ourselves with therefore make a difference to our emotional state.

Looking specifically at anger it is recognised that anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. It can be very destructive but it is also a necessary emotion for survival as it forms part of the fight or flight response.

We tend to feel anger when someone or something fails to meet our expectations. It is often a habitual response to a certain set of circumstances. Essentially you are choosing to feel angry.

You are probably quite cross at me for saying that right now! Nobody likes to think of themselves as choosing to be angry. Often we will say things like “She made me angry”, “I’m only cross because he did that”, etc. We try and direct the blame outward and focus externally on the situation that has provoked us but in actual fact – the anger is internal. You are choosing the angry response.

When something or someone provokes an angry feeling within you it is important to try to pause. Where in the body are you feeling the emotion? Why are you angry – what is going on that has pushed your buttons? What are you really angry about?

Let’s put this into an easier context and look at an example: –

You have been hard at work all day and there is less than an hour until home time. Your boss comes in and dumps a mountain of work on your desk and tells you that it needs to be done before you leave.

How do you react? Anger flares – you feel put upon and annoyed that you will be kept late at work. You perhaps feel rage that your boss is so disorganised and cares so little for your feelings. All these feelings and emotions are flying around your body – how do you react?

You ultimately have a choice – so let’s look at some possible reactions.

Option A – You fly off the handle and shout at your boss, telling him that there is no way you can do this amount of work within the hour and that he is being unfair and unrealistic. Your anger gets out of control and you become aggressive and you tell your boss to stick his job (if he hasn’t already fired you for your outburst!)

Option B – You say nothing and inwardly curse your boss for his behaviour. You rush through the work and don’t care if you make mistakes – thinking it will serve the boss right for making you stay late. You throw the work back on his desk and leave at your normal time but then worry all night about the mistakes and have a sleepless night because you know your boss will want answers first thing in the morning.

Option C – You grudgingly accept the work and mumble to yourself about it. You stay late and do the work all the while getting angrier and angrier at your boss. By the time you get home to your family you are in a terrible mood and take out your frustrations on them.

Option D – You calmly explain to your boss that you have plans for after work so cannot stay late. You ask him to prioritise what is most urgent and you make a start on that work, promising to then deal with the remainder the next day. You also raise the issue that there is too much work for one person if staying late is the only option to get it done so perhaps a meeting needs to be held to re-organise the team or to bring in additional staff. Your assertive behaviour impresses your boss and you find that each time you stand up for yourself in this manner the better the working conditions get.

Which option do you think is the best out of the four above? Option A isn’t great – you will likely lose your job if you behave in this manner! Options B and C are similar in that your inwardly directed anger impacts your home life after work and you affect your sleep or your family by your mood and worries. Option D is therefore the best way to behave – however this is all just hypothetical – in the real world you need to be able to pause and reflect before you react!

Dealing with anger is a skill and one that you can learn with a little practice! You can see from the above example that expressing your anger in a calm, assertive way is the best way forward but sometimes it is not that easy to do! You may perhaps need to suppress your anger for a moment before expressing yourself – the old chestnut “Breathe and count to 10” – it really does work!

Reiki teaches us that from an energy point of view anger rises up and constitutes a loss of control. In order to effectively deal with it and allow it to dissipate we need to focus on the hara (the energy centre at your navel) and breathe into the area. This naturally allows the rising energy to fall back down into the centre of your being and to naturally disperse. This calms the situation as the emotional response is relaxed and dissipated.

I am not suggesting that you suppress your anger – you do need to learn to express yourself – but in a healthy way. You may find that you cannot directly express your anger towards the object of your frustration so going to the gym or out for a run may help you to vent and get it out.

Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die! A good example of this is when you are out driving and someone cuts you up on the road. You may feel anger and start shouting and sounding your horn – road rage! The other driver is oblivious to your rage – they probably didn’t even see you, which is why they pulled out in front of you in the first place. You are all full of rage and stress while they are chilled to the max in their car! Who is your anger serving? Nobody at all!

Coping with anger is a 4 step process: –

  1. Recognise and admit that you feel angry.
  2. Pause and identify the cause of the anger – what is going on – why are you really angry?
  3. Consider your options.
  4. Choose the best one and follow it through.

It is better to own your anger rather than project the blame elsewhere. For example, saying “I am feeling angry” is better than saying “You have made me angry”.

Often we can use humour to diffuse a tense or angry situation – just be careful that you don’t become overly sarcastic as this can then push someone else’s buttons as they think you are being rude or facetious!

I often find that it is good practice to try and put the situation into perspective. I try to see it from the other person’s point of view. This is another learned skill but one which is really useful for diffusing anger and frustration. The next time someone says or does something which makes you feel angry, pause and see if you can look at the situation from their point of view. It can give you a better perspective and removes you from the middle of it – this, in turn, then allows you to come to a balanced state of mind and your reaction will be more measured as a result.

Talking is also important. Remaining calm and assertive rather than aggressive or passive aggressive is definitely the way forward. You may also find that it is best to talk it over with an independent third party or if anger issues are really out of control, then perhaps seeking counselling for anger management may help you.

Learning to let go is one of the joys of living the Reiki way. Using the principles in meditation each day and repeating “Just for today I release anger” can be really beneficial for you. It helps you to see the bigger picture and allows you to find a deep centre of calm to draw on when circumstances arise to push your anger button.

Placing your hands over your tummy and deeply breathing while repeating “I release anger” can really help you restore calm.

If you are Reiki attuned you may also find it beneficial to practice the art of having a Reiki shower each day to fill yourself with Reiki love and light. This naturally helps you shine your light and in turn raises your energy vibration. As your energy vibe increases then naturally this filters out around you like a ripple and raises the vibration of those around you, making it less likely that anyone will feel the need to be angry. Win-win for all concerned!

As you learn to work with the Reiki principles you naturally become more tolerant and compassionate. Forgiveness becomes the default position and you learn to be more calm and relaxed. This is life changing stuff – let Reiki in and make the changes you need to make. I promise you that it is definitely worth it.

Next time we will look at living without worry. Until then, be mindful, own your emotions and be Reiki.