Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Lessons from a Recovering Doormat


Other People’s Anger

I’ve talked a lot about calming your anger, but what about fielding the wrath of others? Today I heard from someone asking me about a situation that is sadly all too common—the wrath of someone else that seems irrational, which it often is. It can be from:

•    Your romantic partner’s ex. Sadly, many people can’t move on when their relationship ends. Ex’s can be angry because they couldn’t make the relationship work or they’re not happy but their ex has happily moved on or they feel their ex took more than they should have in a divorce or many other factors. Their wrath can target the ex, the ex’s new mates, and spill onto the children.

•    A friend you set boundaries with or let go of. If you’ve been someone’s shoulder to lean on and it got toxic enough for you to keep more distance, or cut him or her off, the person can get very angry at the lack of support.

•    A jealous co-worker or friend. Jealousy can turn into anger when the person is frustrated seeing you with what they want, especially if they feel entitled to what you have. It could be a promotion at work that a co-worker wanted, or you have a romantic partner and the other person doesn’t (and it gets worse if you don’t go out to play with them anymore). Or you have more money or friends or happiness than the other person.

•    A boss who has is/her share of problems and takes it out on you. Bosses have that job for a reason and often have a lot of pressure. If they have no healthy outlets they vent on their employees, who may feel they must take it in order to keep their jobs.

•    Someone who knows they haven’t done right by you and their guilt turns into anger. Yes, they do something wrong but can’t handle the guilt and get angry about it. Guilt can make a person lose their logical perspective. It may turn to anger when they can’t deal with it.

Anger comes in many flavors, depending on the other person’s issues. But it can feel worse than your own, if you feel completely out of control with it. It’s YOUR choice to be angry or to let it go. But, if someone else is trying to make your life miserable with their unhappiness, it can feel like there’s nothing you can do. You try talking nicely and they get vicious. You do them a favor and they try to sabotage something you’re involved in.

Often the best recourse is to protect yourself as much as you can. Then try to understand that it’s usually not about you. I used to let other people’s anger get to me. Now I follow the Dalai Lama’s concept of understanding that when someone hurts you, the person is hurting inside and lashes out from that hurt. Instead of responding to it in a negative way, having compassion for the person’s pain makes it easier to deal with it. It may sound simple but it is a very powerfully action.

When someone is mean or sarcastic or nasty to me, I let my compassion for their unhappiness temper my response. If you can cut ties or limit time with the person, all the better. But sometimes there’s no way to avoid the angry person. If you must put up wit the person:

•    Have compassion for their obvious unhappiness. I’ve actually said in response to a pointedly nasty comment, “I have compassion for you since you must be unhappy if you pick on me like that.”

•    Count your blessings. Think about all the wonderful things in your life to be grateful for and let that feed your compassion for this person who doesn’t have as much.

•    Forgive the person in your heart. Acknowledge that the person can’t help him/herself and you forgive their unfair response to their unhappiness. Bless them instead of wishing them harm. You don’t have to say any of that to them. Just feel it.

•    Remind yourself that their words can’t hurt you unless you let them. When you accept they come form a place of unhappiness they can roll off your back. Sometimes when you have no response as all, positive or negative, they lose their “pleasure” about using you as a punching bag.

•    Respond in a cheerful manner, no matter what they think. I’ve laughed when someone said something unfairly mean to me. When they questioned why I thought it was funny, I said it was absurd to think it could be true.

Protect yourself against other people’s anger. You can let it sink your spirits or rise above it, knowing your life is good and you don’t have to be with them all the time. Compassion is a fantastic buffer against other people’s anger.
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