Anger and Compassion

Anger often shows up when and how we least want it to. This morning I had to separate my two boys because they were totally angry with each other, calling each other names, blaming the other and wanting to hit each other. I became angry myself. What was this?! Stop! We do not treat each other this way! I don’t have the time, energy or patience to deal with this right now! I was about to explode and act on these reactions, and then cringed… I, especially as a psychologist, should know better. This isn’t how I want to react, nor is it how I want my children to react!

Yet we all have moments that we experience anger, frustration. We may yell, demand, blame, be physically rough, insult, avoid and/or shut down. I hear it from friends, other mothers, partners and my clients both male and female.

Anger often energizes us to stand up for ourselves, speak out, act on something which can feel strong and powerful, as well as cathartic – a release of all of that energy.  Yet, after the initial feelings of strength and relief of release that comes with anger…  often follows the shame, blame, regret, sadness…   We may see the hurt in our children eyes, see those we care about back away, or just know this is not how we want to be/act. This can then increase our shame, anger, avoidance and lead to further escalation or problems. Anger acted on can burn us and hurt those we love.

There are ways to decrease the hurtful impact of actions based in anger, but to do so we need to be honest with ourselves. Russell Kolts, in the following TEDtalk shares his experience, struggle and wisdom about anger and compassion.

We can all learn something..  how can we be more compassionate with ourselves? Acknowledge our very human reaction? Slow ourselves down physically and not act out the anger? Find other forms and venues of power?

Russell Kolts also has a and website: and a book on this topic. The Compassionate Mind Guide to Managing Your Anger: Using Compassion-Focused Therapy to Calm Your Rage and Heal Your Relationships

Another excellent resource I often recomend is: ACT on Life not anger. The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Problem Anger. by Georg H. Eifert, Matthew McKay, John P. Forsyth, Steven C. Hayes