20: Compassionate Confrontation quenches Anger

5 responses to Anger

Now let us look at anger from a more theoretical standpoint and then apply it to the above situation. When a Person experiences anger internally or externally it is normally expressed in one of five ways. These are illustrated in the chart below. We all hope to choose the right way. It is not easy.

The Fight response has to do with violent confrontation, either to that which is ‘causing the anger’ or to the individual who is angry. The Flight response has to do with running away from that which is angry or causing anger. The Revenge response has to with retreating, in order to attack. It is associated with Passive-Aggressive behavior. The Depression response occurs when the anger is not dealt with. The Confrontation response, in this case, has to do with a Compassionate expression to the Anger.

Compassionate Confrontation most effective

Under Normal conditions the Fight and Revenge responses tend to be too aggressive, only generating more Anger. The Fight response was R’s, while the Revenge response would have been L’s. The Flight response is too passive; only encouraging the expression of Anger by others and cultivating Fear in oneself. This was D’s initial response to R’s Anger. When the Anger is suppressed, it either comes out externally as Revenge or internally as Depression, which only hurts oneself. Compassionate Confrontation is the appropriate response in most circumstances. This was the technique that D used with R to successfully neutralize his violent Fight and Revenge Response. While most appropriate, it is a language that is not common in our culture.

Revenge and Fighting, externally violent

The Revenge and Fight responses are linked. The Person first evaluates the possibility of winning or losing. (Because of the emotional nature of Anger, many times one will overestimate one’s personal power - getting into unnecessary losing battles.) However on the chance that one’s emotion doesn’t overcome one’s reason and that one perceives a losing battle with the Fight response, then the same individual frequently resorts to the Passive Aggressive Revenge response. This means punishment is meted out just as in the Fight response, but that the punishing behavior is preceded by retreat. It is still based in retaliation never the less. In some ways Revenge is more insidious because it is not direct. However in certain circumstances, it is the only response that is available. The Fight and Revenge responses most frequently lead to accelerating external destruction because they pour gasoline onto the emotional fire.

Flight and Fear, internally violent

The Flight response encourages the aggression and only cultivates Fear, which is a very destructive emotion. While the first three responses to anger are linked with external aggression and destruction, whether encouraging it by allowing it to continue, or by engaging in destructive behavior, in the Depression response all the anger is directed inwards at one self. This becomes very messy.

Expressing Anger compassionately in a non-violent fashion avoids Depression, avoids cultivating Fear, and avoids escalation of the conflict. Instead of prolonging the Anger, the non-violent behavior acts to diffuse the destructive emotional content. It is the appropriate response, but most difficult to achieve.

Only Compassionate Confrontation neutralizes Anger

The Fight and the Revenge reactions are externally violent responses to anger, which perpetuate it. The Flight response runs away from anger, thereby encouraging it and cultivating internal Fear. Depression and Flight are externally passive and internally violent. Instead of directing the emotional energy outward, the anger is directed inwards at oneself, generating either Fear or Depression. While the Fight and Revenge response are externally destructive, Fear and Depression are internally destructive.

While the first four responses tend to be either destructive, externally or internally, compassionate confrontation is constructive, because one expresses the anger externally without generating more. Compassionate non-violent communication neutralizes Anger.

Compassion Not easy

While it is easy to delineate appropriate and inappropriate responses - While it is easy to say that compassion for someone who is angry is the most effective way of neutralizing their anger - While it is easy to say that passive aggressive behavior only encourages the cycle or retribution and revenge - While it is easy to moralize about what one should and shouldn’t do - it ain’t easy in actual practice. When one has already reacted with anger, it shows that one is already emotionally invested. When one is emotionally aroused it is hard to respond reasonably or effectively; compassion is normally the last thing on one’s mind. To respond non-emotionally to an emotional situation is well nigh impossible. Compassion for the enemy who made you mad is extremely difficult.

Anger must be neutralized before Compassion can be Expressed

In order to express compassion, one must first defuse one’s own emotional investment in the situation. Many times this has to do with an internal investigation into expectations. These are some questions that could be asked. What ‘should’ the Person have done or not done? What expectations were violated that evoked an angry response? After neutralizing one’s own emotional investment in the situation, then one can attempt to empathize with the motivations of those who evoked the anger.

In R’s case L ‘should’ have allowed him to leave his trailer in the driveway indefinitely, out of consideration for him. Because she didn’t, this made him mad. D ‘should not’ have given him notice. Because he did, this made R mad. In L’s case R ‘should’ have cooperated and moved his trailer when asked. R ‘should not’ have responded so rudely. Because he didn’t perform as he ‘should’, L became angry. This mutual anger excluded any possibility of compassion.

Because D was not angry and just wanted to avoid ‘bloodshed’ he was able to have compassion for both R and L. Thus he was able to defuse the emotions and resolve a difficult situation peaceably.

Anger * Fear = Intimidation

However why did D, who attempts to avoid confrontation at all costs, have to respond at all? Let us dig a little deeper to understand the situation a little more completely.

Referring to the above diagram - the Fight response is connected with Anger, while the Flight response is associated with Fear. When the Fight response is connected with the Flight response - the Anger-Fear trigger is set. For the Fighter this means that his response has been successful - or true - because he has gotten what he wants. His response was effective. He has created Fear. Because it was successful, it will be repeated. Every time that the Fight-Anger response is successful in obtaining what it wants - it is encouraged. R’s response of Anger was attempting, subliminally at least, to condition L into a response of Fear, so that he could get his way.

This mechanism is at the root of the classic Abusive Relationship. The Fight-Anger response, the behavior of the Abuser, is linked with the Flight-Fear response, the behavior of the Abused. Because the Fighter always wins, this emotional response is successful. Thus the abuse is encouraged to accelerate, rather than naturally decelerating. Indeed, if the Flight-Fear person ever confronts the Fighter, he or she might even respond with more extreme behavior in order to trigger the Fear response and inhibit the Confrontation response. We will call this mechanism Intimidation. R was applying Intimidation to L.

Intimidation does not go away on its own

This was why D had to stand up. He really had no choice. If the Intimidation response based in Anger and Fear was not nipped in the bud, it would only grow. It would not fade away. In other words his normal response of ignoring the problem would not work. Further, he had to use Compassionate communication, based in face-to-face Confrontation, rather than Violent communication, based in Anger or the Revenge = Get Even response.

Violence * Anger = Revenge

Violent communication applied to those using Intimidation only leads to the Revenge cycle, where the Punishment meted out to the ‘Enemy’ just continues to grow and grow. An Angry or Revenge response would only encourage the mess, perpetuating the cycle of violence. A violent response, whether based in Anger or Revenge, when applied to Anger yields either Anger or Revenge, not Resolution. This Violent Response when reapplied only yields another Violent Response. The Violent cycle of communication accelerates, until one turns into the Victim. This is why we call it the Revenge mechanism.

Compassionate Confrontation * Anger = Resolution

Thus D couldn’t use the responses of Anger = Fight, Revenge, or Flight to solve his dilemma. The first two would lead to the Revenge cycle, while Flight would only encourage the Intimidation mechanism. Compassionate Confrontation was the only response remaining. Compassion without Confrontation only leads to more Intimidation, while Confrontation without Compassion only leads to Revenge – Both undesirable results. Only Compassion linked with Confrontation yields Resolution.

If D had just responded with compassion to R and L, this would have solved nothing. If he had responded confrontationally by calling in authorities this would have just aggravated the situation. A middle course was called for.

Difficulties associated with Compassionate Confrontation

There are few difficulties associated with Compassionate Confrontation. We already mentioned the problems of emotional investment and the need to defuse this before compassion is possible. The next difficulties are linked. Those who use the Intimidation mechanism based in Anger or Punishment tend to be viewed as the Enemy, Them. It is hard to be compassionate with Them. This was why L had a hard time being Compassionate with R. He was threatening her. Further, the Intimidation response is intended to scare those around with the potential of Punishment. Thus D had to face his own fears of Punishment to respond with Confrontation rather than Retreat. So D had to exhibit Compassion for the Enemy as well as face his own fears, in order to do the right thing - Threading the Needle.

Necessary to Disassociate Being and Person

What did it take to have compassion and face his fears? D had to disassociate his Being from his Person. This was and is always the key. Fear is always connected with the Person, never with Being. Punishment happens to the Person not Being. As long as D believed he was his Person, he was afraid of Punishment - And so was paralyzed.

Similarly as long as he believed he was his Person, then he could separate the World into Us and Them. Us would be everyone who was on the side of our Person, while Them was everyone who was against our Person. He couldn’t have Compassion for Them.

Compassion based in Universal Being, not the Individual Person

However as soon as D realized that he was Being and not Person, then he also realized that the Us/Them differentiation was artificial.

D equals (Being And (Not Person))

Or in symbolic logic:

D = (Being) U (~Person)

As long as D was on the side of his Person, he was simultaneously against those who were against his Person. Once he realized that Being encompasses everything, not just his Person, then and only then could he have true compassion for R. When he realized that R’s pain was his pain - when he realized that R’s anger was his anger - when he realized that suffering was universal not individual - then and only then was he ready for compassion.

The foundation of non-violent confrontation is compassion, while the foundation of violent confrontation is punishment and revenge. The first moves to Resolution while the second continues the Revenge cycle.


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