Category Archives: Anger Dynamics

Anger = Expectation + Interpretation (ver. 1)

Anger = Expectation + Interpretation
(Ver. 1)

Do you easily get angry at what someone else says or does? Their offensive behavior (such as someone insulting you, or your child disobeying you) is a “trigge eventr” for your anger.

You don’t need to pull that trigger! You really CAN manage your anger. And by that I mean reduce its intensity, or eliminate the angry feeling altogether in any specific situation. How?

Your anger is the result of your own thoughts about the “trigger event” (that offensive thing someone else did or said).

Your Expectations Set You Up.  Were you caught off guard? Or did you expect

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Anger = Expectation + Interpretation (ver. 2)

Anger = Expectation + Interpretation
(ver. 2)

Do find yourself getting angry at what someone else says or does? Their offensive behavior (such as someone insulting you, or your child disobeying you) is referred to as a “trigger event” for your anger.

In reality, you don’t need to pull that trigger! You really CAN manage your anger better. By that I mean you can reduce its intensity, or even eliminate the angry feeling altogether, in any specific situation.

How?

Recognize the importance of expectations and interpretations.

The plain and simple truth is this: Your anger is the result of your own thoughts about the “trigger event” and not the trigger event itself. It’s not your child, or your child’s behavior that make you angry. It’s your own thoughts about it that make you angry. You probably are familiar with the much-discussed medical phenomenon that a “stressful” event may or may not result in a person experiencing a stress reaction. It all depends on the person’s state of mind, and her thought process, in dealing with an event that could easily be seen as “highly stressful.“

The same is true for a person’s response to a ‘trigger event.” The response depends entirely on the person’s state of mind (mind-set, thought process).

Consider, for example, a typical trigger event that appears to set parents off: unacceptable child behavior, like backtalk or disobedience. (This analysis applies equally to any event that anyone can experience at any time–for example, being delayed in the check-out lane at the grocery store, or hearing someone call you an insulting, vulgar, or belittling name.)

Let’s say you have just said “No” to your son’s request to stay overnight at a friend’s house. He says, “You’re really stupid! Everyone else gets to go! Why do I have to have such dumb mother?”

That would get most parents’ blood boiling. But think about it. Who is making you mad in this case? Your angry, frustrated, and disrespectful child? Or is it your own mental process that gets you going? Admittedly, the child’s verbal blast is disrespectful. And it’s also wrong. You are not stupid, you are not dumb, and not everybody else gets to go to events like this.

So your emotional response as a parent depends entirely on your state of mind, that is, your mind-set, or your own thoughts about this trigger event. And you don’t have to pull the trigger! Instead of taking the insult personally, you can just as easily:

1. Expect your child to act that way because he’s immature and self-centered, and he has acted this way a thousand times before; and

2. Interpret what he said as an angry, primitive, disrespectful outburst by an immature, self-centered child who has been snubbed and is intensely disappointed and upset with you. So he lashes out by calling you stupid and dumb.

What he says about you does not define who you are! As I said, you are not stupid or dumb. Those are just your son’s words, and you don’t have to take them personally. Furthermore, the fact that he’s being disrespectful is absolutely no reflection on you. It’s his own anger and disappointment talking, and you have the power to see it as such–and nothing more.

This is a very empowering insight about anger, and it can radically change your life for the better–both in relation to managing your angry feelings, and in relation to your son. The simple truth is that your anger is the result of your own thoughts about the “trigger event” (that offensive thing someone else did or said). And you–not anyone else–can control your thoughts!

Your best response in any situation like this is to remain calm, cool, and collected, and realize that his offensive behavior is a “trigger” for your anger, but you don’t have to pull it. If you are sensitive to being disrespected by your son, you might say that “He’s pushing my buttons.” But please realize: it’s you who are placing that button on your chest as something that’s available and begging to be pushed! You can just as surely take it down and not make it available. How?

  1. By changing your expectations (make them more realistic, based on what you know about whom you are dealing with). And
  2. By doing some mental gymnastics (self-talk) to change your negative interpretation to a more positive one (by “giving him/her a pass,” telling yourself you are going to withhold judgment, telling yourself you are not going to take it personally, and telling yourself that getting angry isn’t worth it). These kinds of thoughts will reduce or eliminate your angry feelings.

Your expectations set you up.

Here are some ways to apply this to our example.

  1. Did you really expect him to do or say something different? Or did you just hope for it?
  2. Was your expectation realistic, given what you know about your son?
  3. Might it be helpful to change your expectation of your son based on his previous reactions?

Your interpretations bring you down.

Here’s how your interpretation can affect your response in our example.

  1. Do you really think his/her offensive behavior reflects on you, or defines who you are?
  2. Do you take his insult personally? You don’t have to!
  3. It’s your own behavior (not his) that reflects on you–unless you expect to be the perfect parent, and have kids who never do things wrong.

When you can regularly change your expectations and interpretations of other people’s offensive behavior in the heat of the moment, you will reduce your stress, quiet your anger, improve your relationships, and change your life for the better. Believe it! And try it! It works!

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3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book  that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model and the New School Parenting model.  Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.

     Learn more.    Buy Now.   Table of Contents & Intro

Anger in Relationships — Handout Set

Anger in Relationships — Handout Set

This 80+ page set of handouts if for a course that is 10-sessions in length — a course that literally saves people’s lives. If you, your child, or someone you are concerned about has an anger problem, the ideas in this set can literally bring about a life-changing transformation.

It is based on a thorough study of the “anger response cycle,” which describers how anger works form a psychological perspective (i.e., the causes of anger) and from a behavioral perspective (i.e., what to do with anger feelings).

The handouts describe in detail the 6 phases of the anger response cycle from “triggeer event” to “behavioral response.” This is an empowerment model becasue it clearly illustrates how our own thoughts about the trigger event cause our anger, not the trigger event itself. If we are insulted by an acquaintance in a public place, or by our own child, we are likely to respond with a flash of anger. Yet it is not the acquaintance or the child that makes us angry. It is our own “threat thoughts” about what was said or done that creates the angry feeling we experience.

This is an empowerment model because it clearly shows how our “threat thoughts” cause our anger and its intensity; but, by the same token, it is our thoughts (self-talk) that can minimize our anger and its intensity as well. Once we understand and accept that our thoughs cause our anger, we are empowered to correct our misguided thinking, which we can control. That, in turn, will minimize the intensity of our anger response, which we cannot so easilty control. The anger response is never wrong; it is the thinking that causes anger that is in error. And that can be fixed.

These handouts also address in detail the second half of the anger response cycle: what to do when angry. Whatever we say or do when angry is, again, controlled and determined by our thoughts — our “decision thoughts.” How should we best express our angry feelings so that we can turn tension, conflict, and anger into relief, harmony, and gratitude? The typical anger response of fight or flight might in rare instances be appropriate. But neither one resolves the problem that leads to anger.

There is only one behavioral response that can do this — and it has to do with words. Allmost al anger incidents start with words; and all anger incidents require words for resolution. What controls whether, and how, we use words in the anger situation? Our “decision thoughts.”

To summarize, these 80+ pages of handouts clearly show

  1. The causes of anger in all people (from toddlerds to old-timers, men and women);
  2. How anyone can minimize and control their angry feelings through self-talk (“mental gymnastics); and
  3. How anyone can use words to defuse a tense situation, and then introduce common understanding, agreement, and harmonious resolution.

Finally, no treatment of anger would be complete without dealing with the topic of forgiveness. All of us have, at one time or another, been hurt by someone — perhaps severely. Hanging on to these hurts can eat us up, and generate long-lasting toxic anger that can even cause serious physical illness.

Forgiveness is the only answer for our peace of mind. Forgiveness is for the forgiver, not the forgiven. In these hadnouts I use other authors to show how to use specific techniques to help one person forgive another in order to move forward with life with a lighter, more joyful spirit.

Buy Now  80+ pages, $4.99
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For a detailed presentation of the 9 key relationship skills needed in all healthy adult-adult or parent-child relationships, see the details of my book, 3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony.

Learn More about 3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony