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.
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.
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.
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