Anger Management Awareness Techniques--Part I
Anger is most likely to occur when your awareness
is “off line.” If I’m driving and very suddenly and
unexpectedly someone plows into my back bumper, my
reaction will be immediate and raw. My defenses were
not up, so to speak, so I was unable to mitigate my
reaction by first filtering it through any awareness.
If I had thought to myself that someone is likely to
hit me in the tail, and then I just happened to look
in the rear-view mirror at the moment someone was
closing on me too fast, when they hit me, my reaction
would have actually been quite different. Of course,
this is not likely to occur, but the point is that
awareness moderates reactions, especially if the awareness
is of one’s own process.
This is the laymen’s definition of mindfulness.
The definitions in the literature refer to being completely
in touch with and aware of the present moment. These
definitions de-emphasize the kind of a priori thinking
described in the preceding paragraph; rather, they focus
more on taking a non-judgmental (think evaluative without
the “shoulds,”) approach to one’s inner experience.
Here’s an example of the latter definition. Try
watching your mental movements and realizing these thoughts
are just thoughts. Any feelings you might have are just that,
feelings. Try this with all thoughts or feelings—positive,
neutral or negative. In mindfulness, all thoughts and feelings
are viewed in this way--dispassionately. All experiences are
watched with equanimity, as if from off to the side, without
judgment. Only, you are not off to the side. You are just
suspending judgment as you consciously move through your own
experiences, second by second.
This might sound a little too “Eastern” for some readers.
Think of mindfulness as a process of discerning but disengaging.
The discerning is being aware, in the moment, going with the flow.
The disengaging is about not being caught up in your expectations,
much less your attachments. You are suspending judgment, accepting
without too much criticism what is in your experience.
In the office, I frequently use the metaphor of writing on water.
Imaging your mind is a pool of water, and I send you a message.
With your finger, write the message on the water. The water
records the message, then flattens out. The message registers but
doesn’t stick. You had the full impression of my message without
When I say the message didn’t “stick,” I did not mean you
failed to remember it. In mindfulness, there is full appreciation
of experience. The colors in the world are just as bright and the
sensations—tastes, sounds, thrills, and ups and downs—all are just
as intense. The difference is that you, the perceiver, are more
fluid in the midst of these experiences, not getting stuck in the
rightness or wrongness of each. This experience is a psychological
stance, which if applied over time, can lead to a serene state.
But you don’t have to spend years meditating to achieve results.