When someone makes us really angry, we usually think harshly about that person, sometimes playing those negative thoughts like a record, over and over again in our heads. If we’re not careful, we may dwell in the anger, telling the story of how we were done wrong, so others will take our side. This sends us into a downward spiral of negativity, which can create tense muscles, increase stomach acidity, raise blood pressure, and keep us from thinking positively, potentially causing aches and pains, ulcers, heart disease and even cancer.
Think about someone who has made you furious, and notice how it makes your body feel. Now think about someone you truly love and appreciate, and notice how you feel. Different, right? If those thoughts can impact your body that quickly, just imagine how ruminating on anger for hours, days, weeks, or even years, can create havoc on your body.
Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult challenges in our lives, but if we want to be truly healthy and happy, we must forgive the people who have hurt us. We must forgive them, even if they were wrong — even if they deserve to suffer our wrath. Why? Because, as Lewis Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Meditation is a great way to overcome anger. When you’re ready to forgive, (and you may have to push yourself a little, remembering that you’re doing it more for yourself than the other person), close your eyes, focus on your breath, and notice your feelings. Be curious about the emotions that come up during your meditation. Look at them as though they are interesting. You may find a deeper reason than you realized, as to why you feel so angry. Perhaps it’s reminding you of another situation in your life?
Take time to ask yourself what lesson(s) you can learn from your situation. Come up with something more than the fact that the perpetrator is a horrible person. Look deep and you will find a lesson.
Next, feel sorry for the person you’re angry with. They had something going on in their life, that led them to do what they did. Not giving them an excuse, but somehow bringing yourself to a place of compassion. Do this for your own good.
Once you feel compassion, hope, wish, or pray that they receive whatever it is they need to be okay enough that they won’t repeat their inappropriate behavior. Your thought can be as simple as, “I wish them well.”
Every time you start thinking negatively about that person, replace your thoughts with, “I wish them well” (or an equivalent), and turn your thoughts elsewhere. Think of something that makes you happy, or focus on a project.
You don’t need to become best friends with your perpetrator. Just coming to a place where you can think about them without it affecting you, can be enough to have a huge impact on your mental and physical health.
As Confucius said, “To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.”
Diane Curriden, a certified personal trainer, registered yoga teacher and alternative healer, can be reached at 350-0810 or www.ValleyAlternativeHealing.com.
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