How to respond to anger

A lot of people might think that doctors are well-respected and that patients are always appreciative and grateful for their care.

And I mean for the most part it is true. But it isn’t uncommon to encounter an angry patient either.

Now when someone behaves in an unsavoury manner towards you, your first instinct is of course to react. At our very core we have this animal fight or flight mode which gets immediately switched on so that we are prepared to defend ourselves.

This is normal. Our bodies have been primed for this. It’s an essential part of our survival instinct. These are the instincts that have carried us through generations of life, and so remain a fundamental and well-oiled part of our existence.

But what sets us apart from other animals (who are intelligent in their own right) is that we have the biggest brain in proportion to our bodies.

We have the ability to rise above our rudimentary instincts, and think with our brains. The problem is that this kind of thinking isn’t so automatic- so we have to practice it. Instead of responding defensively to the patient or whoever is exhibiting anger towards us, we have to respond with compassion. Instead of taking it personally and saying, “GET OUT OF MY ROOM AND DON’T COME BACK” (which does sometimes cross my mind) we have to think along the lines of, “Why is this person angry? What has happened to them that has caused them to react so incongruently?

We have to realise that the people who are angry, shouty, or rude are usually operating on survival mode themselves. There is something going on in their life that is causing them immense stress, resulting in their fight or flight mode being activated. And if we- a fellow human being can recognise this, listen, and try to help them with whatever is going on- then that is us exercising compassion.

I’ll admit, it’s not the easiest thing. And sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes that person might actually just be plain old rude or they are just living in a constant state of stress that they just aren’t receptive to your attempts to help. You have to take care of your own mental well-being and ensure that you draw a line somewhere so that you don’t end up becoming someone’s punching bag. But when you do notice a change in that person, it’s worth it. When you gradually notice that someone who reacted angrily at you at the start is able to come to you with with less animosity, eventually greet you with a smile, feel relaxed around you and trusts you enough to tell you what is going on- then you feel like you’ve done your job.

There is so much power in compassion- which by definition is the act of recognising the suffering of others and then taking action to help. And it starts with the realisation that the way someone treats you is often not about you. It’s a reflection of what is going on inside of them.


2 thoughts on “How to respond to anger

  1. This is really relatable, I’ve dealt with quite a few angry people watching those people change after you show them a little compassion, can be rewarding. Although after dealing with a number of angry people, it becomes emotional draining.

    Liked by 2 people

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