How do you talk yourself down when an issue, client, ruling, or opposing counsel have you seeing red?
What lawyer (or human being) has never experienced anger so hot that it has you seeing red? How do you mindfully deal with anger? How do you work towards freeing the anger so it doesn’t eat away at you?
Here are 5 Tips for Mindfully Dealing with Anger
1. AHHH! Acknowledging the anger. Anger is a survival instinct that helps to protect you and others. It lets you know when others stepped on your boundaries. It propels you towards action. If something happened that merits your anger response, let yourself feel the anger. Note that this doesn’t mean you should necessary react to the anger.
2. Understanding the function of the anger. Often, we hold onto anger that is no longer serving a useful function. Anger is a necessary and appropriate reaction if someone is trying to harm you but if you’re reacting with anger to that same situation a year down the line, when the threat has passed, it’s no longer serving a purpose. As lawyers, we frequently hold grudges or replay a situation over and over again in our head, like a broken record. Each time we replay the conversation or situation, it triggers the same anger reaction. We’re reliving the event as though it’s happening all over again. Ask yourself: What purpose is the anger serving in this moment?
3. Releasing the anger. Once you recognize that you’re holding onto anger that’s no longer serving you, practice letting it go. Meditation is a great tool for observing the angry thoughts rise and fall. You can watch your thoughts as though you’re watching a movie. Practicing adding a bit of distance between you and your angry thoughts.
4. Treat it with kindness. Imagine what you would say to a friend or a loved one if she or he was in your situation. What kind words, compassionate gesture, or feeling would you feel if someone you love was experiencing this anger?
5. Move your body. We can store emotions in our body and exercise is a great way to release it. Go for a walk, swim, practice yoga, dance, or any other movement.