Physical Responses to Anger

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  • Charles
    • Feb 2008
    • 95

    Physical Responses to Anger

    Hi everyone,

    I posted this on Harry's 'We Angry Buddhists' blog tonight. If anyone has thoughts about this topic, please comment, either here or there: ... anger.html

    Originally posted by Charles
    My zazen practice has recently led me to consider things that my body does in response to anger.

    We're probably all familiar with the rapid heartbeat and adrenaline rush that can be an element of intense anger. This is part of the complex situation which we might experience as loss of control and/or an urge to lash out and cause hurt. Sometimes I think about this as, "When I was feeling anger, my body was..." but separating the anger from these physical facts seems artificial. The anger and the rapid heartbeat aren't so separable.

    Anyways, I have some less obvious physical stuff that's tied to anger as well. When I was a child, and my parents fought, they were very loud. In addition to yelling, they would stomp around the house, slam doors, sometimes throw things against walls, pound fists on tables, etc.

    Now, I associate sounds like these with anger, even when they don't have anything to do with anger. When the wind slams a door shut, my heart rate briefly increases, and sometimes my breath becomes fast. When someone in my house runs up a flight of stairs, I twitch a little and become a little bit afraid. In a benign social situation, when someone pounds a table for emphasis during a conversation, I might get a little headache.

    I've probably been doing this for a long time without really noticing it, since these responses fade quickly. But now, these things happen when I'm doing sitting meditation, and in that context they're incredibly jarring. The response is so damn obvious.

    This has me re-examining what emotions are, what experiences are. I tend to think of emotions as 'mental events' or 'states of mind' but they're just as much 'states of body.' Or maybe it would be better to say that prying apart body and mind isn't really possible when I'm paying attention.

    Does anyone else have experiences like these, or have any thoughts about this?
  • CharlesC
    • May 2008
    • 83

    Re: Physical Responses to Anger