January 9, 2013
Ideally meditation will make us less, not more irritable, but sometimes people do find that irritability or other uncomfortable experiences come up when they begin mediation. I just answered a question from Danielle who is having this problem. The question and answer are worth posting, as it’s much easier to find articles about the benefits of meditation than about the challenges that may come along.
Q (from Danielle who recently started meditating):
“The past week I feel I’m more irritated than I usually am, mostly about other people. Is it possible that meditation makes you more sensitive to sounds, noise, etc? Have you heard it before that people become more irritated in a time where they meditate? Of course it is possible that other issues in my life attribute to this feeling. Do you have a suggestion or should I just let it be?”
A: “There could be a number of reasons that you are feeling more irritable and you will need to experiment with and explore them to see what is happening. As you say, it could be issues in your life and not have to do with the meditation. Some people become irritable when under stress. If it is related to the meditation, I can think of three possibilities:
1 – You are coming out of meditation too quickly. If you get deep into meditation and then come out really fast, it can cause a headache or irritability. Always take time to come out of meditation slowly.
2 – Sometimes emotions that are under the surface can come up in the deep relaxation of meditation. We may become more aware of things that we are feeling. This ties in with the life issues. You may be more aware of how you are feeling about things, perhaps something that you are angry about, or it could even been some stored anger from the past. In either case, let the feeling be there in meditation, letting go if you notice resistance. When you are out of meditation, see if you can find the source of the irritation.
3 – You are straining in meditation. Ideally meditation is effortless, or you develop the habit of backing off when you realize you are trying too hard. It could make you irritable if you are making too much effort.”
I asked Danielle to keep me posted on what she discovers as she explores these possibilities. I’d love to hear from you if you have had similar experiences or challenges with meditation.
November 19, 2010
Is anger a difficult emotion for you? If yes, why?
In my family, anger simply wasn’t expressed. Being angry wasn’t allowed, the obvious conclusion being that it was a bad thing to feel. I wasn’t a child who could say “I hate you mommy!”, a perfectly normal thing for a young child to say. It’s taken a long, long time for me to find a healthy relationship with anger.
For others, the challenge with anger may be a different one, but I’ve had so many requests for a meditation for anger, that I know it’s a challenge for many people. I do hope this latest podcast meditation will help with some of the issues with anger, and would love to hear about your experience with it. I’ve thought about some reasons why anger can be so challenging and am sharing some of my thoughts as a background for the meditation.
Anger can be a very useful emotion. It can show us where we need to take action and gives us energy to do so. If the barking of a neighborhood dog or someone’s loud music is disturbing your sleep night after night, anger is a natural response. As part of the fight of flight response, it gets you to take action. Hopefully you can find a constructive way to confront the situation and resolve it.
Like every emotion anger is a natural flow of life energy. When allowed to flow freely, it passes through us. All too often, however, anger gets suppressed and doesn’t get released. That energy will then express itself in other ways, or lead to chronically tight muscles and other problems. What you resist persists, and suppressing anger actually keeps it around.
Another way of keeping anger going is to hold onto it by running stories in our minds about whatever it is that makes us angry. We may play something that happened over and over in our minds, thus extending the anger and not allowing it to resolve. Both strategies, suppressing anger and getting mentally involved with it, can cause it to continue longer than it needs to. It’s the ability to allow the anger to be felt fully that allows it to release.
Why would we hang onto anger? Sometimes anger is a reaction to another emotion, and covers up the original emotion. For example, if you feel hurt by someone, it may seem easier to feel the anger than the hurt. But unless you feel the underlying hurt, the anger will never resolve.
Anger can be difficult when it is accompanied by destructive thoughts. The thoughts themselves may seem unacceptable, or there may be a fear that they will be translated into action. The more we can feel the anger fully and allow whatever thought comes to come, the more choice we actually have about when and how to act. The ability to stay centered in ourselves as the observer of our anger gives us greater mastery over our behavior.
When to get help: Sometimes, of course, it’s important to get help with anger. If we are very angry a lot of the time or angry way out of proportion to the situation, counseling can help us work on unresolved issues causing the anger. And certainly if our expression of anger is interfering with our relationships, daily functioning or is destructive to others, professional help is needed.
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with anger and what you’ve learned. I’d also love to hear about your experiences with this meditation.