Do you feel anger in response to the words and actions of people with different political views from yours? Sometimes overwhelming frustration? Perhaps even rage? When we enjoy the democratic value of popular sovereignty and endeavor to make sure our voice is heard, our feelings of anger can get out of hand, and then those feelings do inevitably hinder our effectiveness. Managing our reaction to others can start with knowing what type of anger we are feeling.

From a psychological perspective, there are many types of anger: assertive, passive-aggressive, chronic, self-abusive, volatile, etc. Recognizing how you regularly experience anger can be helpful. For example, identifying whether you internalize anger or direct it outward toward others, and whether you’re more prone to express your anger verbally or physically, can tell you whether you need to watch out for self-destructive behaviors or for what you say and do to others.

From a spiritual perspective, the types of anger include righteous anger, ego-/lower-self anger, and anger associated with a dark/evil influence. The first type of spiritual anger, righteous anger, is often an appropriate reaction to circumstances. Righteous anger can be good in that it can give us the energy and motivation to "speak truth to power" and to fight for justice. The second and third types often become intertwined and can be detrimental to our effectiveness. When we feel anger from our ego-/lower-self or "dark" anger, we often lose our self-control, or at least our sense of being centered, grounded, and aligned with our higher purpose. When we’re experiencing anger of this sort, it can easily build until we’re like a ball being bounced and kicked every which way.

From both a psychological and spiritual perspective, recognizing the intention behind the anger you are experiencing is also important. For example, if the underlying motivation for the anger you’re feeling is to punish or retaliate, you will want to take steps quickly to redirect your feelings toward a productive intention, such as to resist injustice, or to repair relations. The following practices may help us restore our sense of direction:

  • Change your position. If you’re standing, sit down, and vice versa. If this change isn’t enough, change your location. If you’re in the conference room, go to your office, or go outside, etc.
  • Go splash cold water on your face, or perform the ablutions associated with your spiritual path with the intention of purification and dedication to your highest pursuit.
  • Start paying close attention to your breath. Exhale your anger. If you find it helpful, pair the exhalation with an internal mantra or a visualization of pushing the anger out of your body down into the earth. If this doesn’t work, give yourself permission to try other ways of releasing your anger, such as a physical movement (done in a safe way), through drawing/painting, or through sound in a suitable environment.
  • Practice forbearance, i.e., restraint, tolerance, and forgiveness. Start with imagining a sphere of merciful and loving energy extending from your heart to contain you and your feelings of anger; the hurt and other feelings, needs, and longings beneath your anger; your underlying motivations (whether positive or negative); etc. This is a container for holding, i.e., it isn’t for changing anything. Then visualize that sphere of merciful and loving energy extending from your heart to contain you, the other person(s) involved, and the overall situation. Practice restraint by not acting until your energetic heart is containing both you and the other(s). After this merciful and loving energy has expanded to contain all parties, practice tolerance of differences and disagreements, and forgiveness by letting go of the offense(s).
Habib Todd Boerger in Practicing Democracy through Advocacy and Outreach