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Compassion: An Antidote to Anger?

Mindfulness teacher and author Thich Nhat Hanh writes:

The nectar of compassion is so wonderful. If you are committed to keeping it alive, then you are protected. What the other person says will not touch off the anger and irritation in you, because compassion is the real antidote for anger.

There’s often misinterpretation between the words anger and aggression. Anger by itself is not an issue. It is important to be able to notice when we are getting angry, frustrated, irritated, or annoyed because it is often a signal that something is amiss. With that awareness we have the ability to choose what we want to do with it. It is the behavior of aggression and hostility that put people on the defense and cause problems.

When we cultivate compassion, we begin to soften the reactivity of aggression and hostility that often stems from anger.

What is compassion?

Compassion is a quality of awareness that combines identifying with another’s feelings (i.e., empathy) while understanding the position the other is in.

Inherent in the definition of mindfulness is non-judgment and another quality of it is “kind attention.” So as we cultivate a practice of nonjudgmentally placing kind attention on our own experience, we naturally begin to elicit feelings of self-compassion which then begins to flow outwards to others.

To cultivate compassion for another, try this: Allow yourself to imagine the sorrows and pains that the other person holds. During this life they have certainly had disappointments, failures, losses and wounds so deep they may not feel safe to share. Imagine them as your own child, feeling frightened and in pain, and how you may want to comfort them.

Sometimes, through practice, we come to understand that compassion may very well be the greatest antidote to the reactivity that can stem from anger and a pathway toward constructive-anger.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories, and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Compassion: An Antidote to Anger?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2009). Compassion: An Antidote to Anger?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 10 Jul 2009
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