How To Stop Being Angry

     “I am not getting angry over nothing!” Mordy said to Jeff just a bit too heatedly. He really felt defensive and he wondered how he ever allowed himself to confide in his closest friend that he and his wife were having problems. The fact that Jeff didn’t respond with complete sympathy to Mordy’s case did not persuade Mordy to take a closer look at himself. After all, getting angry over nothing, by definition, is “over nothing” and he felt completely justified in his irritation at his wife. He thought that would be obvious from the story he told to Jeff. Now, he was quite annoyed at Jeff’s response which suggested he examine himself more closely for his contribution to the problem. Besides, he wouldn’t say his level of anger was over the top, anyway. It was just “a little” anger. A Little Anger That one is not so clear. Anger can build up to hatred; just ask enough people who have been through a divorce and they’ll shed some light on this. Mordy fumed to himself. “Humph,” he grunted, “I have plenty of cause.” Herein lies the problem. Don’t we all say that? Don’t we let ourselves off the hook every time, figuring the whole issue of getting angry over nothing doesn’t apply to us, and that we don’t have anything to reflect over? We, on the other hand, are perfectly justified in being angry. After all, just take a look at what was done to us. Really? I invite you to consider the concept of victim thinking. Mordy had just been in the hospital, recovering from major surgery. Anna had...

What To Do With Your Child’s Anger

I was rereading a therapy magazine from 1999 — so the problems were full-blown even back then– and it related the following: In a difference of opinion between a child and her mother who wanted the TV shut off, as the mother’s demand became stronger, the child finally used a swear word on her mother, something like, “F-you, mommy.” That child was eight years old. And this is not an inner-city family. It is a socio-economically privileged family whose mother spends time toting her daughter to after-school activities and the like. This young girl also does well in school and is liked by her peers. What’s going on? Why the language? The article was filled with similar stories including those of kids who hit and kicked their parents when they didn’t get their way and another young child who didn’t like anticipating the arrival of a new baby and smashed a baseball bat into her mother’s belly. The author, Ron Taffel, was compelled to interview parents to try to find out what was missing in their approach. It turns out that parents — who may have suffered harsh discipline themselves growing up — are afraid to do the same to their children. So they do nothing. Maybe their child needs to “get out” their anger, they’re thinking. If so, then letting them vent should be a good thing. No, it isn’t good. First, because the venting never ends. But this is only the beginning of the problem. What Taffel found is that these same parents who are afraid to injure their children by punishing them also don’t like their...

What’s Wrong With Anger Management?

      Let’s say you were an alcoholic. Would it be better to be what the people in AA programs often call a “dry drunk,” i.e., someone who isn’t drinking but is white-knuckling it the whole time, or, on the other hand, someone who actually doesn’t even think about taking a drink?   The second person, if offered, could take it or leave it. I enjoy coffee, and am sure to have a cup every morning, but if someone offered it to me in the middle of the day, I might say, “No, thanks” because it just didn’t appeal to me at that moment. You see where I’m going? – The dry drunk wants that drink sooooo badly. The other person is not attached to his or her drink. The drink is pleasant at the right time and not of interest at other times. That “not attachment” is the ideal place for anger. It is useful at times and not at all of interest at other times. Times Anger Is Useful Anger at oneself may be useful. If you did something wrong, it is better to be really upset with yourself over it than to gloss over it as if it wasn’t important. Of course, there is another aspect of anger which is that there is an endpoint to even useful anger. Sometimes, enough is enough. We are not supposed to wallow in self-flagellation. Anger at another could also be useful. You love your child so much, that in your eyes he could do no wrong. But he just did wrong. You may have to work yourself up just a...

What Motivates Mass Murderers?

Wait! Don’t rush to say, “Silly question, Dr. Deb. Mass murderers are crazy. That’s all.” Let me explain why I pose the question “What Motivates a Mass Murderer” by asking you another question: Would you rather be able to take control of your life or would you rather think that your own life is in the hands of whim and chance? The more you understand human nature, the more control you have over things that come your way. Here’s a list of things that you can get control of that you never thought possible just by learning what motivates a mass murderer: 1. why you, your spouse, or your kids lack self esteem 2. why you, your spouse, or your kids are angry more often than you wish 3. why you, your spouse, or your kids feel lonely, isolated from humanity 4. why you, your spouse, or your kids never seem to get things right 5. why you, your spouse, or your kids seem to have things going well yet are unhappy 6. why you, your spouse, or your kids seem to be distant and unreachable, hiding behind a wall 7. why you, your spouse, or your kids just can’t seem to agree on anything Put these questions aside for a moment. We’ll get back to them all. If you study the lives of mass murderers (I discuss the Columbine murderers in my book) here’s what they have in common: They are lonely and isolated. Their only “friends” are people who feel the way they do. As children, they were never validated. They were not told, “We love you...

Anger: Abuse That Shoots Yourself In the Foot

You’re angry. Boy, are you angry. She didn’t do things the way YOU wanted them. A lot of good that anger’s going to do you. I mean, did you think that because you’re angry, she’s going to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” Did you think she will turn to you with eyes full of love and affection and stroke your back? Were you expecting your anger to turn a hostile environment—that YOU created—into the warm, loving one that you long for? Who are you kidding? Oh, did I say these things before in an earlier post? Well, I guess I have to do that again. For all of you who are tired of hearing me remind you that anger is one of the most worthless emotions and we could all do well to leave it at the door, just skip this post. But there was someone out there who needed to hear this again. I just know it. And by the way, repeated anger is abuse. No two ways about it. “Worthless emotion?” you’re saying. “Why? Isn’t it a natural expression of feelings?” Anger may be natural. So is poison ivy. It’s certainly not helpful. It’s decidedly unhelpful. The angrier you get, the more you push away those you love, the more you muddy up the waters as to what, exactly, you want, and the more hostile an environment you create. Everything you want gets pushed that much further away. Is that what you want to do? I don’t think so. Instead, learn to see the world from your partner’s place. How about trying one simple exercise the next...

Why Lashing Out Backfires–Even When You Are Right

Last post told Caroline’s story. She was falsely accused, attacked, actually, and awakened in the middle of the night for “discussions” until she finally lost it. I contended that under such circumstances, her behavior was not at all crazy, but normal. “Thank you, so much Dr. Deb,” Caroline [I’ve made up that name] wrote to me. “Now, I feel normal. I was so badly treated, that of course I screamed. Sheesh, anyone would scream.” Not A Free Card And I’m sitting here thinking, “Uh-oh, now people think I just gave them a free card to scream when they’re provoked.” So please allow me to clarify myself. Part of our wiring is to express emotions. It is normal that some of those emotions may include outbursts of hysteria or out-of-control behavior. However, that does not make any of these behaviors good, right or acceptable. Not only that. These behaviors are harmful because they hurt the other person so much, dangerous because they escalate, and self-destructive because they always end up shooting the person who exhibited them in the foot. You’re Helping Youself Lose Your Battle — And The Relationship What I mean is that when you lose it and lash out at someone, it is guaranteed that now you will for sure not get the very thing you wanted. It makes the whole job of straightening out whatever the problem was even harder. That’s because it (1) “proves” to your spouse that the problem is you, not him (or her), (2) makes your spouse angry with you in return, and (let’s have a drum-roll here) (3) it doesn’t even address...

3-Step Formula When Abusive Parents Visit for The Holidays

We were making progress, this new couple and I. Eli was getting it. He realized that his sarcastic remarks, his put-downs, his glares, and his barely-controlled anger all constitute verbal abuse. He was starting to work effectively with his tools, too. He had downloaded the mp3 file from my website and had burnt the relaxation disc. He was listening daily and taking the deep breaths that I recommend for slowing down his autonomic nervous system so as to engage his brain and not just react. He was practicing assertiveness to make his points effectively in a non-threatening way. Perhaps most important, he was working hard at catching himself falling into the trap of victim thinking. That means, just by catching himself, he would prevent many awful fights.   His wife, Andrea, was starting to see a difference. She was still nervous, hurt from the past, and unsure of the future, but the good part is that she understood that healing takes time and she was giving this process the time it needed.   All well and good.   Until Thanksgiving approached.   If Your Spouse Is Abusive, His Parent Probably Was, Too   Thanksgiving meant that Mother was coming. His mother. The person who taught Eli every dirty trick he knows and remained clueless of the pain she constantly inflicted. So instead of preparing for a lovely family visit, Andrea’s nerves were tuned to a high pitch; she found herself yelling at the children more, dropping things unexpectedly, and in a near-collision on the highway. She most definitely did not want his mother to come. But Eli’s mother is...

Techniques for Fighting Anger Addiction

REPRINTED FROM The Jewish Star Times, p. 16 [edited] What do alcohol and drug abuse, bulimia [gorging on food and then vomiting], and anger have in common? They all discharge tension, bringing short-term relief and long-term agony. They’re all addictions. And they are abuse. And anger is the most common one of all. Who doesn’t get angry? But, like the others, when it comes to solving interpersonal relationships, it accomplishes absolutely nothing. Not for the angry person, not for the listener. The Discharge Of Tension Is Calming It dissipates tension in one mad, powerful burst of energy that –leaves the anger bearer momentarily winded and calm, –the recipient bleeding (either outside or inside; it doesn’t matter which–the pain is the same), alienated and frightened, –and the relationship in tatters. For the moment, the angry person is relieved of stress. For the moment, that person feels much better. That is the seductive pull of anger. That Is Its Addictive Nature That is the seductive pull of chemical addictions too. They all do the same thing. They discharge nervous energy and produce artificial calm. And that calm feeling is so wonderful, so delightful that the addict, the angry soul and the bulimic keep returning to it when stress builds. Returning and fighting, like caged tigers, to keep doing what doesn’t work. Of course we all know that these are merely Siren songs. They don’t achieve calm, peace, and serenity. They don’t resolve the situations that caused the stress. They don’t communicate real feelings. They don’t deal with old wounds. And after the outburst, the anxiety is back. Obviously, because the blowup...
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