Patience is a virtue. Although back then I had no idea what she was talking about, in retrospect this was a wise catchphrase spoken to me by my mother when I was a youngster, nagging her about one of the many things. All of us have our patience tested sooner or later. Whether it be by a stranger, co-worker, what may seem like a bad situation, or even by our loved ones. Sometimes, patience pulls through and everyone is left unscathed. But what happens when that gut wrenching feeling kicks in, when our patience is on the brink of failing that seemingly important test? Can being patient really stop us from unleashing the angry beast? Maybe.
Anger, as defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary, is a strong feeling of displeasure. If anger is a feeling of displeasure, could it be that how we express that displeasure is under our control? It must be. Even if our employees don’t submit their work on time, our children paint the walls with their hands, our friends cancel plans on us for the third time in a row, or our loved ones forget an anniversary, we must still have a choice of how we respond to each situation. The question is, how can we become more aware of that choice and stop ourselves before bad gets worse. Here are some things I’ve stumbled upon through my learning:
1. Practise breathing
Some would call this meditation, but that might sound intimidating at first. Especially for those who have no idea what that means. Spending 5-10 minutes every morning or night before bed (or both) just focusing on a specific breathing pattern fosters more awareness of our breath, and therefore more awareness of the present moment. This can surely help us in a time where we will need to be aware of our feelings and how to react most appropriately.
2. Stop to think
The more we become aware of our breath, and the present moment, the more ability we have to stop and think. As soon as we catch ourselves building tension in the body or mind, we should stop and think about how we can best handle the situation at hand. We should ask ourselves, “What’s the best thing I can do or say right now?”
All of this seems to come down to awareness. There is no better way to build awareness and patience than to spend a few minutes every night writing down some of the situations or interactions we handled negatively that day. In doing so, we are focusing our attention on not making the same mistakes. The more time we spend reflecting on improving, the more we become aware of our mistakes and better we become at avoiding them in the first place.
To summarize, maybe we can’t eliminate anger, but with enough practice, we can all take control of how we respond to it instead of being controlled by it.