Is anger wrong? If I am angry does that mean I lack empathy?

Anger is not wrong, it’s a valid and healthy emotion.  Feeling anger is a normal part of being human.  The positive power of anger is often seen when we are propelled into action because we or someone we love is gravely wronged—righting wrongs by changing world views.

What we do with our anger is what can cause harm or be toxic to both ourselves and those around us.  Our actions, resulting from our anger, or any emotional state, mirror our inner capacity.  Our actions reflect the state of our inner well-being; if we treat others cruelly because we are angry we are lacking empathy in this moment.

Empathy does not mean we always say what we think the other person wants to hear—this is inauthentic.  Empathy does not mean we are soft or a push over.  Assertive speech or clear and direct communication is healthy and compassionate.  Empathy has to do with how we deliver the information that needs to be said.  Empathy is about ensuring that we have self-checks in place to determine our emotional state so that we can stay in-line and in control even though we are feeling up regulated or angered.  We are all capable, if we learn effective tools, to communicate difficult content with kind word choices and gentle deliveries.  Our goal is to be authentic in speaking our truth and at the same time consider what it feels like to receive what we are saying.

If we are reacting with anger and hurting others because of it, in these moments we are most likely choosing to be ineffective and un-empathetic towards the person whom our anger is directed.  These reactions usually do not feel like a choice—more like an overpowering command from inside.  This type of reactive behavior is harmful, it may end some relationships, and stifle the growth and opportunity for more depth in other’s, but it is not abusive.  If you are crossing the line to physical or verbal abuse, it is paramount to seek professional help from a therapist or similar professional.  If your partner or loved one crosses the line and hurts you with physical or verbal abuse it is imperative for you to take care of yourself and seek counsel from a professional therapist whether your partner chooses to seek help or not.  There is never a situation where abuse is warranted or ok.

Questions to ask ourselves as we gauge if we are in the reactive zone with our anger:  Did I cause harm to anyone?  Did I lose my control with my speech or actions?  Did I raise my voice?  Did I interrupt the person I was speaking with?  Did I listen to them at the appropriate time?  Did I speak my truth with direct and clear communication?  Does it seem like I was I understood?  Do I also understand their experience and/or needs?  Was my speech reactive or did I wait until I calmed down to communicate my needs?  Do I feel badly for my behavior or for what I said?  Was a resolution decided on; do we feel the air has been cleared?  We are not looking for, “I did not interrupt Jessica ever.”  We are looking for gentle improvement, “I did listen well.  It seems like I interrupted Jessica a couple times.  One time I caught myself and apologized and asked her to continue with her point.  That is better than it’s been in the past.”

Anger is a secondary emotion, which means there is another emotion underneath.  Often the primary emotion or the emotion propelling the anger is fear.  If we are experiencing reactions to our emotions, it is helpful to gain some awareness of what is triggering the anger; what is the underlying cause that creates a strong reaction in you.

During the process of growing and learning new tools it is important to be gentile with ourselves as we test them out.  It’s important to focus on our improvement rather than striving to be perfect.   A gauge that works well for some, is using the personal excellence approach—I am a better version of myself this week than I was last week.  I listed better this week to my partner than I did last time we had this conversation.

There are many tools to help calm our reactions and gain deeper self-awareness.  Two very effective tools that have worked for many are pairing meditation and writing in a self-reflective journal.  Meditation, over time, help us to slow down our mind so we have time to see that fork in the road where we can either react like we normal do or choose a different more effective response.  Meditation also helps to increase the activity in the left prefrontal cortex which is where compassion and empathy fire in our brains.  If you are up for the challenge, I invite you to find a meditation technique that works for you or choose from the guided meditations on my web site and practice every day for 30 days.  Do this with the self-reflection journal.  At the end of the 30 days evaluate how you feel incorporating this practice into your life.

When we write with the intention for self-reflection our goal is to gently uncover unconscious motives that may live in the darkness of our shadow.  We want to shine light on this darkness, so we may, in part, unravel the unconscious pushes and pulls of our psyche (our reactions).  We want to make the trigger points conscious, so we have awareness when it is happening, and we begin to understand what situations tend to set off those triggers.  This slows down the process of our reactions; when we see it unfolding we learn to recognize the opportunity to choose a different more effective response.  When we are unconscious of the process that goes on behind the scenes, in our unconscious mind, it feels as if the emotional reaction has a mind of its own and just happened to us without our choosing.

It is helpful to write about each experience where you feel upregulated, each situation is an opportunity to understand why.  Remember, your journal is intended only for you.  It is important for you to feel safe as you write which means your journal will not be read by anyone else.  Begin by writing about the situation that triggered your reaction, relatively soon after it happens—who did what and who said what.  Write about how you feel and how you feel wronged, hurt, or betrayed?  Write about your anger: what does it feel like, what do you want to do with it?  What is the action, word, or phrase that made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end or set you over the edge?  Did their behavior remind you of your father, mother, a sibling, or some other person who hurt you deeply as a child?  Did a phrase remind you of a parent or sibling?  Did their behavior remind you of anyone who has betrayed or harmed you?  Did a sound feel uncomfortably familiar?

When you can see where the conversation or situation took a turn and increased your reactivity pin point your trigger and ask yourself:  What am I afraid of?  How does it feel to be afraid of that?  Are you afraid of being weak?  Are you afraid of being vulnerable—can someone hurt you?  Do you feel afraid of being abandoned?  Do you feel unworthy?  Do you feel afraid of being wrong or being a mistake?  Are you afraid of being like the person who angered you?  Are you triggered by their behavior so that you are distracted from needing to look at the same behavior in yourself?  Do you feel afraid of being unworthy?   Do you feel afraid of not having control of a situation, a future event, or your finances?  Are you afraid of never being enough?  Are you afraid of never being able to please your parents?  If you feel like there is a deeper answer, keep digging, “What am I really afraid of?”  These questions may bring up sadness, fear, or a cascade of other strong emotions.  Do your best to stay with it.

Remember, we must feel it to heal it.  Do your best to be gentile with yourself as fear or sadness or other emotions rise to the surface.  Try to feel them for what they are without attaching a story or a meaning.  It helps sometimes to look at your emotion with a curious and observing eye, “Oh look, sadness is back.  I am feeling totally out of control about my finances.  This is painful to face because I feel like a failure.  I am afraid the world sees me as a middle-aged woman who hasn’t done anything with her life.  I am afraid that the world sees me as pathetic, and I am very sad.”

Now we want to look at the truth in these statements, “Is my fear true?”  Is it true that the world sees me as pathetic?  I have a good job, I work hard, I have a handful of good friends. I have a partner who loves me.  I have a family that supports me and expresses their excitement for my future career.  Answer these questions or similar questions that come to mind as you think about the truth of your fear:  Does my fear still serve me?  Is this fear limiting me from accomplishing what I want out of life?  Do I want to keep believing in this fear?  What are two things that I can do right now to be the best version of me yet?

At this point it is helpful to restate the fear in more accurate terms.  It might look something like, “Being pathetic is a victim role that no longer serves me.  I am clearly taking responsibility for my career and I am a better version of me today than I was a year ago.  I have a great job, while there is no room for upward movement, I am looking for new opportunities and I have applied for two other jobs.  A year from now I expect I will be in position that has growth potential.”

Working through real life issues will be much more difficult than the simple example I have used here.  This article is simply a brush stroke to help stimulate your move towards a more self-aware way of handling anger or heightened states of emotions and to begin considering options to provide more effective responses when we are triggered.

As we accept our darkness and the difficult emotions that come with being human we will begin to be less trapped by the triggers that anger us.  It is difficult to stop our default behaviors, but it is very doable; it takes diligence and hard work.  In time we will develop the tools that will help us self-check as we struggle with the inevitable upregulated states that come with being human and interacting in the world.  Our goal is to speak our truth effectively after we have come back to center and reflect a more equanimous inner state even when conflict or anger arises.

If you are struggling or have experience with overcoming triggers due to anger or other strong emotions I would love to hear about your experiences.  Please email me or reply to this blog.

May you feel peace and ease in life.  May your path be brightened with light.  May you become all you are intended to be.

Anger, Empahty|

What is self-esteem? What is self-esteem vs ego esteem? Can we have too much self-esteem? Does too much self-esteem make us too self-focused and involved?

Self-esteem is the relationship we have with ourselves.  It is an inner-state of acceptance and okness about who we are—no matter what may arise.  Self-esteem is closely tied to what we believe we are worth, regardless of how much money we make or how important we are from the world’s perspective—it is our inner value.  Self-esteem is what’s left after we strip away all the houses, cars, big screen TV’s, vacations, money, power, beauty, athletic ability or whatever else.

The self-talk that happens in your mind after a hardship or failure is often telling of the shape of our self-esteem.  For example, if I fail to close a new deal at work a healthy self-esteem might say something like, “Wow that’s really disappointing.  What could I have done better?  What did I do well?  Did I spend enough time preparing?  Did I have the right information?  Would it have been more effective for me to bring in Jeremy who is an expert in this area?  What can I do next time to work towards a more successful outcome?”  A person who might be limited by a diminished self-esteem in the same situation might say something like, “What’s wrong with me.  I always blow it.  I am never going to make it as a sales person.  No matter how hard I work its always the same—nothing good happens to me.”

Self-esteem is the inner worth that stimulates resilience to pick ourselves up after a failure so that we can learn and grow from the experience.  In this situation effective self-esteem would offer result-driven, specific questions that may uncover new ideas or approaches to solving the problem differently—reminding us that failure is not personal, it is an opportunity to learn and become better.  For example, “Next time I will ask Jeremy to be a part of our team since he has so much to offer with the specifics on this project.  If he doesn’t have the time to participate I will ask him if he has an hour or so to go over my work and offer insight and suggestions.”  Whereas the diminished self-esteem might take a very harsh and personal approach that may catastrophize the situation, “I blew it.  I am so stupid.  I completely ruined it.  It will never work.”  Diminished self-esteem is often handcuffed to shame that is triggered when failures happen.  The inner dialogue caused from shame is very toxic and harmful, expressing extremely self-critical judgments and harshness towards one’s worth.

Ego-esteem is an evaluation of our worth based on how successful or accomplished we are; we are ok because we are smarter, prettier, make more money, drive a better car, run faster, earn a higher grade, or have the most expensive and impressive home.  Often people with high ego-esteem mistakenly take their ego-esteem to be a healthy self-esteem yet if we stripped away their accomplishments, ability, or assets they would crumble.  With self-esteem we capably of functioning effectively or finding the resilience to keep on keeping on even when storms arise.

When the ego-esteem is the driving force of one’s psychological make up grave losses may trigger severe depression or a myriad of self-destructive behaviors.  An example of ego-esteem would be Warren feels like Superman because he just purchased a new $80,000 sports car.  He is high on life.  Two weeks later Warren is fired due to mishandling of funds at his investment bank, his assets are frozen, and the new sports car is repossessed.  He manages to scrape together a couple thousand dollars to buy a budget-friendly car that he calls “junk” as he rebuilds his life.  The high ego-esteem Warren would feel embarrassed and would most likely avoid seeing friends who run in his former affluent circle.  He might lie about what really happened to his new sports car acting as if everything is “business as usual.”  The sports car defined Warren’s okness, now that he drives a very humble car he is no longer worthy, he begins to hide from the world, so they do not find out the truth of who he is, “a failure,” and Warren beats himself up with brutal, unforgiving self-talk.

Ego-esteem is not bad, just like the ego it is essential for us to care about performing well, accomplishing goals, and having some success in the world.  The key is to cultivate our self-esteem consciously so that the ego-esteem is not the leading force.  When we have a heathy self-esteem and a balanced ego-esteem we can feel good about our successes and accomplishments but also know that those successes are not what defines us.  The new car does not validate who we are—we are ok because we breathe, the car is just an interesting accessory for the time that it lasts.

We cannot develop too much self-esteem.  That is like saying you are too physically fit.  Self-esteem is the thing that propels us away from toxic relationships—we are worth more than the abusive relationship can give us therefor it is a relationship that no longer serves us.  Self-esteem is the thing that pushes us to say, “No, that is too much work.  I need to rest.”  With a healthy self-esteem we are worthy of honoring our needs.  Self-esteem is the thing that propels us to take care of ourselves without harming any other being.  Self-esteem is something that also allows us to see the needs of others as we tend our own needs it becomes important to value and honor the needs of others just as we value and honor our own.  Self-esteem is not selfish—it is balance.  If we are acting out of selfishness to take care of our needs that is not an act of self-esteem.  Self-esteem does not mean you always do what you want and get what you want and are never uncomfortable—those are inevitable qualities of life.  Self-esteem knows our own limits and takes care of our needs before we give too much so that we are not depleted but it is not a selfish me take care of me attitude.


Does this article communicate a clear understanding of self-esteem?  What is one thing you can do today to nurture your self-esteem?  Please email me or reply to this blog.

May you feel peace and ease in life.  May your path be brightened with light.  May you become all you are intended to be.

10 ways to live with more compassion without changing your normal routine

  1. Make eye contact more often—Making eye contact lets others know we are paying attention to them, it tells them we care, and we are interested in what they have to say. Do you best to slow down and make eye contact with strangers as you walk into the bank or grocery store, say hello or smile.
  2. Listen—When a loved one is speaking to us about a heart-felt situation it is an act of compassion to do nothing except listen. Do your best to ignore the cell phone (texts and phone calls can wait).  Turn off the TV.  Do you best not to think about what chores need to be done or the dishes in the sink or the work the email that needs to be answered.  Simply be attentive.  Ask questions if you are not clear about how she feels so you really feel like you understand what’s going on with your partner’s emotional state and in turn she will most likely feel validated and heard creating more closeness—more intimacy.
  3. Live with curiosity—As you drive to the bank or go to the grocery store walk with curiosity for those around you. What is it like to be that guy in such a hurry that cut you off in the parking lot?  What is going on for that women who seems to be oblivious that anyone else is in the store?  How hard must life be for the homeless guy who is on the corner.  Is he starving, freezing, hungry—how many times a day does he struggle just to be comfortable?  Really spend a few minutes wondering what each of these people’s lives must be like.  Think about the pain they may carry, or the struggles they are driving home to or living with.  Think about the cold night the homeless man will endure.  Be open to feeling what life is like for others.  If you find yourself judging these people as not enough or victims do your best to redirect your energy to a softer perspective that sees their humanness (how are you the same).  If you feel or hear your intuition—listen.  Your intuition will help to guide you as you learn to see the world around you with more compassionate eyes.  If you feel sadness from seeing the pain of others maybe say a silent prayer or intention and send it their way as you walk by.  I often send silent prayers and intentions such as, “May you be blessed.  May you be free from suffering.  May you know your life matters.  May you feel love.  May you feel safe.”  Live with awareness of what is going on around you.
  4. Giving—Buy a box of power bars or nut bars, leave them in your car and give them to homeless people that you randomly pass during your day. Dog treats are great too when there is a canine companion on the street corner.
  5. Giving—Buy a cup of coffee for the stranger behind you in line at the coffee drive-through. When I feel like the world is against me and no one is being empathetic to my struggles in life, this is my go to act of compassion.  This small act of kindness always seems to shift my focus enough for me to get out of my own way.  I imagine how this small gift may profoundly shift the perspective, energy, or outcome of the stranger in the car behind me and her day.
  6. Kindness—The next time you are at a party and see someone who feels uncomfortable or alone strike up a conversation with them, include them. Seek to make them feel at ease.  We all know what it’s like to feel awkward with an unfamiliar group of people, ease that discomfort with sincerity and love—learn what moves this new person.
  7. Intentions—Set the intention every morning for the universe, god, and goddess to provide an opportunity today where you may practice your compassion. The universe may give you an opportunity to open the door for an elderly couple, to smile at a homeless man who feels invisible, to listen to a friend who is hurting, to offer a prayer or intention to the women in the store who looks like she is barely making it.   There are limitless different opportunities that may arise for your, be open to acting with compassion.
  8. Follow the guidelines—It is a sign of respect to do what is asked of us. When the sign says, “Wait here,” it is out of respect that we do our best to honor the wishes and guidelines set by the employees of the establishments we patronize.  Our actions may affect these employees in ways we do not understand when we do not follow the guidelines set forth.  Do your best to be patient, wait for the teller to call you forward.  Try to reframe any judgements about the teller being ineffective or taking a particularly long time to an expectation that you are being taken care of with exactly the right timing.
  9. Self-awareness—During conversations with friends and family think about what it feels like to be on the other end of your conversation. Are you monopolizing the conversation?  Are you asking questions of the other person or just talking about yourself?  Are you quiet as the other person dominates?  Did the conversation feed you or are you left feeling tired and somewhat overwhelmed?  Self-awareness is a key to deepening our ability to see others, when we know what is going on inside of us we can more easily sense with accuracy what is going on in those around us.  This is an ongoing tool to help us deepen our understanding of the wake we leave behind.  Self-awareness allows us to be aware of the energy we bring into conversation and it allows us to feel how we are affected by the energy of others.
  10. Communication—One aspect of communicating with compassion is to allow others space when we request their time and attention. Be sensitive to what they may have going on and ask if this is a good time, “May I speak to you about this project or maybe there is a better time later this week?” “Does it work for you to have that report on my desk by Friday?”  “I am curious if you have time to help with this project.  How does that feel for you?”  It is difficult when we walk into our colleague’s office and immediately pull them into the emergency we have created in our minds’.  Compassionate communication values and honors what the other person is presently doing or experiencing.  Do your best to pay attention to the energy you bring to a conversation—the energy you bring is often what affects how people receive you and how they respond to you.  With compassionate communication our goal is communicate in a way that honors and respects all people involved.


Do you have any ideas for the list…what is one thing you have done to show compassion in everyday life?  Please email me or reply to this blog.

May you feel peace and ease in life.  May your path be brightened with light.  May you become all you are intended to be.



What is the difference between pity, empathy, and compassion?

Empathy is feeling with someone.  It is seeing another person’s pain and feeling from inside what that pain might be like.  Compassion is empathy in action; she feels empathy for another soul and then take-action to alleviate a part of their suffering. 

Compassion is not giving away life and limb to “save” another person.  Compassion is healthy; it is not enmeshed in rescuing, enabling, or fixing others.  Compassion empowers the giver as well as the recipient.  Compassion does not stay in toxic or abusive relationships.  Compassion does not please another to avoid conflict or please another by neglecting her needs; that would be inauthentic and codependent.

Compassion is circular, both self-compassion and compassion for others are essential pieces of the flow.  We must first have compassion for ourselves and set proper boundaries for appropriate self-care so that we may meet the world with an empathetic heart and act with compassion. 

Empathy is not feeling sorry for another human being, that is pity.  Pity is judging another to be less fortunate than we are.  Pity is based of differences whereas empathy and compassion are based on similarities and shared humanity.   

  • Pity saves the poor soul because they are less fortunate and need help.  The recipient most likely feels judged and beneath the one who is offering help.  Pity does not build closeness or relationship, it often fosters resentment in the recipient.  Pity is kindness from an up position.
  • Empathy sees the suffering of another soul and feels deeply because she understands what that pain is like.  Empathy is seeing how another soul’s suffering is not far from her own.  Empathy builds closeness and fosters relationships.  The recipient usually feels valued, connected, and understood.
  • Compassion is feeling another’s suffering and being deeply moved to do something to alleviate part of their suffering.  A compassionate heart understands how difficult life can be, she understands how fallible and imperfect our lives can be and she shows up to do what she can to ease some pain.  As Pema Chodron says, “Compassion is a relationship between equals.”  A compassionate heart knows that their suffering could happen to anyone include herself.  Compassion builds intimacy.  The recipient usually feels unconditional love, valued, understood, and often inspired to continue helping themselves.

It seems both empathy and compassion are given a bad rap some of the time.  This disease of giving too much is not empathy or compassion.  That is co-dependence or improper boundaries.  There are times when others who are in pain are especially needy, as many of us can be some of the time.  When these interactions arise especially strong boundaries are needed to ensure we are tending our own needs. 

I often hear many who explain that they are empaths and are very sensitive to other peoples’ energy, making it hard to not experience burn out at work or with certain relationships.  I understand how parasitical some interactions can be; it is especially vital for empaths and people who work as caregivers such as nurses or therapists to have a committed self-care practice.  Your self-care is your time to recharge.  It is important to honor our limits as human beings as best we can.  Remember it is an act of self-esteem to honor our limits which includes ending a conversation when it is sucking too much of our energy. 

What is the difference between praise and encouragement? Why praise can be detrimental to our children and employees who work with us.

Praise is based on another’s performance and our approval of their performance.  When we praise a child or an employee, we are expressing our approval of their performance which after time may override their own potential to self-evaluate and often creates a dependence on others for validation and praise on future tasks or projects. 

Praise is about perfection or doing it right; encouragement is about learning and growing from the experience.  Praised is “being good at” whereas encouragement is based on improvement after evidence of diligence or hard work. 

Examples of praise: “Wow…great work,” “You’re so smart, you got an A,” “You have outshined everyone on the team.  Way to be an example,” “You hit two home runs, you’re the best.” 

Examples of encouragement: “Wow…it’s evident how diligent you worked in the yard to clean up all those leaves.  Thank you, I feel grateful,” “You have been studying so hard the past two weeks.  How does it feel to work hard and see that you’ve earned an A?” “I see your commitment to the team; you have worked hard and as a result the whole department is feeling more inspired,” “You have been committed to practice and have really valued your coach’s instructions.  I wonder how it feels for you to hit two home runs in your game today?” 

The research shows that when some kids are consistently praised they choose easier tasks and take less risks because they want to stay with the tasks they are good at, so they remain safely in “praise worthy” status; they do not want to risk failing or missing out on the praise. 

Not being willing to take risks and fail some of the time is devastating to our growth and innovation.   The research of many scholars including Angela Duckworth shows that genius is the result of hard work and perseverance.  It is a limited perspective to view genius as an IQ score.  When more of humanity is dependent on praise, more are afraid to risk failure, they stay safe by staying with project they are “good at” to remain in praise worthy status and never risk tapping into the genius that lays dormant inside. 

Encouragement invites a person to self-evaluate or self-reflect on her part of the task or process.  Their results become a range of experiences that continuously ebbs and flows, unlike the results of praise where perfection is the goal.  Encouragement teaches self-reliance and self-confidence, it teaches that mistakes are a normal part of the growing process.  Encouragement is focused on effort, improvement, and meaning derived from accomplishing a difficult project.