Thursday, March 26, 2009

Step-by-Step Compassionate Anger Transformation Process

Below is a step-by-step process for transforming anger that myself and a group of others worked together on co-creating last year. I am posting it here so that it will not be lost to the world, and so that I can get some further feed-back to use for developing it.

This process is based on the work of Nonviolent Communication.

Please speak up if you see how this process can be improved to be more beneficial and effective at transforming anger into further clarity, mutual understanding and harmony.


Compassionate Anger Transformation

By Ben Spencer, Conal Elliott, Parenthesis Eye, Susan Livingston and Milli O'Nair - Coming from collaborative dialogue at Acorn Community and NVC Evolves

Have you noticed that when you behave and communicate in anger, you are less likely to get what you want? You would probably prefer to respond to anger in a way that results in reconciliation, healing, peace, and harmony. Anger is a compound made up of feeling/s and thought/s. The following approach is offered to empower you to separate the components of this compound and harvest these gifts.

Step One - Anger alert

As soon as you notice anger in your heart, say, 'My heart is closed right now. I must go and open it.' And then go. As you go, ask, 'is my heart open, or is my heart closed?'

Whatever the answer, promise your heart that you are holding it with care.

Step Two - Connect with your intention

Are you enjoying your anger? If you are, then take a 'time out' and enjoy your anger! If you are not, then continue.

Step Three - Identify your thoughts

Are you telling yourself that you are right / wrong or good / bad, or what you want / need / deserve, or should do?

Are you telling yourself that the other is wrong or evil, or what s/he wants, needs, deserves, or should do? Stay still and silent and adopt an attitude of intense curiosity. Accept whatever comes up without censorship or clinging.

Step Four - Examine your thoughts

Repeat the thoughts you identified in Step Three, and ask again after each one, Is my heart open, or is my heart closed? If your heart is open, take that thought off the list. If your heart is closed, carry that thought forward for further processing.


Now it's time to slow down, breathe, and celebrate the work you've done so far. Taking the first four steps as quickly as possible will restore safety and balance, but it is important to take your time as you continue the process. When you are ready, offer yourself a choice about how to proceed. For example, if you would enjoy processing privately, then you might choose to meditate or go for a walk. If you would enjoy processing during heart connection with another, then you might choose to talk with a friend, peer or mentor.

Step Five - Dance between each thought and identify the need

And now how do you feel having recognized your need?

For example, 'I'm telling myself, he is rude.' I need respect and now I feel frustrated; 'I'm telling myself, he always does this to me, I'm sick of it.' I need progress and now I feel hopeless; 'I'm telling myself, how many times do we have to go over the same thing?' I'm longing for movement and connection and now I feel relieved, as I connect to my needs.

Ask yourself after you translate thoughts into needs and feelings, 'is my heart open, or is my heart closed?' If your heart is closed, there are deeper needs and feelings to be found in amongst some thoughts, continue the dance - thoughts into needs and feelings now. When your heart is open you have connected to the beauty of your needs, you are ready to proceed.

Step Six - Make a request of self, the other or another

When you reach the 'sigh' and are connected, see if a request emerges of self, the other or another to move forward in the situation.

Step Seven - Healing and Reconciliation

When you see the other with unconditional positive regard, you are ready to engage in empathic dialog. If you are not comfortable or confident about doing this, ask a third party who was not involved in the stimulus incident to hold the space. This works best if this third person is equally known or unknown to each party.

Step Eight - Celebrate

When you both have open hearts and there is peace and harmony between you, celebrate!


susan said...

I like the way you stayed with the global overview without getting bogged down in the details of each step. For me, the essential difference between Act One and Act Two is the difference in pacing - sorting quickly through the complexities in Act One to get to the core that will be dealt with in a more leisurely way in Act Two. Facilitating that quick sorting process is the major contribution of Conal's heart-open, heart-closed piece.

Anonymous said...

American Airlines has been making fun of "heart of now" therapy, probably because it is a threat to the entire capitalist system :-)

I thought you'd get a kick out of it:

(super emotional boss)


Anonymous said...

woops, I think this website cut off the second URL I was wanting to show you of the emotional Frenchman