You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger. -Buddah
A very wise teacher once told me that anytime I find myself angry or upset with someone, I need to look at what it is in them that I see in myself. What is it triggering in me that needs to be healed? This was really difficult for me at the time to swallow because often I just thought someone was being a total jerk and I certainly didn't think I was one. Besides, I felt justified in my anger and certainly whatever that person did to me I wasn't responsible for!
The truth is, as time went on and my spiritual practice grew, I never knew something to be so true. I would often find myself triggered by something someone said or did and not understand why I was so upset. When I started developing this practice of looking within myself to uncover the true source of the upset, it always did come back to me.
I think our closest relationships are our greatest mirrors into ourselves. They are the ones that trigger our deepest wounds the most... the ones where we really get the opportunity to work on our stuff. How many times have you found yourself frustrated and angry at your spouse or your children, accusing them of things you yourself know you do?
For example, my own son is ridiculously sensitive. And persistent. And determined to get what he wants at all times. I find myself telling friends how much this drives me crazy... and in the midst of venting realize I'm describing myself! I have always hated how sensitive I am. So when he reacts to something I feel is minor, I get triggered because it's a trait I dislike in myself. So I use him as an opportunity to heal that wound in me by showing him compassion in those moments. I ask myself, "What would I want my own mother to say to me if I was upset about something even if it seems minor to her?" I know I would want her to acknowledge my feelings. I'd want her to tell me it's Ok that I'm upset and not judge me. I would want her to comfort me. By showing this same compassion towards my own son, I'm starting to let go of that judgement I have towards myself that I'm too sensitive.
If we look at some of our closet relationships... the ones with our parents, our siblings, our closet friends, our partners, we can surely find dozens of examples of things they do that trigger us on a daily basis and cause repeated arguments. Or resentments we are holding onto that we can't seem to let go of. When you find yourself in a situation where you are angry and upset at someone, ask yourself these 3 important questions:
1. Why is this situation so upsetting to me?
2. What is MY part in this?
3. What is this really about for me?
Most of the time, whatever we are feeling is about us... our egos.... the wounds from our childhood we still haven't healed, guilt we are feeling about something, or our simple unequivocal need to be "right". All of these things chip away at our happiness and inner peace. And leave us in a state of conflict and suffering with the people we love most.
So, the next time someone pushes your buttons and you find your blood boiling, stop... take a deep breath. And bring it back to you. What are you willing to own? What are you willing to let go of to end the conflict? Because you can't change what other people say or do, but you can change your reaction to them. You can own your piece of it. You can choose to not allow what they are saying or doing upset you. You can see at it as a fabulous opportunity to look within and discover things about yourself you didn't even know were there.
You may even want to say "thank you" the next time someone pisses you off. That person will most likely end up being one of your greatest teachers.