Opposite Action Part 3

Part Three:  Anger

Ok.  Let's move to anger.  Now anger is a really difficult emotion.  And, it's really different from fear. First of all, the action of anger is completely different than the action of fear.  The action of fear is to run away from something. So when you are afraid, you run away.  And the action of anger actually is to almost exactly the opposite.  It's to run towards something and attack it.

Now, another action that goes along with anger that is usually not there with fear is the action of thought.  It's kind of what we start thinking.  So 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 we are... they are.

And so the two things to look for in anger are going to be first you're going toward something and want to attack it. And the other thing is that somewhere you're thinking that whatever is there should not be there.

So when is anger justified?  Anger actually is justified whenever a really important goal is being blocked, or actually anger also, in humans at least, is often justified and comes up whenever you feel a lot of pain.  So the things that really do it are either going toward something bets blocked or there's a lot of pain. 

So you could say, 'Well, I'm always being blocked. All my goals are being blocked.  Anger is justified.  I should attack.' Or a lot of people say, 'Listen I'm in pain all the time, anger makes a lot of sense.  I'm going to be angry.'

So the problem with anger that makes it really different from fear is that with anger it's justified a lot of the time.  The problem is, is it just doesn't work a lot of the time.  And other words, even when it's justified, you might want to get it down. 

So with anger, it's not so important to ask yourself if it's justified.  It's somewhat important because anger can do you some good sometimes.  It gets you going. It gets you mobilized and gets you moving. 

But let's say it's done that for you.  You're mobilized.  You're moving.  You're going, and now it's in your way because it's too extreme.  Or, let's say that you're angry and it's not justified.  You think someone has really hurt you or done something terrible to you, and they actually haven't. So you get really angry and you're attacking and it isn't even justified cause they didn't even do it. 

So in both those cases, we want to figure out how to get it down. The good news is, opposite action works.  So what is the opposite action?  Let's go through some examples of anger and figure out what you would do to get anger down.

So we're going to go through, and we're not going to pay so much attention now to whether it is or it isn't justified.  Because the question there is going to be, really, do you or don't you want the anger. In other words, is it doing you any good? 

So, what's the opposite action?  The opposite action to attack actually is to gently avoid.  And it's interesting, in every single treatment that I've ever seen that works for anger, the very first thing they teach people is, if you get in a situation that's one where you are... have a history of getting really angry in, and you can't control it, the first thing to do is to gently leave the situation to try to get yourself calmed down, more relaxed, better able to cope.

So strategy one: gently avoid.

So let's say you're at a party and a person you just can't stand is there and this person has really been mean to you and said terrible things about you all of which are lies.  So anger is justified.  But, let's say you don't want to be angry, it'll ruin your evening.  You're with a really good friend.  There's no point in getting angry. What do you do?  Gently avoid that person. Walk all over the room except don't walk wherever that person is.

Now, the problem is, if we all avoided every single thing that made us angry, we'd have to avoid half of our lives.  Have you noticed that? There are lots of obstacles -there are obstacles all over the place. It's kind of 20th and 21st century life.  This is what's doing us in is there is so many obstacles.  And so anger is not only not useful, but we also can't avoid all the things that make us angry.

So what do you do in that situation? What is the opposite action? Well, certainly it's not to attack.  Ok. So the first thing is know that you wouldn't want to attack.  But if you're not going to avoid, what the opposite of attack? What do you think? It's be decent.  Don't make the situation worse.  And if possible, be a little tiny bit on the kind side.

Ok.  So that's opposite action one:  when you have to stay around, and you're not going to attack, be decent and if possible, a little bit kind. 
Alright now, if you're going to do that, the bad news is you can still stay angry.  How would you do that? Well, there's another action that goes along with anger. Have you noticed that you could sometimes be decent to someone and then in the back of your mind, what are you doing? You're saying, 'That jerk'.  And you're being phony decent. You're not really being decent, you're being phony decent. 

Phony decent is the same thing as going to the party to work on your fear but then going around with your eyes closed and looking down.  So you never find out that the people are actually nice to you.  So it's sort of like half way opposite action. 

So if you're going to be decent and a little bit kind, you basically have to do it all the way. It's just like with fear, you have to go all the way.  And what would that be? You've got to get your mind to be kind and decent.  Difficult, isn't it? 

How do you do that?  The easiest way I've ever found to do it is to try to figure out a way to think like the other person's thinking.  So the idea is to try to be empathic.  To try to kind of understand their point of view. To sort of see it from their side. Because generally, if you can kind of walk around, sort of get out of your shoes and kind of walk around and then get inside the other people's shoes, and then look out from their point of view, you'll often drop your anger because often things make a lot of sense from their point of view.  They just don't make sense from your point of view. 

So that is the opposite action, but remember, just like fear, you have to do it all the way.  So if you have to stay around things that make you angry, the first thing to do is be decent.  And the second is, do it all the way.  That means you have to have a decent thought. And the way to have a decent thought is to try to think like the person thinks and see it from their point of view.

Now, the good news is, the really good news is, not only will your anger go down but actually, if you can see things from the other person's point of view, interestingly, you will even be more effective at getting what you want.  It actually beats out anger at getting what you want.

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