What is Equanimity?


Equanimity is defined as “mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.”

It’s the ability to keep our cool. It’s about not judging life events and not judging our emotions.

While it seems related to the Buddhist practice of detachment, cultivating equanimity does not mean disengaging. It’s the ability to be fully present and yet unruffled by the external or internal shifting of the winds.

woman on wire w heart and head in hands
Compassion sign with arrow

“Equanimity, is the perfect partner of compassion. Equanimity is the stability of mind that allows us to be present with an open heart no matter how wonderful or difficult conditions are. It is said that the boundless qualities of lovingkindness, compassion, and sympathetic joy stem from equanimity.” – Roshi Joan Halifax 

Emotional Regulation


Is emotional regulation different from equanimity?


As described above, equanimity is generally considered a state of mind or a personal practice. 

Emotional regulation is similar but is primarily considered a behavioral skill. The term is often used in reference to children and their ability to control their behavior – to manage themselves appropriately in group settings.

colleagues sitting at a table

The term emotional management is often used interchangeably with emotional regulation. It also applies to adults but we often don’t label the behavior when referring to adults who have outbursts and behave inappropriately.

The media is known for downplaying and even denying outrageous behavior from certain public figures. Instead, they use terms like “frustrated” to describe them. That kind of denial enables and excuses the inappropriate and abusive behavior of bad role models.

man at desk speaking assertively to woman

Know Your Triggers and Manage Your Emotional Responses


Emotional self-management is an important skill for navigating our relationships.

Those who cannot manage their emotional reactions will have difficulty in life. You might be successful and go far but at great expense to yourself and others.

The ability to moderate your emotions is a maturity issue. Small children haven’t yet developed this skill and therefore often have emotional meltdowns, known as “temper tantrums.” While they are no fun for parents the meltdowns are a natural aspect of a child’s psychological development as they begin to individuate and develop their own identity. Around the age of two, parents set specific limits to keep the child safe because the child does not yet have the ability to set limits for themselves. The boundaries that a parent puts in place provide the foundation for the child to later establish their own personal boundaries.

Some adults also have temper tantrums. They look a little different but are fueled by the same emotions. We all know those people. We’ve had them as a boss, maybe even a partner. We’ve also seen them in high positions in public life. Those are the people we feel embarrassed for and shake our heads when they go ballistic.

Maybe you struggle with this issue. Maybe you’ve gotten away with it without consequences. Our society accepts angry outbursts from men. Some even consider it a sign of strength, though it’s more a sign of weakness and immaturity.

Women can certainly be just as aggressive as men, especially in a business setting. Some women make a conscious decision to throw their weight around once in a leadership position, for fear that they wouldn’t be taken seriously otherwise in a male-dominated environment.

aggressive male boss yelling at female employee

People Don’t Quit Their Job – They Quit Their Boss
We often leave a job because of a supervisor who lacks people skills and treats us harshly.

businesswoman aggressively gesturing to man across desk


Immature adults who cannot manage themselves emotionally often have narcissistic tendencies.

Those at the extreme end of the narcissism continuum are excessively immature and are often known for their aggressive bluster.

They are incapable of taking responsibility for themselves – never acknowledging a mistake or wrongdoing on their part. They might successfully manipulate others by playing the victim card, but their behavior is childish.

man and woman standing in conference room in confrontational stance

Assertiveness Skills Are the Cure for Aggression


This may sound counter-intuitive, but the best-kept secret is that learning assertiveness will help you manage your aggression.

Those who easily “fly off the handle” when frustrated will benefit from learning assertiveness skills. That’s because assertiveness is foundational to effective communication. It is the skill of calmly offering clear, and direct messages.

Learning assertiveness increases confidence. A confident person does not need to behave aggressively, because even when they need to be firm, they keep their message clear and concise. They understand that empathy is a virtue that creates connection and that even a firm limit can be expressed with compassion.

Learn more about this on the Assertiveness Skills page

business partners fighting across desk

Anger is Just an Emotion


What About Anger?

It’s hard enough to get some people to admit that they feel anger, much less getting them to talk about it.

Everyone gets angry. Yes, everyone. Even the kindly neighbor lady who is always smiling and brings you cookies. Even the spiritual teacher who speaks softly about love and acceptance.

Anger is a Misunderstood Emotion

People generally don’t think kindly of anger. They wish it would stay in its little cave and leave them alone.

They might even believe that if no one gets angry we would all get along. The reality is that we would only get along if there was only one person who got their needs met and the rest of us accepted that and kept quiet.

Some of us were taught that we should never feel anger and if we do, we should not show it. This is mostly true for women who were trained early on that anger is unbecoming for little girls. Additionally, girls and women have been programmed to believe that they have no right to feel angry – that they should accept their fate whatever that might be, as dictated, usually by the men in their lives.

Hence girls are not taught assertiveness which is the skill we use to appropriately express our anger if we decide it needs to be communicated.

There are times when our anger is simply an emotion to notice and it doesn’t need to be expressed to anyone – like when someone cuts us off on the highway.

all emotions are acceptable - all behavior is not
facilitated group

Expressing Anger Appropriately

How Do We Express Anger Appropriately?

In general, that means expressing it without dumping it on anyone. Sometimes that means expressing it alone in the privacy of our own home. Or sharing it with a professional – someone we pay to listen to us vent and help us process the experience, like a therapist or a life coach.

If we have a partner or friend who’s willing to indulge us, we can vent to them. But we don’t want to hold them hostage and force them to listen to an endless rant.

Sometimes when we are extremely ticked off, the best action is to find a safe place to beat on pillows to get our frustrations out. 

woman standing at conference table speaking seriously to those who are seated

Like this – firmly but without aggression.

When Angry at Someone Else’s Behavior

If we are angry about the behavior of another person, we can reflect on what we are feeling and decide if we simply got triggered or if there is something we need to work out with that person.

However, dumping on them aggressively isn’t the way to do it. Instead, we can communicate a complete message describing what happened (without judgment), saying that we felt angry, expressing what we need regarding that situation or in general, and if we wish we can make a request. Not a demand but a request – that may or may not be granted.

Learn more about this communication model here.

manager points finger at one employee across table

Your message will be best received without the finger-pointing gesture.

Articles Related to Anger, Equanimity & Emotional Regulation 


Articles Related to Anger, Equanimity & Emotional Regulation


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