Can Meditation Make Us Less Angry?

It can sometimes seem like the world is getting angrier. Whether it is Trumpian politics, keyboard warriors or the deluge of bad news we’re presented with on a daily basis, so much of our modern discourse seems to be fueled by animosity.

While anger is sometimes a valid and necessary response to injustice, and a driver of change, the majority of the time it fosters division and hampers our empathy. This raises an important question: are there ways we can lessen this often destructive and limiting emotion?

Anger in the Everyday

It’s in the larger themes of life – from politics to religion – that anger and annoyance are at their most obvious. Anger is deliberately fueled to entrench certain worldviews, stop people from discussing issues from a point of understanding, and obfuscate our common humanity. The people who try to stymie the freedoms of others (whether through terrorism, violence, or more subtle rhetoric and government reform) rely on their own anger at the way things are – and stoking the anger of others – to force their ideas through.

It is anger that allows immigrants to be treated badly, inspires people to picket gay rights marches, and reduces intelligent debate to shouting matches. But it isn’t only here that we see the problems resentment and outrage cause.

In our day-to-day lives and personal relationships, anger can be a significant barrier to happiness and good will. When we become irritable with our partners, children or family, we find it harder to appreciate them as a full human being – with flaws and motivations of their own – and instead accredit them with attributes and intentions that can be quite far from the truth.

When we’re irritable, a thoughtless action can suddenly be misconstrued as a deliberately provocative one. The person in question may be cast in our minds as inherently “lazy” or “annoying” or “selfish,” instead of a good person that we love who happens to have done a lazy, annoying or selfish thing. It throws up a wall which stops us from truly relating to others, and is an impediment to us actually solving the problem or communicating our point of view.

Angry emotions can also feel like something we have little conscious control over. Everyone has experienced a time where they’ve become more incensed than they need to be, snapping or shouting at someone and feeling instantly guilty afterwards – especially if we’ve managed to really hurt their feelings. If this happens too often, our loved ones can even become wary of us, walking on eggshells when really, we’re the one who is being unfair, which is a deeply problematic situation to find ourselves in.

We can find ourselves in the grips of wasted anger over things we can’t control. The deep frustration of being stuck in a long queue, filling out pointless finicky forms, the car in front driving very, very slowly when we need to be somewhere. It can all make us want to scream and cast a cloud over the rest of our day. But ultimately, these feelings get us nowhere, because we can’t change the situation even if we wanted to.