Friends Jane and Anthony have very different ways of viewing the world. Jane is a pessimist (“the glass is half-empty”) while Anthony is an optimist (“the glass is half-full”)
Let’s compare how they think about similar life experiences:
Scenario 1: A bad thing happens: both lose their jobs Jane is devastated, convincing herself that she is all washed up, she can never catch a break, her boss was an SOB, it is useless for her to try to be successful, and she is not very good at anything.
By contrast, Anthony has a healthier inner dialog, telling himself that he probably wasn’t very good at that particular job, his skills and company needs did not mesh, and the firing was only a temporary setup in his career.
Scenario 2: A good thing happens: both find a new job Now Jane, ever the pessimist, believes she was able to find a new job only because her industry is now really desperate for people, and they must have been short-handed.
The more upbeat Anthony sees that he landed a new job because his talents were finally recognized and he can now be appreciated for what he can do. As this example illustrates, research by Dr. Marvin Seligman finds that optimists tend to interpret their troubles as transient, controllable and specific to situations.
When good things happen, optimists believe the causes are permanent such as traits and abilities. Optimists further believe that good events will enhance everything he or she does.
Pessimists, on the other hand, believe their troubles will last forever, will undermine everything they do, and are basically uncontrollable. Even when good things happen to pessimists, they see these things as temporary and caused by specific factors (which will change eventually leading to a negative outcome)
Why is Optimism Beneficial?
Optimism and hope cause better resistance to depression when bad events strike, better performance at work and better physical health. In fact, one long term study at the famed Mayo clinic in Rochester, Minnesota found that optimists lived 19% longer in terms of expected life span than did pessimists.
Optimistic thinking skills are also a powerful antidote to anger. In fact, many participants in our anger management classes report their anger lessening as they learn to replace negative thinking and feelings with more positive ones.
How to think optimistically
There is now a well-documented method for building optimism that consists of recognizing and then disputing pessimistic thoughts. Unfortunately, people often do not pay much attention to their thoughts and thus do not recognize that they may be destructive and leading to negative emotions.
The key to disputing your own pessimistic thoughts is to first recognize them and then to treat them as if they were uttered by an external person, a rival whose mission in life is to make you miserable.
In effect, you can become an optimist by learning to disagree with yourself- that is, by challenging your pessimistic thinking patterns.
For skeptics, it is important to point out that optimistic thinking IS NOT the process of positive thinking in the sense of telling yourself silly affirmations that you really don’t believe.
Rather, it is the process of correcting distorted or faulty thinking patterns that create problems for you.
By teaching yourself to think about things differently (but just as realistically) you can morph yourself from a pessimist to an optimist – and tame that anger bee in the process.
Anger is an emotion that is often triggered by a common malady of modern life-time stress. When you think about it, you may see that time is the original equal opportunity employer. We all get the same amount of time to work with-60 minutes an hour, 24 hours per day, 168 hours per week, 8730 hours per year. If you live to the average age of 76 years, you will have had 663,480 hours to accomplish your goals, pursue your dreams, satisfy your passions and desires, and make your mark on the world.
Despite the fact that time is fair, it is elusive. It is also extremely valuable, and it is needed for everything you do. Unfortunately, it cannot be stored like money in the bank. At once a moment in time occurs and then it is gone. You can’t come back to it at a later time and use it. Imagine the parent who does not have time for his or her children when they are growing up, but the parent tells himself that “some day” he will make time for them. The misguided parent finally retires and now wants to dip into the “bank” for the lost time.
But, he is unable to do so as the words to the well-known song “Cats in the Cradle” remind us:
I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away. I called him up just the other day. I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.” He said, “I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time. You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu, But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad. It’s been sure nice talking to you.” And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, He’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.
Why can some people handle so many pieces of their complex lives so well, while others seem unable to accomplish almost anything throughout the day? We may admire the people who find enough time to run huge corporations (or even countries), contribute to civil causes, sit on numerous boards, participate in the religious community, and spend quality time with their families.
By comparison, we may feel lucky if we just slog through the day and get the basics done, only to gratefully go to bed to prepare ourselves to begin the same process over again the next day.
The difference is often time management. Strictly speaking we can’t manage time (because it marches on without consulting us in any way), but we can manage how we spend it. At its core, time management is about freeing up more time for the things that matter most to you, while still getting the necessary (and sometimes mundane) life duties done and obligations met. Time management will allow you more time for fun and being with the people you love. Successful Time Management often helps you feel less angry and more fulfilled because it allows you to spend more of your life energy the way you choose.
At this point, you may be convinced that time management is a good thing, but remain unconvinced that you can actually do it. It does seem overwhelming sometimes, but we have found that there are six simple steps to successful time management as a tool to reduce stress and anger in your life.
Step 1 – Develop the proper attitude Time management begins with an attitude. The attitude is one of taking personal responsibility for your time. This means taking charge of your life instead of blaming others or circumstances for low productivity or lack of time to do things that matter most to you. Granted, life makes many demands on us, but effective time managers find a way to make time for worthwhile activities. This may involve learning to spend less time on things that deliver little value and instead focus on things that merit our time and attention.
Step 2 – Monitor your time Simply counting how many minutes a day you spend on various life activities will focus your attention on noticing how you spend your time. This will help you get into action to perhaps manage your time differently. There is no one way to do this. You can count your time in various activities by using any kind of calendar, day timer or to-do-list. It can be paper, computer, store-bought or hand-made. You can keep track of your time down to the quarter-hour, or just an overview. Use a system that works for you.
Step 3 – Plan your time Looking at your results, how would you answer the following questions?
Were you surprised at how much time you are spending on a particular activity?
Were you surprised at how little time you are spending on a particular activity?
Would you like to find a way to spend more time on things of value to you?
Would you like to eliminate some time-wasters on your list?
There is no correct way to plan your time. Planning is an activity that makes room for many different individual styles. Following are some guidelines that have helped many others:
Never start your day without a plan. Loosely pencil-in your day either the night before or first thing in the morning.
Schedule predictable events first. This might include obvious activities like sleep, work, housework, etc. When planning, allow adequate time for these parts of your life. Then schedule other tasks around them.
Schedule your life long-term (like for the coming year), mid-term (e. g. for the month), and short-term (for the week). Sit down with your family with a scheduling method that is comfortable to you, from the “old-fashion” refrigerator block calendar to electronic methods such the Outlook program on your computer. If you are high-tech you might also want to synchronize your Outlook calendar with your PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) scheduling device such as a Blackberry.
Get things done, one task at a time. As you plan, convert any goal into a list of small steps-simple activities that you can add to a daily to-do list.
Define a time limit for activities. Set clear starting and stopping times for each task. Sometimes a task that typically takes four hours can be completed in three. Activities tend to fill up whatever space is allotted for them. By allowing less space for them on our calendars, we can sometimes squeeze out more hours in the day.
Build in some pleasurable, rewarding or relaxing activities each day “just for you.” Find time to emotionally replenish yourself. Charge your emotional batteries to avoid burn-out. This does not have to take a lot of time and can be very simple like taking a walk, reading a book, working in your woodshop, listening to your favorite CD, etc.
Step 4 – Implement proven time-savers Try to be more effective, not busier. Work smarter, not harder. The example comes to mind of the two campers sitting a river bed watching the sunset. Suddenly a person is seen struggling in the water. The first camper swims out and saves him. Soon, another person is seen in the water. Again, the first camper jumps in, swims out and saves her. After three times of the same routine, his camping buddy finally jumped up and left. “Where are you going?” asked the first camper. “You can keep jumping in the water all night, if you want to,” said the second camper, “but I’m going upstream to find out why all these people are jumping into the water.”
Some simple time-savers that others have found helpful include:
Weed out activities that aren’t consistent with your values-what you deem as important and valuable. Ask yourself if the activity moves you closer to what you want, what your goal might be, or what you want to become. For instance, if you want to earn an MBA degree to better yourself, watching 6 hours of television a day instead of studying probably is not consistent with your stated values.
Avoid the morning rush.
Go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual and wake up 15 minutes earlier to allow more time to get organized to leave the house in the morning
Lay clothing out the night before to make morning dressing hassle-free
Finish your personal morning routine (shower, getting dressed, etc.) before the kids wake up
Keep necessary items, such as your car keys, purse, briefcase and school backpacks, in a consistent location for ease of locating during the morning rush
Empower your children to get themselves organized (if they’re older) by making their own lunches the night before, laying out their clothes, packing up their school supplies, etc.
Ask your spouse with help in organizing for the following day
Set the table for breakfast the night before
Set your clocks and watches ahead 5 to 10 minutes to keep you on schedule (yes, it’s psychological but it does tend to work)
Do some jobs immediately. Often we can return phone calls or reply to a letter immediately instead of putting it on our to-do list to complete later. Sometimes we spend more time and energy avoiding a task than it would take to get it done.
Step 5 – Get more organized By carefully listing our tasks for the near future, we can choose how to spend our time. While looking at the big picture, we can rank each activity according to priority and decide when to do it. Following are some suggestions for managing your to-do lists:
Keep all of your to-dos in one place. Prioritize your tasks. Choose which items are most important and which ones you need to do today, this week, this month, this year and in coming years. Be honest about the items you never really intend to do, and be willing to let them go. You’ll save yourself needles mental and physical clutter.
Clear out the clutter. An important part of this process is deciding what not to do. When we purge the low-value activities from our to-do lists, we open up a lot of breathing space in our lives.
Step 6 – Actually do your do’s Some people unfortunately are time challenged partly because they spend much of their day making to-do lists, instead of actually doing the items on the list. Obviously, this is useless and counter-productive. It may be another way of avoiding doing what you should do but don’t really want to.
Lynn, age 40 was in the luggage station at the airport with her sister-in-law. They patiently waited for the airline to find their luggage—as did her husband circling the airport in his car in attempts to transport the women home.
After two hours, Lynn decided to take action; she angrily confronted a supervisor, indicating loss of patience and incredulity at their lack of concern over the issue.
Guess what? Presto! The luggage was found within about 10 minutes with ample apology from the supervisor.
Clearly the angry confrontation “worked” in the sense that it got the desired behavioral result and there were no negative consequences or “costs” to the angry expression.
While anger is NOT appropriate most of the time, there are circumstances when anger expression is in fact the right thing to do.
Lesson #1: Anger expression is good if it gets results without a high emotional, financial, personal or social cost.
John was a legal professional who had been unjustly accused of impropriety with one of his clients. She had filed a report with his professional licensing board.
John was traumatized and fearful, as this had never happened in over 25 years of practice as a family law attorney. After giving in to his feelings for several months (which almost incapacitated him) he decided to see a criminal defense lawyer and fight for his career.
Once he got past his hurt, humiliation and self-pity, he was able to get in touch with his anger in the form of “righteous indignation.” That transition energized and motivated him to protect himself and survive the unfair and untrue accusations against him which threatened his distinguished career.
Lesson #2 – Anger can be a good thing if it gets us past fear and paralysis and catapults us into appropriate action.
Lesson #3 – Anger can be a good thing if it switches us from apathy and inaction to positive intention and helps us refocus on our broader life goals.
Like the mythical desert bird that rose from its ashes, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a phoenix that emerged from tragedy.
Candy Lightner founded MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) in 1980 following the death of her 13-year-old daughter Cari in Fair Oaks, Calif., on May 3.
Sadly, Cari was walking to a school carnival when a drunk driver struck her from behind. The driver had three prior drunk driving convictions and was out on bail from a hit-and-run arrest two days earlier. Today, MADD is the largest crime victims’ assistance organization in the world with more than 3 million members and supporters.
Lesson #4: Anger is good if we convert it to a social positive and make an improvement in the world.
Shelly had a friend who was constantly late. This was very upsetting to Stacy, who never said anything about it. Instead, she began to make excuses not to see her friend.
She was on the verge of losing a valuable friendship. One day she mustered up her courage and decided to tell her friend that being late was difficult for her, making her feel unimportant, angry and resentful.
The friend’s response? Contrary to Shelly’s fears, the friend did not bolt! Rather, she decided that she valued Shelly’s honesty— then apologized profusely and began arriving on time.
Lesson #5; Appropriately asserting yourself rather than holding in anger often facilitates a closer relationship. It is very difficult for people to choose the option to change their behavior if they don’t know you are upset with them.
Recent headline: “Road Rage may be due to medical condition called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)”
What is the science behind this?
The study, reported in the June (2006) issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry was based on a national face-to-face survey of 9,282 U.S. adults who answered diagnostic questionnaires in 2001-03. It was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Results? About 5 percent to 7 percent of the nationally representative sample had had the disorder, which would equal up to 16 million Americans . That is higher than better-known mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The average number of lifetime attacks per person was 43, resulting in $1,359 in property damage per person. About 4 percent had suffered recent attacks. Many of these attacks violated both civil and criminal laws.
Is it real?
This study has created much controversy regarding exactly what is “medical” about road rage and how it differs from plain bad, inconsiderate behavior. Undoubtedly, criminal defense attorneys will be arguing in both civil and criminal courts that indeed it is a medical condition!
Take the two following headline which were published recently:
News Item #1: “Police search for shooter following road rage incident” Date: June 10, 2006. City: Indianapolis, Indiana. The event: At an intersection, two drivers were involved in a confrontation when one of them opened fire on the other at a stoplight.
News Item #2: “Man, 21, charged in road rage shooting.” Date: May 21, 2006. City: San Antonio, Texas. The event (according to news reports): “Around 3AM Samuel Hitchcock, 21, Daniel Pena, 17, and another man were driving when a pickup passed them on an inside lane, striking Hitchcock’s side mirror. Hitchcock followed the truck into a residential area to gather information and the truck made a sudden turn, stopping. Hitchcock pulled up next to the truck. Pena, who was in the front passenger seat told police the truck’s driver pulled a gun and started shooting at them, striking him and killing Hitchcock.
Are all cases like this due to Intermittent Explosive Disorder? Very unlikely! Some are and some are not. This is why it is important to have a professional assessment of each case of “road rage” to determine the underlying cause, such as IED — or some other problem.
Other causes that could come into play would include: alcohol or drug intoxication, stress, depression or bipolar disorder and, of course, bad, selfish or inconsiderate behavior. A good attorney will refer you to a doctor who specializes in diagnosing mood disorders to determine the specific cause in each situation of apparent road rage.
Road rage vs aggressive driving
The person who weaves in and out of traffic, tail gates, or cuts in front of you may not be showing “road rage” per se, but inconsiderate aggressive driving. He is not angry at you; he probably doesn’t even know you exist, being preoccupied with his own selfish needs.
IED seen in other life areas
It is also important to remember that persons who do indeed suffer from Intermittent Explosive Disorder may explode in many other situations besides road rage. Often they “blow up” at spouses, children, co-workers, or customer service employees.
Remedies for road rage
If road rage is indeed due to IED, there are two treatments that can help both adolescents and adults: (1)medications , and (2) cognitive training. The medications usually involve SSRIs (a type of anti-depressant). In my opinion, most people who show rage on the road do not need medication, but some do and will benefit greatly from them.
Cognitive Training means learning to think differently about driving, aggression on the road, and other drivers. Cognitive training is an important element in many anger management programs, which a few states now require for “road rage” behavior and/or aggressive driving. Some anger management classes and programs teach specific cognitive and behavior skills to control aggressive, inconsiderate, and dangerous driving behaviors.
These skill include:
Managing life stress better, including time-management skills.
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.
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 – Acceptance
While sometimes workplace anger is manifest in “exploding.” other times it is born of grievances held by employees over any number of workplace issues. Much research shows that learning to accept and let go of the wrongs done to you can release your anger and resentment. This, in turn, may improve your health, and help you focus on your job instead of your negative feelings.
Is “acceptance” easy? Of course not. Nor does it mean that you think that whatever happened to you was right, or that you have to like the offending person. What it does mean is “letting go” of the negative feelings you now experience when you remember a negative experience or you encounter the offending person.
The Anger Coach now offers its acclaimed and widely-accepted anger management program online. Dr. Fiore, a Ph.D. psychologist with over 45 years experience, developed this completely web-based program with the same content as in his local person anger management classes.
Typical Participant Comments FROM OUR CLASS PARTICIPANTS:
“I can really control myself!”
“Now, I think before I speak.”
“I now know it’s OK to be angry, as long as its the right way.”
“I’m more patient than I thought.”
“I’m happier, not so stressed.”
“My employees often tell me how level-headed I’ve become.”
“I’m now able to think with greater clarity.”
“I am more calm in tough situations.”
“My kids tell me I’m a calmer, happier parent.”
“I should have done this years earlier.”
“They should teach this stuff to grade school kids.”
But, many clients are unable to attend in-person classes due to busy schedules, or cannot find classes that are conveniently located near their work or home. Now, of course, it is almost impossible to find in-person classes because if the Covid-19 restrictions on group gatherings.
Anger Coach Online is perfect for anyone who needs an anger management program for personal development, to satisfy a court requirement, or to comply with workplace requirement. Couples can also take the course together and apply the eight tools of anger control to their relationship or marriage – and not have to worry about the health dangers of group meetings.
Based on the popular ebook “Anger Management for the Twenty-First Century,” written by Dr Tony Fiore and Dr. Ari Novick, our innovative program teaches you the eight tools of anger control — and how to apply them to your life — from the convenience of your home or office computer.
Anger Coach Online is an accepted, comprehensive, affordable and proactive way to gain skills in anger management. We have two home-study online classes to choose from: Our core course is a 10-hour class and our newly developed 16-hour class. Both are completely internet based with no downloads needed to take either class.
It seems that anger is everywhere in our society. One just has to read the newspaper daily or watch the evening news to conclude that controlling one’s angry feelings is a major challenge for many adults, teens, and children.
Uncontrolled anger is a major factor in domestic violence and spousal abuse, in aggressive driving violations, in workplace rudeness and disruption, and in marital conflicts and family fights. Several large and respected studies have shown that one-third of couples studied at least one incident of domestic violence during the course of their marriage. The same study found that about 1, 500,000 children per year are severely assaulted (kicked, punched, beaten up, burned) in their homes.
Managing angry feelings requires mastering specific thought and action skills and then practicing these skills on a daily basis. The costs to persons who do not learn how to regulate their negative emotions are high and include increased risk of relapse, loss of relationships, conflicts at work, loss of respect in the eyes of loved ones, and lowering of self-esteem.
A particularly high cost of anger is on your children. The effect of children witnessing extreme conflict in the home can be devastating—more harmful most of the time than a parental divorce. It is estimated that between 2.3 million and 10 million children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year in the United States alone.
Although many adults believe that they have protected their children from exposure to domestic violence, 80-90% of children in those homes can give detailed descriptions of the violence experienced in their families.
What is Anger?
We view angry feelings as a normal emotional reaction to frustration in our everyday world. It is natural to become angry when we have a goal and this goal is blocked in some way. Anger isn’t just one emotion, but a family of emotions that are related to each other both in our brains and in our behavior. People often give a variety of names to their angry feelings, which range from mild irritation to rage.
Once anger begins, it generates changes in our expressions, our faces, our voice, and changes in the way we think. It also creates impulses to action. In fact, the purpose of emotions such as anger is to organize and mobilize all of our bodily systems to respond to our environment in some way.
Anger, like all emotions, is regulated by that section of our brain called the “limbic system” (located in our mid brains beyond our inner ear) Emotional memories are stored in the “amygdala” and other structures which are located in this limbic system.
You may experience anger now in your life which may actually be caused by a mixture of what is triggering it now and experiences you have had in the past—even if you don’t remember them. This “old anger” is activated by your brain in its attempt to protect you— even though the original danger is no longer present.
It is up to the thinking part of the brain, our frontal lobes, to find a way to deal with the angry feelings the amygdala and other brain structures have set in motion. Fortunately, as thinking human beings we have the unique ability among mammals to have choices regarding how we will deal with our feelings.
My Model of Anger Management
In our view, anger management is NOT about never getting angry—that would be an impossible and ridiculous goal because angry feelings are “hard-wired” in your brain and probably serve a protective and survival function.
Rather, anger management is about learning how to regulate and express those natural angry feelings in a way that makes you a more effective human being. Persons who manage their anger well have better relationships, better health, and more occupational success than those who manage their anger poorly. They also get more of their needs met without antagonizing loved ones or colleagues.
Learning to manage anger involves mastering the eight tools of anger control that we have found to be highly effective in our local anger management classes. This model of anger management is not therapy and does not dwell on the past or the underlying reasons for anger. Rather, our approach is psycho-educational, skill-building, and practical drawing on recent research and findings in neuroscience, marriage/relationships, stress management, and the emerging science of happiness and optimism.
The Eight Tools of Anger Control
Tool 1 – Recognize Stress Stress and anger tend to go hand and hand. The higher one’s stress level, the easier it is to allow our anger to get out of control. It is a challenge for most of us to manage our stress levels in a complex world with many demands and expectations. Learning stress management techniques us an effective way to reduce the physical, behavioral, and emotional problems caused by too much stress.
Stress is often the trigger that takes us from feeling peaceful to experiencing uncomfortable angry feelings in many common life situations. Whether the stressor is external or internal, scientists have discovered that the major systems of the body work together to provide one of the human organism’s most powerful and sophisticated defenses; the stress response which you may know better as “fight-or-flight”. Before your stress response turns into anger or aggression, use stress management strategies to get it under control.
Tool 2 – Develop Empathy Have you ever been in a restaurant and noticed that the customers at the table next to you were speaking louder than anyone else? It was as if they had no idea that they were being so loud and intrusive to the rest of the patrons. This lack of awareness is often a sign of not being emotionally or socially alert. Or, have you ever been in a situation where you tried to express your feelings and it backfired in some way?
Some of us are very good at knowing how we feel and expressing it, while others struggle to do so. It is crucial to express emotion in order to relate to those around us. Our ability to know how we are feeling as well as our ability to accurately sense the feelings of those around us help us make positive connections with others. This characteristic is often called “empathy.”
To empathize is to see with the eyes of another, to hear with the ears of another, and to feel with the heart of another. Lack of empathy leads to poor communication and a failing to understand others. To manage anger, it often helps to see our anger as a combination of other people’s behavior and our lack of empathy toward them or their situation.
Tool 3 – Respond Instead of React Many times we become angry because we find people and situations that literally “push our buttons”, and we react just like a juke box that automatically pulls down a record and starts playing when you make a selection. Rather than reacting to anger triggers in this fashion, you can learn to choose how to deal with frustrating situations — to respond rather than automatically react like that juke box.
There are many advantages to learning to how be more flexible in dealing with the stresses and frustrations of life. At the top of the list is a sense of empowerment. It just feels good and powerful to know that you are in charge of your response, rather than being controlled by other people or circumstances. Many people notice their anger level going down as their feeling of empowerment goes up.
Tool 4 – Change That Conversation With Yourself “For some reason whenever I get upset I am always putting myself down” said one woman in an anger management class. “Even my friends tell me I am just too hard on myself”, she said. When I get upset, I will often say things like, “I’m such a loser”, or, “if I don’t make it on time, everyone will think I’m a jerk”, the woman explained. “Sometimes I even tell myself that I am worthless and stupid when I make mistakes.”
A crucial tool in dealing with angry feelings is that of challenging that conversation with yourself. Like the woman described above, you are constantly telling yourself all kinds of things which cause you to have certain feelings or emotions—even though you may not realize it. Learning to change that “self-talk” empowers you to deal with anger more effectively in terms of how strongly you feel the anger, how long you hold onto your anger, and how you express your anger.
Tool 5 – Communicate Assertively Good communication skills are an essential ingredient to anger management because poor communication causes untold emotional hurt, misunderstandings, and conflict. Words are powerful, but the message we convey to others is even more powerful and often determines how people respond to us and how we feel toward them.
Anger expressed toward others is often a misguided way of communicating a feeling we have or a need that is not being satisfied by other people or situations. Assertive communication—as distinct from aggressive communication— is a set of skills to honestly and effectively communicate how you feel and how you are responding to things—without getting angry or hostile about it.
Tool 6 – Adjust Expectations Have you ever been told your expectations are too high? Anger and stress can often be caused when our expectations are too far apart from what is realistic to achieve. In other words, anger is often trigg
ered by a discrepancy between what we expect and what we get.Learning to adjust those expectations—sometimes upward and other times downward—can help us cope with difficult situations or people, or even cope with ourselves. In marriage, research shows that much anger is caused by trying to solve problems which are unsolvable and perpetual. Successful couples learn to live with each other around these issues rather than getting angry about them.
Tool 7 – Forgive But Don’t Forget! Anger is often the result of grievances we hold toward other people or situations, usually because of our perception and feeling of having been wronged by them in some way. Resentment is a form of anger that does more damage to the holder than the offender. Holding a grudge is letting the offender live rent free in your head. Making the decision to “let go” (while still protecting ourselves) is often a process of forgiveness – or at least acceptance – and is a major step toward anger control.
Tool 8 – Retreat and Think Things Over! Jim and Mary Jones loved each other deeply, but often went into horrific verbal battles over any number of issues. However, they were unable to give each other “space” during an argument insisting they solve the issue immediately. Even worse, Mary often physically blocked Jim from leaving and would follow him from room to room demanding discussion. Needless to say, this is a dangerous practice as it can escalate levels of anger even further and cause partners to do and say things they don’t really mean and may later regret!
Research shows that we are pretty much incapable of resolving conflicts or thinking rationally in an argument when our stress level reaches a certain point. To avoid losing control either physically or verbally, it is often best to take a temporary “time-out” – and leave. This tool of anger management works much better if (a) you commit to return within a reasonable amount of time to work things out, and (2) you work on your “self-talk” while trying to cool down.
Conflict is difficult for many people. People with codependency often learn to avoid conflict due to fear of abandonment, rejection, and/or criticism. Learning conflict resolution skills makes it easier to handle conflict effectively so you learn not to fear confrontation. Often with the need to people please and receive outside validation, codependents avoid confrontation.
The following are skills you can use to lean into conflict in a healthy way rather then avoid it all together:
Prepare by getting clear about the problem.Clarify your position by writing down talking points as reminders and to keep you focused.
Practice your talking points with a friend or in the mirror.
Use deep breathing to control your anxiety prior to the meeting. Take conscious breaths during the discussion.
Be ready to experience the “newness” that change brings. If you can shift your thinking from a focus on the unknown to recognize that change involves “newness”—new things, people, places, and ideas—with at least some of it bringing excitement and interest, you’ll feel a whole lot better about it.
Be clear about your bottom line and the things you are willing to negotiate. Understand that negotiation is part of the process and expect it.
Look for points of agreement. Find things that you agree on and talk about how to find a win-win solution that benefits everyone.
Do your homework. It helps to have a good idea of what the other person wants to strengthen your position in negotiations.
Use assertive language. “I want. . .” Or “I would like. . .” Ask what the other person wants, then work toward a solution that works for both of you.
Ask for clarification or details about anything you are unclear on.
Take a break. If you feel overwhelmed by the process, take a break. Go to the restroom or get a drink and take some deep breaths.
Give positive feedback. Let the other person know that you see their point of view, or agree on certain key issues.
Table it. If you do not get the minimum you are asking for, suggest that you table the discussion for now and talk about it again later. Don’t give up or give in unless you are certain you have reached a stalemate.
Download a FREE Worksheet PDF file called “Areas of Change” that will help you develop the techniques discussed in this article.
Lack of sleep intensifies anger, impairs adaptation to frustrating circumstances
Losing just a couple hours of sleep at night makes you angrier, especially in frustrating situations, according to new Iowa State University research. While the results may seem intuitive, the study is one of the first to provide evidence that sleep loss causes anger.
Other studies have shown a link between sleep and anger, but questions remained about whether sleep loss was to blame or if anger was responsible for disrupted sleep, said Zlatan Krizan, professor of psychology at Iowa State. The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, answers those questions and provides new insight on our ability to adjust to irritating conditions when tired.
“Despite typical tendencies to get somewhat used to irritating conditions — an uncomfortable shirt or a barking dog — sleep-restricted individuals actually showed a trend toward increased anger and distress, essentially reversing their ability to adapt to frustrating conditions over time. No one has shown this before,” Krizan said.
Eight things you can do to improve sleep:
Avoid alcohol, large meals, exercise and smoking at least two to three hours before bed.
Turn off from work and technology at least an hour before bed.
Go to bed as soon as you feel tired. If you wait too long, it will be harder to fall asleep.
Avoid watching TV or reading an exciting page-turner in bed.
Go to bed at around the same time each night. Ideally this should be before midnight.
Sleep in a dark, well ventilated room.
Deep sleep is the phase of sleep where you benefit most. It happens in the first third of your sleep. Avoid environments where you could be disturbed during this phase.
Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night
Read the original article from the Iowa State University website here.
Spending so much time together in social isolation during the pandemic is bound to challenge the patience and coping skills of many partners. Fortunately, new technology has been developed to help you stay calm called “Gaze-Spotting” based on the original work of Dr. David Grand, developer of a technique called Brainspotting.
STEP 1 :Walk away from hearted argument, telling your spouse you need some time to calm down- but that you promise you’ll return later to work it out. Do not yell, call names, or be nasty.
STEP 2 : Sit in a comfortable place where you an be alone. Mentally scan your body from head to toe. Become aware of where in you body you feel the tension, the anger or the frustration with your partner that triggered your anger.
STEP 3 :Also Notice in your body where you feel the most calm, grounded, and centered.
STEP 4 : Focus your awareness to this grounded, calm body place. Stay there for 10-15 seconds. Notice where your eyes are focusing while having your attention on your body calm place.. (You can do this with your eyes opened or closed.) Let your eyes settle on a spot (called a gazespot) and maintain that eye position.
STEP 5 :As you keep your eyes on this “Gazespot,” focus on the argument you just had with your partner. While you think about it keep your eyes on your Gazespot.
STEP 6 : Think of how irritated you are at your partner and notice how activated you are around it. Pick a number from 1-10 which you will use as a gauge to represent the degree they have triggered your anger. 0 is neutral and 10 is highly activated.
STEP 7 : Without judging, continue to observe your thoughts as you gaze at your Gazespot and bring your awareness to your calm body place. Your mind may wonder as you keep your gaze on the spot. Just notice without directing your thoughts.
STEP 8 : Continue to observe what is going on in the various parts of you mind with curiosity, but try not to have expectations or judgement about what is going on.
Think about the original issue with your partner. How are you feeling now? Take an AngerCheck from 0-10. Continue a long as you like. End when you are ready and note your brain will continue to process.
To fix a truly troubled marriage takes much effort and commitment. But, many marriages or relationships just need a tune-up. One psychologist, Dr. Eli Finkel, calls these “Lovehacks” in his new and very well-researched and well-thought-out book “The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work.”
Lovehacks provide an efficient method for keeping our marriages afloat during challenging or busy times. There are times when we simply lack the ability or the motivation to make hefty additional investment, and there’s no shame, says Dr Finkel, in doing little things to make the relationship a bit stronger than it would be otherwise.
Lovehacks, according to Dr Finkel, have three defining features. First, they don’t take much time – which is crucial for today’s very busy and stressed couples. Second, they don’t require any coordination with, or cooperation from, our spouse. This is very important in those marriages wherein one partner is working harder or is more motivated than the other to resuscitate things. Third, they don’t require a major change or shift in expectations as many other marital therapy interventions do.
Love-Hacks fall into two major categories: those focused on countering weaknessesin your marriage and those focused on savoring strengths.
Lovehacks focused on countering weaknesses in your marriage
Marriage research clearly shows that how we think about and behave in conflict-relevant situations in our marriage is the factor that most reliably distinguishes successful from distressed marriages. As Dr Finkel says, some reactions are like a can of kerosene, others like a bucket of water.
Lovehack #1-Give your partner a break.
Practice perceiving negative behavior differently. It isn’t what they do as much as HOW YOU REACT AND INTERPRETE WHAT THEY DO that causes a problem – or not! Psychologists call this “attribution.”
For instance, your partner is late getting home from work causing you distress. To what do you attribute his lateness? Here are some possibilities:
He is late because he is a thoughtless jerk
He is late because he forgot to look at his watch at work
He is late because his crappy car broke down again
He is late because he got stuck in traffic
If we’re confident that our partner is, by and large, a decent person who want to do well by us, we should make attributions that give him or her the benefit of the doubt.
Lovehack #2-Reinterpret conflict.
Using this lovehack, spouses think about a conflict in their marriage from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved. This helps both partners gain perspective of the conflict with high empathy – so each can see the issue from the perspective of the other.
Lovehack #3-Adopt a growth mind-set about marriage.
You have a wide latitude in considering whether problems in your marriage are fixable. People with destiny beliefs think that partners either are or are not “meant to be.” They view conflict and other problems as indicators that they are simply incompatible with their partner.
On the other hand, people with strong growth beliefs think that partners can cultivate a high-quality relationship by working and growing together. So they are willing to try and fix things more when inevitable conflicts occur.
Lovehacks focused on Savoring Strengths:
Lovehack #6-Cultivate gratitude.
Gratitude serves as a “booster shot” for romantic relationships. Research shows that people who experience elevated levels of gratitude also experience stronger relationship commitment and are less likely to break up.
Lovehack #7-Help each other celebrate life’s achievements and successes.
When you respond to your partner’s positive life events in an enthusiastic, celebratory way, ask questions about it and show positive emotion about it, love often grows between you.
Lovehack #8-Affectionate touch.
This lovehack is particularly promising for helping our partner look at us with new eyes. Touching our partner makes them feel more loved by you and more secure in their relationship with you.
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.
Husband- When I got mad at you, you never fight back, How do you control your anger? Wife- I clean the toilet. Husband-How does that help? Wife- I use your toothbrush
As this little vignette illustrates, passive-aggression is a way to get even at someone behind their back, often without their even knowing that you are doing it. It is sneaky revenge to get your own way, to serve a pay-back, or to sabotage the efforts of your partner when appearing to want to help, cooperate, or solve the problem.
Common passive-aggressive behavior in relationships:
Agreeing to do something and then either not doing it at all, doing it poorly, doing it grudgingly.
Keeping score and then doing small things to your partner to balance the score card.
Constantly being late- but only with partner and always with a good excuse.
Violating marital agreements behind partner’s back…e.g. Revealing details of relationship that partner thinks should be kept private.
Withholding things (money, sex, affection, support)that they need to purposely frustrate your partner or to even a score.
Hiding hostility in jokes or sarcasm, then denying that is what you are doing when confronted. For instance, disparaging your partner’s cooking ability to cause hurt, then saying “I was just kidding”.
Allowing your child to do something or buying something for your child behind your partner’s back which violates an agreement or understanding you had..
Not sticking to the budget behind your partner’s back, or not even having a budget when budgeting is important to your partner.
Does your partner know they are doing these things? Sometimes your passive aggressive partner knows what they are doing- that is, they are doing it on purpose. They are snakes in sheep’s clothing. They want to get even with you so they smile while stabbing you in the back. Or they become catty or sarcastic, sending you double-meaning messages that you can’t comply with or make you feel helpless to deal with. You can read more about this on Airportkiss.com
Other times, however, they may not be aware themselves what they are doing. For instance, as a little girl Sue felt defiant toward her parents who always pushed her to “do it faster”. At eight years old, the more her parents “pushed” her, the more she slowed down. This pattern became “etched” in her brain circuits.
Fast forward twenty years…
At age 28 her husband says “honey, hurry up, we will be late for the dinner reservation”. Inside her brain, an alarm goes off reminding her of someone trying to control her again.As was the case before with her parents, she did not openly defy her husband or even admit she is angry toward him for his demands, so her mind goes into passive-aggressive mode without her realizing it. She finds herself running late while telling to her husband to deal with it because she is doing the best she can.
Patterns of passive-aggression Your passive aggressive partner will often deny that they are doing what they are plainly doing right before you, or they twist the reality of what they are doing by justifying it, or minimizing it. Often they may attack you as a defense, convincing you there is something wrong with YOU for being so upset over what they are doing.
Passive-aggressive partners are not emotionally honest people- at least not with their partners. They often are conflict-avoidant and will do anything to avoid a fight or confrontation. So, they do things behind their partner’s back as a way of coping with their partners- and staying out of trouble. Or sometimes, they are passive-aggressive as a learned method to get what they want with the least amount of hassle or conflict.
Like most personality traits, passive aggression is not either/or but on a continuum. Your partner may just have tendencies to be passive-aggressive or may be full- blown. They may be passive-aggressive with everybody, or just with you. Sometimes a small amount of passive-aggression is a good thing, but done routinely it causes major problems in relationships because it is not honest communication and is manipulative by nature.
FIVE STEPS TO DEAL WITH THE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE PARTNER
Step 1- Could you be the problem? The first step in dealing with the passive-aggressive partner is to ask yourself if you are unknowingly somehow part of the problem. Do you maybe create an atmosphere wherein it is easier for him/her to NOT be candid with you to avoid emotional pain or hassle? If so, the obvious solution is to find a way to have open communication with each other where you can both openly express opinions, feelings and thoughts without so much judgment, conflict or demands for change. Don’t turn you partner into a liar.
Step 2- Don’t be a victim of their passive-aggression Once you have identified your partner as a passive-aggressive, don’t plan your life around their promises or commitments if they don’t keep them. If it isn’t too bad, (but irritating) just accept that they are passive-aggressive, instead of getting angry about it. BUT, then ALWAYS have a plan B when dealing with them, until trust rebuilds. If they don’t show up on time at important events, go separately and meet them there.Make the bank deposits yourself is they are unreliable in this regard. In public, don’t set yourself up so they can ridicule, denigrate, or make fun of you.
Step 3- Write things down on paper, as in agreements. Couples aren’t used to writing down agreements they reach, but these can go a long way toward avoiding later conflicts in relationships, especially with passive-aggressives. This works especially well with things like home chore responsibilities, spending habits, and other family rituals such as meal preparation days, time spent daily to connect with each other, and understandings about what information about your relationship is private vs being shared with relatives or close friends.
Step 4- Share feelings when you suspect your partner is being passive-aggressive Let your partner know how you feel when they do something that bothers you or hurts you, instead of suppressing it or shoving it under the proverbial rug. They may not realize the effect their passive-aggressiveness is having on you. Be honest with them, so they have an opportunity to change their behavior if they elect to.
Say things like “I feel really hurt and unloved when you…”
Or, “I was humiliated and embarrassed when you got drunk and told everybody at the party about our sex life, like it was a joke”
Or, “I feel violated and untrusting toward you when you tell your parents personal stuff that I tell you, expecting that it will be held in confidence”.
Step 5 – Assertively consequences if they continue their behavior – then follow through. If their passive-aggressive behavior is truly something you cannot accept, and you elect not to tolerate it, the next step is to make clear the consequences of their continued passive-aggressiveness. As an example, if your partner continues to overspend to the extent that they are ruining the FICO scores of both of you and propelling the family toward bankruptcy, you can insist on separate bank accounts, credit cards etc. Don’t just threaten, however – you must follow through in order to survive.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE THE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE PERSON
What should you do if you are the passive-aggressive person and your behavior is threatening to destroy a relationship?
Acknowledgement of a problem is the first step toward solving it. Start by looking at your behavior. If indeed you have tendencies in the PA direction, vow to yourself to start being more honest in your communication with loved ones, even if there might be some painful consequences for you. If something bothers you about your partner or the relationship, deal with it up front instead of letting it fester and grow for a long period of time.
Instead of “getting even” with your partner because of the issue, try dealing with it in a mature loving way- start by talking about it. The strategy of “peace at any price” isn’t a good one because putting off “the talk” often just makes things much worse in the long run.
Giving up passive-aggression is often an issue in your character development. Like any character trait, you need to decide to change for anything to happen. Often this change is motivated by fear of losing something or someone you love – .like your partner or your family. Keeping this fear in mind often can propel you to communicate differently- less passive-aggressively and more real, genuine, and honest.
Remember, it is Ok to FEEL anger and hostility. All people in relationships do. The issue is how you deal with and communicate this natural anger. As a matter of personal growth, you will be much less passive-aggressive (and much less angry generally) if you acknowledge your anger and express it in healthy ways to feel better and to resolve conflicts.
My 94 year old father with whom I have always had a rocky, angry relationship recently died. At his memorial service in a small Midwestern town, I had an eye-opening experience. The room was filled with people who talked about how loving and giving my father was. About how humorous he was and how much of a joy he was to have around. “He was always giving,” they said, and doing nice things for others, like volunteering at the local hospital up until 2 days before his death. No one mentioned anything about his anger.
This was not the father I remember growing up with. I saw him as quite self-centered, self-absorbed, distant, moody, and grim. He was not much fun to be around most of the time in my memory. He was often angry and raging to the extent that my mother went around the house to close the windows so the neighbor’s wouldn’t hear his rants and embarrass her. As I remembered him as a child, he had almost zero empathy and very little flexibility in his opinions about things or people. He was often defensive and would not take responsibility for his mistakes.
Back at the memorial service, a local pastor stepped up the podium and make remarks about my father. This pastor had been counseling him for several years. He said that in later years, my dad had had many regrets and misgivings in his life and that he wished he could make up for his shortcomings, especially regarding how he treated his children. He decided to transform his life in later years and be a better person. I recall that he tried to connect with his children (including me) in later years but I could not get past the memory of who he had been and I could not trust that he had truly changed. So, out of anger and hurt I kept my emotional distance. Even in later years, I did not see my father as so many other people did. And, I didn’t realize that so many other people saw him differently than I did. When I was with him, I lived in my perception of him, as he did me.
So, why did I begin this blog with a picture of an elephant with men touching it? Because this picture is connected with an old parable that explains much. Here it is:
The Blind Men Touching The Elephant Parable: Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”
They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Everyone of them touched the elephant.
“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
“Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
“Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
“It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
“It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
“It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
They began to argue about the elephant and everyone of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features that you all said.”
“Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.
The moral of the story is that there may be some truth to what someone says. Sometimes we can see that truth and sometimes not because they may have different perspective which we may not agree with. So, rather than arguing like the blind men, we should say, “Maybe you have your reasons.” This way we donâ€™t get into arguments.
I was very happy that Dad ended his life surrounded by people who who loved him and could see him for what he had become and also accept him for what flaws remained. We should all remember that when we are angry or resentful toward someone for misdeeds or injustices, often our negative feelings are based on our Perceptions of the situation, not necessarily the full reality of the situation. You may have just been feeling the trunk, in our elephant metaphor, but not perceiving the ears or the legs. People are complex; we should try not to rush to judgment and assume that they are only as we see them. They may be much more or much less- or they may have changed over time and we didn’t see it.
So, the lesson here is that we should try never to forget the following: Perception is your reality. But not necessarily the whole truth.
The result of this kind of thinking will be to lose a lot of that anger. Trust me.
Up to 40% of people who divorce wish they hadn’t done so. Yet, many of these people say they tried “everything”,including couples therapy, but to no avail. Why doesn’t couples therapy,even done by experienced and competent therapists prevent breakup more of the time?
One reason is that both partners and the therapist often don’t have the same agenda. Recent research in Minnesota by Dr. William Doherty shows that up to 30% of couples coming to therapy are “mixed-agenda” couples where one is leaning out of the relationship and is reluctant to work on it, and the other wants to save the relationship
That means that only two people in the therapy room really are willing to work hard to save the marriage or relationship: the therapist and the “leaning in” partner. This is known as a “mixed-agenda”; in other words, everybody is not on the same page as it may appear on the surface. So, therapy starts with one of the therapist’s hands tied behind his/her back. If the therapist tries to persuade the “leaning out” partner to to stay in the marriage, they are immediately at odds with each other.
As an alternative, Dr. Doherty has developed a protocol called “Discernment Counseling” (http://www.discernmentcounseling.com)as a precursor to either divorce or couples therapy. You can get a family mediation lawyer, to have it court order to go through family counceling. Its goal is NOT to fix the marriage but to discern if the marriage can be fixed. Its like receiving a medical diagnosis that requires extensive treatment. Before taking the treatment you have to decide if you want to or not, considering effort involved, side-effects of the treatment, cost, etc.
Discernment Counseling provides different services to the mixed-agenda partners who have different needs. For the “leaning out” partner, discernment counseling helps them make a decision based on deeper understanding of the relationship and their role in its problems and potential future. Even if they leave the marriage, this understanding will help them in future relationships. For the “leaning in” partner, discernment counseling helps them bring their best self to the relationship and to learn to relate differently so as not to continue to make things worse by well meaning but futile attempts to save the marriage.
Discernment counseling is time limited from a minimum of one two-hour session to a maximum of five sessions. At the end of the process, the couple will decide on one of three paths they are going to take: Path 1- Continue as things are now Path 2- Pursue divorce or separation Path 3- Fully participate in couples therapy and other interventions for a period of six months with divorce or separation off the table.
Having a clear decision as to what path you are both on will give both partners much more clarity and confidence in a decision about the future of your relationship, based on a deeper understanding of what’s happened to your relationship and each of your contributions.
For more information, first review Dr. Doherty’s website at http://www.discernmentcounseling.com), then call Dr Fiore (714-745-1393) for local services in either Long Beach or Newport Beach, CA.
Let’s face it. All couples fight. In successful relationships as well as others. Having fights is not necessarily a sign that your relationship is doomed to failure.
If all couples fight, What then makes the difference between successful vs unsuccessful relationships?
Simply put, one major difference is having the skills and ability to repair the emotional damage done during the fight. Some couples simply can’t get past it and simmer for days, weeks, even months. I know of one couple that kept a resentment for years. They didn’t divorce – they simply built a wall between them and added a few more bricks every month until there basically was no hope of reconnecting.This couple slept in separate bedrooms, rarely talked to each other, ate meals separately and kept separate financial resources. They basically were roommates.
Other couples fortunately have better skills and can bounce back from a conflict, a bad behavior on the part of one or the other, or from the pain of a grievance. Some couples just know how to do it. Mary and Jim were such a couple. They were a young professional couple with no children but strong personalities and a strong need for autonomy. She often wanted to do something that he considered irresponsible or not practical (she was an artist). He would “question” her on it (which she heard as a challenge). Her response? Anger, saying to herself “he is not going to tell ME what to do.” He replied that he was not trying to tell her what to do, he was just inquiring as to what was going on.
This led to an escalating fight with each “pushing the buttons” of the other until they no longer could stand to be in the same room. In effect, they had activated each other’s psychological alarm system so both their brains were now in a “fight and protect” mode. So they sulked for a while, until their nervous systems calmed down to normal levels. This allowed one of them (Mary) to quietly say “I’m sorry.” Then came, “I really love you and can’t imagine life without you.” Jim then said, “Let’s get on the same team and figure out a solution to the issue.”
More generally, partners with good repair skills do with following:
They keep the relationship itself in mind when arguing over an issue. It’s not only about “winning” – certainly not at the cost of rupturing the relationship. They WANT the relationship to work. They strive for emotional connection and harmony.
They realize that not all couples problems are fixable – some issues will always be there. The trick to repair is to learn how to live with each other around the issues rather than trying to change the other person to make them less irritating to you. The challenge is to cope (within reason and without losing your “self” in the process) better while finding ways to satisfy each other’s needs.
They are mature enough to realize that their partners have a perfect right to their own opinions and ways of doing things. They try to drop judgment and instead strive to understand their partner better.
Finally, couples with good repair skill do not bring up the past to use as a weapon. They stick to the current issue without slamming their partner with insults, name-calling, accusations, or “dead cow” issues.
Jim and Sally have been married for 10 years. They argue so much that friends invite them for dinner a lot because they provide the evening’s entertainment with their bickering and constant conflict. Their arguments are over many of the same issues over and over again. They just seem to trigger angry responses in each other and it is never ending. Watching them reminds one of seven year olds fighting in the sand box.
If you took a picture snapshot at any point in time you might think that one of them is the culprit starting the fights. But, taking a snapshot at another point in time might give you a different impression, as you observe the “victim” actually now provoking their partner.
Truth is, they are in a strange, intimate dance with each other even though they probably don’t realize it. Psychologists might say that we are observing the battle of part of the brain called the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure in the limbic system. It is in the amygdala that hurts, pain and anger are stored. Its purpose is to protect you from harm, even though the threat is not physical but the verbal assaults of your partner. So, it immediately prepares you for fight and survival. You are programmed to attack back,to protect yourself.You are reacting on a nervous system level but may not be aware of this fact. It happens so rapidly that things can spin out of control before you know it. And the anger dance begins.
The “Issue” Is Not The Only Issue It may appear that you are fighting over the kids,who should do the dishes, or how much money you should spend on a new car. But you are also fighting on deeper levels often without your awareness. My experience with many scores of couples is that you are really fighting because you are triggering in each other old ways of feeling or behaving toward someone you love which you learned as a child from caretakers or others. Under stress, your brain reverts back to that earlier learning, never mind that you are now an adult professional, a responsible community member, and a parent. So, instead of being a reasonable human being, you become that petulant child who is not getting his way, you grind on your partner over minor infractions to wear him or her down (just like you wore down your parents), or you openly rebel to communicate feeling hurt and rejection.
In the heat of battle. many partners forget to pay attention to the damage they may be doing to the relationship itself in how they are fighting or arguing. They focus on winning the battle, but lose sight that they may be losing the war. What good is winning the argument if you are pissed at each other afterward or experiencing feelings of hurt for days or weeks? Successful couples broaden their lens and see that they must always be aware of how what they do or what they say will affect the relationship itself. Successful partners know that even if they conflict or disagree with the benefits of softening your water, they have each other’s back and they feel secure in knowing that they will be there for each other, regardless of the outcome of the specific argument.
<strongThe Dance of Security Feeling secure in a relationship seems to be a basic human need. Secure functioning should be a major goal of any intimate connection. When there is secure functioning, partners protect each other at all times, in both public and private. They notice how they are affecting each other. When they emotionally injure each other, they know how to make quick repairs. Secure functioning partners are skilled at being able to quickly change their own emotional state and positively influence the emotional state of their partner. They think in terms of what is best for both of them not only as individuals but also as a couple.
Problem is, partners often come into relationships with different styles of feeling secure. This is because of different backgrounds and different ways of learning how to “attach” to loved ones. Unless partners learn to deal with each other’s styles of attachment, they will trigger INSECURITY in each other which often leads to anger and other negative emotions. Jim, for instance , doesn’t believe in talking in public about personal things; he believes in strict boundaries. He is self-contained and doesn’t turn to others for emotional support or problem-solving. Sally, on the other hand, loves to talk and to share everything with everybody, especially after a few glasses of wine. Talking and getting feedback from others helps to regulate her emotions and feel good and connected with others. She firmly believes that Jim should love her no matter how she behaves in public; if he shows disapproval, this means he doesn’t really love her (in her thoughts). She doesn’t see that she is doing anything wrong.
Clearly, they are working against each other. That which reduces her anxiety, increases his, and vice versa. She becomes more and more angry and resentful as he pulls away and increasingly avoids her. He doesn’t deal with anger directly, so he starts to “passive-aggress” her by snipping,jabbing, innuendo and sarcasm. She fights back by denying him sex later that night. He complains. The next day she accuses him of not loving her for her and says that he is emotionally unavailable and she can’t stand it any longer. The dance is on but it is anything but a fluid tango….it is more like a war dance.
Putting the Pieces Together Partners come in all sizes and shapes emotionally, many with ragged edges which we sometimes don’t see until later when the dating hormones settle down. At this stage, sometimes partners worry they are fundamentally incompatible with each other, that they may have made a mistake or that they were deceived by the other who is now clearly showing a different side to their personality. In couples therapy, we explain to the partners that they are probably going through a developmental period in which they are challenged to learn how to function as individual yet learn to do things differently so as not to trigger insecurity and anger in the other.
The simplified principle is this: Instead of trying to change your partner,find a way to give your partner what they need so they will be more motivated and eager to give you what you need. Both of you will feel more secure and will co-create what Dr. Stan Tatkin calls “the couple bubble.”
In our case example, Sally and Jim both have hard-wired (and different) styles of attachment and ways of regulating their emotions to feel comfortable. It is highly unlikely that either can change this. They can greatly decrease their levels of conflict, however, by accepting the differences between them and doing things to make the other more emotionally secure. Each needs to ask himself/herself what they are doing to make their partner feel better, not worse. They need to further ask themselves why they are doing things (like bringing up personal marriage thing in public) that they know emotionally (and socially) harms their partner. Or why Jim doesn’t share more with Sally when he knows that she needs this to feel secure inside and feel loved. If we love someone, shouldn’t job number one be to try to make them happy (within reason) and be a source of need satisfaction for them (as long as it is reciprocal and we are getting it back)?
I hate to hear parents screaming at their kids. Why? Because it doesn’t work! It creates a bad feeling between parent and child! It makes the “yeller” look very bad socially (if done in public). It encourages “push back” from the yelled-at child. Did I mention that it doesn’t work? Anger Management is an important parenting skill.
When I was growing up on Cleveland, Ohio, I had a mother could have used anger management. She yelled a lot. Out of love and concern, mind you, but it was still yelling. Sometimes it was over minor things, other times over safety issues and other times over character development. She did it so much that my brother and I became immune to it, especially as we got older.
Truthfully, much of the time it went in one ear and out the other.
Our response to a yelling request was usually something like “yea…mom…right away.” as we went on with our lives. AS I write this now, I feel a little guilty about it, because she was right about what she was yelling about, but horribly ineffective in changing some of our behavior. Like picking up after ourselves. Or, doing chores. Or, coming in for dinner on time while out playing. Or,- and this was a big one- us two brothers not fighting with each other.
When we became adolescents, she got desperate to get us to do things – now more serious things like having my brother not play tennis or baseball because he had osteoporosis in his arm. Or, insisting loudly that he practice the clarinet because lessons were being paid for. She pleaded, she harangued, she threatened, she yelled. nothing seem to work. My brother and I could easily persuade her to change her mind about things, to feel sorry for us, and….I must confess…manipulate her.
Except at some point she caught on and would utter those dreaded words in a threatening tone:
“Wait until your father gets home.”
Now that usually worked because my dad was….let us say charitably..a no-nonsense disciplinarian. Once he made up his mind about something, he never changed it, especially in terms of his parenting principals (like: “children should be seen and not heard;” “all teenagers are irresponsible,” and “get that mad look off your face, or I’ll give you something to be mad about.”
We were very well behaved in school because of my Dad’s edict that “if you get in trouble in school, you will get in twice that amount of trouble when you get home.”
But, at least he followed through on his “consequences” when we behaved badly, whereas mom often would not.Unfortunately, his rigid and unbending rules caused much frustration and stifled creativity. It also unfortunately taught us that there was no negotiating with an authority figure.. your only choice was to succumb/comply or suffer pain.If you have dogs buy retractable dog leashes review and make you kids walk the dog.
On a scale of 1-10, we would do what dad said at a 10. He only needed to say it once (most of the time).
Fair or not, at least we knew what the deal was and what the rules were. Break them at your own peril.
The “cost” of that approach to parenting was that there was little or no closeness between my father and his male children. We “listened” to him, but did not have a close emotional connection with him.
So, how do you get your kids to change their behavior without yelling or without losing emotional connection with them? In short, how can you be an effective parent?
First of all, don’t yell; it is useless most of the time, and in most circumstances. In fact, it makes things worse because as they get older kids start seeing you as emotionally unstable, and they mighy lose respect for you, which is not a good thing at all.Read more about this on www.portableacnerd.com.
There are many other ways to deal with your children.Being mindful of alternatives will make you a more effective parent.Following are some tips that should be helpful:
*Be consistent with your house rules. Write the rules out and stick them on your refrigerator. Then if your kids act out, it is against the rules, not you personally. It puts a degree of separation between you and the bad behavior or your kids.
* You and their other parent must agree on the rules and standards and back each other up (within reason), even if you don’t agree with each other 100%.
*Tell your children how you feel when they do such and such. Rather than telling them how stupid, wrong, or immoral they are, tell them how disappointed you are in their behavior.
* Before yelling, take a time out and cool down. Come back later to deal with it. it only takes a few seconds of rage to cause a lot of damage in your relationship with your children.
Tell that to Sally and Jim who argue constantly and fight like cats and dogs over almost every issue. Both are highly successful, intelligent and verbal so there is no end to issues over which to fight. If perchance they do run out of issues temporarily, they creatively start fighting about fighting. They need anger class 101.
Let’s listen to the dialogue for a moment: with one accusing the other of being unfair or talking “with that sneer of yours,” or “shouting at me.” while the other insists they are not shouting.
As a couples therapist, and someone who has conducted over 1000 anger classes in Southern California and a calgary naturopath, I sometimes want to say to one or the other: “Why don’t you just keep your mouth shut so avoid an argument? Partners often inflame each other, escalate anger, and talk themselves into major fights which could easily be avoided with the practice of temporary silence. This is known as the tool of “Retreat and Think Things over” in out system of anger management.
As Lao Tzu is quoted as having said:
“Silence is a Source of Great Strength.”
But, back to Sally and Jim who continue the argument:
Yes, Jim says, but I am right and she knows that I am right, so why should I silence myself?” “The restaurant WAS where I said it was – NOT where she kept insisting (wrongly) it was located.”
“Oh Lord, It is so hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way”
…….Mack Davis song, 1980
Know anyone who ALWAYS has to be right, like Jim? Not only do they always have to be right, they have an irrepressible urge to point out when they factually know that you are wrong. So,like Jim, they correct you, contradict you, argue with you, contest everything you say, and then later remind you that “I told you so” if there is any evidence that you are wrong and they were right.
The frustrating thing is, often these people ARE right, or partiality right as http://stridestrong.com says. But, few important issues in the world are about absolute right or absolute wrong. They are about shades of each. Only very rigid people divide the world into absolute rights or absolute wrongs. Partial truths often drive arguments because of mis-communication or misunderstanding.
“Black and White People” vs “Gray” people.
“Black and white” people see the world in absolutes. It is either this way or that way. “Gray” people see in between possibilities, and understand that “truth” or “reality” in many cases is a matter of perception..not a matter of fact. Often, “black and white” people marry “gray” people and the fight is on.
Some common examples: Jim sees wife Mary as stubborn and unbending. She sees herself as morally right, principled, and duty-bound to do things Jim does not agree with. As another example, Mary sees Jim as lazy, not ambitious, and negligent in his household duties. Jim sees himself as evolving to the place in life where he can enjoy life, have fun with the kids, and generally appreciate his good health and financial freedom.
Who is right and who is wrong in these examples? Honestly, is your experience that the world most people live in is black and white, or do most issues fall in the gray area?
Four ways to deal with a partner who sees the world differently than you do.
1.LET IT GO.
For some people, it is part of their personality and their ego. They cannot stand not to be right, correct an injustice, or make sure you know the right way to do things. It validates them and makes them feel good about themselves to be right and to prove you wrong. You should not be around a person like this unless you are super-secure. Let them be right in their own minds, if they have to. Let it go! (Most times). If they swear it is noon; calmly show them a clock showing it is 1pm. Do you want to learn more? Then just click here and read the website.
2. AGREE TO DISAGREE
On many issues in a relationship (research shows 69%), you are never going to agree anyway. So, agree to disagree and don’t bring the subject up unless the “house is on fire.” (or unless it is really doing damage to someone)
3. SEPARATE IN YOU REMIND THE ISSUE FROM WHO YOUR PARTNER REALLY IS. Personally, I like many people even though they are diametrically opposed to things I truly believe in. If you get irritated over one slice of behavior displayed by your partner, try to see him or her as a total person.
4. DON’T TALK AN ISSUE TO DEATH TRYING TO PERSUADE YOUR PARTNER OF ITS TRUTH OR YOUR RIGHTNESS. Sometimes the more it is talked about, the worse it gets. Let the issue get some rest. MAybe it will recover sooner.
There are many definitions of a hypocrite, but the one that I wish to discuss in this blog is a person who professes one thing but does another. The hypocrite imposes standards on others to which his or her own behavior does not comply.
The Anger Hypocrite
One specific type of hypocrite that I often see in my couples work is what I call the anger hypocrite.
Simply explained, the anger hypocrite expects their partner not to lose anger control while they themselves rage uncontrollably and rarely control their own anger, frustration or displeasure. The anger hypocrite justifies their behavior by convincing themselves that their anger is a normal reaction to the horrible behavior displayed by their partner.
But, when you stop and think about it, is it fair to expect more of your partner than you deliver? Put in another realm, if you and your partner are both alcoholics and both agree to stop drinking, would you expect him/her to stop drinking while you continued (and then become upset when they drink)? Or, is it fair to demand financial responsibility from your partner if you are a spendthrift or don’t stick to an agreed upon budget? Preaching one thing but doing another spells hypocrisy, doesn’t it? Continue reading “Are You An Anger Hypocrite?”
Anger is one of the core emotions or feelings that human beings are hard-wired to experience whenever they are blocked from achieving a goal they have or an end result they wish to achieve. Anger Management is the process of learning how to deal with anger as a core emotion.
Everybody feels anger from time to time. Not feeling it can cause as many problems as eggshell exploding over minor frustrations, set-backs or obstacles placed between us and what it is we may want.
Some anger management programs try teach clients to be less angry. Often this works if people can learn to experience life events in a different way so as not to no longer activate those parts of the human brain that trigger anger in us. For example, rather than telling ourselves that a bad driver on the road is out to get us and make our day miserable we can tell ourselves that they probably were preoccupied with something else and did not even notice they were cutting us off. Continue reading “Anger Management: Learn to Diffuse The Angry Emotion”