A few months ago I finally met people to push my buttons, and it was a shock: "help, I'm angry!" What should I do? Let me first outline the situation. I work at a university, and you are not allowed to have your own electric water kettle. This would not be a problem, except that there is no decent hot water supply, apart from a machine that gives you a tiny bottom of water for 5 eurocent. As a result, most scientific personnel have their own illegal water kettles. But this is a problem when you work on the same floor as the people who manage the university's facilities (which includes the coffee machines that dispense the hot water). One day, one of them came to tell me that having a water kettle is not allowed, and this turned into a very unpleasant conversation. In part this was because I was not willing to tell the person I was going to get rid of the water kettle and obey the rules. This was followed by a few more unpleasant conversations and eventually a disappearance of my water kettle and some other more disturbing events. My reaction was definitely interesting. I noticed how those conversations really stirred me up and how they kept coming back to me when I got home. The anger really got a hold of me and held me tight even long after the situation was over. It led to really strong rumination and me plotting out courses of action--in short, a good source of fuel for distraction and stories in meditation.
Then it occurred to me there should be a more productive way for me to go about this, and I tried to remember the tools we learned about in meditation class for dealing with emotions. One of the techniques that I found very helpful was imagining the other person as another you. He too wants to be happy, he is probably yelling at me because he had a bad interaction with his wife this morning, or something like that. Seeing the other as really another person made me much more open to receive his words and not take them too personal. An even more effective trick for me was what Sogyal Rinpoche calls being like a piece of wood or a corpse. When another person yells at you, just don't react. Not reacting is much better than reacting in a hurtful way, and at a later moment you can always address the issue in a more productive way. This is what eventually ended up happening. In further interactions with the people from the facilities, I just stopped any discussions and remained silent like a block of wood. At a later moment, some colleagues and I ended up explaining our issues in a very polite manner to the boss of the person in question. Ever since, my interaction with the facilities people that was initially so negative and anger-provoking has become much more smooth and nice. For me this experience was very powerful in showing me that (i) I do have anger inside me and (ii) it can actually be transformed.
If you happen to live in the Netherlands, like I do, and want to learn more about your thoughts and emotions, the good news is that another What Meditation Really Is course will be starting in Amsterdam in February (see http://rigpa.nl/nl/programma/introductiecursus).
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- Written by Marieke van Vugt
- // Wednesday, 01 February 2012 21:50
Help--I am angry!
A little while ago I had an interesting experience at work, where the things I learnt in my meditation practice surely came in helpful. The situation is that I am very lucky to be mostly surrounded by some of the most interesting, kind and open-minded people. As a result, I pretty much never get angry. I always used to think I am just "not that kind of a person that gets angry". It turned out, I was wrong. I just hadn't met the people to make me angry.