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In Love and Politics, 3 Plans May Alleviate Anger

Gratitude is a way to reduce stress, alleviate anger, and create harmony.

Public Domain, Wikimedia
Gothic couple by Grant Wood
Source: Public Domain, Wikimedia

These seem to be anger-filled times. As if love relationships were not difficult enough, political stress is damaging togetherness. From social media to families, we see and hear about the conflicts that are affecting our sense of justice and sense of values.

One of today's most vocal political couples are Attorney George Conway—who denounces Trump daily on Twitter—and his wife, Kellyanne, who appears on talk shows to spew a defense of Trump. They remind us in some way of longtime married political consultants—for Democrats, James Carville, and for Republicans, Mary Maitland. Perhaps they are able to leave political differences outside the doors of their homes and embrace kindness and compassion within.

At the funeral services of Congressman Elijah Cummings, we heard these words from former President Barack Obama: "I tell my daughters... being a strong man includes being kind. That there's nothing weak about kindness and compassion. There's nothing weak about looking out for others."

Here are three plans for overcoming anger.

1. Forgiveness and Blessings

The Greater Good Science Center recently posed the question: Are you still mad at someone who hurt you in the past? Their approach for resolving the conflict is as follows:

  • Find a quiet place to sit.
  • Relax for two minutes, breathing in and out naturally.
  • During each exhale, focus on the word “one.” Keep your arms, legs, and body still.
  • Identify a time in the past when another person hurt or offended you.
  • For the next two minutes, think of the offender as a human being who behaved badly. Even if the relationship cannot be restored, try to wish that this person experiences something positive or healing to genuinely wish that this person experiences something positive or healing... The Greater Good

2. Taming Anger and Listening

How do rival political families survive? Keep in mind that despite political differences between James Carvel and Mary Maitlin, their marriage has survived for 25 years. From an interview:

There’s a lot more to life than politics, he said. “People see me and say ‘He’s a Democrat.’ I am, but I’m a lot of other things, too.”

His wife responded with characteristic wit, “Being angry releases a lot of hormones you don’t need to be released at any age, particularly at an age when you can live without sex but not without your glasses.” —Political Opposites Whose Marriage Has Survived

Perhaps today’s married political rivals—Kellyanne and George Conway—are following in their footsteps. Many wonder how they can sit at the same dinner table. Perhaps there is a bit of kindness and compassion that helps.

This approach can be gleaned from the work of Dr. Redford Williams of the Psychiatry Department at Duke University. Author of Anger Kills (Random House), he has said:

“If you want others to hear you rather than react to you, you need to be careful about what you say. When we are angry with someone, it is often because they have hurt us. Frequently the person with whom we are angry feels none of the internal conflict or turmoil that we feel. That person may not even know that we are angry."

In an earlier interview, Dr. Williams suggested that instead of reacting when you are angry, you take a few minutes to ask yourself:

  • What feelings do I personally associate with the person who created this situation—hurt, disappointment, embarrassment?
  • What is it that I want the person to hear me say?
  • What kind of response do I want from the other person?
  • How can I confront without being confrontational?

3. Three Days of Gratitude

The ultimate goal of a gratitude plan to offset anger is to create a mindset for unconditional love. I wrote about this some years ago, but it bears repeating:

Gratitude on Day 1: Express thanks by finding three qualities that you love about your partner. All-day long, focus on those positive qualities. No matter what happens, try to ignore all of those little irritating moments or habits that drive you mad.

Forgiveness on Day 2: Identify three things about yourself that make you angry and three things about your love that make you want to scream. Now forgive yourself and forgive your love. Be grateful for the sensitivity to forgive.

Appreciation on Day 3: For an entire day, speak only kind words. Yes, an entire day. Truth to tell, even I find it difficult at times, but give it a shot. Tell your spouse or lover or partner that he or she is the most perfect, wonderful, loving person in the world—no matter what.

If you feel a spark of annoyance, turn it around and find a trait for which to be grateful. As someone once told me—think of annoyance as a spark from a fireplace that hits a carpet. Leave it alone, and it will simmer and leave a mark. Stamp it out immediately, and it's gone.

In some ways, the three-day plan is like cleaning out closets, organizing desk drawers, or tackling a pile of papers. You feel better, and you sleep better with the clutter cleared away. With the gratitude plan, you are essentially clearing out feelings that keep your relationship from thriving.

One of these three plans, or a combination, might help reduce stress and bring about a certain peace of mind.

Copyright 2019 Rita Watson

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