Anger, Compassion, and What It Means To Be Strong | Russell Kolts | TEDxOlympia

Translator: Denise RQ
Reviewer: Anna Trojan So I’m a psychologist. (Laughter) And a lot of my work involves
using compassion-focused therapy to help people work
with emotions like anger. Anger can be a tricky emotion to work with because it can feel really powerful in us. So even when we can see
that our uncontrolled anger is causing lots of problems
in our lives and in our relationships, we can be reluctant to give it up. We like feeling powerful. We like feeling strong. And that’s why I think if we’ll really be able
to commit ourselves to work with emotions like anger, we have to discover new ways to be strong and that’s where compassion comes in. Now my own journey toward using
compassion to work with anger actually began when my son was born, Aand I got to see the impact
of my own anger was having on my family. You see, I’ve got what you might call
an angry or an irritable temperament. One way to think of temperament
is the idea that some people are born having an easier time
experiencing certain emotions. Some of you, I suspect,
are very easy going, intend to take things in stride, don’t get too worked up
for the things that don’t go your way. And If you like that,
by the way, is good for you. (Laughter) It’s nice, it’s a nice way to be. However, other of us will have
a very different experience of life. Some of you, for example,
may have a much more anxious temperament. You may notice feelings of anxiety coming up in you easily, frequently,
and sometimes, very powerfully. If you like this, by the way,
don’t beat yourself up for it. It’s not your fault. And I mean it, it’s not your fault. We don’t get to choose our temperament. But if we are going to have
happy lives and good relationships, we’ve got to take responsibility
for working with what we’ve got. And a part of what I had to work with
is anger and irritability. That really came to head for me
when my son was about 3 month old, and I was home,
taking care about him one day, and it was a day in which I had a lot of
work that I really wanted to get done. Parents among you will not be surprised
to find out that on this particular day, my son took about an hour and a half
longer than normal to go to sleep for his morning nap. I remember, finally he goes to sleep, I’m gently setting him down in the crib,
and tiptoeing out of the room, and just as I get in the another room
and I sit down to work, the cry. And with that cry I was filled with anger. It took everything in me not to rush across the hall,
stand over his crib, and yell, “Why can’t you just sleep?” Luckily, that didn’t happen,
but something did. The intensity of the anger
I felt at my infant son for doing nothing more that not sleeping at the exact moment I wanted him to sleep, shocked me awake, and I knew that if I was going to be anything like this sort of father
I wanted my son to have, I had to do something about my anger. Now It turns out there are actually quite a good number
of effective anger management techniques. That this is true: if you are someone
who struggles with anger, there are some powerful tools
out there that you can use. The tricky bit is getting people
to use those tools. It’s neither easy nor fun to admit that you have problems with anger
and to commit yourself to working with it. Let me ask you a question: have you ever said or done
something out of anger that’s caused terrible pain
in the people you love the most? Me too. How does it feel
to admit that to yourself? Do you find yourself wanting
to move toward that experience or to move away from it and never waited? It can also be a pretty lonely thing;
to be someone who struggles with anger. Think about it. When we see someone who is anxious,
what do we want to do? We want to approach and reassure them. When we see someone who is sad,
we want to approach and comfort them. What do you want to do
when you see someone who’s angry and hostile? You want to get
the heck out of there, right? Of course you do, we all do.
That’s part of what anger does. It pushes people away. But what that means is that you or someone
who really struggles with anger can get very used to the sight
of other people walking away because they don’t want to be around you. And that’s hard. For me, although the feeling
of my anger felt powerful in me when I really took a look at it, I discovered that behind that anger were a lot of other much more
vulnerable feelings and emotions: the fear that I couldn’t control
my own feelings, the sadness that my behavior
was so different from the man I wanted to be, and the shame of watching
the people I loved the most walking on eggshells around me afraid that they would say or do
some random thing that’d set me off. And in the face of all that scary stuff,
I did what a lot of folks do: I avoided it. I just tried not to feel it,
distract yourself, blame other people, rationalize.
those sorts of things, right? And over time, I discovered,
through experience, what a growing body of scientific research
is demonstrating which is that working
with difficult emotions by avoiding them doesn’t work and often makes things worse. Now being a good father
was important to me though, so at this point, I took decisive action
in the way we, academics, do: I began to read. (Laughter) And one of the books I read was about
the His Holiness, the Dalai Lama of Tibet. And in that book, I saw a vision
of the sort of man I wanted to be, the sort of father I hoped I could become. Don’t get me wrong, I have no aspirations
to be the leader of a worldwide religion, but it was that courage, that wisdom,
the kindness, the compassion. You see, compassion involves
allowing ourselves to be moved by suffering,
the suffering of other people, and even our own suffering. And experiencing a commitment,
a desire to help, to obliviate that suffering. Compassion begins with courage, the courage to face the things
that make us uncomfortable, and sometimes, the courage to face the things that scary us
the most about ourselves. Compassion gave me a way
to work with my anger, not by turning away from it
and avoiding it but by turning towards it. not with condemnation but with kindness
and a commitment to do better. And over time, I discovered that when I stopped blaming
other people for my anger or beating myself up for having it, I could use a lot of those
powerful anger management tools I told you about before, and over time, I could help
other people do the same. Now, as an aside, if this sounds easy,
let me assure you, it was not. For me, admitting I had problems
with anger and working with it, it was like being Frodo
marching in the Mordor. (Laughter) It was ugly, it was scary. A lot of times
I didn’t think I could do it. But over time, I discovered that the more you move towards it,
the easier it gets and the stronger you get. And after a while, all those terrifying emotions
just stopped being so terrifying and start being normal human feelings
we can acknowledge and work with. Let’s try an exercise
really quickly if you would. I’d like you to bring to mind a situation
in which you recently struggled. Maybe a time when you were feeling
powerful feelings of anger, sadness, or fear, shame,
or whatever you struggled with. And as you look back on that struggling
version of you in that situation, try to look back with compassion. The way you would relate to someone
you dearly cared about and wanted to help. See if it’s possible to see those powerful feelings and thoughts
you had at that time, not as something that was wrong with you but as normal human reactions
that we have in the face of difficulty. If you were at your very best, you’re kindest, you’re wisest,
you’re most courageous, you’re most compassionate, how would you understand
what was happening there? If you could go back
and whisper into the ear of that vulnerable version of you,
in that situation, what support or encouragement
might you offer to help yourself be at your best
in that moment, as you face that difficulty? You see, that’s compassion, and if you’re interested
in bringing that compassion in the every moments of your life you might try three things;
it’s a good start. The next time you noticed yourself
filled with anger, shame, or some other emotion
you’re struggling with, instead of just going
and acting on that emotion or denying and avoiding it,
beating yourself up for having it, what if you just took a moment to just compassionately acknowledge
what was happening in you? To notice,
“Wow, I’m really angry right now. I’m really struggling,
this is really hard.” That’s number one. Second thing: at that moment, see if you can take a moment
to slow things down, to take a minute or two
just slow down your breathing. Slowing down the body
can help slow down the mind. Anger tries to convince us
that we have to act right now, but we don’t have to believe it;
we can take a moment, or to balance our emotions first,
and then work with the situation. Now, if this sounds awfully
a pie in the sky, let me say that I’ve used
compassion-focused therapy to work with men sentenced to decades
in prison, many of them for violent crimes –and yeah, when I walked
in the prison looking like this talking about compassion,
initially I get some eye rolls. But over time,
these men discover what I had learned that the anger
that felt so powerful in them was often a method they used to run away from more vulnerable feelings
and emotions like sadness or shame, and that compassion gave them
a way to work with all of that, and these men didn’t just stopped
working with anger either, they actively looked for ways
to support one another; and then, they looked out into the world
and they asked more questions. Questions like how can I help
people out there? So they don’t end up in here. Even from prison, how can I help? And if they can do it, so can we. That’s true strength. That’s compassion. Thanks. (Applause)

82 thoughts on “Anger, Compassion, and What It Means To Be Strong | Russell Kolts | TEDxOlympia

  1. If you watch this carefully, you'll notice a mistake at the end. I saw the blinking timer signalling that my time was running low, and skipped the 3rd point of my 3-point list at the end. So here's about what I intended to say: "Third, once we've slowed things down a bit and have some space, we can ask some questions. Questions like, 'What does this situation feel like to the other people involved? How does it make sense to them?' Questions like, 'What would help me to feel safe and to be at my best as I work with this situation?', and questions like, "If I was at my very best: my kindest, my wisest, my most courageous, confident, and compassionate, how would I make sense of this situation? What would I understand? What would that compassionate version of me feel, think, and want to do?" Then, we can try acting from that perspective – letting our actions be guided from that compassionate self." Thanks so much for watching, and I hope you found something useful here. rk

  2. Thank you, Russell, for being brave enough to make yourself vulnerable by sharing your own story in this talk. Very powerful. Well done.

  3. Amazing story. This is what I have discovered recently, as well. I had many struggles in life and didn`t know how to control my anger. Feeling compassion towards the unsolved situations and myself helped me change my point of view and feel better. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. This is good stuff, Russell. Glad to see you doing this with your life. I work with kids with BD/ED as a SPED teacher, and I'd like to use some of this with your permission.

  5. very inspirational. when people see an angry person they avoid them. but the angry person sees the avoidance as being targeted (hated) so it becomes a viscous cycle. yet it seems there is a lot I can learn about compassion

  6. This is one of the best talks about compassion I've ever seen. Russell, your vulnerability is touching and inspires me to be more transparent about my feelings. I'm going to share this for sure!

  7. 4:52, Not in my experience, it can also be a lonely thing to be anxious or even sad as lots of people seem to act like it is wrong to feel anxious or sad when you can't help it.

  8. One of the best videos I've seen in a long time on anger and compassion. This man taught me more in 13 minutes then several sessions with a counselor has done. Amazing. Thank you, sir!

  9. General talk with no inspirational though.. Just another guy telling us stuff that we ruminate in our brains on a normal day under a whatever situation. Just copying from other with no personal study or known reference

  10. anger is rooted in control, control rooted in anxiety, anxiety rooted in fear. . fear the world around you is stronger than your internal centeredness'

  11. My anger truly started because of having a shit father and getting beaten up in front of half my school, years of having that anger and it getting worse and worse caused me to end up away from everyone I love and losing my girlfriend, my friends and kind of one of my brothers. Over the years my anger turned me into someone I can't even recognise and also made me so sad and lost that I want to burn the world. Naive people think love is the most powerful emotion and cynical people think hate is but I think it's anger even love couldn't change my anger.

  12. Use anger to fuel your engine but don't let that fuel burn your engine.
    Use your anger as a motivation but do not be consumed by it

  13. Thank you for sharing this awesome talk,especially the point that its o.k. To have a "angry temperment",that of itself is extremely frustrating to come out and admit but,is definitely a lightning feeling to finally start to challenge and heal.sorry for the grammatical insanity I'm not fully awake,but I felt compelled to thank you personally. I have a lot of work ahead but I love that I am not alone and I'm hopeful,it's taken 30 out of 37 yrs to get here.

  14. it doesn't work , the thing this dude is saying doesn't work for me ! I'm still filled with anger and even this video is making me angry ! :/

  15. Anger is often misdirected… "A harsh word is like unto a sword, but gentle speech is like unto milk. The children of the world attain to knowledge and better themselves through this." ~ Compilations, Bahá’í Scriptures

  16. Great talk, thanks. As you said, anger usually just hides the true emotions: Fear, self entitlement etc. I found that when I take time to think about why I am angry, I find the real reason in some of my other flaws. Tough work, and I fail more than I succeed, but it is a journey.

  17. So if you're angry about the very people around you and how they lack compassion, and all you care about is compassion . Then what

  18. I disagree that power and anger are one thing; anger is irrational and physical–it shakes your muscles and makes a person lose all compassion. Power is taught by your mother–to manipulate everyone around you, that is power.

  19. His voice may be mellowing me out a bit. I think I feel angry because I have trouble being with people or feeling rejected & unappreciated.

  20. Hey Russell, Wonderful talk. Could you also please let us know about the book you mentioned. Which book it was.

  21. This is super previous, man. Thank you! I have always thought there was something horribly wrong with me.

  22. TEDx sucks, TED without the x, not so much. TEDx content never EVER delivers what the title sells, TED not so much. That's why TEDx sucks, TED without the x, not so much.

  23. Typical "soft male" (anti-masculine, feminine politically correct) approach that generalizes that ALL anger is unhealthy and dysfunctional, turning toward Eastern religion and feminine dominant perspectives as a way to reject healthy masculinity.

  24. I used to be angry subconsciously, then people around me helped me become aware of it, so I suppressed it and now I feel powerless and feminized…I want my anger back, but once it's suppressed it's like I lost my balls and can't get it back. I think men need to let out their power and society is calling it 'anger" and shaming them for it.

  25. Russell does the laid back west coast presentation storytelling style well, but there is little empirical evidence for his Buddhist-informed compassionate focused approach at this time — while it may have a role in some types of motivational interviewing, it may also reduce personal responsibility (e.g., his, "it is not your fault" (it is your temperament), message is potentially counterproductive, a common excuse for abusive and impulsively violent individuals — including many violent offenders). This reminds me of naive approaches which believe that raising the "self-esteem" of violent individuals will reduce their angry outbursts and criminal behaviours; the research shows otherwise.

    Patients should seek out practitioners who apply evidenced-based interventions, particularly CBT. Psychotherapists would do well to read up on a comprehensive, research informed, book, such as: "Anger Management: The Complete Treatment Guidebook for Practitioners" (2015) by Dr. Howard Kassinove and Dr. Raymond Chip Tafrate. The latter has recently co-authored a book specific to offenders: "CBT with Justice-Involved Clients: Interventions for Antisocial and Self-Destructive Behaviors".

  26. Thank you! Your speach change the perception about myself.I feel angry very often and even if I want to controll it it's impossible.I probably need more time to calm myself and to think the consequences of my anger feelings. Yesterday,becouse of my anger, I hearted emotionaly my parents and after 10 minutes I felt very sorry becouse they dont deserve the way I behave.It's an everyday struggle and I found very difficult to handle the situation when I feel that way

  27. also if all fails, abandon those you love when they need you the most, to the point of complete oblivion and self destruction and even if it calls for losing their sanity just do it cause it works every time lol

  28. This hit me hard because I am 12 years old and am driving everyone away from me because of it,anger,my mom came right out and told me I need help she thought I didn't know,but it just fueled it even more.

  29. Thank you so much I have struggled with intense anger for many years I'm 32 and have a wonderful family who just tonight i treated horribly now I can work toward being who I want to be and who I know I am in my heart.

  30. I know anger makes me strong and I also know it's bad for me coz anger will cooldown later, leaving me to face the circumstances that I've created out of anger alone. So, I try so hard…so so hard to control my anger. But I fail, it controls me, I'm not controlling it. There's a improvement so far but this people are so annoying, even a people who are close to me. And I've mental illness. I've Cyclothymic disorder, severe social anxiety disorder. I just wish I could put all of these to an end.
    I've seen a glimpse of depression-free life and God!! That felt good. I wish I could live like that forever.

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