The Therapeutic Strategy for Turning Anger into Compassion

November 14, 2017 in Emotions 3 Shared

Anger is a poisonous emotion that is born out of perceived danger and threats. Its evolutionary purpose is to motivate us to fight against things that can harm us or even kill us. In addition, like all well-regulated emotions, it fuels us with a large amount of energy that we can use to our advantage. By turning anger into compassion we can find peace.

It usually manifests as tension, both in muscles and in the jaw, as well as an accelerated heart rate, sweating and a deep sense of injustice or a feeling that we are being taken advantage of in some way.

Therefore, anger arises in a context of vulnerability. It is felt only by those who are suffering or who are very afraid and do not feel they have the resources to get what they need.

Normally, when we come across a person who is angry, we judge them negatively. We raise a defensive barrier and may even fight with them. With this behavior, we demonstrate that we understand the destructive power of this emotion. In addition to the risk of incurring damage from anger, we also run the risk of being infected with it and getting into a spiraling escalation with the other person.

Whether with a client, brother or partner, anger is an emotion that can test our ability to regulate emotions. It is very easy for any gesture or “nonsense” to increase its intensity, so that we end up losing control and using it against the person who least deserves it.

Is it worth being angry?

The answer is no. Anger does not solve any problem, except for those that require a quick reaction because our lives are in danger. In this case, anger provides a huge dose of energy to allow us to react quickly and strongly to that threat.

But is it very likely that something like this will happen now? These days we feel anger because we demand that everything works as we would like, including the people around us and our own lives. This is simply an illusion that will never be realized. Thus, we can say that in most situations in which we feel anger, there is no great danger to us. It is our mind that disguises small threats as giants.

We put unrealistic expectations on others or we expect to “overshoot” the amount of times fortune favors us. Thus, we when perceive that our expectations are not met, we fall into frustration, and this leads us to feel anger.

You might think that this anger tries to put all your resources at your disposal in order to act against the problem, but the “problem” is not really a problem as such … it is simply life, reality. There are much smarter strategies to use. No one can modify what has happened, is happening or will happen through force or demands.

It also happens, as we have previously mentioned, that when we see an angry person, we defend ourselves. This defense often involves raising our own anger with the justification that “that person should not have …”

A demand leads to another demand and so on, until both opponents get tired and finish their argument. Therefore, it is not worth feeling anger for someone who is behaving unfairly toward us.

Change anger with understanding and compassion

Compassion is a great vaccine against the damage we suffer by exposing ourselves to the anger of others. If we think that the person is not aware of how angry they are acting, it becomes easier for us to keep our own anger controlled and we can intervene to calm the other person down.

If we think this way and leave the demands aside, it will be impossible for us to feel anger toward this person. Contrary to what we may believe, if we can change our thoughts, we will begin to feel compassion for that person. 

Basically, try to put yourself in the other person’s place. Practice empathy and understand that they are using a defense mechanism because they think they are in danger.

Obviously, to be able to think this way, we must have good reserves of self-love, no ego and to feel very safe. This is the only way we cannot feel threatened too, to put aside pride and to act with love toward people who seek to harm us and do so with malicious intent.

You may be thinking that this is a conformist attitude and that no one should be trampled on, and you may be right, but only partially. Assertiveness, the ability to set limits and express our rights without harming others, is the adaptive option we can choose when someone makes us suffer. Consider servitude a performance guided by our conscience with which we safeguard our position without harming other people. It has nothing to do with a disproportionate and instinctive reaction.

Thus, when you perceive anger around you, try to process this information beyond the defensive position that you feel inclined to take. If you see that it exceeds you and you can’t help the angry person, it is better to leave the situation before you get infected with this disruptive emotion. Consider that several people acting without measuring the consequences is “explosive” and likely to cause more damage.

To finish, we’d like to clarify a difference between acting under anger and not acting. We refer specifically to situations of abuse. In these situations, no matter how much the abuser acts under the influence of anger and we try to understand them as victims, we are obliged to denounce them out of respect for ourselves and for all the people who could be potential victims. And even for the abuser, so he or she can seek help. Understanding is a wonderful power, but it should never stop us from acting when our life is in danger.

That’s when anger can give us the courage and extra energy we need to go to the police station and turn someone in. 

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