Compassion skills are central to Emotion Regulation. Particularly as Opposite Action skill for emotions related to anger (irritation, frustration, annoyance). Most of the time, opposite action is just that, an action. But, particularly with feelings of anger, there is also an attitudinal or thinking action.
Opposite action basically says this: because emotions are so hardwired to motivate certain behaviors- if you do the action opposite to the one natural to a strong emotion, it can help turn the emotion around. (See my blog on Half Smile for more about this). With anger, the auto pilot behavioral impulse is to attack, either physically or verbally. So, level I opposite action would be to "gently avoid." Gently avoid is something like the old fashioned counting to 10. We do it just long enough to get our emotion managed.
Level II Opposite Action on the other hand, deals with the extra fused judgmental thinking that comes with angry feelings. Anger, irritation, frustration are always related to judgmental thinking. So, Opposite Action practice entails finding another way to think about the person or situation being judged. Bringing an attitude of kind consideration of how difficult an experience or situation is for another person can work miracles on your angry feelings.
Just try it for yourself (always a good idea to try a new skill with an easier task first). Next time you are in traffic, or annoyed by some other similar daily annoyance, try imaging from the other person’s perspective. Practice moving your mind away from your own view – how you have been wronged or inconvenienced- and see a kinder view from the other perspective. Consider the difficulties they might be experiencing – then send that person some compassion….. for your own well being.
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