I just finished Vinegar Into Honey: Seven Steps To Understanding And Transforming Anger, Aggression, And Violence, by Ron Leifer (Snow Lion, 2008). I’m interested in emotional patterns, and I was curious to see how Leifer, a psychiatrist and Buddhist meditation teacher, would suggest working with anger. The title is a Tibetan metaphor for transforming negative emotion into wisdom. Leifer’s seven-step process is a practical one, from developing awareness of the many faces of anger to opening one’s heart to both the goodness and pain in life. The root of his approach is to be keenly aware of what is happening in any moment and take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, and actions, while practicing meditation to calm body and mind. Leifer sees anxiety, anger, and depression as closely related, and I was struck by his reflections on hopelessness and helplessness as sources of these painful feelings. He emphasizes the necessity to stop blaming others and ourselves, and to relax our tenacious grip on our desires. Understanding the dynamics of anger allows us to make wiser choices, he says, and I found particularly helpful his suggestion that when we are angry we ask ourselves three questions: “What did I want that I didn’t get?” “What was I getting that I didn’t want” “How did I feel about myself?”
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