Three Antidotes to Anger
When we’re carried away by anger, it often seems to have a life of its own and we’re left wondering what we can do to feel and act better. This article will show three antidotes to the anger infection.
These solutions are based on one truth: Every emotion, especially anger, has corresponding actions. In this article, you’re going to learn which opposite actions to take to make you feel and act better.
Now, there are two actions that go with anger. One is to run towards something and attack it. The other is an action of thought. It’s where we start thinking “this shouldn’t be this way, this is unnecessary, things could be different…” When we’re angry at people we almost always think they should not be the way they are.
And so that’s how you know anger is at work. First, you’re going toward something and want to attack it. And second, you’re telling yourself that whatever is there should not be there, should be different than what it is.
So the emotion of anger leads to aggressive behavior we usually later wish we didn’t do. It’s a very simple idea. When you feel angry, you act angry. Your anger is telling you to take some kind of action. What is it telling you to do? Most often, Attack! It’s like the cog of anger pushes a cog of angry behaviors.
Do the Opposite To Feel the Opposite
But what if we reversed the mechanism? What if we acted in ways that actually diminished anger?
That’s the good news: since an emotion corresponds with an action, you can change the emotion by changing the action. In other words, not only do emotions cause actions, but actions cause emotions. And you can change your emotion by changing your action. This is called opposite action and it’s helped many people with problem anger.
Antidote #1: Gently Avoid
So, what’s the opposite action? The opposite action to attack actually is to gently avoid. How? Well first, if you get or are in a situation where you have a history of getting really angry, the first thing to do is to gently leave the situation to try to get yourself calmed down, more relaxed, better able to cope. Sometimes taking a time-out (see instructions on how to do that) respectfully and non-aggressively is how that looks.
Now, the problem is, time outs and gentle avoidance works great for some of us, but it’s not always enough. It’s great for crises, but you can’t be taking time outs all the time. If you set out to avoid every single thing that makes you angry, you might have to avoid half of your life. There are lots of obstacles for many of us, all over the place. It’s kind of just how life can sometimes be.
Antidote #2: Kindness
So what do you do in that situation? If anger is an everyday problem, what is the next opposite action you can take?
It’s be decent and don’t make the situation worse. When you have to stay around, be decent and if possible, a little bit kind. Kindness and decency are rewarding, give you a sense of control and dignity, and help relax and distract you from anger.
Is this guaranteed? No…sometimes decency and kindness won’t reverse your feeling. You might still feel angry. Why? Because while you’re being kind on the outside, you might still in the back of your mind be saying, “What a rat jerk”.
In other words, you’re not really being decent, you’re being fake decent. And fake decent does little to make you feel better. It’s not really opposite action until you do one more thing.
Antidote #3: A Bit of Empathy
To be decent and a little bit kind, you have to go all the way. To do that, you get your mind and thinking to be kind and decent by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes for just a moment. You imagine what they are thinking and feeling.
The fancy word is empathy. Why does this work? Because it’s almost impossible to keep anger alive when you can see the tiny bit of the other guy’s truth. Even people you dislike become more human when you practice empathy. And it’s hard to be angry at a person when you see their humanity.
When you can see their point of view, your anger will reduce because things make some sense now from their point of view. Even if you have to agree to disagree. (Here’s a longer article on how to do empathy.)
Summing It Up
So that is opposite action for anger:
- Gently avoid the person you are angry with rather than attacking them (avoid thinking about him or her rather than ruminating).
- If you have to stay around things that make you angry, do something decent rather than mean or attacking.
- And if your anger still won’t decrease, imagine sympathy and empathy for other person rather than blame.
Now, the best news is this: not only will your anger decrease, but actually, if you can see things from the other person’s point of view, a real conversation can begin, and your needs and wants have a much better chance of being met. You will even be more effective at getting what you want. That’s the goal of real anger management.
Get Support to “Do the Opposite”
You can have professional support in learning skills to improve your life. Read here about how therapy can help you manage intense feelings of anger on your own, or how it can help in your relationship. Call me at (914) 768-3740, or email me to set an appointment.