Anger Dehumanizes


When I’m angry with someone, to any degree, I find that I’m unable to see the other person as a vulnerable, feeling human being like myself. It’s strange, but in those moments they seem kind of not human to me and deserving of my punishment…that they deserve my angry thoughts or words.  In other words, I dehumanize them. I now realize that it’s inhumane to project my anger onto others.

Now that I’m willing to see this tendency in myself, I see it happening all around me as well, virtually everyone engaging in this behavior in one way or another. I see it reflected on TV and in movies. I see it in “polite” conversations and “joking.”

When we feel someone has wronged us in some way and we get angry at them for it and want them to feel bad about it and suffer for it—that’s dehumanizing them.

We dehumanize someone every time we scold them, ridicule them, are sarcastic with them, give them the cold shoulder, the silent treatment, make passive aggressive comments or “jokes”, or any technique that will make them feel bad or small.

When we want someone to feel small it’s because we are feeling superior, as if we are a better person than them—another sign that we are dehumanizing them.

Vilifying other people allows us to justify our desire to attack. It’s a necessary step for excusing our attack, whether it is carried out through silent thoughts, spoken words, a slap or a punch, all the way up to war and murder.

We have become so accustomed to this behavior that we don’t even notice it, or we feel it is good and normal. It may be common, but it’s not good, and not normal to our true nature and potential.

The opposite of projecting anger is to have compassion.

I find that it’s impossible to vilify someone when I feel compassion for them, and it’s impossible to feel compassion for someone when I’m vilifying them.

Projecting anger at someone —in any form—dehumanizes them. I feel that we can see that this is true if we become an observer of our angry feelings and take notice of our tendency to project it, and how we feel during those moments. Love and compassion are nowhere to be found. Only victimhood, anger, and a desire to punish, to “set the other person straight.”

We don’t like it when others treat us with anger, yet we feel it’s justified to be that way toward others. We are completely dismissing the golden rule.

Wouldn’t we all want to be treated with compassion? Humanely? Wouldn’t we prefer to be helped out of our harmful ways rather than condemned and punished?

I believe that compassion is something we must foster if our goal is achieve peace, healing and growth. How else? Obviously what we are doing is not working. We haven’t yet learned how to deal with our angry feelings without projecting them or suppressing them. That’s ok. We can have compassion with ourselves too. We can make new choices.

Featured Image: My husband Jeff overlooking the Gulf of Mexico from a beach at Cedar Key, Florida on a cloudy winter’s day. Photo by Brenda Kay Forest (Hoffman).

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