There is an undesirable phenomenon going on today that we can all feel—angry hearts. Like any other problem we want to solve, we have to understand it and then figure out what we can do about it as individuals.
Divisions between people seem to be sharper than ever and conflicts in interpersonal relations are becoming harsher. There is an imbalance of negative emotionality that results from these divisions and conflicts that weighs heavily on people’s minds and makes their hearts angry. Understanding and softening angry hearts may be our most difficult challenge of growing forward.
Conflict is an inevitable part of life that can offer you an opportunity to learn and grow beyond what you think you know how to do; but the unpleasantness and discomfort of even a minor conflict can be enough to cause you to run like an elephant from a mouse. Larger, unresolved conflicts can be devastating, and these negative effects usually just get worse until you understand what is causing the conflict and how to deal with it better. This involves using humility, courage, faith and patience in wading through the murky swamp water of personal discomfort.
The beginning of conflict is the uncomfortable point of noticing differences between one person and another—personal differences in thinking, beliefs, values, habits, truths, perceptions, expectations, and wants. The negative emotionality that perpetuates conflict is born through the unsuccessful attempts of people trying to understand, accept, tolerate, accommodate, or otherwise react to these differences in order to arrive at some sort of reasonable agreement. This in turn results in the frustration and anger of being misunderstood, judged or accused wrongly, being over-controlled, or discounted.
Conflict resolution is the peeling away of negative emotionality in order to expose the faulty thinking we are all guilty of, which hides the truth and freedom we crave. The truth almost always ends up in the middle ground between people’s differences—both are usually a little right and a little wrong in what they are thinking and feeling and how effectively they are communicating these thoughts and feelings in the attempt to reconcile differences.
THINKING, FEELING AND BEHAVING
Frustration and anger involve a vicious circle of thinking, feeling, and behaving that have to be understood, separated and changed; but because of their complex interactive nature, this is very difficult to accomplish. It is extremely difficult to see where one ends and the other starts or which is causing the other. But, undoing undesirable behavior starts with peeling away the negative feelings, which are hiding the wrong thinking that is fueling the angry heart.
The real focus of conflict resolution is aimed at stripping the ego of it power of pride over hiding and maintaining the nearly undecipherable mix of faulty thinking, fermenting emotionality and unproductive behavior that make up a conflict. Unfortunately pride is a thick skin to penetrate.
Most negative emotionality which is behind angry hearts is started by erroneous thinking because of the way the brain and consciousness work. Facts be known, there is good reason to believe that most of our mental processes are wired to get more incorrect or incomplete information than we “know” to be so. Consider how resistive we are to new truths that don’t match up to what we already believe to be so, despite compelling evidence to the contrary. Be honest about how loudly you can argue a fact that you have assumed to be true without even verifying it.
Also think about how we all want to be so certain of something that we will fill in the blanks with anything that is convenient. Then contemplate how we artificially compress complex realities into over-simplified categories or form wrong perceptions of other people because of personal biases. And ask yourself if you pay more attention to what you are seeing or where you are doing the looking from? Is it easy to stop your stream of consciousness to think about your own thinking to reverse any of this? Not very easily.
These and other cognitive errors produce a wrong mind that is likely to produce wrong feelings and wrong behavior. This is the mix that creates angry hearts. And we haven’t even talked about the multitude of negative effects of all the other bumps, bruises and broken bones life unkindly dumps on us, apart from interpersonal conflicts.
Unfortunately part of the solution is also part of the problem. Angry hearts get perpetuated by miscommunication of wrong thinking and their counterparts, illegitimate feelings. In the same typical way your mind works to gather incorrect and incomplete information, it also chooses incorrect and incomplete words to represent all the wrongness you are convinced is right, being further misinterpreted by others through the same process, and resulting in infinitely frustrating mayhem and babble. Ever wonder why you feel dizzy and want to give up?
So, if you are mentally and spiritually healthy, you are stuck with the obligation of understanding the angry heart phenomenon and doing what you can to resolve it. Here are a few things you can do.
- Let go of your own pride about what you think you know and realize that your own mind is overloaded with mistaken information that needs to be purged so that you can begin to learn what you really need to know. Then let go of your mind’s inability to do that and just do it from your gut.
- Accept that resolving angry heart conflicts is your duty and carry it out to the best of your ability, regardless of how difficult or unpleasant that may be. And accept the possibility that the better you get at it, the harder the next time will be.
- Work hard to learn the art of good communication by avoiding all the things that lead to poor communication—judgments, superiority, over-control, certainty, assumptions, accusations, dishonesty and lack of listening.
- Become more aware of how easy you can get drawn into being an angry heart yourself, and practice controlling your own unproductive thinking, feeling and behavioral reactions, just in time.
- Hang around other mentally and spiritually healthy individuals who are also understanding and softening angry hearts. The support can be synergistic, renewing and self-validating.
William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA. He is author of You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, a book teaching the difficult art of solving paradoxical conflicts. He can be reached at (425) 454-5011 or bcottringer.pssp.net