Anger Management through Self-compassion

Your alarm did not go off and you are late for work. On the way to school, your child spills food on the uniform.

You did not have a good day at office and upon your return, you find the house is a complete mess. You are trying to complete some unfinished business and your laptop hangs in the middle of an important call.

Well, you’ve had it.  You are ready to burst into tears. Or snap someone’s head off, who chose this inopportune moment to cross your path.

Does the feeling of anger all-encompassing? How do you react? How is one supposed to react?

Did the intensity of your anger surprise you into thinking of silencing your anger?

Well, silencing your anger is not a good idea. It has been clinically proven that suppressing anger over long term is capable of damaging your heart, resulting in an eating disorder, and raising your blood pressure to dangerous levels.

In other words, anger is such a strong emotion that concealing or suppressing it will result in it manifesting itself in some other form.

Taking recourse to something like lashing out when you are angry works only in the short term at best. Its effectiveness and potency in dealing with the problem begins to reduce after a while.

Then what?

The real danger of silencing your anger is it could make you prone to acting in ways that are destructive to your self-esteem. Let’s see how.

      Every person is compassionate deep down, but in a fit of anger might react in an aggressive way. Once they cool down, their reaction is like, ‘what did I do just now?’
      If one has not defined self protective boundaries, then they are apt to be suppresses and trampled upon by others.
      Some people tend to shame themselves to get over a feeling of guilt by turning their anger against themselves so that they are at par with the other person.
      Some people do not even recognise they have a problem managing anger, thus effectively shutting themselves out from taking corrective measure.

Blame it on cortisol

When the focus is on the anger and not on the source of the anger, 2 things happen:

1.     We activate our brain’s fight, flight, or freeze system which begins to pump cortisol, or the stress hormone, into our body. This will prime us to fight, flight, or freeze, even if there is nobody or nothing to fight or run from. Having cortisol in our bodies for long periods of time can damage us physically and mentally.
2.     We miss the opportunity to gain insight on our anger.

So what’s the way out?

Treat yourself with compassion

According to Dr. Kristin Neff, an associate professor in human development at the University of Texas at Austin, acting with self-compassion holds the answer.

Dr. Neff says self-compassion has three components:

1.     Self-kindness: Be warm and understanding toward yourself when you suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. Recognize that being imperfect and failing is inevitable. It is far more better for you to treat yourself with kindness and gentleness, than anger and hate.
2.     Common humanity: means recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.
3.     Mindfulness: allows us the space to hold our feelings in a way so that we can choose to act on them or not. Our feelings in mindfulness do not need to be suppressed or exaggerated. We can observe negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, without judgment.

Finally, developing a sense of forgiveness is a great help. When you have decided not to hold a grudge, you have allowed yourself to be rid of all negativity - and that can make a huge difference.