Anger, the Time Machine

For those of us who anger quickly, the emotion seems to well up fast and furiously, activated by something just said or done that is hurtful or offensive. However, if we had the ability to play out every scene in slow motion, we might notice something interesting: Just before we feel the anger, we have a thought. That thought sounds something like, “This situation is familiar. I didn’t like it before. I won’t like it now. I’d better protect myself.”

In other words, the present upset is often a trigger of a long-forgotten situation, without our even being aware of it. If we pay more attention to the thought that triggers us, our anger will lose its power to whisk us back to the past so instantaneously.

If we pay attention to our anger instead of shunning it, or shaming ourselves for it, or stuffing it out of fear, we will more easily remember those long-ago events that taught us to protect ourselves with anger. When we remember and offer ourselves compassion for what we felt back then, we no longer need to put on the armor and get out the ammunition now. This is how anger becomes our ally and begins to serve as a healing force.

So, next time you feel that flash of anger, imagine for a moment that, like a time machine, your anger is carrying you swiftly back to your past. Ask yourself what this present trigger reminds you of. Even if the memory is vague, trust it. Then give yourself compassion for whatever hurt or humiliation remains from back then.

The trick is to give yourself compassion before you lose your temper. In fact, make a commitment to yourself that the moment anger arises, you will offer yourself compassion. This way, you don’t need a reason to justify the anger or your compassion. Anger will lose its power as compassion works its magic.

Jane Straus is a life coach, keynote speaker, media guest, and the author of Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life. Visit to read her articles, view her TV interviews and seminars, buy the book, or hire her as your personal coach.

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