For much of my adult life, I was a reactive angry sort without realizing I was. I got frustrated and impatient at times, but I wasn't the kind of person who lost her temper or started yelling.
A death in the family a few years ago unearthed the rage. Boy oh boy.
Once I started to see how reactive I was, I wanted to do something about it. With perfect timing, an article crossed my desk by Pema Chodron: "The Answer to Anger & Aggression is Patience"
Patience? I read the article, and yes, patience. I'd never equated anger and impatience before but it made sense. My loved ones could sense my anger even when it I was fighting it internally. They told me, "It's not what you say, but how you say it." I wanted to change that.
So I practised biting my tongue. Literally. Have you any idea HOW HARD it was to bite my tongue? I don't mean physically. But to stop and do this? I was so reactive. Harder yet because I had to accept the fact that I wasn't as nice a person as I'd thought. But it's a powerful practice. Biting my tongue forces me to stop and wait. It demands patience.
I took a playful approach. I mean can you picture it? How absurd! Some part of my brain snorts in laughter at the picture of my tongue trapped between my teeth. Every. Single. Time.
And it's been kind of fun to watch my progress. By starting with the easier ones - the normal annoyances and disappointments of everyday life - I built enough competence to go for a few of the big ticket ones. I knew which ones would push my buttons, so I prepped. If I didn't think I'd be able to bite my tongue that day, I'd avoid direct contact. Sometimes I let the patience practice be a listening-without-talking day. That's good practice. And when I would inevitably mess up, I could be more patient with myself. I'm only human. It's a process.
You'd think biting my tongue would make me feel constrained. It doesn't. Instead, it feels oddly freeing.