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Angry because your partner just won’t change? Try a fresh approach.

Aaron and Mary
Aaron and Mary have been married 23 years. She is often angry. He is a very gentle soul who has a lifestyle admired by many. He has a lot of money, he “works” by playing golf 2-3 times a week while courting new clients, he has a gorgeous loyal wife and two beautiful children who are doing well in life.He is rarely angry. So, what’s the problem? Aaron drinks a little too much some times at his watering hole with his buddies but tells his wife he is somewhere else if she calls. He does this because he want to avoid being yelled at and criticized. He feels he is a grown man and shouldn’t have to “report” to his wife every time he has “a few beers- even if she had made family plans around his being home as promised. His attitude triggers Mary’s underlying anxiety and anger.

How does Mary React to this behavior? To put it in simple term, she becomes angry, ballistic, yelling, screaming and criticizing. She angrily threatens to leave the marriage. He quietly sits there and takes her criticism, promises to do better, but then several weeks later does the same thing, with another excuse as to why he didn’t notify her of his change of plans.

Mary sees the problem as quite simple: Aaron needs to control his drinking and become more transparent as to where he is when she asks him. She truly believes that he is much more to blame for the problem than she could possibly be. She blames him and sees him as needing to change his behavior in order to fix the problem.She even goes to a therapist who tells her that his drinking isn’t really a marital problem…. it is a personal problem. Neither think that Aaron is an actual alcoholic. Alcohol is not the problem as much as her not trusting where he is because he has a history of lying about it.

So why doesn’t he just change to please her and keep peace? Because, as noted above, he does not see himself as an alcoholic; rather, he sees himself as just someone who drinks too much sometimes and then lies about it to his wife,in order to avoid trouble. He argues that he only does this once every two months. She says it is biweekly. Besides, in his mind he has “earned” the right to have the life style he wants….including the merriment, as long as he is not hurting anybody, he is responsible, he is not unfaithful, and he also spends sufficient time with wife and kids. He reasons that she should be more flexible considering the great lifestyle that he gives her.

So, they are gridlocked. The issue they are struggling with is called a perpetual issue because it appears to be unsolvable. Her reaction to it isn’t getting the result that either one of them wants. He wants more leeway. She wants more reliability and trust.

So, how exactly should Mary react differently that might deal with this perpetual problem so that both an get more loving behavior from each other?

Here are some steps I would suggest to Mary:

Step 1– Stop criticizing /blaming if he drinks too much or he is going to miss family dinner to be with his friends/business associates. Accept that he is passive-aggressive and/or locked into a lifestyle and figure out a new reaction to it.Try to broaden your scope and diminish the importance of this specific behavior in your mind, in the context of many other good things he might do for you or your family.

Step 2– Sit down and have a “heart to heart” talk with him pointing out how you FEEL when he does what he does..mainly disrespected and not prioritized by him.Let him know that it causes resentment and anger in you which makes you want to pull away from him. The marriage may be at stake if his behavior continues. Point out that it is the NOT LETTING HER KNOW THAT CAUSES MORE OF THE PROBLEM THAN HIS NOT BEING THERE.

Step 3- Stand up for yourself regarding how you are going to handle it in the future….BUT do not threaten. Simply tell him how things are going to change if he continues….such as

-stop planning family activities around him…do not count on him being home at certain times. Do not schedule your events around his having to be home. Accept that this is the way he is sometimes and focus on his positive characteristics. Reward him when he is on time or when he does call.

-distance yourself emotionally from him and tell him that you cannot have a secure love for a man who treats you this way,because it is not fair, it is disrespectful, and it is very upsetting to you.

-start building your own life around things you like to do as a person. Be with your friends more, try not to make your husband the center of the world so much and stop feeling guilty about “me time” you need.

The idea here is that chances are very good he will change if you changes how you deal with the situation. By standing up for yourself, it now puts the ball in your husband”s court….it is now his decision what he is going to do.

Remember, you cannot control another person. But you can control how you react to the other person which often greatly influences what they do decide to do in the future.

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Anger Management in Action; Setting Realistic Expectations

How high should you set the bar for yourself or others in term of what you expect?

This was a recent discussion topic brought up by Robert in a recent fast-track anger management seminar that we held in Newport Beach, California. Set the bar too high and the gap between what you expect and what you get can cause disappointment, anger, and other undesirable emotions.

Yet, hope springs eternal, especially in regard to family members.

We can spend our whole lives hoping against hope that others will finally change, see the light, treat us better, or acknowledge us in the way we need to be acknowledged.

Yet, as Robert discovered, sometimes this is not to be, despite our best efforts and our noble intent. Robert is 65 years old, yet has almost daily angst over his relationship with his 90 year old father who lives in the Midwest. They talk to each other perhaps 3 times a year, with Robert always having to initiate the calls. His dad says “children should call parents; parents do not have to call children.”

In his dad’s mind that is just a fact, the way the world is. This rule of family interaction is written in a book somewhere, known only to parents.

Despite a lifetime of not being able to emotionally connect with each other, Robert decided enough was enough and made arrangements for him and his wife to visit his father this summer. He emailed the old man, asking if the visit dates were satisfactory. Robert had expectations that his Dad would be thrilled to get a visit (at 90 years old, one doesn’t want to wait too long). He also asked for hotel recommendations nearby.

The father’s response was two lines: “Those dates are OK. Will send you a list of hotels to your home address.” The coldness of it all made Robert’s head reel. Robert experienced immediate sadness, and frustration. These feelings “pulled up” a lifetime of memories of other similar encounters with his father that generated the same negative feelings. Continue reading “Anger Management in Action; Setting Realistic Expectations”

Anger Management In Action: Forgiveness.Let the Past Go

 

Struggling with resentment
Struggling with resentment

Thirty-two year old Elizabeth cried during her anger management class as she related how one year ago her 19-month-old girl was permanently brain-damaged as the result of medical error at the hospital in which she was delivered.

She definitely had a legitimate grievance toward the hospital and the medical staff and felt that she could never forgive them for what she saw as their incompetence. She clearly was not yet ready to forgive—and she needed her simmering anger to motivate her to do what she felt she needed to do legally and otherwise to deal with this horrific situation.

Yet, even in this tragic situation, at some point in the future—when she is ready—Elizabeth might elect to find a way to forgive. For her to be able to do this, after a certain amount of time, she will have to take the step of separating in her mind two things: (1) blaming the hospital for what they did and (2) blaming them for her resulting feelings about the situation.

Elizabeth cannot change what was done to her daughter, but she can change her current feelings about it and she can change how she lives the rest of her life. If she continues to hold an intense grievance, she is giving all the power to what happened in the past to determine her present emotional well being—almost like being victimized again while remaining in her emotional prison.

Should you forgive?
The answer to this question always comes down to personal choices and decisions. Some people in our anger management classes feel that certain things cannot and shouldn’t be forgiven while other participants feel that ultimately anything can be forgiven.

As an example of what is possible, the staff of the Stanford Forgiveness Project successfully worked with Protestant and Catholic families of Northern Ireland whose children had been killed by each other. Using the techniques taught by the Stanford group, these grieving parents were able to forgive and get on with their lives.

On the other hand, Dr. Abrams-Spring who wrote a classic book called “After The Affair,” cautions that forgiving a cheating partner too quickly or too easily can be an indication of your low self-esteem. In her view, forgiveness must be earned by the offending partner and not given automatically.

As you struggle with your decision to forgive or not (and remember – it is a decision), keep in mind that recent studies show that there are measurable benefits to forgiveness.

Two reasons to forgive:

  • Forgiving Is Good For Your Health. Studies show that people who forgive report fewer health problems while people who blame others for their troubles have a higher incidence of illness such as cardiovascular disease and cancers.
  • Forgiving is good for your peace of mind. Scientific research shows that Forgiveness often improves your peace of mind: One such study done in 1996 showed that the more people forgave those who deeply hurt them, the less angry they were. Two studies of divorced people show that those who forgave the former spouse were more emotionally healthy than those who chose not to forgive with Service Dog Vest. The forgivers had a higher sense of well being and lower anxiety and depression.

Three tips to forgive

It is common for angry people to think, “I want to forgive and I know I should, but I don’t know how.”

  • Tip 1- Remember, forgiveness is a process that takes time and patience to complete. You must be ready. Realize that this is for you – not for anyone else.
  • Tip 2- Realize that forgiving does not mean you are condoning the actions of the offender or what they did to you. It does mean that you will blame less and find a way to think differently about what happened to you.
  • Tip 3- Refocus on the positives in your life. Remember that a lift well lived is the best revenge. People who find a way to see love, beauty and kindness around them are better able to forgive and get past their life grievances.

More tips on how to handler resentment in our book. Click below

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Anger Management In Action: In Trouble at Work?

bullying

Leroy’s Story
Leroy was a superstar in the Real Estate business, producing three times the monthly business of his nearest coworker. He was a driven, highly competitive young man who saw his manager as getting in the way of even higher production.

Tension turned to irritability. Yelling and shouting followed. On the day he was fired, he shoved his manager in front of alarmed coworkers who reported his behavior to HR. Anger management classes were required, along with a one month interim, before reinstatement would be considered.

As this case example illustrates, workplace anger is costly to the employee, the company, and coworkers. Studies show that up to 42% of employee time is spent engaging in or trying to resolve conflict. This results in wasted employee time, mistakes, stress, lower morale, hampered performance, and reduced profits and or service.

Clearly, poorly handled anger, frustration and resentment sabotage business productivity. Was Leroy justified in his anger? What skills should he learn to prevent future episodes?

Skill 1 – Anger Management
Using anger management skills, Leroy can clearly learn to control his behavior and communicate needs in a socially acceptable manner without disruptions to work and morale. The issue here is not if he was justified in being angry; it is how to best deal with normal angry feelings. A key ingredient to managing anger is learning to change “self-talk”- that inner dialog that creates or intensifies angry feelings. At work, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, but you don’t have to explode over it or be mean spirited in the process. Leaning new self-talk when things go wrong or others don’t do what you think they should can go a long way toward controlling that temper. Click here for a humorous example of how self-talk can change your life.

Skill 2 – Stress management
Leroy was clearly under a great deal of stress, much of which was self-imposed. Stress often triggers anger responses. Managing stress can help prevent anger outbursts, as well as reducing employee “burnout” and hampered performance. Effective stress-reduction strategies include learning breathing techniques, adjusting expectations, improving time-management, and finding a way to mentally adjust your mind-view and self-talk so that stressors loose their power to stress you out. Other effective stress-reduction techniques include watching your nutrition, getting proper sleep, and taking care of your body through exercise.

Skill 3 – Emotional Intelligence
Popularized by psychologist Daniel Goleman, much research shows that increasing “EQ” is correlated with emotional control and increased workplace effectiveness.

What is “EQ” exactly? According to Goleman, it is “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”

Fortunately, skills to improve your emotional intelligence can be learned. The critical EQ skills ones are empathy and social awareness. Empathy is the ability to see the world from the viewpoint of the other person. Lack of empathy is at the root of much anger and conflict because inability to see things from other points of view causes communication problems and frustration. It also causes employees, co-workers and managers to sense a lack of caring or concern for their well-being which is de-motivating in the workplace.

Social awareness is the people-skill of being sensitive to how we are coming across to others in the workplace. Many people are referred to anger management programs because they are seen by others as hostile, insensitive, or perhaps even degrading toward others. Persons with high EQ are constantly monitoring their own behavior as well as feedback from others as to how they are being seen by others. They then are flexible enough to modify their approach to get a different result, if needed.

Skill 4 – Assertive Communication
Communication problems frequently lead to misunderstandings, conflicts with coworkers and hurt feelings which may hamper concentration and work performance.

Assertiveness is not aggression, but a way to communicate so that others clearly understand your needs, concerns, and feelings. It starts with the familiar advice to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements which can sound accusatory, and may lead to defensiveness instead of cooperation.

Other communication improvements include acknowledging the concerns and feelings of others in your interaction with them, and being more sensitive to what others are saying to you “beneath the surface.”

Skill 5 –Adjusting Expectations
Anger is often caused in the workplace by a discrepancy between what we expect and what actually happens. Sometimes the problem is simply that your expectations are too high of yourself or others; or you have the wrong expectations to begin with. If you are frustrated with employees, remember that if they knew what you know, or they had the dedication you have, guess what? They would be doing what you are doing. Frustrated with co-workers? Try viewing them in a different light so that you can accept them they way they are, if there is no realistic way of changing things.

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Angry Over Power Struggles in Your Relationship?

A young angry misguided soul sat in one of our anger management classes dejected. The instructor asked why he was there. He said that his wife was angry over his not putting the toilet seat down after his use. Other class members looked at him incredulously and remarked: “you spent all this money on an anger management program for that? Why don’t you just put the toilet seat down? His answer: “because last week I asked for sex and she didn’t come through. So, this week why should I do what SHE wants?

tanking relationship

Perfect example of a ridiculous angry power struggle that some couples seem to get into constantly.

What is a power struggle?
A power struggle occurs in a relationship when partners battle or conflict over who is going to win an argument, prove a point, accomplish a certain goal, or have things done in a certain way. Often in a power struggle one partner is attempting to force their will upon the other, or is trying to make the partner do something they don’t want to do. In retaliation, one partner will try and “even the score” or have a “win” even if it makes no logical sense. It is about winning, not about being rational or solving the problem at hand. In fact, partners gridlocked into this pattern often become angry if the other does not comply, tries to compromise or wants to discuss alternative solutions to the problem.

Why is this concept important to you and your relationship?
This concept is important because it underlies many angry arguments and conflicts you and your partner may be having. Think about it. Do you have angry arguments that often are more about the power one has over the other rather than about the issue itself? Some people just have to dominate others. It is their way or the highway. They are rigid and unbending. They know what is best, in their minds, and refuse to bend, ‘give in to the other” or admit they are wrong, mistaken or misguided.

Often angry power-struggle people are lost in a “get-even’ mentality or “everything has to be equal” mentally with their partner. It is tit-for-tat with them so a volcano vaporizer should relax your partner and you. It’s about the balance sheet and all behavior is ultimately motivated by that “score” on the sheet.

What are some other examples of it?
*one partner insists that the other is not allowed to smoke pot (for severe pain) or it will end the relationship. The pot-smoker refuses to give it up, although he agrees to not do it in the home, in front of the children, or in public and will also get a legal marijuana medical card.

*One partner insists that their 5 year old child will only be fed “healthy” food and has a fit when her partner feeds their child “normal” (like a McDonald’s hamburger)food, yet often does it herself when alone with the child.

*Partner argues for hours over a political point to convince partner that he/she is right about it and they are wrong. The righteous one keeps both of them up until 3:00 AM arguing over the point until the other concedes.

*Partner insists that other take a certain route to a friend’s house even though other wants to go another way that is equally distant. This leads to a fight they have had for years.

How do people get “power” in a relationship?
Some partners just bring this trait into the relationship with them and are often like that in other areas of their lives too. They just have to right, to be first, to have done it better, to know things you don’t know. Everything is a competition with these folks – it is part of their core personality.It makes them feel good to always be in the driver’ s seat, so to speak. Often they are very insecure underneath and being right feeds their ego and their sense of being adequate. Being wrong validates their feeling of inadequacy.

But in other relationships, the partners seem to trigger it in each other, even if they are not like that in other areas of their lives or even in other relationships. There are many other bases for power in relationships and it is quite a complex subject, when you really stop and think about it. Where does “power” come from? How can you get it? It is often thought among professionals that the person who loves the most (or is most needy) in an intimate relationship has the least power while the person who loves the least(is less needy) has more of the power (they have less to lose if it doesn’t work out).

Money and PowerBut, people gain (or lose power) power in relationships for many other reasons too. How about money? Does earning level bring power?

Example: Dave was recently divorced,and pretty much lost his business and most of his assets. Soon thereafter he met Martha who was quite well off through rental real estate properties. He started managing her properties but was also her lover. Soon, she controlled his whole life, ordering him around like he was an $8 per hour employee. She said “jump” and he asked, “how high”?

She literally would lie in bed while he popped grapes in her mouth as requested, while seething inside and then coming to his therapist exploding in anger. When asked why he put up with it, turns out that it was about the money. A “Yes, dear” response to her requests ensured that she would be willing to finance a new business venture he needed to get back on his feet.

Sex and Power. Many partners control their partners through sex (or lack of sex) which tends to generate anger and resentment in the sex-starved partner. This can go both ways, but more often than not, it is the man who feels sex-starved or experiences resentment because he has to “beg” for it.

Example: Dan was a 41 year old plumber and father of two children. Married for thirteen years, he said that he and his wife used to be like rabbits sexually before they had children. Now, “she has no interest, devoting almost 100% of her time to the kids and their needs. He is constantly angry due to sexual frustration but can do nothing about it. Yes, he has talked to her on many occasions. Her reply: “live with it.” He does not want to have an affair, but asks: “why should I have to give up something so important to me?” “It is like I am dying of thirst, she has the only well in town which is dry and she forbids me to visit other towns.”

Competency and Power:Sometimes partners sort of inherit power in certain areas of the relationship because they are clearly more competent in that area. For instance, if one partner is a better money handler, he or she should probably handle the budget and be in charge of financial management. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the financial handler will have more power in other aspects of the relationship such as parenting, vacation planning, or setting the emotional mood of the household.

Mood Setting and Power: 40 year old Peter told me that his wife of 12 years is extremely moody due to numerous medical problems as well as a core personality of many mood fluctuations. “The minute I walk in the door,” he says, I sense her mood.” “If it is bad or negative, I pour myself a glass of scotch, go to my room and hibernate for several hours, just to be alone.” If, on the other hand, his wife’s mood is positive, the family has a joyous evening with each other that night. In this case, his wife has all the power as a mood setter in the family.

Status and Power; Sometimes couples equate differences in perceived status as a basis for trying to dominate or control the other. Status might mean “social” status, occupational status, or gender status. In many cultures, men are seen as the head of household by default; these men get very angry if they do not receive “respect” from their women or children. They tend to use anger, authority, and bullying to get their way. Sometimes they are married to women who use sadness (tears) and appeals of helplessness to influence their mates. In the United States, most woman do not accept these stereotyped roles any longer as they have have gained much ‘power” through economic and occupational equality.Obviously this change can create mountains of conflict if they couple does not agree on role definition, and who does what around the house and in the relationship.

On the other hand, I have seen many couples wherein it is the woman who has most power and control in the relationship. These women emotionally abuse their mates through contempt,disrespect, guilt, chronic complaining and criticalness of their partner and sometimes even alienation of the children against their father. Upon occasion, these men finally “blow up” out of shear frustration of never being able to please their wife. Then these men are accused of having an “anger problem” and required by their wives to seek help.

How can it be fixed?In healthy relationships, power struggles are resolved naturally through a natural balance. You win today over finances; she wins tomorrow over parenting.

But, diffusing defusing power struggles in a troubled relationship can be tricky indeed. Sometimes it is best to just let it go..and give the power to your partner, especially if the power is based on superior competency or skill (like money handling or culinary expertise). Another case where it might be better to let it go is when it is part of your partner’s personality, as described above. Can’t change it. What else are you going to do? Acceptance of that which is not changeable in a relationship is a major tool of anger control.

A wise person comes to realize that being right isn’t always important – being happy or content or in peace may be much more important.

Why is it so hard sometimes to just let it go? Here are some reasons that I have observed and some solutions that should be of help to you:
1. Most conflicts between partners do not have a “right” and a “wrong” answer at all. In fact, most relationship conflicts are based on opinions, judgments, and attitudes – not facts that provide firm guidelines about what is the correct “answer” to a relationship dispute.Take the case above with the fight over what their child should eat. Will a McDonald’s hamburger once a week truly hurt a child? Will a vegetarian child be healthier in life than other children?

The Solution: Realize that just because you believe it, doesn’t make it absolute fact, or doesn’t make it the ONLY fact. Your partner has a right to their opinion too (even if you think it is wrong or misguided). So try to loosen up and be more reasonable instead of righteous and rigid.

2. Arguments that appear to be logically based often are emotionally based, so they can’t be solved logically. Prime example: the couple described above who fight in the car over which way to travel to a friend’s house. In this case, the point of the argument stops being about finding an objective solution and starts being about who is more entitled to be ‘right’. That is an emotional issue – not a logical one. The emotion is “Autonomy” -or the need to make one’s own decisions, to have free will, and not be dominated or controlled by the other one.

The Solution:
Take a time out to cool down before the argument gets out of hand. Before doing anything, take in a deep breath, talk to yourself and de-escalate that emotion inside of you that wants to be right. Do this before things get out of hand. In our system of anger management, this is one of the first tools we teach our clients, using the metaphor of the bullfighter needing to step out of the way of the charging bull. When calmer, try talking about it and compromising (Maybe go one way this time, and the other way the next time; or, establish a driving ritual or rule: the driver decides the route and othe must be quiet)

3. One partner has lost respect for the other and frankly doesn’t care anymore what the other thinks. Loss of respect is tough to recover from, if it is possible at all. If you are on the other end and he or she has lost respect for you, sometimes what really helps is for you to demand less disrespecting behavior from your partner. Stand up for yourself! Don’ t let yourself be emotionally abused. Even if they don’ t like you anymore, you deserve to be treated like a human being, especially in front of the children.

The Solution:One strategy to gain respect is to start acting and behaving in ways similar to other people who do indeed get respect from their partner. Put another way, be deserving of their respect.

On the other hand, if you want to respect your partner, but can’ t get past an issue that prevents it, you will need to find a way to shift your perspective of him or her and focus on other aspects of their behavior or personality.

This is not easy. Often, professional help professional intervention is needed to help you develop strategies and coping skills.

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Anger Management in Action: How Can I Be More Patient?

body language-angry young woman

Meet 25 year old Julia who came to our local anger management class for help with the question “How can I be more patient?”

Seems that Julia was constantly irritated with other people.She tried not to be, but her impatience and irritability constantly leaked out with her body language, her attitude, and her sarcasm.

She was not angry in the classical sense of the term- that is, she did not blow up, she did not yell, she did not explode. But she was constantly frustrated, she was often very stressed out, and she found herself almost always disappointed in people around her. This included co-workers as well as loved ones at home.

Inside her head she was saying to herself things like:

  • how can they be so stupid?
  • why they they do it right?
  • why can’t they think like I do?
  • Julia was very bright. She was also a very quick thinker, often two or three mental steps ahead of those around her.This made is difficult for her to be accepting of others who might not have been quite as mentally agile as her, or to tolerate people who had a different thinking style from hers.

    Julia’s problem has its roots in her expectations of people and things. Learning to recognize and adjust expectations is anger tool #6 in our system of anger management as is explained in detail in our anger management book titled “Anger Management for the Twenty-First Century.”

    The gap between what we expect and what we get creates many negative emotions including disappointment, anger, and chronic unhappiness. Learning to adjust expectations is a process which begins with being mindful of what are expectations are to begin with. Mindfulness involves becoming aware of what is occurring in your or body without judging it.

    Awareness without so much judgment is not easy because we live in a society in which we are constantly taught to judge things. Often we “should” ourselves to death throughout our lifespans – convinced that we “know” what is best, what he truth is, exactly how to do things, how others should be or live, etc.

    On the job, we get frustrated because employees don’t “own” their work or don’t buy into the company vision like we do as managers. Adjusting your expectations involves reminding yourself that if they saw things as you did, they would have YOUR job.

    Adjusting your expectations at home requires you to remember that much of what you get upset about involves opinions about how things “should” be – not absolute facts. Just because you believe something doesn’t automatically make it true; your partner may have an equally valid belief or opinion.

    As Julia learned these thought skills, she gradually did become more patient and less angry. She was able to accept that sometimes truth is a point of view, that others have a right to their opinions (even though they may be wrong), and that just because we want something or someone to be a certain way does not mean that they are that way, want to be that way, or that they necessarily even should be that way.

    Finally, Julie learned to accept that many people do indeed have limitations; that does not mean we should get angry at them because of their limitations. Yes, some people are indeed mentally slow, have an irritating personality, have limited skills to do things, have the wrong values in life, are lazy, etc etc. But, I ask, why get ANGRY over these things? Other response possibilities would include ignoring them,having compassion for them, helping them, giving them much more latitude, etc.

    Think about it! Feel free to leave a comment below.

    Accepting Others With Limitations is a Challenge For Some

    “I worked hard for my knowledge,” Bob said in a session, but “others want to drain me of my knowledge and skill so they won’t have to do the hard work themselves to learn it.” “Besides, they are so stupid and they are unmotivated to improve themselves.”

    Bob was very much into self-development and self-improvement and thought everyone should be too. He would quickly become angry when he encountered people who just “settled,” were happy with an average life and saw no need to improve themselves.

    Perhaps you recognize yourself or someone close to you in Bob. The following two thinking errors are causing  angst and anger in Bob and others who think like him:

    1. That self-development is a universally good thing and everyone should do it. I would ask; “Why?” In my opinion, people have a right to NOT develop their full potental if they chose to live their lives that way. Who are we to judge others and what is good or bad for them? Besides, how do we know when people are at their full potential? Human beings often misjudge others and expect more out them than is realistic or possible.

    2. That everyone has equal capacity to improve themselves. I believe that the motivation and ability to constantly improve oneself is probably distributed among human beings just like other skills – some people have a great deal of it (like athletic ability) and others not so much. We will be less angry if we find a way to accept this and view the world in this fashion.

    If we can find a way to change how we think about things and how we view things, we can immediately change how we feel about them. Of course, you don’t have to, and you have a right to think any way to wish, but if you want peace of mind, try these thought changes and see what happens!

    AngerCoach Show – Episode #11 – Anger and Sex

    This months episode we discuss the relationship that sex and anger share. As a practicing Psychologist and Marriage Therapist, I have come across many couples who experience sexual frustrations in their relationships. Often times anger can arise from sexual frustration, and as this episode discusses, sexual frustration can result from anger. In this podcast we teach four practical and easy-to-employ techniques for reducing sexual frustration and anger in your relationship.

    Please note: This anger program and these anger tips are not meant to substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or advice. If you have intense, serious or chronic anger problems, or you have to deal with someone else who does, you should immediately consult a mental health or medical professional for help.

    AngerCoach Show – Episode #9 – Managing Expectations

    This months episode discusses the benefits of managing your expectations. Learn what your expectations are, where they come from and understand how the world around us influences our expectations. When we understand these things, then we can better adjust what our expectations are when it comes to our lives, our relationships, our families, our possessions and our jobs. If we find ourselves frustrated by these things then it’s possible that we have formed unrealistic expectations about these goals. By adjusting our expectations to more realistic levels, we can avoid the anger that comes from being let down, and we will find ourselves living happier lives as a result.

    Please note: This anger program and these anger tips are not meant to substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or advice. If you have intense, serious or chronic anger problems, or you have to deal with someone else who does, you should immediately consult a mental health or medical professional for help.

    Managing Expectations: A powerful happiness tool!

    When people graduate from our anger management classes, we ask them which of the eight tools of anger control helped them the most. Often graduates tell us that it was Anger Tool # 6– “Adjust expectations” that was of most help to them. But managing expectations helps in more life areas than just anger; it also is a very useful tool for happiness, to fight depression, and generally to have a more balanced life.

    What is an expectation?
    An expectation is a mental prediction of what will happen in the future when we don’t know for sure. If what does actually happen matches or exceeds our expectation of it we experience positive emotions such as satisfaction, joy, surprise, or gratification. If, on the other hand, what occurs is different from what we expected or is less than what we expected, we experience negative emotions such as disappointment, anger, or frustration.

    To fight depression, to be less angry, to have less life frustration, it is important to develop the skill of closing the gap between what we have and what we expected in the first place. This is not easy because it is a real challenge to decide what is reasonable to expect of ourselves, our loved ones, our employees, our friends, or our marriage partners. To complicate matters, we live in a culture that often encourages unrealistic expectations of our marriages, our sex lives, our financial success, our body beauty, our children, and our “rights” to unlimited material things.

    Given our culture and our attitudes, , how can we NOT be disappointed when we actually look our age, when we only have a normal sex frequency of once or twice a week , when we can only afford one family car instead of that second SUV, when our children our good citizens but only average in achievement, and when we “only” earn $80,000 a year at age twenty-eight.

    Shouldn’t We Aim High?
    Not that we shouldn’t aim high. Achievement and success often follow dreams. But, as we are looking toward the sky we also need to remember to keep our feet on the ground. Lowering  or at least having different expectations gives us emotional room to be surprised, delighted and awed by good things that occur that we didn’t demand or depend on for our happiness. With this attitude, good things  are like a bonus of life rather than a condition for happiness.

    What should we expect in marriage?
    In relationships, unhappy people often expect something different than what they get. Again, this is sometimes due to children growing up with the Hollywood fantasy of what marriage is like. Later, these same children expect, for instance,  that their marriage partner’s purpose in life is to satisfy all their needs, that making a marriage succeed shouldn’t be hard work, and that you should be able to “be yourself” and still have your partner love you (even though you are a very poor marriage partner). Unfortunately, sometimes we discover that we don’t know our partners very well at all, even though we thought we did back when the hormones were still distorting our perception during courtship. Some psychologists maintain that many of us don’t marry a real person; rather we marry a “concept” (or an expectation) of what we want them to be.

    Marital trouble then strikes when reality sets in!

    What are some ways to Adjust Your Expectations for More Happiness?
    To examine your expectations and adjust them, it often helps to talk to trusted friends or older people that you respect and look up to. Research show that it really helps to talk to trusted people who have been through what you are confused about. You might also have  sessions with a qualified therapist to help you sort things out. Other suggestions would include

    • Mentally prepare yourself and others ahead of time for what may or may not happen.  Sharing possibilities and outcomes with others can do much to reduce conflicts.
    • Stop “shoulding” in your self-talk. Think of the word “should” less often because that word is a sure-fire formula for frustration and upset.
    • Try to see disappointing things or people from a different perspective, focusing on different aspects of the person or situation.

    Can you change? Maybe. Maybe Not. Probably.

    lightbulb

    Have you heard this psychologist joke?

    Question: How many psychologists does it take to change a light-bulb?

    Answer: Only one – but the light-bulb has to really want to change.

    In my experience as a psychologist and marriage therapist, I have often see people struggle with the question of how much they are capable of actually changing. At social events, when people discover my profession, they will sometimes ask, Can people really change, even if they want to?

    Can it change its spots?
    Can it change its spots?

    Some folks believe in the philosophy that “A leopard cannot change its spots” while others believe  “anything is possible”  in terms of ability to change. As is often the case in psychology, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Obviously, certain habits and some personality traits are changeable, many psychiatric conditions (such as phobias, depression, sexual dysfunction and anxiety) are now very treatable,  but certain core character traits, attitudes toward life, core personality traits, and personal beliefs are not.

    A question that often comes up in therapy (or socially) is: “Can an unfaithful partner change or is cheater  always a cheater? Too bad questions about human behavior are not more easily answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”‘  Truth is, some unfaithful partners can and do change and others don’t. Depends on the circumstances (the type of affair) and the character structure of the offender.

    The reason the “change” issue  is an important question is that it lies at  the core of setting expectations about people. It is our expectations that determine to a large extent what we will feel toward others or certain situations. If we have in our minds that someone could change if they really wanted to, but, in fact, they cannot, we may unjustifiably  get upset with them.  We may also get unduly upset with ourselves for not changing something about ourselves when, in fact, we need to accept  limitations in that particular area of our lives. People often have unrealistic expectations about themselves and then either unduly berate themselves (expectations too high) if life turns out differently than they anticipated or, give up too easily(expectations too low)  when they could have done more!

    What does change require?

    Can You Change? It Requires Ability To Do So

    The philosophy that “anything is possible” does not square with life experience,  although this notion is popular in our society. For example, for ten years my first wife was convinced she could teach me how to sing. Being a music teacher, she saw me as a real professional challenge the first time she heard me, even though I told her that I couldn’t even carry a tune in a box. Poor woman really tried..and tried. We both eventually gave up, bowing to the harsh reality that one has to have the proper brain structures to be able to sing, no matter how hard one tries, desires it, or commits to it.

    Is It Worth It? Change Requires Motivation

    On the other hand, we can we learn to change how we communicate, how we handle anger, how we function or show love as a wife, husband, partner, or parent! Many times it is not innate limitations holding us back, but simple lack of skills. If you didn’t get the skills earlier in your life,   you can still acquire them, but this will involve motivation to do so, assuming the thing is changeable in the first place.  Take the young women who comes to our anger management classes because she has just lost her third boyfriend in a row because they could not deal with her anger. Is she motivated to change? You bet! Was she motivated during her first conflictual relationship? No, because at that point she did not see herself as the problem. But, now she does!

    Should You Change? It  Requires Trait of Flexibility in Your Personality

    Some people do not believe in change. My late mother was one of those people. She did not believe in personal change and could not successfully deal with change in others or change in circumstances. At age 63 she was proud of the fact that “I am the same person today as I was at age 19.”

    When I went away to college  and then returned home with fresh ideas and life views, she was very upset because she did not see me as the same boy that had left home (“College has changed you” ). Change requires the flexibility to accept it rather than being scared of it or threatened by it. It requires the ability to be adaptable (instead of rigid) in a changing world and to see the necessity of changing in order to be a more effective person. It is the attitude: “Well, if that doesn’t work for me, I better try something else.” Unfortunately, many people are the opposite: they hold onto what obviously doesn’t work any longer in the hopes that somehow it will work again for them.

    Are You Ready To Change?
    Are You Ready To Change?

    When Should You Change?  Often it  is required to Deal with Life  Stages. Most people realize that children go through  developmental stages, but fail  to recognize that adults do too. What you need and how you see the world is often quit different at age 60 than at age 20. People sometimes naturally change at different life stages. The man who was a terrible father because he was always gone to support the family when younger,  may be an excellent grandfather at age 60. The 19 year old girl who was attracted to the “hot” young men , at age 40 may value stability more than muscles in a man now. To some extent, nature forces us to change as we age, but some people fight it more than others or become frightened because different survival skills are now needed.

    Some people mellow as they get older while others sour. Perhaps one reason for the difference is that of adaptability – or change.  It seems to me that happier people are better at accepting change as natural and as part of the universe while sour people are often bitter, disillusioned, disenchanted or unfulfilled with their life or life situation.

    Believe it or not, old dogs CAN learn new tricks. Life is change and the wise person asks themselves what they need in THIS life stage to be happier, to be more effective, and to deal with the current as well as future personal challenges.


    Six Tips For Parents to Handle Child Anger

    Strong Willed Child
    Strong Willed Child

    Often, we get phone calls from parents who are angry at their children, usually because they happen to have what I euphemistically call a “strong-willed child. ” These children are often defiant, controlling, rebellious, and non-compliant with normal parental demands or requests. Sometimes this extends to their behavior in school, but in other cases they seem to be fine at school and only problematic at home. Things can become so bad that the child can be labeled an “explosive child” involving verbal and behavior aggression and even violence.  In its extreme, these children may be given numerous psychiatric diagnoses such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), intermittent explosive disorder, Tourette;s Disorder, Depression bipolar disorder, Asperger’s disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

    Parents of strong-willed children often feel guilty and inept. But, while parenting certainly hasd a lot to do with the milder problems within the normal range, truly explosive children are a lot more complex than previously thought and may be the result of numerous factors. An excellent book to help parents with these children is “The Explosive Child” by Dr. Ross. W. Greene. Click here to learn about his “Collaborative Problem Solving Approach.”

    Screaming accomplishes Little
    Screaming Accomplishes Little

    For cases in the more normal range,  we teach in  our anger management classes and Online programs  how to better cope with strong-willed or difficult children by learning the eight tools of anger control – and then applying these tools to themselves too!

    It was labor day when 8 year old Brandon’s mother heard a commotion from her child’s room. Seems that his 14 year old visiting cousin said something that upset Brandon which caused Brandon to strike the other boy. His mother Michelle hysterically called her therapist wondering what to do and how to handle the anger in her young son which seemed to be escalating as he became older.

    Her therapist wisely explained that children become angry in a variety of situations. Common causes of childhood anger include: frustration, needing attention, feeling powerless, being misunderstood, not feeling good about themselves, feeling helpless, being belittled or made fun of, not having physical needs taken care of, having a parent take over instead of asking if the child wants help, being disappointed, having difficulty saying what they need, or being punished.

    The problem of excessive childhood anger is growing. Yet many parents—like Michelle—feel they don’t have the tools to teach their children how to deal with normal angry feelings in an appropriate manner, without hitting or yelling at others, or losing control. Therefore, some parents ineffectively deal with their child’s anger by demanding that he or she stop being angry. Worse, some parents actually yell at or hit their child in attempts to “teach” their child not to be angry. That is like putting them alone in the woods unarmed with a raging black bear to teach them not to be fearful!

    Alternatively, good parenting requires teaching children the practical skills needed for anger control.  Although feeling angry is a part of life that no one can avoid because it is “hardwired” in our brains as a protective and survival mechanism, we can teach our children positive ways to cope with these normal angry feelings. Learning the tools of anger management empowers children, makes them more effective and pleasant human beings, and improves the world by decreasing hatred, violence and conflict.

    Following are six tips for parents to help their children manage anger, based on our model of anger management called the “eight tools of anger control”

    Tip #1- TEACH HOW TO RESPOND INSTEAD OF REACT
    Parents can teach their children the difference between feeling angry and acting on anger.  Michelle explained to Brandon that feeling mad is neither good nor bad, but hitting someone out of anger is not OK. She then explained that we have choices as to how to deal with angry feelings.  Encouraging your child to take time-out until they cool down, to keep a journal, draw, or talk out their emotions are positive outlets for feelings of anger.

    Providing a means by which to channel feelings into positive actions is another tool to help your child deal with his or her angry feelings. Examples might include taking a relaxing walk, writing letters and cards, doing something nice for another person, or donating time to a worthwhile community project geared toward helping others.

    In the short run, life at home will be easier when children learn how to work through anger. In the long run, children will continue developing ways to cope with anger as they become teenagers and adults, and will pass these skills along to their own children.

    Tip #2- BE AWARE OF HOW YOUR CHILDREN ARE SEEING YOU
    Start by setting a good example. Children learn from observing your behavior. Be aware of the messages you are sending your child in terms of how you behave toward them, how you behave toward other people, and how they see you handling your own anger and stress.

    Unfortunately, some misguided parents create hatred in their children by modeling prejudice, intolerance, disrespect or violence toward other people that may be different from them or have different word views. Teaching “empathy” (the ability to see the world from the perspective of another), openness, tolerance and understanding are extremely valuable anger-management tools to teach yourself and your children.

    Tip #3-TELL CHILDREN PERSONAL STORIES OF TRIUMPH
    Your children need to hear stories of how you may have overcome hardship, adversity, or other life challenges. Research shows that hearing your stories of empowerment over rough times or situations can make your children feel more attached to you, and give them more hope for themselves to be able to overcome their life difficulties. Having more optimism and developing more positive attitudes can often reduce anger in children and adults alike.

    Tip #4- BE CONSISTENT IN PARENTING
    At any age, anger is often generated between the gap between what is expected and what actually occurs in reality. With children, it is especially important to outline exactly what the consequences are (positive and negative) for their behavior—and then stick to it! Consistency makes children feel more secure, less anxious, and less likely to react angrily if they don’t get “their own way.” Parental consistency between parents or other adults in your child’s life is also very important to create stability and a sense of predictability.

    Tip #5- REDUCE FAMILY STRESS
    Coping with family stressors is an important tool of anger management, as angry outbursts are much more likely to occur as personal and family stress levels rise. There are many ways to buffer family stressors such as maintaining regular rituals for eating together, sharing the day with each other, finding time to play together, and emotionally supporting each other.

    Parents can also help their children learn to calm themselves or self-sooth when angry.  It is often helpful to calm their anger by using the five senses: touching, smelling, tasting, hearing, and seeing. Squeezing play dough, splashing in water, running around outside, listening to music, painting a picture, tensing and relaxing muscles, taking slow deep breaths, or eating a healthy snack are all good responses to angry feelings.

    Children who respond well to touch can be taught how to massage their own neck or arms as a self-calming technique. These same children also may find a great deal of comfort in stroking or caring for a pet. To reduce stress, try telling your child the following:
    * let’s draw a picture about how you feel
    * a warm bath sometimes helps wash away angry feelings
    * when you feel hungry and irritable, tell me and I’ll find a snack for you
    * sit down and take slow deep breaths until you have calmed down.

    Tip #6 – TEACH YOUR CHILD HOW TO SOLVE PROBLEMS
    Parent can teach their older preschool, school-age and teenage children to problem solve as a “prevention” tool for getting angry. Michelle, for instance, taught Brandon to “stop and think” the next time he was angry—before losing control and striking other children. She also taught him how to listen to his cousin with both his eyes and ears, before getting upset so that he could “name” the problem and discuss what was upsetting him.

    Turns out that Brandon’s cousin had made a disparaging remark about Brandon’s father who happened to be incarcerated. Once the issue was named, Michelle taught Brandon to think of different ways to solve the problem. They agreed on Brandon telling his cousin how much it hurt his feelings to hear “bad” things about his father. As a final step, they agreed to discuss how well their planned worked in a few days.

    Most children will need adult help in thinking through this process and coming up with creative problem-solving techniques, but the skills learned will serve your child well throughout his lifetime and might greatly reduce stress in you rhome.

    Anger sometimes due to our expectations

    Have you ever had the experience of not seeing something that was right in front of you because you didn’t expect that it would be there? I recently had that experience with trees that the city was supposed to plant in front of my house. For months there were no trees where they should have been planted. One day I saw some city trucks outside my house and went to the supervisor asking him when they were going to plant the promised trees. Imagine my surprise and embarrassment when he told me. “sir, we planted them this morning.”  Indeed they had been. Why didn’t I see them? Because expectations determine perception. I didn’t expect to see them there..so I didn’t.

    This got me to thinking of the many individuals and couples I work with in anger management who have told me similar stories of how expectations determine what they see or don’t see in other people or situations. Sometimes we get angry when something isn’t the way we think it should be. Adjusting those expectations is an important tool of anger management. Not only do expectations influence our emotions, they also partly determine how we see things in the first place. For instance, if we expect our teenage son to be lazy, we might well miss or mis-perceive some of his behavior that is not lazy at all.

    Expectations are subtle and we often we don’t even realize they are influencing us, but they are. Research shows that happy people seem to be happier because they know how to manage their expectations so they don’t experience a great  deal of disappointment or anger when there is a gap between what they expect and what they get. Try it and see if your anger doesn’t decrease! Some tips to help you do this include the following:

    • Mentally prepare yourself ahead of time for what happens
    • Stop “shoulding’ in your self-talk. This is being judgmental. Ask yourself why “should” things be as you think they should?
    • Practice seeing disappointing things from a different perspective
    • Believe that limitations are “built-in” most relationships. Learn to accept them.

    Click here for more in-depth article on expectations by Dr Fiore

    Share Expectations to Decrease Conflict and Anger

    John and Sarah spent The New Year holiday season in Las Vegas where they had hoped to have a relaxed time with little tension. Things went well until they decided to stop at a retail outlet mall in the way home which was attached to a casino. Both agreed they would “stop at the mall” on the way home, but later discovered that what they expected would happen when they stopped was quit different. To Sarah “stopping at the mall” meant that they would first stop at the casino, gamble about an hour and then shop at the mall. To John “stopping at the mall” meant driving directly to the mall and shopping, by-passing the casino altogether.

    You can probably guess what happened! John was driving, so he skipped the casino and drove directly to the mall. which made Sarah upset and angry because she not only wanted to gamble, but had the expectation that they would eat breakfast in the casino coffee shop. John, who didn’t have a clue about all this, couldn’t understand why Sarah was so upset, as he was doing exactly what, in his mind, they had agreed upon.

    In our anger management classes, we teach that adjusting expectations (Tool #6) is a major tool for anger control. Anger often results from the discrepancy between what is expected and what actually happens. Going one step further, the conflict between John and Sarah illustrates how important it is for couples to also share expectations they have so that they are on the same track. It is easy to assume that what you expect is the same as what your partner has in mind, but any married person knows that this often is NOT the case.

    To share expectations, it is often helpful to simply communicate what you would like to happen specifically in a future situation. After all, neither you or your partner is a mind-reader; besides the same words often mean different things to different people, especially husbands and wives. Taking the time and trouble to spell it out and communicate clearly often goes a long way toward reducing misunderstanding, conflict, hurt feelings and anger.

    More at www.angercoach.com