Category Archives: relationships

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.

Signs of Relationship Harmony

Signs of Relationship Harmony

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.
~Thomas Merton~

Lately it seems that everyone is at each other’s throats. Maybe it’s time to start reconnecting with each other. How can you tell if you are in harmony with another person? Here are some signs:

  • You can talk openly about a wide range of topics without needing to filter what you say or worry that you will be misunderstood or criticized.
  • You are both on the same emotional plane.
  • You understand the feelings expressed by another and he or she understands your feelings.
  • You are both aware when your feelings start to head in different directions and know enough to discuss it so you can avoid conflict.

People in harmony generally agree on issues. That is one of the reasons they are conversing in the first place. Of course, no two people agree on everything. How could they? No two people have the same set of experiences on which to base their opinions. But people in harmony respect each other enough to listen, try to understand and then accept their differences as one of the challenges in maintaining a relationship.

People in harmony usually share the same or similar outlooks on the meaning of life. If they are headed in completely opposite directions they are not apt to be of much help to each other and don’t consider themselves compatible. More moderate differences can be helpful to both people if heard out and discussed.

Harmonious people are helpful to each other, finding minor course corrections which can bring together their life paths and make their interactions more productive. People in harmony usually support each other’s life goals and offer mutual help when they can. People with completely different goals usually have little to offer each other and may well find each other’s personalities grating on them.

People in harmonious relationships find it easy to relax around each other. They don’t need to feel defensive or ready to protect themselves from physical or verbal attack. On the contrary, they anticipate kindness and understanding. They also feel validated.

They know that how they live their lives makes sense to each other and that neither has to keep explaining why they think or do certain things. They are comfortable sharing their opinions and feelings knowing that however they feel or think, the other person will agree with them or at least accept their positions, perhaps asking for some clarification.

Being in harmony with another person leaves you with good feelings as I just mentioned. But is there more to the story than how you feel? Fortunately, the answer is yes.

Cooperation literally means working together. Harmonious relationships go beyond shared thoughts, feelings hopes and dreams. Based on all you experience with each other you are in an ideal place to share and support each other’s unique creativity in approaching life.

You understand each other, know how you think, plan, and do things. You don’t waste time explaining everything you do and why you do it. You don’t worry about being told your plans are stupid. You already know the other person respects and backs you even when your plans differ. As your relationship deepens, you find more common goals. You may have discussed how to reach them and are now in a position to pursue them together.

Your expectations of each other, of people in general, and of yourselves match. For the most part, there are no great surprises or disappointments as you work together. You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You learn to compensate for weaknesses, learn new skills, or bring in others to supplement your work together. There is no guessing or assumptions. You know you can talk directly with each other. You can do so in a spirit of cooperation, respect and kindness.

When you reach a crossroads or fork in your journey, you can negotiate constructively to arrive at the best solution. You do this cooperatively with no power struggle or conflict and agree on the best solution no matter which one of you discovers it.

At the end of a shared project you can evaluate the results impartially. If you need to go back and make changes you do so harmoniously with no thought of blaming anyone because you could have done a better job. You work together on revisions until you are both satisfied.

Harmony also creates a safety zone for both of you. You know you can count on each other in a crisis or even to help with minor needs. You also know that you will not be judged by each other and that what you say will be received with love and understanding.

Life Lab Lessons

  • How many of the people in your life are in harmony with you?
  • Are you satisfied with how things are now?
  • If so, thank the people with whom you are in harmony.
  • If not, what can you do to make these relationships more harmonious?
  • Your efforts will be contagious and make the world a little more peaceful.

(Excerpt from my forthcoming book, From Rage and Violence to Peace and Harmony)

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Thank You for Your Apology

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Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past.

~Tryon Edwards~

The day after the recent presidential election, I ventured out the door after a period of being stunned. I ran into a man I knew on a limited social basis. As usual, he asked how I was doing that day. I told him I was not doing very well. His very upbeat demeanor told me we had voted for different candidates.

We tried having a conversation about politics and in particular the election, both voicing our reasons for voting the way we did. I don’t think the conversation resolved anything or led either of us to alter his views.  I left his company resolving to be cordial in the future but to avoid political conversation which only served to upset both of us.

This has worked for several weeks. This morning when we met, he surprised me by apologizing for being overly strong in his statements in our last conversation of any length or consequence. I tried to recall whether I had said anything which might have offended him and apologized myself just in case. He assured me that I had not said anything to offend him and again apologized for his tone in the last conversation.

We were able to agree that the campaign and election were upsetting for everyone including both of us. We also agreed on being upset and worried about the great divide between the two halves of our fellow countrymen. We shared our fears about what this conflict would mean for the future of our country.

As I left our conversation, I felt the best I have since the election. Neither of us changed our minds, and did not try to change each other’s. We were able to share our mutual fears and hopes for the future. I realized that I do not need to see everyone with whom I disagree as an enemy.

Most of us want the best for our country and for each other. We just have different ideas about how to get there. At one time our leaders with different positions were able to sit down to find compromises with which we could all live. This does not seem to be the case right now. However, if we who elected them can talk with each other in the interest of our mutual benefit, we might be able to set a good example for our elected leaders. None of us can single-handedly change the tensions, disagreements, and hostility evident among our country’s citizens. Yet we can begin by building bridges between ourselves and those with whom we come into contact on a daily basis. That is at least a start.

Life Lab Lessons

  • If you are angry when you discuss politics, why do you think that is?
  • Look further to see what other feelings you might have?
  • Is fear one of them?
  • What do you fear?
  • Is it easier to discuss your fears with others than your anger?

Personal Origins of Violence

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible
will make violent revolution inevitable.

~John F. Kennedy~

 

Have you ever seen a violent newborn baby? I haven’t. No one seems to be born violent. So how does someone become violent? Psychologists and sociologists have conducted quite a few studies over the years to try predicting violence.

To the best of my knowledge no way of predicting it has ever been perfected to the point of knowing whether any given individual is about to become violent. Once a person displays such behavior, it is clear then that he or she is capable of aggression and likely to take this course in the future.

The question remains: where does such behavior come from come from? Let’s look at some contributors. One is the path your life takes. The way you live and how you think about life can incline you toward acting violently, peacefully or somewhere in between.  These patterns are often shaped by how your parents lived and what you made of their lives. Dramatic events in your life can also steer you toward a peaceful life pattern or a not so peaceful one. Someone you know and respect could have helped divert a major disaster. Or someone you know and respect could become so frustrated with his or her life that explosive results follow.

Violence as we view it here is brought about by an individual or group of individuals. A person may be influenced by what happens in his or her culture or peer group. It may also be a group effort in which more than one person is responsible for what happens. You can be seen as violent by associating with individuals who show such a pattern whether or not you actually participate in the group’s actions. This is known as guilt by association.

What makes a person violent? Researchers have long debated about whether a tendency toward such behavior can be inherited. This debate continues and has yet to be settled despite years of research.

Aggression is generally viewed as quite similar if not identical. Men tend to engage in more physical forms of aggression while women tend more toward verbal aggression although neither form of aggression is unique to one or the other gender.

Life circumstances appear to play a significant role in all our behavior whether positive or negative. How you are treated in your family, how stable your family is, the safety of your neighborhood, whether you have adequate housing and food, how others react to your racial or ethnic background and how you learn to react to threats can all contribute to how you act. Feeling in physical danger, how you think about yourself, others, your life situation and your prospects for life and what resources you see yourself as possessing also make a contribution.

You may never have acted in such a manner. However you might have considered it at least in passing. Take some time to think about how you got to feel that way and what you did to head it off. Maybe this will help you begin to understand violence in the world.

Life Lab Lessons

  • What has happened in your life to lean you toward violence?
  • What have you experienced which let you toward a peaceful life?
  • What has helped you to control aggressive tendencies?
  • What have you done to provoke others anger?
  • What have you done to keep the peace between you and others?

You Know What I Mean? Finding Commonality Across the Gap

Expert Author Scott Marcus

In L.A.’s school district, when I was a kid, Health was a required class taken in junior high – eighth grade to be specific.

We were taught the basics of course, on how our bodies were changing and even the appropriate methods to shower and dress. And yes, there was that awkward period where our knowledge of the “bird and bees” was clarified – in great detail I might add. As almost-adults, we already pretty much knew the nuts and bolts but my memories are that it was an extremely uncomfortable week, especially since boys and girls were not separated. We were beyond the phase of snickering (at least in class) but everyone sat board straight upright, careful not to make eye contact with anyone else in the room.

I don’t know if it was a required part of the course but one thing I most remember was Mr. Hubbard took us beyond the basics and engaged us in discussions about politics, the economy, and relationships. One could rightly argue that he was as concerned with our societal health as he was with our physical health. Good for him.

Excerpt from Scott Marcus’s column in Ezine- read more