Managing Aggression and Anger

Anger is a normal emotion and can be helpful in some situations, such as those related to survival and self-protection. We have also seen that resorting to aggression is often a strong temptation when you feel angry. Aggression might be appropriate to ensure your safety but in most situations is not necessary and just inflames the situation.

Steven Laurent presents a series of tips on reducing anger and therefore limiting the possibility of reacting to anger with unneeded aggression. I will list a few of his suggestions and my comments about them:

  • Understand that anger is a problem. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that anger is sometimes a problem. We have seen that anger is a normal human emotion. As long as it is limited to a brief emotional response, does not take over your life and does not remain for a long time, it is nothing to worry about. If your anger quickly escalates into rage, it is a problem. If you continue to brood about what angers you, it can affect your body systems as we have seen and create lack of emotional equilibrium in your life.
  • Monitor your anger. It is useful to be mindful of many things in your life including your emotions. The more aware you are, the better chance you have of changing patterns which make life more difficult for you and for those around you. You might have a feeling that your anger is a problem, or you might hear it from others who are affected by your anger. Laurent suggests keeping a log of upsetting events, the anger they cause and how you react. It sounds a bit tedious but might be a good way to track how well you manage your anger. It is easier to see patterns when you write them down in an anger journal. Writing also gives you a chance to think about what you are doing rather than reacting automatically.
  • Feel the anger and don’t do it anyway. Laurent suggests here that you be aware of your anger but don’t rush into a response. He prefers thinking about how you feel and why that feeling arose. Waiting to react until after you have had a chance to consider the situation helps you see what alternatives you have available. Writing down what you think in your anger journal would also help keep you aware of the process of your thinking.
  • Look after yourself. Several things can make it more difficult for you to manage your anger constructively. One is your health. When you feel run down physically, you will have less ability to think clearly about how to react. The same is true if you are in a bad emotional state or under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Understand the ultimate source of your anger: “shoulding.” Here you tell yourself how things should be, especially other people and how they interact with you. Most people have fairly clear expectations of how they would like others to treat them, which is fine. When you set yourself up as the judge of how people should react, you are more prone to react with anger and see it as your job to correct or even punish them. Along with that goes the suggestion to be less judgmental of others.
  • Empathize. You most likely have a good idea of how you would like to react in any given situation, at least one you have faced before. Yet surprises wait along the way to throw you off balance. If someone asked you why you reacted a certain way, you could probably tell them why. Instead of judging people who act in a different way, consider that they might view things differently from you. You would find it easier to be less judgmental if you took the time to understand why others feel and act the way they do.
  • Get your facts straight. One of the main contributors to anger at others is faulty assumptions you make about them. You might assume that have hostile intentions toward you, are aware of what your needs and desires are or know what is likely to arouse your anger. In reality, none of these assumptions may be true.

The better you are able to use suggestions such as these, the less likely you are to let your anger get the best of you. In addition, your chances of moving toward aggressive behavior are also lessened.

Excerpt from my recent book, How to Transform Your Anger and Find Peace.

Book Release: Transform Your Anger and Find Peace

 


How did we get so angry?

Anger surrounds us these days. It shows up on the nightly news, on talk shows and the newspapers as well as on the Internet, not to mention in interactions on the street. Unplanned events in our daily lives invite us to summon and express our anger. It is as if we have become an angry culture. How can we make sense of anger, cope with it and find alternative ways of dealing with our own and others’ misfortunes besides giving vent to our anger in destructive ways? That question is the challenge I pose for you and invite you to explore with me in this book.
As a psychologist, I worked with angry people for thirty­five years on anger management. They have been in my life longer than that. Our country seems angrier now than I can remember it being in the past. Not everyone barks at other people, attacks them or shoots them. Yet the national mood seems to be one of anger coming from a national divide on both sides of every issue.

What to do about anger

I have thought about how this happened and have consulted a variety of publications and also drew on my own professional and personal experience. I came up with a few findings and thought you might find them useful as well. Here are the questions I posed:

  • What is anger and what causes it?
  • How does it affect your life?
  • What kinds of anger problems are there?
  • Who is the target of your anger?
  • How do you manage anger directed toward you?
  • How can you transform your anger?

Have you wondered about any of these? Are you still looking for answers? Join me in an adventure to move away from anger and toward peace.
This book is available through Amazon. Take a look at the free sample (Look Inside) on the Amazon page for Transform Your Anger and Find Peace.

Reasons for Violence

 

Have you ever seen a violent newborn baby? I haven’t. No one is born violent in the sense of trying to harm others. So how does someone become violent? Psychologists and sociologists have conducted many studies over the years to try predicting violence without much success.

No way of understanding violence has been able to predict whether any given individual is about to become violent. Once a person displays violent behavior, it is clear that he or she is capable of violence and likely to be violent in the future.

But the question remains: Where does violence come from? Let’s look at some contributors to violence. One is the path your life takes. Your pattern of life experience can incline you toward acting violently, peacefully or somewhere in between. Dramatic events in your life can also steer you toward a peaceful life pattern or a violent one.

I refer here to violence done by an individual or group of individuals. A person may be influenced by what happens in his or her culture or peer group. Violence may be a group effort in which more than one person is responsible for the violence. Your being part of a group acting in a violent way can give you a reputation for violence whether or not you actually participate in the group’s actions. This is known as guilt by association.

Researchers have debated for years about whether violence or a tendency toward violence can be inherited. This debate continues and has yet to be settled despite years of research. Hormones appear to play a role. Testosterone is seen as a contributor to aggression, which may well account for the much greater number of male than female aggressors. Aggression is generally viewed as quite similar if not identical to violence.

Aggression might look similar but is not always intended to harm anyone. Remember that intent of harm is one of the parts of the definition of violence we discussed in the last chapter. Men tend to engage in more physical forms of aggression while women tend more toward verbal aggression although neither form is unique to one or the other gender.

Life circumstances and experiences while growing up appear to play a significant role in the violent tendencies and violent behavior of individuals. Here are a few developmental circumstances which can make a difference:

  • Your treatment in your family
  • Your family’s stability
  • The safety of your neighborhood
  • The adequacy of housing and food as you grew up
  • How others react to your racial or ethnic background
  • How you learn to react to threats

Other contributors beyond you developmental years and into adulthood include the following:

  • Your feelings in response to physical danger
  • How you think about yourself
  • How you view other people
  • How you see your life situation
  • Your prospects for a satisfying life
  • The adequacy of resources for managing your life

Action Steps

  • Do you ever feel on the verge of violence?
  • Do any of the above sound familiar?
  • Can you understand how they led to violence?
  • Can you do something to change it?
  • Who could help you?

Excerpt from my new book, From Violence to Peace.

Watch Your Ripples

I was busy revising my first book today, when I came across this article. I wrote it in 2004, but it seems especially relevant today. So here it is again

With all the trouble and bad news in the world, people may wonder what the point is of being nice to each other. It often seems that over time, society is becoming more callous and people are spending more of their energy meeting their own needs rather than looking out for each other.

While you may be able to get more money or things by always putting yourself first, there is a price to pay. The price is that money and things become your only companions. You let others know you care only for yourself or are at best irrelevant to them. By thinking only of your own needs, you teach others to avoid you as a threat to their well being, since you are only interested in yourself and not them.

I have heard many sermons over the years. One of the few which has stayed with me has helped set the course of my life. One Sunday morning many years ago, Father Brendan Breen talked about our actions as being similar to a stone thrown in a pond. The stone creates ripples that travel far out from where it lands and changes the surface of the water for quite a distance. I have heard of waves which travel all the way across the Pacific Ocean.

In a similar way, how you treat your neighbors carries on down the line. Sometimes you discourage idealists who want to change the world. Even though you can’t recast the world to suit you, you can have a rippling effect on many people. Who knows how far the influence of your actions will carry?
Thought of in this way, everything that happens between you and others has some effect on the welfare of the human race. If you do something negative, the world is a little worse off. If you do something positive, the world is a little better place to live.

It is easy to see your life as insignificant among the billions of people inhabiting the planet. Your life is quite brief in the context of the thousands of years of civilization. You most likely are aware of the momentous contributions some people have made during the course of history. Your small contributions may not make the history books, but may brighten the lives of those you meet and maybe countless others you have not met.

How often do you think about the effect careless criticisms may have on others? Likewise, you may not be aware of the positive effect you have through your kindness toward others, and how far the effect may travel.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, can be to leave the world and its inhabitants a little better off than you found them. Rather than selfishly seeking to meet only your own needs, or being critical of others, you can care for others in little ways. The ripples of your actions can travel far and wide, eventually returning to enhance your own life.

Action Steps

  • Do you feel a need to put yourself first?
  • Do you feel you will lose out if you don’t?
  • How often do you consider others’ needs?
  • Try putting others’ needs first just for today.
  • See if they treat you differently as a result.

(Excerpt from my forthcoming book, Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life, 2nd. edition)

Book Release- From Violence to Peace

I just released my latest book, From Violence to Peace.on Amazon.
Here is a little information about it:

Why there is so much violence in the world and what you can do about it.

Violent incidents appear in the news on a daily basis. Different kinds of violence surround us in our communities and throughout the world. It has likely touched you or someone you know in one way or another. It’s easy to fret about violence or become angry at those you see as responsible for it. Can you do more than look on as the world unravels? Yes you can. This book will help you understand violence, see where it comes from and what you can do to reduce it. Here is what you will discover:

    • The many faces of violence–Find out what violence is and explore theories which explain it. See how violence fits in with human emotions. Put violence in perspective.
    • How we got to this point–Learn about the process of becoming angry. Consider a short history of human violence. See the various kinds of violence. See how violence can arise within you. See why people resort to violence. Learn how your family, community and government can encourage violence.
    • How religion fits in–Consider religion across the ages, some of the main religious traditions and how violence and terrorism relate to religion.
    • How you can find peace–Learn how you can find peace within yourself. Find out how to have more peaceful relationships with others. Explore how you can find peace with God and the Universe.
    • A closer look at the worst problems– Consider the problems of domestic violence, sexual violence, school violence, criminal justice contributions, terrorism, random violence and contributions of the media.
    • Some tools to use in doing your part–Consider earth’s needs, what legacy you will leave your children, and the various levels on which you can contribute to the process of peace.

None of these challenges are easy to engage in. But playing your part is not just for your benefit. Everyone you know or care about has a stake in the conflict between violence and peace. So does the future of your children and of Earth. Would you like to know more about the path which lies ahead?

Go to the Amazon page for From Violence to Peace. Click on Look Inside to read the first part of the book (free) and start your journey.

Rage and its alternatives

Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers,
for each rage leaves him less than he had been before –
 it takes something from him.
~Louis L’Amour~

Have you tried passing a car on an expressway only to find another car five feet from your back bumper? Have you tried to do something for a friend only to hear you are stupid for not doing it his way? For some people, annoyance can quickly escalate into rage.

Babies cry when they are uncomfortable but they are not in a rage. It seems clear that expressing rage is something that must be learned. Sometimes family patterns date back several generations. While there may be a few people affected in each generation, fortunately not all family members are tainted by a tendency to rage.

What is rage? The dictionary defines it as uncontrollable anger. Sometimes anger is justified. Being angry is appropriate when someone deliberately wrongs you. Other ways to handle anger besides rage exist. You can express your anger directly to the one who had wronged you. You can explain how you feel in case the other person was unaware of how their behavior affected you. You can stop to consider your reaction to see if your anger is justified.

Rage means allowing your anger to consume you to the extent that you lose control. You might talk louder, carry on incoherently, dump venom on your aggressor, or perhaps lash out in a physical fury. Rage is generally an overreaction to a situation, out of proportion to the circumstances.

How does rage develop? On the surface, it seems that someone does something you don’t like and you react with rage. There is another step, an inner one. You tell yourself that the other person had no right to do what he did. He is only doing it to upset you. If he had any sense, he would not do such a thing. You don’t deserve what he did. You should not have to put up with him acting in such a stupid way. He is so dense the only thing he could possibly understand is your blasting him. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

You can work yourself into a rage quickly. If you frequently entertain thoughts such as the above, it does not take long to end up in a rage. Once you are in a rage, you have little control of your emotions. Rage is, by definition, uncontrollable anger. It is easier to interrupt the process of becoming angry than it is to stop it once it explodes.

You have two other choices. One is to avoid situations where you know you are likely to go off the deep end. Unfortunately, you can’t always predict when this will happen.You can also think about what you tell yourself when something upsetting happens. Is this person deliberately trying to upset you? Does she know you are likely to be upset? Could you explain how you feel in a milder way than rage? You can also think about your ability to share other emotions besides rage. If you don’t know how to show embarrassment, fear, sorrow or loneliness, you may end up expressing all your negative emotions as rage. You can learn to change this pattern by talking with a friend, working with a counselor or taking an anger management course.

Action steps:

  1. How do you deal with angry feelings?
  2. Stop to think about why you are angry?
  3. Think of how you upset yourself.
  4. How do you progress from anger to rage?
  5. How can you express your anger so it will be better understood?

(Excerpt from Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life, 2nd edition, forthcoming).

Dealing with Narcissistic Rage

Dealing with Narcissistic Rage

Hate is the complement of fear and narcissists like being feared.
It imbues them with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence.

~Sam Vaknin, Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited~

Psychiatrist Mark Goulston tells us that engaging people in the midst of narcissistic rage is not likely to be productive. If it is safe, you might just listen until they are finished ranting. You can later request that they talk with you in a calm and respectful manner. If that does not happen the next time, it might be best to just walk away if you can or avoid such people altogether.

Susan Whitbourne, Ph.D. suggests specific ways to handle narcissists:

  • Determine which type you’re dealing with. A grandiose narcissist might be a good ally if your goals exactly match theirs. Vulnerable narcissists are harder to deal with because they are constantly on the lookout for people who might further diminish their already poor concept of themselves.
  • Acknowledge your annoyance. Learn to recognize where your annoyance lies, usually related to the person who constantly interrupts you when you are trying to accomplish something.
  • Appreciate where the behavior comes from. Understand that vulnerable narcissists need to make themselves feel better. A modicum of reassurance for them is necessary to focus them on a group task. Just don’t get carried away with praising them or they will take over a project.
  • Evaluate the context. Some situations will worsen tendencies toward being defensive, vindictive and spiteful. One example is a narcissist who is passed over for a promotion  but still needs to work with the team who they are not leading.
  • Maintain a positive outlook. Some narcissists enjoy seeing others suffer. Letting them see your annoyance is likely to just increase their efforts to make your life more miserable.
  • Don’t let yourself get derailed. Stay focused on your own goals despite a narcissist’s efforts to take center stage and monopolize the direction of your group.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Try using humor to react to a narcissist’s attempt to monopolize group goals rather than direct confrontation.
  • Recognize that the person may need help.  Narcissists whose low self esteem leads them to their disruptive behavior may be in need of help to find better ways to improve how they see themselves.

These suggestions appear to be good ones when you are the one in charge. If the narcissist is the one in charge, your chances of using any of them successfully will be quite diminished. Using any of these approaches when you are in a vulnerable or one-down position is likely to be seen as undermining the power of the narcissist in charge. In such a situation, your options for improving the situation do not look good. Your best bet may be to find a way to remove yourself from the situation or group.

Maybe you are not ready to flee or are in a position of not being able to afford doing so. Now what? Susan Price has some ideas. Here is one possible scenario: “Your boss is a complete narcissist: he expects you to be at his whim all day, he blames everyone for mistakes except himself, argues and contradicts employees with every small detail even things he said himself!” If this sounds familiar, read on. Here are her suggestions for handling the situation:

  • Forget being friends. You will have to sell your soul to be considered a friend by such a person. Remember that narcissists are not capable of making friends in the sense of having mutual respect and caring for each other. Your interests are never a priority.
  • Don’t criticize. Your criticism will never be taken at face value. Anger or rage is to be expected when you criticize a narcissist.
  • Focus on analyzing problems. Sharing your feelings is not likely to get you anywhere. Narcissists are interested only in their own feelings. Instead, concentrate on problems and potential solutions. Then, don’t count on receiving credit for a good idea.
  • Let him or her make decisions.  Presenting options works better than suggesting the best option. Then allow him or her to take credit for the plan.
  • Make him or her look and feel good. His or her importance and having it recognized are uppermost in such a person’s mind. Don’t be stingy with praise.
  • Absorb the blame. Narcissists never see themselves at fault. Someone else is always the blame for whatever goes wrong.
  • Set boundaries and keep them. Try to focus on solutions and temper criticism with praise.
  • Don’t compete. Don’t expect praise for yourself or thanks for doing a good job. A narcissist will always take credit for teaching you to do a good job.

To survive, you need to set aside your own needs and become a cog in the machine operated by a narcissistic boss. Staying afloat is a tricky business and has few rewards. You might be better off finding a more rational and rewarding position. If you decide to stay, don’t expect much for yourself.

You might be wondering whether dealing with a narcissist with power is a lost cause. It is difficult but not impossible. In a social group, you can work with others to reconstitute the group without the offending narcissist. In a corporation, the board of directors, informed by shareholders and workers, has power over any given boss. In government, citizens have power to elect representatives who have the power to contain if not remove narcissists not in touch with public needs.  In all these cases, your job is to start working with others and find a mutual path toward resolving the impasse.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Dealing with a narcissist is an uphill battle at best.
  • Don’t expect to do the impossible.
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself.
  • Get support from others in your venture.
  • Try to avoid situations where narcissists have power over you.

(Excerpt from my forthcoming book, Anger in America)

Understanding Narcissistic Rage

No reason, no principle, just the pure exercise of power.

~John Paul Sartre~

The magazine, Psychology Today, refers to it as “a chilling rage.” From the point of view of a narcissist, the world “looks like it should approve, adore, agree and obey you. Anything less than that feels like an assault and because of that a narcissist feels justified in raging back at it.”
Psychology Today also lists characteristics of narcissists. These include:

  • Control freaks– They try to exercise tight control over everything that happens around them and freak out when things do not go their way.
  • Irritability– They are easily annoyed and anything unpleasant tends to grate on them.
  • Short fuses– You have heard the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” They don’t see this as applying to them. Everything they don’t like is of major importance.
  • Low frustration tolerance- Life around them is calm only when everything is as they want it and everyone agrees with them.
  • Argumentative– They don’t believe in allowing others to have their own opinion or that it is possible to coexist peacefully with those who don’t agree with them. All differences must be attacked.
  • Need to have the last word– The never let anything go unchallenged and fight to the bitter end to have their ways accepted as the right ones.
  • Unable to lose– Their goal is to win at all costs regardless of the magnitude of the situation.
  • Won’t take no for an answer– For them no is not a complete sentence. It is a challenge to keep arguing.

They have other unpleasant traits as well:

  • Quick to anger if you don’t accommodate them– They don’t discuss arrangements which displease them. Instead they are much more likely to attack you as being wrong or inconsiderate.
  • Quick to being aggressively defensive if you call them on any deficiency, fault or responsibility– Another way of saying this is that they have “thin skin.” Nothing is ever their fault and there is always something wrong with you for attacking them.
  • Can’t apologize or, if they do they can’t do it sincerely-Any apology of theirs tends to be hollow and not really meant. You will be left knowing they think any fault lies with you.
  • Rarely say thank you or congratulations– You are not important and anything you accomplish reduces their feeling of self importance.
  • Don’t feel or demonstrate remorse– They don’t generally feel they have ever done anything wrong. Therefore they feel no need to feel sorry for anything..
  • Feel entitled to enthusiastic and appreciative approval, adoration, agreement and obedience– They view themselves at the top of the heap in all matters and expect others to bow down to them constantly.
  • Gloat in victory, sullen in defeat– Don’t expect any gracious gestures whether they get their way or not. It’s all about them.
  • Quick to rage if you humiliate them– Humiliation can be as simple as viewing them on the same plane with ordinary mortals and is viewed as a direct attack.

Maybe you are wondering how some people get to be raging narcissists. One theory is that by nature they have trouble feeling good about themselves and need constant reassurance of their value. This may well result from a childhood in which such people are constantly told of their lack of worth as persons. As adults they try to compensate for their inferiority feelings by seeking constant adulation from others. When they don’t find what they are looking for they begin to show the characteristics we have just discussed.

Another theory is that they need to feel better than everyone else in order to remain stable. When they do not get the praise they crave, they turn to rage in an attempt to bully others into revering them.
However they get that way, narcissists are very difficult to deal with. But that’s another story which I will address in my next post.

(Excerpt from my forthcoming book, Anger in America)

World community sizes up a diminished Trump

 

For the world at large, the resignation by the US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on Monday is not about an obscure 19th century law that defines a phone conversation between him and the Russian ambassador.

What it conveys are three things. First, the US is sliding into a vicious civil war. A Fox News poll released on February 14 shows that the American public is almost evenly divided over President Donald Trump’s job performance since his inauguration on January 20. When asked if the Trump administration is working on things that will help their family, 47% of voters say yes, while 48% say no.

(Excerpt from Barrakumar’s article in Asian Times- read more)

In a new video, Pope Francis urges compassion for refugees, people on the margins

Pope Francis holds a candle as he arrives to celebrate Mass marking the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 2.

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis called for greater compassion for refugees and marginalized people less than a week after President Trump ordered a temporary immigration ban from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

In a video of the pontiff’s prayer intentions for February, the Pope does not specifically refer to the president or his policies but emphasizes his concern about large numbers of people who he says are being marginalized and forgotten on the fringes of society.

(Excerpt from Religion News Service in the Catholic Post- read more.)