Monthly Archives: March 2014

# 42 Respond to Anger With Kindness and Compassion


orange-dot              You do not have to respond to anger with anger.  You can respond with kindness and   compassion.  In my work with couples and families, parents and children, I often help people move away from defensiveness, a common problem, and toward understanding and empathy.   I sometimes script responses for them on note cards:  “I didn’t know that made you so upset.”  “Wow.  It really bothered you.”  “Now I see how important that is to you.”  “I’m sorry if I offended you.” “Thank you for your honesty.  Now I know how much that means to you.”  For the speaker, it is the first time they have not been defensive.  For the receiver of the message, it is validation that they have finally been heard.

Recall the words of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

Today, recite this prayer in the morning and again in the evening.  Consider how you may apply it to your encounters with other people today.  If you can, practice one of these scripted responses.

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# 41 Respond to Anger With Humor


       How do you respond to anger?  With anger?  This is the most fundamental of all human responses–to respond to anger with anger.  From parent to child, husband to wife, co-worker to co-worker.  People universally respond to anger with anger, and the result is destructive.  When has it ever evoked the response from the other person that you wanted–whether it be love, compassion, understanding, or resolution?  Probably never.

Let’s try a series of different responses to anger.

I read this vignette in a magazine a long time ago.  A man was making a purchase in a convenience store and the clerk was particularly surly and disagreeable.  The man responded with a smile and asked, “Are you this angry all the time or are you just having a bad day?”  The man visibly relaxed, apologized, and began to explain his litany of troubles that morning.  The two had a laugh and the man went on his way.

Consider this.  You can respond to anger with humor and a bit of insight.  Humor neutralizes anger.  If the clerk is angry about the previous customer who taxed her patience, make a joke.  If you don’t have an encounter with anger today, think of one that has occurred recently.  How might you have responded with humor?



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# 40 Seek the Good of the World

purple-dotHindu deity

As the ant collects grains of sugar from among grains of salt, so should you seek the good in the world from among the bad.    –Hinduism

Sift out the good from the many things you hear, and follow them;  sift out the good from the many things you see and remember   them.  –Confucianism

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,  whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;  if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


“Seek the Good of the World” is one of the principles shared by all religions.   It is one of the universal truths demonstrated so succinctly in a little gem of a book by Jeffrey Moses, entitled Oneness.   

For today, seek the good of the world.  Read the newspaper and highlight, with a marker, three good things that you found there.  Don’t read the newspaper?  Try a magazine.  If not a magazine, listen to the news in your car.  Sift out the good from the bad.  Recapture it in your mind’s eye–visually, emotionally, with sound, texture, and color.  Write down the good that you found.




Moses, J. 2002.  Oneness:  Great principles shared by all religions.  New York:  Ballantine



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# 39 Focus Again on Gratitude


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Have you continued to write down each day three things you are grateful for?  How are you feeling?  Is it becoming more automatic, more natural?

If you haven’t been practicing gratitude, practice here for today.  Write three things you are grateful for today.

1.  _________________________________________________________________________

2.  _________________________________________________________________________

3.  _________________________________________________________________________

Go to the website:

Do some reading on the benefits of practicing gratitude.  Here is what researchers have found:   Keeping a gratitude journal on a weekly basis  exercised more regularly, felt better physically, and were more optimistic about the week ahead.   Those who kept gratitude journals were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals.   In another study the gratitude journalers reported higher levels of positive states of alertness and enthusiasm, as opposed to reporting a focus on negative things such as hassles and setbacks.   Those who kept gratitude journals were more likely to have helped someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support to others.  A study of people who suffered from a chronic illness found that those who kept a gratitude journal for three weeks not only had a more positive mood but slept better.

How has it benefited you so far?.



McCullough, M.E., Emmons, R.A., & Tsang, J. 2002. The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112-127.

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#38 Move From Pleasure Toward Enjoyment


Psychologist and researcher Martin Seligman began his life’s work with the study of clinical depression.  This work led him to research on optimism and pessimism.  He began a body of research that signaled a renewed interest in the age old question, “What makes people truly, deeply happy?”  Are we motivated, as Freud said, by the pleasure principle?

Seligman made the observation that pleasure is different from enjoyment.  Pleasure is the sensation one gets when you engage in efforts toward immediate gratification–eating, loveless sex, pornography, getting high on drugs, shopping, passively watching television. The pleasurable effect is very short-lived.   Enjoyment is what we feel when we go beyond the immediate impulse and engage in something that stretches us beyond our immediate needs.  Enjoyable activities are things like having a good conversation with friends, exercising or participating in a sport, appreciating art, or doing a good deed.  Enjoyment has much longer effects than pleasure and leads to personal growth and long-term happiness.

Given that enjoyment is so much more beneficial than pleasure, Seligman asks, why do people so often seek “short cuts”?  Why would people eat ice cream in front of the television instead of going for a walk, calling a friend, or reading a good book?  The answer lies most likely in our brains.  Pleasure seeking motivates us to eat, find comfort, and seek mates.  In other words it has survival value for our species.  However, it is our continued gravitation toward pleasure, toward short cuts, that has resulted in not only addictive behaviors and dependencies, but, ultimately, low ratings of enjoyment and happiness for so many people in our society.

What are the shortcuts to pleasure that you engage in?  Why?  How long does it last?   How do you feel afterward?





Select one of these habits of immediate pleasure seeking.  What enjoyable activity could you put in its place?




Seligman, M.  2002, May.  Plenary Address.  Georgia. Psychological Assn.  Savannah, Georgia_

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