Dealing Mindfully with Anger and Conflict in your Relationships
How can you deal more effectively with anger and conflict in your life? Here I am referring specifically to the anger and conflict that you experience in your outer relationships with other people. Below are some pointers for becoming more mindful in this area. This in turn will then naturally start to suggest practical ways you can be more successful dealing with the challenges presented.
- Observe the way in which you currently experience anger and conflict
Ask yourself the question: What is my current relationship with anger and conflict, both within myself and into relationships?
Bring to mind a time when you have been angry. What happens when you get angry? How does your body start to feel? Practice mindfully creating anger in your body and mind, and learn to relax into it, without being panicked by it or forced into a reaction. Get used to holding anger in your body comfortably, letting it flow.
Similarly, bring to mind a conflict you have in your outer relationships right now. Observe how you feel in the face of another person’s anger, disapproval or aggression. Practice mindful holding your own space and breathing with the experience of conflict, so that when it happens in real-time, you are not panicked or intimidated.
- A working definition of anger
‘Anger is a powerful emotion centered around issues of justice and fairness’. In its negative expression it is incredibly destructive and dangerous. In its positive expression it can be a powerful cause for order, justice and good in the world. ‘Positive anger’ might be thought of as simply the benevolent expression of justice and fairness in the face of malevolence or aggression. There is a lot to be gained from working to transform your own negative anger into positive anger.
- Working with conflict in your relationships Once you have done a little contemplation around Point 1 above, here is a short exercise you can apply to any relationship you may have where there is anger and conflict. Firstly, consider the situation from three perspectives –
1st person – I/mine/ours – What is happening in this situation from your personal point of view? What are you feeling?
2nd person – the other(s) – What is the other person/people experiencing? What do you start to see if you mindfully take their perspective for a period of time?
3rd person – It’s, objective – What do you start to see if you take a more objective/detached point of view, outside of all the personal stuff?
Based on your insights from these three perspectives then decide ‘Am I going to’:
- Change myself/adapt to the other person/people, (maybe not worth the hassle to confront?) or
- Try and change the other person, or take a stand for what I feel is right (genuine issue if justice, and or ‘worth it’)?
Finally, having made your decision, strategize! Use your natural intelligence to come up with a way of approaching the relationship conflict, communicating skillfully in a way that you think is going to give the best result!
Experiment with small conflicts
Small and relatively insignificant conflicts are great places to start working with the above methods. Finding ways to gently work with conflict, anger and confrontation in minor situations helps you build the skill and confidence so that when something big kicks off, you are able to hold your own and enjoy learning how to articulate your own power in relationship conflicts.