Last summer, my husband and I adopted a stray kitten. Zoey is adorable and I instantly fell in love with her. I smile and laugh more and she is great company on the days that I work from home. Unfortunately, within two weeks of Zoey moving in, she had destroyed one of my favorite tablecloths. I didn’t realize it at first; I thought she was just playing with her toy mouse under the table. Once I saw all of the pulls in the fabric, I watched closer. Not only was she tearing at the tablecloth, but she was also pulling on it, putting the vase and other breakables on the table at risk.

Did we make a mistake? Maybe we should’t have adopted her. Who can afford to replace everything that this cat destroys in the house? I began to feel angry and resentful. This was the thanks we got for saving this cat from the dangers of a cold, upstate New York winter and for not declawing her for her comfort?

I felt torn. I didn’t want to get rid of her but I wanted a nice home and didn’t want to feel angry whenever she decided to play with something that isn’t a toy. I needed to figure out how to cope with these mixed emotions. That’s when I realized that this what a great opportunity to practice empathy. Being able to put ourselves in another person’s shoes allows us to let go of anger by depersonalizing their actions, knowing that they are not acting maliciously toward us. When we challenge our beliefs that someone is purposely trying to hurt us and consider that their intentions may be more about their own wants and needs, it is easier to let go of hurt feelings, allowing us to have a healthy relationship with that person.

So how did I uses empathy with Zoey? I put myself in her “paws.” I reminded myself that she is a kitten, that kittens love to play and that it is a cat’s natural instinct to scratch. Her intention was not to damage our home, but to have fun. Zoey continues to live with us and to be one of the most loved and spoiled cats in Philadelphia. However, she gets sprayed with the water bottle when she scratches anything other than her scratching post, she gets her nails clipped regularly and she has even been known to wear kitty fake nails to protect our furniture from her real nails.

Do you have trouble putting yourself in other people’s shoes, leading to anger and problems in your relationships? Instead of setting yourself up for feelings of anger by assuming that another person is purposely trying to hurt you, consider other possible reasons for their actions. It will help calm your anger, putting you in a great position to communicate your feelings appropriately.

If using empathy and other anger management techniques are not working for you, call Serenity Solutions to learn how we can help you gain control over your anger.