Slow Burn

“Angry people want you to see how powerful they are…loving people want you to see how powerful you are.”
        — Chief Red Eagle 


Recently I donated my hands to a “Ladies Night Out” event. My “station” was positioned across the aisle from a table of lovely scented candles. The name of the company was Slow Burn. That name—clever for a candle company—got me thinking about anger, which just so happened to be the number two topic of most women on my table that evening, second only to stress. 

Anger is a natural response, a warning bell that lets us know something’s wrong. Physically, it triggers the release of adrenaline which typically increases muscle tension, heart rate, and blood pressure. Anger only becomes a problem when we don’t manage it in a healthy way. We have two choices: 

This can range from a rational conversation to a violent outburst. When we choose the latter—a violent outburst—it equates to an emotional explosion

This is an attempt to hold it in, or ignore it. When we choose to hold it in—sweep it under the carpet—it equates to an emotional implosion.

Note: Suppression includes passive-aggressive responses where we don’t express our anger constructively; rather we scheme to retaliate instead. 

Ideally we choose constructive expression—stating our concerns in a cool, calm, and collected manner—without hurting or manipulating others. 

One of my favorite books on this topic is, “Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames” by Thich Nhat Hanh

How do you cool the flames? 

Listen with your heart,

Laurie Buchanan

Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
                — Laurie Buchanan and our Facebook page

35 thoughts on “Slow Burn

  1. Oh how I love this one and will share with others!

    I have a few things and admitt to the supression part some times!
    However I am pretty practical, rational, and analytical so I hope I would do the expression part in an uplifting, constructive, healing, and ?? I am not awake yet this morning!

    I also use “Hot Flash” herbal towlettes! and a ‘cooling Gel!!!!!!

    Have a great day!

    • Kim – “Hot Flash” towlettes. I wish I’d known about those when I was having power surges here and there 🙂 (and you almost had it — “positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing” — go have another cup of coffee)…

  2. Yes–I agree with Kim. Very thoughtful, and something we need to think about. I think we’ve all tried to the explosion and suppression routine and discovered that they don’t always work too well. I would like to be awake enough in the moment to recognize the anger arising and then to choose a responsive movement from it. Doesn’t always happen…but am working on it. Great post!

    • Kathy – From my perspective, the key word you used here is “choose.” I totally agree — we may not be able to control the circumstance, be we can always choose our response. Your other key word is “responsive” (response is thought-filled as opposed to “react,” which can be knee-jerk).

  3. Very interesting topic. It’s one that I’ve struggled with–for years. I was raised by loving, devoted parents who were slow to anger. Unfortunately, for me, due to a number of factors–including, but not limited to, my attempt to squeeze my dyslexic self into a non-dyslexic world–I have a short fuse.
    I recently mentioned this fact to a friend and there was silence, followed by laughter and then, “You?”
    All of which made me think that I’ve managed to channel my anger very well–or at least around her.
    Like yourself Laurie, I don’t believe that anger is necessarily a negative emotion. In fact, I believe that it can lead to important change–personal and global. However, the key is effective use of this emotion.

    • Leanne – Thank you so much for sharing here. Like you, people are typically surprised to learn that I used to (past tense) have a fairly short fuse. As you’ve pointed out, not necessarily all bad, I’ve learned the effective use of this natural emotion.

  4. I feel like my youngest child grew up with constantly angry people in her life – like the world owned them everything and because it was not right there handed to them they were angry and the acted out at the Mall, school, and restaurants – anywhere to draw attention and stir the responses around themselves.
    Now they are angry they need to work and they are still rolling their eyes and saying whatever…my body picks up this anger and then I have to sort it out of my system….which is a lot of work…I have recently found myself avoiding these folks all together.
    My big concern is that I think we have a whole generation that does not know how to use anger coming up against a whole generation that was taught to be nice and avoid anger…and TV programs where everyone is drinking ( even if their parents are alcoholics – that says to me that they can’t learn) having sex, and yelling out their angers – reinforcements.
    Then we have the political folks yelling and name calling
    I think anger is a very positive emotion and great teacher….the problem is that we hardly know how to use it or understand it?
    Good points here

    • Patricia – I’m glad you stopped by and shared your observations, thank you. Anger can be a “sticky wicket” for many people — not only those displaying it, but those on the receiving end as well.

  5. I often walk my anger out Laurie… somehow it seems to release into the ground and head for the core of the earth – leaving me cool and refreshed. It is at this point I will come back to the situation and decide how I will express what would work better for me and begin that heart-to-heart conversation. For big issues this has resulted in activism work to create a world I want to live in. As always good question!

  6. Anger? Hmmm . . . let me see if I know that one. Is it the one where my face gets all hot, I start growling deep in my throat, and I shoot hot white glances that would kill through my narrowed slanted eyes? Well, that could be indigestion, too. Oh, wait. I know anger. It is the one where I want so badly to bite somebody’s head off and show them how wrong they are and how right I am that I think I will absolutely explode unless I do. The only thing that saves me is that I remember that I have never been sorry for counting to ten, but I have often had to apologize when I did not.

    • Barbara – Another great laugh with the word pictures you’ve painted! Counting to ten is always a good idea. My mom used to say, “Laurie, make your words sweet and tender today for tomorrow you may have to eat them.” (I can’t tell you the number of bad tasting words had to choke down by not heeding her excellent advice)…

  7. I breathe, and pray for patience. I remember that most things which anger us are small things, and often creates something within ourselves that we don’t like. I tell myself it is not worth being angry over because it only hurts myself. My life is a lot more peaceful 🙂

  8. Important topic, Laurie. Love the quote and the book you referenced. Tolle would say anger is a function of the mind and its polarities — always seeking conflict, drama, etc. And of the ego wanting to be “right.” Thus, anger is a lack of peace … of inner peace … and never a true reflection of our spiritual essence. An illusion, so to speak. A Course in Miracles (I read a few pages each morning) points out that everything besides love is merely a need for love … something along those lines. With heart, Daisy

  9. Laurie, I have a far worse temper than my wife Lucille, who practically has none. But when I give thought to the reasons for this anger, I can’t really justify it. it’s silliness. But as far as the kids are concerned both Lucille and I are perrenial carpet sweepers. It always takes a major concern to take note. So we conform to some of the observations you made initally in this thought-provoking post. I agree that it is always far wiser to openly express what you are thinking.

    • Sam – I love your parenting style, “It always takes a major concern to take note.” Asking oneself if it’s worth going to the mat for and choosing one’s battles wisely. I’m glad for your visit today — thank you 🙂

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  11. It’s probably cliché, but I cool the flames by giving the other person the benefit of the doubt – maybe they’ve suffered a loss or are under some terrible stress that isn’t known to me. Or by putting myself in their shoes. It makes it easier to have a rational conversation.

    An illustrsation I once heard sticks in my mind and helps me, too. You can toss a ball gently to someone in such a manner that she can easily catch it. Or you can pitch the same ball with such force that it injues her or knocks her over. How we choose to express our anger influences how a person will receive it.

    Tim uses the “finding humor in the situaion” approach – for which I am grateful!

  12. Hi Laurie
    Many interesting perspectives on anger.

    I’ve experienced three very different sorts of major anger that I can think of.

    I recall being hit on side of my head without any warning, quite hard, and being almost overwhelmed by a red hot flash of anger, feeling that I could crush the person who hit me. Fortunately for both of us he had moved out of range and I was able to bring the anger under restraint, if not full control, in that split second of time.

    In another incident, I recall attempting to do the 40 hour famine, and finding that after about 35 hours without any food (no sugars at all) I became very quick to anger (I had a fuse that was only a few milliseconds long, and there was no space to consciously intervene until after the first expression) – really hard on Ailsa and Jewelz.

    Over 30 year ago I was at a public meeting when the then head of Fisheries management tried to humiliate me in front of a meeting of several hundred fishermen with the comment “What the f*#% would you know Howard, you’re just a f*#%ing dropout anyway.” The next year I went back to university, completed my degree, majored in marine ecology, and was a thorn in his side until the day he died (and I think some benefit to both the ecosystem health and the profitability of fisheries).
    The anger I felt at that meeting was of the righteous indignation type – the wronged individual.
    These days I can see how much of a favour he did me, not much else could have motivated me back to University.

    Then of course there are the tens of thousands of little angers that happen in daily life, some of which I manage to stop from expressing in reality.

    • Ted – The three examples you’ve provided here are great. In the first one, I’m thinking it’s reeeeaaaallllly good the other fellow moved out of range! The second instance I can’t even relate to as I’ve never been (voluntarily or otherwise) without food for 35 hours. I can well imagine I wouldn’t be pleasant–at all! And I love what you concluded from the third example, “These days I can see how much of a favour he did me, not much else could have motivated me back to University.”

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