Interventions For Anger

This week Wise Heart looks at anger and what typically underlies our anger. This is followed by some inquiries and strategies from the Mindful Compassionate Dialogue framework and system to support you in interrupting the reactivity that causes it and shift to wise compassionate action. Next week, we’ll look at how to Express Anger with Responsibility.
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You know that behaving from anger isn’t helpful, but it still takes over. You would like to trust yourself to intervene with anger in a skilful way so that it is not controlling your behaviour. Let’s look at a basic understanding of anger, and then three strategies for intervention.

Anger is a sign that you are pushing against what’s happening because, in the moment, you perceive an overwhelming threat and don’t trust yourself to handle what’s happening directly. Specifically, anger usually involves one or more of the following:

  1. Anger may be a mobilizing energy or alarm meant to direct your attention to an actual threat to universal needs
  2. Attachment to standards, expectations, or ideas that things should be a certain way
  3. Unexamined and unresolved wounding/trauma from the past that triggers a misperception of threat in the moment
  4. Holding an enemy image of another
  5. Disallowing, ignoring, or lacking access to grief, hurt, or fear
  6. Addiction to the immediacy of anger (power/adrenalin rush, getting a response from others)
  7. Confusion or ignorance about the costs of acting out of anger
  8. A lack of agency, empowerment, and skills, that then keeps one dependent on power-over strategies (fueled by anger) to meet needs
  9. Avoiding a sense of fragility and shame
  10. Poor boundaries: Repeated abandonment of one’s needs in order to accommodate others takes away resource and adds irritability that builds into anger
  11. Anger has become a well-worn habit

Any time you are feeling angry it’s helpful to ask yourself three questions:

  1. What am I telling myself?
  2. What else is true about this situation that I am not noticing? What is actually true and what is an interpretation, generalization, or exaggeration of the trigger situation?
  3. What universal needs/values are up for me?

Naming what you are telling yourself is a step towards mindfulness. Distinguishing neutral and factual observations of a situation deepens mindfulness. Asking what else could be true interrupts the narrow focus of reactivity and invites an expansive perspective. Connecting with universal needs helps you access groundedness and provides a springboard for effective action.  

These interventions could be done in any order. Sometimes it is easier to identify needs first, especially if you have a needs list. Once you name a need, frame it without the “should” thoughts. So, rather than “My partner should respect me,” you internally say, “My need for respect isn’t met. I am wanting to know my partner cares about my needs and respects me.” Next, take time to connect with more vulnerable feelings underneath the anger and resentment. It might sound like this, “When I imagine my partner doesn’t care about my needs I feel sad and hurt and long for respect and consideration.”

The more vulnerable feelings under anger are almost always some form of fear, hurt, or grief. When you can let yourself experience and express these feelings and connect them to your needs, you will have more access to skilful action. This step of dropping into more vulnerable feelings can be very difficult. Anger is often experienced as slightly pleasant and so can be difficult to let go of in favour of the discomfort that you might experience when allowing yourself to feel fear, hurt, or grief. The long-term rewards, however, are well worth it. Vulnerability may not be comfortable at first, but it gives you access to insight, skill, compassion, and wisdom. Without access to these things, you will continue to engage in unskilful behaviours that lead to greater suffering for yourself and others.


Take a moment now to reflect on the last time you felt angry. Use the three questions listed above to reflect on that situation.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog.

Thank you for reading, for being here, and for being you.

With love.

If you would like to learn and cultivate the relationship competencies, mindfulness skills and emotional capacity needed to more easily recognise and interpret your anger, interrupt its reactivity and learn and utilise skilful interventions to create compassionate and thriving relationships with yourself and others, have a look at our upcoming Mindful Compassionate Dialogue course.

You are also invited to join our free biweekly Empathy Circle, where you can learn and discover what empathy is, and more importantly, practice giving and receiving empathy, allowing you to be deeply seen and heard in whatever challenge or celebration you’re navigating.

If you’d like to experience a powerful coaching conversation, book a complimentary 1:1 Coaching Call with me.

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