Tag Archives: anger

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

 

Minimizing Anger with Mental Gymnastics (Self-Talk)

Minimizing Anger with Mental Gymnastics (Self-Talk)

Anger in the family is the source of all interpersonal conflict, hate, and violence. And parents are the ones who teach children how to handle those powerful feelings. Almost all anger responses to a trigger event are caused by one and the same thing: a perceived threat to one’s ego.

See my “Anger = Expectation + Interpretation,” version 1 and version 2.

See my “Anger in Relationships” Hand Out set, 80+ pages of detailed description of the anger response cycle, including 1) how our Threat Thoughts create our own anger feelings (rather than someone else “making” us angry); and 2) how we must use our Decision Throughts to respond behaviorally with words  that can defuse any anger situation and transform confrontation into agreement.

And almost all forms of getting control over one’s angry feelings in a way that actually reduces, minimizes, or even eliminates angry feelings in a wide variety of everyday situations is the same: namely, self-talk, or what I call “mental gymnastics.” Since 99.9% of all anger responses are caused by our own ego, or our “little self,” our “oh so important self”) taking something personally, our personal battle with anger and hurt feelings takes place within our own head. It’s never really a battle between me and you. It’s always me. My ego vs. my Higher Self, the part of me that observes me, that knows what’s right, that knows what it means to love and to respect.

Here is how we can minimize (and even eliminate) the vast majority of our anger feelings that are a defensive response to the pain of our bruised egos.

My Time-Out

When we feel anger our Higher Self can step back and observe our ego, our “little me,” and put this observation into words. Our Higher Self might do some self-talk such as:

“Oh, here it comes again. My “little me” (the part that puts myself first, must win, and must be better than) must be feeling threatened by something it perceives as not me. Hmmm, that’s interesting. I wonder what it is that makes my “little me” feel threatened.

We might then say to the other person something like, “I need a timeout, I’m feeling angry. I’ll be back.” Then we might physically leave the situation and take a break while we ponder three things.

1) The other. What is it in this person right now that my “little self” is feeling so threatened by? What does my “little self” feel is so unacceptable that it feels threatened by it?
– Could it be my child’s angry defiance?
– Could it be this person’s disrespect for me?
– Could it be this person’s need to assert his/her personal power?
– Could it be his/her ability to resist my influence?
– Hmmm, that’s interesting…maybe that’s it.

2) Myself. Okay, so how is it that my “little self” feels so threatened by that? Is it possible that my “little self” does not recognize that aspect of the other person in me, too? Does my “little self” not see that I, too, have that same quality or need? Furthermore, is it possible that my “little self” might dimly recognize it in me, but refuses to accept it as something that I share? If my little self doesn’t want to accept it as a legitimate part of me, then why would my “little self” accept it as a legitimate part of the other? Hmmm, that’s interesting.

3) Acceptance. Well, maybe with a little more time I can talk my “little self” into accepting that same quality as part of me, too. And if I can deal with it adequately in me, them maybe my “little self” does not really need to be so afraid of it, and can accept it in the other.

The Dialogue

Then, having identified and consciously accepted the objectionable quality as something that’s part of me too, and not really all that bad, different, or threatening, my Higher Self has begun a very fruitful dialogue of acceptance with my “little me.” Then I might go back to the other person and re-engage with him/her, too, in a way that is more accepting and not so fearful, angry, and defensive. In other words, I could re-engage with that person in a way that is really much more compassionate, understanding, and accepting of him/her because I am more compassionate, understanding, and accepting of me.

At this moment my Higher Self might say to the other person something like, “Okay, Joan, let’s talk about what just happened.” Or, “Okay, John, do we need to talk about this? “ Or, “Okay, Michelle, do you have any more to say about what just happened?” Or, “Okay, Michael, I’d like to hear more of what you were saying.”

Now my Higher Self is in control–in control of my “little self” that is. And my Higher Self has begun a peaceful dialogue with the other person rather than an angry argument directed by my ego. Acceptance of that undesirable trait as part of me allows me to accept him/her as well as myself.

Hmmm, isn’t that interesting?

You can purchase, for only $4.99, my 80+ pages of Hand Outs from my course “Anger in Relationships” by clicking on Buy Now.
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3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my book  that describes in detail the nine key relationships skills that can transform any stressed relationship between adults, or between parent and child.

3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is for adult relationships as well as parent-child relationships. It describes differences between the Old School Parenting model (power, control, and punishments) and the New School Parenting model (dialogue, agreements, and accountability). The ideas contained here represent a change from parenting harder to parenting smarter. They can transform a stressed adult-adult or parent-child relationship from conflict and arguments to one of cooperation and harmony. Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.
     Learn more.    Buy Now.   Table of Contents & Intro

Forgiveness

Forgiveness

In my course “A New School Approach to Anger in the Family,” I have concentrated a great deal on the dynamics of anger, how our own thoughts cause our anger, how our own thoughts create the pain that underlies our anger, and how we need to be able to communicate with those we are angry at or who are angry at us. Bruised and hurt ego, the “little me,” and the thought patterns it identifies with, are the source of both our anger and the underlying pain, since we take things personally that are said and done to us.

I have stressed in this course that we cause our own pain and our own anger at others, and that these are rooted in our expectations and our interpretations of others’ behavior toward us. Although I realize this is not a position that is easily adopted by everyone, I am convinced that there is real self-empowerment in this position. In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz urges us (as one of the agreements) to take nothing personally. I wholeheartedly subscribe to this counsel, and I encourage all of you to give this wonderful little book your serious consideration.

At the same time, I also recognize that it is true that we have all been hurt by others in very real ways that are not simply insults that we have taken personally when we didn’t need to do that. The hurt inflicted may have been intentional or not intentional, recent or long ago, physical, emotional, or financial, or any number of other possibilities. For this reason, it is imperative that in any course on anger we consider the mysterious and perhaps scary topic of forgiveness. Continue reading

Anger in the Family — and in Other Relationships

Anger in the Family —
and in Other Relationships

In the parenting classes that I do, I hear a lot of of parents talk about their children’s anger–tantrums, verbal and physical fights with each other, outbursts at school or with other peers, etc.

However, my concern here is parental anger because the children learn to handle their angry feelings from their parents by experiencing how the parents do it. So the key to anger in the family is anger in the parents. If you, the parent, learn what to do to control and even minimize the intensity of your anger, your child will learn how to do it too. And you can also actively teach him how to do it.

I’ve developed a 10-session course on anger management for parents and other adults that I run at a local agency. Lorraine Bilodeau (in Responding to Anger) speaks of an “anger response cycle,” and I’ve taken that idea and added some things to it that might sound a little complicated, but everyone who hears about it likes it. Understanding these ideas and applying them to your daily life will help you maintain your cool in tense situations. These methods will not only help you express your anger appropriately with your children and help them learn to do the same. They will also help you actually reduce the intensity of your anger responses to them and reduce your stress.

The Anger Response Cycle

The “anger response cycle” consists of a trigger event (#1 below) followed by six different internal processes occurring in the person that are all responses to the trigger event. Let’s say I’ve just told my five-year-old stepson to pick his coat up off the floor and hang it up. He yells in anger, “I don’t have to! You’re not my father!” That’s the trigger event. I immediately feel intense anger and I yell, “Hey! You don’t talk to me that way!” My reaction is spontaneous and instantaneous, and I’m in a rage. Would it be accurate to say, “Johnny really made me mad”?

No!

Although we talk this way all the time, it’s completely inaccurate. I feel insulted and hurt and blame my anger on the other person, who I believe caused my angry reaction. How often have you heard someone, be it child or adult, say something like, “He insulted me and pissed me off.” Well, the truth of the matter, is: he did insult me,  true, but he’s not the one who made me angry. I am. Or, a parent will say something like this: “She makes me so angry. She knows just how to push my buttons.” Again, the child may know  the parent’s soft spots quite well, but it’s not the child who makes mom mad. It’s mom, and to say “she makes me so angry” is simply not true. How can this be?

In between the child’s insult and the parent’s anger, which looks like a straight-line cause-effect phenomenon, a lot of things have happened within the parent. And they happened so fast that the parent’s angry response “You don’t talk to me that way!” seems instantaneous. That’s the anger response, and it happens in adults and children alike. It’s very empowering to understand what really happens, so let’s take a look at it.

What takes place within the person (let’s say the parent) who feels angry and insulted is described in numbers 2-7 below, following the verbal insult, which is #1 in the sequence.

  1. A trigger event (call it “X”) that “makes me angry. Examples: someone insults me; my child calls me a derogatory name; my child lies to me.
  2. I have a general expectation, my mind set, prior to X happening, about what is supposed to happen, or what will happen, in any given situation. This includes all the assumptions I make about how people are supposed to behave in any given situation, and as parent I don’t expect to be insulted by my child..
  3. As soon as I hear the insult, I instantaneously make an interpretation of it. This is my first thought about the trigger event (X) as it is happening. I call this thought the “threat thought” because I interpret X as threat to my sense of self, as in: “I don’t deserve to be treated this way.”
  4. I have an adrenaline reaction in the brain, which causes #5;
  5. I feel a defensive emotional response (anger), and I immediately have #6;
  6. Another thought about what to do, which I call the “decision thought” because it leads to #7;
  7. A behavioral response to X on my part. This is something  that I say or do almost immediately (i.e., in the split-second) after X happens.

The amount of time it takes to complete the whole cycle is extremely rapid–say, less than a second. It’s almost instantaneous. My child calls me stupid, and I am immediately yelling at her for being disrespectful.

At point #3 above in the cycle, which I call the “threat thought,” I make an interpretation about X that either causes an adrenalin-anger response or does not cause one. And at point 6), which I call the “decision thought,” I have one or more thoughts that determine precisely what I will say or do behaviorally. The whole cycle usually occurs in a split second for most people.

Thoughts: the Two Self-Empowerment Points

My goal here is to help you see that there are two  points in the anger response cycle that you have the complete power to intervene and literally control your anger response, including the intensity of your angry feelings, in any situation. These two points are the thought points: the threat thought and the decision thought. If you can see this and accept that YOU are the one and only person who “makes you mad” whenever you get angry, you will be able to work with these ideas, become more conscious of your own internal process in anger situations, slow your anger response down, and gain total control of the intensity of your anger as well as how you respond behaviorally (what you say or do), and help everyone in your family do the same.

I teach this course a lot, and many remarkable changes have literally transformed the lives and relationships of many, many participants. Two noteworthy incidents come to my mind that have occurred in these classes. The first was this. A participant blurted out the tremendous insight, when the “light bulb went on,” that at the moment of the threat thought, “It’s Me!” In other words, she said, “I make myself angry. The other person doesn’t really make me angry.at all! My anger depends on what my interpretation of X is.” This is exactly the same insight that experts describe in their teachings about stress: different people have different stress reactions to the same stressful event, depending on their own internal responses to the event itself.

Another empowering “light bulb” went on in another class, when a father who had a very explosive and violent temper came up with his world-changing insight that the whole thing happens so fast that at the decision thought “You don’t even hear yourself think!” That realization literally changed his life forever, as well as the lives of others in his family because he suddenly had suddenly acquired the enormous power of a weapon over his greatest enemy: how he habitually responded physically toward things and people whenever his intense anger erupted into violent fury.

Not Getting Angry as Often

I’ve been celebrating those two insights in the group, and most group members are finding that they simply are not getting angry very much any more, thanks mainly to getting control of the “threat thought.” Like the violent father, many other parents are finding  that, while they still get angry quickly, have learned to slow down the anger response cycle by thinking (what I call “mental gymnastics”) in the heat of the moment and, at the point of the decision thought, are stopping all action and thinking their way through their behavioral options and the various consequences of different potential responses. Instead of simply exploding verbally or physically, they are but taking time (albeit just a few seconds) to consider to choose an appropriate and healthy response for the situation.

Implications for Anger in the Family–and in the World

What I have sketched out here is literally the solution for ending all violence. I am convinced  that all physical violence starts with words before it escalates beyond control. And words start in the brain, where they are formulated and given the order to “go forth” as it were. Ugly, abusive, critical, insulting things that people say to each other have their origin in the brain, in the mind. All of our relationships are shaped by the words we utter and the way we say them.

Could anything be more important for families, then, and for a transformation of the way we raise our children (as Marianne Williamson has said), than parents learning that they alone, and not their children, are the cause of the anger that is so often directed at their children? The implication for families here is nothing less than this: parents have within themselves the power to transform conflict into harmony with the people they probably love most in the world, their own children. It goes without saying that this same power can transform the relationships they have with their spouses, too. And with other family members. And with co-workers. And with friends. And with strangers. And with enemies.

Since children live what they see, and learn what their parents model, I have no doubt that parents are the key to ending violence of all kinds, verbal and physical,  in the streets, in our communities, and in the world.

And it all takes place within the home

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Purchase my complete 80+ page set of Hand Outs on
Anger in Relationships for only $4.99: Buy Now

3 Steps to Parent-Child Harmony is my ebook  that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model (power, control, and punishments) and the New School Parenting model (dialogue, agreements, and accountability). The ideas contained here represent a change from parenting harder to parenting smarter. They can transform a stressed parent-child relationship from conflict and arguments to one of cooperation and harmony. Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.

 Learn more.    Buy Now.   Table of Contents & Intro 

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 ebook  that describes in detail the differences between the Old School Parenting model (power, control, and punishments) and the New School Parenting model (dialogue, agreements, and accountability). The ideas contained here represent a change from parenting harder to parenting smarter. They can transform a stressed parent-child relationship from conflict and arguments to one of cooperation and harmony. Please see these links if you are interested in more information or wish to purchase.

     Learn more.    Buy Now.   Table of Contents & Intro