Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Lessons from a Recovering Doormat


Trading Anger for Joy with Compassion



Albert at Urban Monk invited me to participate in a writing group project about compassion called Spread the Love NOW! created by The Three MonksAlbert at Urban Monk, Wade of The Middle Way, and Kenton of Zen-Inspired Self Development. I love to write about compassion! I’ve found it to be the lubricant for a happy life. Instead of my road being rough with anger and frustration, being compassionate makes the way smoother.

I used to be an angry girl. Whenever someone did me wrong—grrrrrrrr! I complained to anyone who’d listen about what people had done to me. The anger kept me fuming instead of smiling. I saw some people in my life as bad, which in turn, attracted more people to complain about. Then I read a book by the Dalai Lama. It blew me away because his philosophy about compassion made so much sense.

When I read the book I was feeling anger and frustration toward Mike (not his real name!), a guy I’d been dating. We were friends for months before we crossed the line to more than friends. He couldn’t do enough for me. But when he got the flu, with high fever, and I offered to bring him some food (he literally had NONE in his apartment), he fervently refused to let me. I argued that I wanted to help him out. He got angry. And angrier, and then accused me of being a typical nagging woman.

All because I tried to convince him to let me drop off something for him to eat so he could recover and not take Vitamin C on an empty stomach!

He yelled more and more as I reminded him how he insisted on bringing me food and keeping me company after I had oral surgery the week before. Now I wanted to support him. I even offered to leave the food outside his door if he didn’t want to see me. The more I tried to convince him, the more he accused me of fooling him into thinking I was different than many women. In his eyes I was now a nag. It was so irrational.

We talked a few days later. At first it was fine, but I wanted him to understand the difference between a nag and a concerned friend. When I commented that it was a shame he misread my desire to help him, he went off on me again. More irrational accusations about how terrible I was for trying to help him. Yelling. Anger. I knew that Mike’s background included an abusive mother, two bitter divorces and cutting himself off from his whole family. He’d been badly burned by his last girlfriend.

Since I write about relationships I’d been aware that his issues could ruin what we had together. But calling me a nag for being concerned about the health of someone I cared about still seemed ridiculous!

I was furious with Mike for judging me so harshly. I wasn’t nagging, and I tried hard to make him understand that. But he didn’t budge. I was furious about his accusations and meanness. Reading about the Dalai Lama’s philosophy of compassion opened me to a higher level of handling people who push my buttons. He emphasizes seeking peacefulness through compassion to those who hurt you by understanding that people who hurt others are suffering more. They do awful things because of pain they’ve experienced. And they hurt themselves each time they hurt others.

Wow! I already figured that Mike was being so illogical because he was scared of being hurt again. In his effort to do what seemed like self-protection, he hurt me. Past experiences gave him a bad attitude about women so when I didn’t just accept his negating my offer, it felt like the nagging he’d experienced many times from women who’d hurt him. He couldn’t make the distinction between women who’d tried to control him and one who cared. And, he’d never learned to receive.

After I finished the book, I decided to call Mike. I accepted that he’d never see my way and wanted to get closure it in a peaceful way, with the compassion I’d just learned about.

Mike seemed happy to hear from me. I knew he liked me a lot. Maybe he thought we could just ignore his outbursts and move on. But I knew he’d always be a time bomb, waiting to go off if I tried to return his caring. After chatting a bit, I again said I felt bad that he attributed nasty motives to my offer, since there were none. He immediately began to rage. This time I didn’t defend myself or try to convince him. I just gently repeated over and over,

“I know that you’re hurting and can’t help responding like this. I have compassion for your pain.”

Mike didn’t touch that statement. He calmed down a little. I explained that I felt very sorry that he had so much pain from others and needed to inflict it on me. Like a roller coaster he went up and down with other accusations and mean spirited comments, then calmed as I repeated my words, softly. I rode along with my seat belt fastened. He seemed to get spurts of rage about my remaining calm. Mike tried to create drama and I wouldn’t let him. Yet he never—not once—attacked or challenged my compassionate words.

For the first time I was in complete control of anger! He blustered as I smiled and felt incredibly peaceful afterwards, with no anger left.

The compassion I felt made me feel calm. The more he went on irrationally, the more compassion I felt. I barely said anything else but those words. When we hung up, I knew that was it for us. Compassion had taught me acceptance of a sad situation—for how Mike kept hurting himself. I was the best person in his life and he lost me since I couldn’t continue to be close to someone like that. So he suffered more! The next day, I emailed to wish him good luck and expressed my compassion in writing. No reply. I felt good.

Since then, remembering the Dalai Lama’s conception of compassion has helped me to minimize my anger in most situations.

Who provoked you recently? Are they happy? Happy people don’t need to hurt others. Insecure ones criticize and take advantage. People with a positive self-image are less likely to consciously do that. Insecure folks have been bashed themselves. Loving yourself makes it easier to be kind to unhappy so
uls. In situations that rile me, I now realize that what people do or say stems from their own unhappiness. Instead of anger, I feel sorry for them.

Choose to let compassion temper anger. Why allow someone’s dysfunction to debilitate you with complaints and rage?

People who are nasty and mean don’t love themselves. Their pain motivates them to hurt others. When you understand that they’re are hurting themselves more, you can feel sorry for them instead of getting hurt. This philosophy has nurtured my inner peace. I highly recommend it!

My compassion is on an individual basis. I still lose it sometimes. There are people who push my buttons too far and create short-term anger. But, then I look for their source of pain so compassion can take over. It makes sense. Compassion takes nothing from me and anger does no good. That doesn’t mean letting people get away with unfair behavior. I take appropriate action if I’m wronged. But my strong desire to take good care of myself motivates me to replace anger with compassion. I express myself in a nice but firm way and take appropriate action to rectify the situation.

You CAN choose not to absorb someone’s negativity. Practice. It sure feels good!

Don’t give others power to affect you so much! This doesn’t mean you push anger aside because you feel sorry for the person. You can’t swallow anger without getting life indigestion. Have compassion but still express feelings. Get it out gently but get it out. Otherwise, anger multiplies at your expense. I feel so blessed with my life, my positive attitude, and my total faith in God, that I’m generous. But I’ll end negative friendships and do what’s necessary to move on when I must.

Just like forgiveness, compassion doesn’t mean forgetting or letting someone get away with unacceptable behavior. It’s for you! Why make yourself feel worse when you can feel better??!

Be true to your values. Yes, there are unkind or downright evil people. But those who do the dirty on others are not happy. Mean people NEVER have enough money; NEVER have enough power; NEVER feel satisfied. To me THAT is punishment. People may feel perverse pleasure by hurting others; they may be honored for something or become rich and famous. But I truly believe they can’t be happy inside. They step on others to get more of what they’re never satisfied with. I feel blessed with all I have and grateful as heck to be doing what I love.

I love being in a good mood most of the time. When you practice letting angry situations roll off you by showing compassion, you’ll understand why it’s such a blessing! Being generous about giving compassion to others is a gift—to YOU.

Check out the Dalai Lama’s latest book, How to See Yourself As You Really Are (Atria, 2007).

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon. Thanks!

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17368533471813700877 r a w

    Hi Daylle,Lovely post. You have very nicely told, how to deal with harsh situations in real life. It’s a good quideline for others who face similar circumstances.I once read a quote by Buddha, which said “Being angry is like holding to a hot coal, with the intention of throwing it at someone else. You end up getting burned.”Glad to see you helping yourself and others, to move away from self-destructive notions.Thanks,Rahul

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06374675490157793848 ConnFarr

    This is one of the best real life posts I’ve read on dealing with other’s pain and subsequent bad actions. I grew up with a very compassionate mom, learned at her knee, but failed to learn the difference between compassion and being a doormat. I liked the description of how you actually dealt with your angry friend. Thank you, Connie

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01445486103480238038 Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Hi Rahul,Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing the quote about getting burned. When I had no compassion, my anger burned in a self-destructive way. Now I’m happy every day and want to help others achieve that!Cheers,Daylle

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01445486103480238038 Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Hi Connie,Thanks so much for your very kind words! I had the same kind of mom, which is why I became a DoorMat. It’s a great blessing to learn life’s truths and actually implement them for your highest good, despite your former behavior. : )Cheers,Daylle

  • http://www.wethechange.com Todd Goldfarb

    Thanks for writing this article and for reviewing the Dalai lama’s book. I have also read it, and it is awesome.You should also try The Power of Now by Echart Tolle, which I just finished and blew me away.Todd GoldfarbWe The Change

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05088184676439578876 therapydoc

    This is great stuff. I’m bookmarking the page so that I can recommend it to people. Thanks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01445486103480238038 Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Thanks for stopping by Todd! Two years I drove around the whole country solo for a national book tour and listened to The Power of Now in the car. It’s awesome! And how I live.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01445486103480238038 Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Thanks for your consistent support Doc! I sincerely appreciate hearing from you. : )

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07559806932294142657 Wade M | The Middle Way

    Hi Daylle,Thanks for sharing your story, and taking part in the GWP.Peace,Wadehttp://themiddleway.net

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01445486103480238038 Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    It was my pleasure Wade. Thanks for stopping by! : )Cheers,Daylle

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01224197423507903111 Camilla

    Love this post! It is so very timely for me. Thank you very much!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01445486103480238038 Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Thanks for letting me know this post mattered to you Camilla!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09871120338362130467 Jenny Mannion

    Hi Daylle, I just found your blog through Albert and am so happy I have! I love your entry on compassion. It takes self awareness and strength to act as you did towards “Mike” and MANY can learn from your words. I used to be so caught up in everyone’s problems and take it upon myself to “cure” people but only that person can decide they want to feel better and be conscious. I hope someday your words resonate with Mike and he feels it is worthwhile to examine the anger and deal with it. Unresolved anger can also cause physical illness along with the emotional turmoil as I know well! Thanks — I look forward to reading more of your posts! Gratefully, Jenny

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01445486103480238038 Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Hi Jenny,I’m delighted that you found my blog! You’re so right about anger. On a metaphysical level, it’s the cause of cancer. But it also damages health on many levels. I’ll never hear from “Mike” again. He’s too angry. But I wish him well.

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