Cooling Anger and Warming Sadness
When we are intensely angry it becomes hard to see straight. Conversely, the low drag of sadness can leave us with too little energy to pay much attention. So, for the sake of those in the thick of these emotions, we’ll get straight to the point.
Recently a circle of people gathered at the Benedictine Center to talk about the dynamics of anger and sadness in our lives. Together we discovered a series of images and a handful of concrete actions that help us get practical about cooling our anger and warming our sadness.
Picturing Anger and Sadness
- Remember, feelings are a God-given capacity.
- Go gently with yourself. (Try a body scan meditation)
- Notice and name what you are feeling. (Explore new words for anger or sadness; pray the Psalms to borrow language from others)
- In anger, increase the movement of your body to match the influx of fight-or-flight chemicals. (Engage exercise or hands-on work)
- In sadness, increase the movement of your body to breath deeply and open to the world around you. (Consider "sauntering," which Thoreau says improves our morale, and makes us frank, cordial and single-minded)
- Stay connected. (Keep reaching out to friends/mentors who help you keep anger and sadness in the light of day)
- Turn toward God with whatever you are experiencing, especially the unpleasant. The monk Michael Casey illustrates the benefit of this trust in God's healing mercy through an image from the Church Fathers:
"A basket of manure is not valuable on its own, but in the hands of a master gardener, it is placed around the roots of trees to produce growth. Our sadnesses and pain may not seem worth much, but they are fuel the Holy Spirit kindles into love" (Toward God, Ligouri Publications, 1996).