• Quote of the Day
    "The voice of negativity says, 'Get real'. The voice of possibility says 'Get started'."
    Donna Satchell, posted by littlerabbit

David Baxter

Mar 26, 2004
A Mindful and Compassionate Approach to Anger in Relationships
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
Thu, May 31st 2012

If you?ve followed my work you know that I have an affinity for Thich Nhat Hanh, a highly regarded Vietnamese Buddhist Monk. He wrote a wonderful book called Taming the Tiger Within
. In this book he expresses a more mindful and compassionate approach toward anger in relationships.

He says that if your house was on fire, the first thing you would do is go put the fire out, not run after the arsonist. But too often in our lives we try and seek revenge, punish or passively do this by holding a grudge. This is equivalent to running after the arsonist. The first thing we need to do even when in relationship with others is recognize our anger, and then take care of it.

Imagine the anger as a little child inside of us, take a time-out and see yourself holding or embracing this part. You can take a walk and do this. Usually when we interact with others in a state of anger, we end up being impulsive and making the situation worse. Becoming mindful of anger isn?t about denying our anger, just taking care of it and then coming back to the person.

The bottom line is that we can learn to recognize our anger as it arises in relationships and approach ourselves with more compassion and kindness. This is not easy, especially after years of doing the opposite. Next time you get angry, frustrated or annoyed in a relationship, try to take a deep breath and remind yourself to take care of your anger before making any impulsive actions. You may want to then express your anger to another, but it will likely come out more effectively from a more grounded place.

Easier said than done, but remember it's a practice and can support you and others over time. If you are unable to do this many times, you are not a failure and don't even waste a minute berating yourself. Simply remind yourself this is a practice, forgive yourself for that and now invite yourself to act differently. The phrase ?forgive and invite? can really be helpful.


May 30, 2012
Very funny tale about chasing the arsonist while the house is in flames, very symbolic and appropriate. I like this post very much. There seems to be more anger than 'forgive and invite' in this world. Your post/thread reminds me of my first wake-up call about my own anger. It happen after an argument at home, I felt I was not being heard, so I walked away and took my anger to a nearby forested area. I started to go over the argument aloud in front of, all things, a tree. The tree could not speak back! at last I was being heard - by my own ears. I quickly realized how unfair I was to expect other people to go MY way. I returned home and deeply apologized for my part in the argument and I actually wanted to hear the other persons point of view. What a change of pace that was for me.

Since then I have come to realize that all my anger comes from my fear. Afraid of losing any self-esteem, any validity of being a worthy person. My anger always comes from people, places, things, or situations not going MY way -the way that would support my self-esteem (ego). I was afraid I would lose my current level of worth - self invested worth. I had to learn that it is okay for me to not have people, places, things, and situations go my way. I had to learn that regardless of what happens around me, that I am okay with myself, and I did not need outside validation to be okay. I know that I am a loving caring person and that in itself is enough for me to remain okay - regardless.

So how does this help in relationships? First of all, I need to realize that any tension in me, or in another person, stems from fear. Usually a fearful ego perceiving a threat to ones self-esteem. After making that connection (tension = fear) I quickly calm down and soften as anyone would when dealing with a fearful person. I become compassionate to myself as well as to others who are in fear. When I sense the tension rising in me, I know that my ego feels threatened. It is then I ask myself "What am I afraid of?"

Over the years I have found that my fears can be tiered: My first, is the fear of being judged. Then being rejected, then abandoned, and finally of annihilation. If I can overcome the fear of judgement the other tiers collapse. To overcome my fear of judgement requires me to know and accept myself entirely, my truth. It is an ongoing process. This practice of introspection, contemplation, self forgiveness and allowing, has a price. The price is the letting go of any need for validity. We are all okay without it.

They say, "The truth hurts", but I think its the ego squirming from the truth - the truth that ego is just a self-fabricated story of the self. A story that upholds self-esteem for my ego, not for my real self. I prefer "The truth will set you free". The truth being, it's not anger but fear. And to treat fear is to be soft, calm, forgiving and inviting - as David pointed out.
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