#316: Power Play – Empathy

Heart and Ice Power Play - Empathy

You might find that when you put yourself in the other person’s position and try to understand where they’re coming from, it’s more difficult to get angry with them for their behaviour.  You may realize that their intention wasn’t to hurt you and that their hurtful behaviour has nothing to do with you, but we often create cognitive distortions about someone’s motives that only amplify our anger.  Anger is often born out of frustration and expectations (Gary Mack, Mind Gym)

For example, if someone does something we perceive to be unfair, we might think, “That person is always selfish.  They don’t care about me.  There are so many self-centered people in the world!”  In reality, they are probably behaving with a different view of what’s ‘fair’ and didn’t intend to hurt anyone.  Maybe they were conflicted about their decision as well, and their own perspective led them to making their decision.

We often attach meanings to the behaviour of others such as, “this means that they don’t love me/they think I’m inferior/they don’t respect me”, when that isn’t the case at all.  The thoughts that generate anger often contain distortions, and taking a step back to recognize these distortions is the first step in getting those ‘hot bursts’ under control.


Game Plan:  When you start to work on reducing your anger, you can’t expect it to be all-or-nothing.  Even just a small reduction will help you to be more in control of your emotions.  Try cognitive rehearsal to practice dealing with anger in the future.  Think about some of the things that might be a point of frustration for you, and rehearse the way you might respond or try to put yourself in the other person’s position to try to understand their actions.  When you respond with anger and retaliation, it’s unlikely that you will achieve any positive goals and it might lead to resentment.  No one likes to be controlled, and people may not understand why you are so upset.  Instead, it might be more helpful to say something positive about that person and show that you’re trying to understand where they’re coming from, and then calmly explain why it hurt you or why you think you should be treated differently.


Quote Source: Feeling Good by David Burns


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