AngerCoach Show – Episode #9 – Managing Expectations

This months episode discusses the benefits of managing your expectations. Learn what your expectations are, where they come from and understand how the world around us influences our expectations. When we understand these things, then we can better adjust what our expectations are when it comes to our lives, our relationships, our families, our possessions and our jobs. If we find ourselves frustrated by these things then it’s possible that we have formed unrealistic expectations about these goals. By adjusting our expectations to more realistic levels, we can avoid the anger that comes from being let down, and we will find ourselves living happier lives as a result.

Please note: This anger program and these anger tips are not meant to substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or advice. If you have intense, serious or chronic anger problems, or you have to deal with someone else who does, you should immediately consult a mental health or medical professional for help.

Is humor a remedy for anger?

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I recently returned from Phoenix, Arizona for a visit with a high school buddy that, save for a brief visit two years ago, I had not seen for fifty years.

What an experience that was – catching up with each other’ s lives covering a half of a century!

He had heard that I had become a psychologist, but  he had a little trouble wrapping his mind around how he thought I would be versus how he remembered me as a 17 year old adolescent. As old friends often do, we kidded around a lot as we reminisced, after which he asked, “‘How can you be a successful psychologist seeing people with serious problems when you kid around so much?”

The answer to that question is that appropriate humor is a valid therapeutic technique that can have much therapeutic value, even with people who have quite serious problems.

As Bill Cosby said: “You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything – even poverty – you can survive it. “

Comic Bob Newhart (who played a television psychologist) said: “Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.”

Actually, considerable research shows that humor is a powerful strategy to lower your stress level, dissolve anger and instantly give you new ways to view situations and thus new ways to respond. Often, mood is elevated just in the process of striving to find humor in difficult and frustrating situations. Laughing at ourselves and the situation helps reveal that small things are not the earth-shaking events they sometimes seem to be. Looking at a problem from a different perspective can make it seem less formidable and thus more solvable.

As we teach in our local anger management classes, as well as our online program, humor shifts the ways in which we can think and thus opens opportunities to be more “response-able” in dealing with whatever  is triggering our anger – without being overwhelmed by it. As Henry Ward Beecher (clergyman and activist) observed: “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road.”

Laughter can also help us release pent-up feelings of anger and frustration in socially acceptable ways; it also reduces tension because it is often followed by a state of relaxation.

So, give it a try.  If you are truly humor-challenged, here are some suggestions to improve:

  • Start collecting amusing (but tasteful) jokes that you can use to brighten the moment.
  • Take anger situations and flip them to see the funny side.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself; it shows you are secure about who you are and what you want.
  • Try seeing the situation from a different perspective

The AngerCoach Show Returns!

We’re back! After a long hiatus, we’ve finally revisited the AngerCoach show and promise to be better than ever! In this episode, we look at the high cost of anger as well as answer the question: “Is anger ever a good thing?” Keep listening – you might be surprised at the answer. Be sure to email us if you have any suggestions, or would like to have us read your story on our next episode.

Please note: This anger program and these anger tips are not meant to substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or advice. If you have intense, serious or chronic anger problems, or you have to deal with someone else who does, you should immediately consult a mental health or medical professional for help.

Use humor and laughter to diffuse anger

Humor is a powerful strategy to lower your stress level, dissolve anger and give you new ways to view situations and thus new ways to respond. Often mood is elevated just in the process of striving to find humor in difficult and frustrating situations. Laughing at ourselves and the situation helps reveal that small things are not the earth-shaking events they sometimes seem to be.  Looking at a problem from a different persepctive can make it seem less formidable and thus more solvable.

Humor shifts the ways in which we think and thus opens opportunities to be more “response-able” in dealing with whatever is triggering our anger, without being overwhelmed by it. As Henry Ward Beecher observed: “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs.  It is jolted by every pebble on the road.”

Are you humor challenged?  Here are some tips that will help:

1. Nurture your sense of humor and feed it with funny movies, books and songs.

2. Sart collecting amusing (but tasteful) jokes that youc an use to help brighten the moment.

3. Take anger situations and flip them to see the funny side. Give these issues a spin and learn to laugh at them.  Example: a man was reading the paper at the dinner table paying no attention to his frustrated wife who finallyu said: “Honey, would you mind stomping your foot once for “yes” and twice for “no”?  This immediately broke the ice as they both started laughing and then communicating.

Do the eight tools help with anger toward self?

Most of our writings concern people who have anger toward others. But, I recently received an email from someone who said he never gets mad at other people – only himself. He was wondering if the eight tools can be applied in that situation. The answer is a resounding YES. Even anger toward other people is sometimes the outward manifestation of self-anger or self-loathing. Some mental health professionals maintain that even depression is actually anger turned inward, that is, anger that has no voice, has no place to go or is too timid to find outward expression.

All the tools applied correctly can help with self anger, although sometimes therapy is also needed to “fine-tune” the process. Probably the most important tool to master in this situation is Tool #4- changing self-talk because what you tell yourself about yourself or your life situation has a lot to do with how you feel and how to see the world, Adjusting what you expect of yourself  to more realistic levels (Tool #6 ) can sometimes also be crucial to be happier inside and less self-anger. Learning to forgive yourself (Tool # 7)  for mistakes or misdeeds would also be high on the list because some people are so judgmental toward themselves that they are robbed of normal happiness or joy.

For more information on the eight tools of anger control and how they can be applied to many different situations, visit our website often. It is constantly changing.

Angry Men Need To Be Kinder To Self

Law Professor Carl Sanborn knows all about anger in men and has written a fascinating new book about it. Some very interesting ideas:

“The sad fact is that both boys and girls are warped by societal expectations” – by what Sandborn calls ‘patriarchy’. “I know, all red-blooded men cringe when they hear that word, patriarchy,” says Sandborn. “But in our resentment against feminist criticism, men have missed a vital point. Patriarchy has stolen our hearts and is killing us.”

The theft, according to Sandborn, is of the ability to express, process or even feel a normal array of human emotions. “Patriarchy stresses power over weakness and individual achievement over community and intimacy”.

Girls lose their voice, their power, under such pressures. Boys learn to be ashamed of their sensitive or “sissy” feelings. So boys suppress such feelings, though they can’t ever outrun them”. Sandborn says men, if made to feel ashamed, sad or hurt, react by getting angry at the cause, be it a boss, spouse, child or friend. The “other” gets blamed for making him feel what he shouldn’t feel as a man – vulnerable.

“The point is, if you scratch an angry man, you’ll often find a grieving man underneath – a guy who has never learned how to identify and process his vulnerable feelings. As Shakespeare put it, the voice of a father is like the voice of God,” says Sandborn. “And that critical voice is often incorporated into the ongoing internal narrative that we use to define our world.” 

“Expressing anger doesn’t work for angry men, either. A feedback loop starts when anger is expressed at a loved one, for example. Anger leads to guilt, leads to self-loathing, leads to more anger”. The answer? To begin, men must soften the cruel self-talk by adopting a patient and supportive inner voice. As Sandborn says, a man can become his own kind father.

He advises men to pay more attention to their feelings. “Give yourself permission to feel things. The truth is that feelings, with permission, will rise and then pass. Admit your guilt or sadness to yourself. But use a gentle voice. Everyone is flawed. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is a perfect husband, father or friend”. Remember, too, that anger is natural when a person feels attacked. But Sandborn says we can express angry feelings without losing our temper. Often, what we want to express to the other person is not our anger, but our hurt feelings.

Sandborn has a point. In our anger management classes we teach what is called “assertive communication” – the ability to express emotions without losing one’s temper. It is one of the eight tools of anger control we teach men- and women too – to better manage their emotions. More at http://www.angercoach.com

Calvin Sandborn is a law professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.  His book on anger management, Becoming the Kind Father: A Son’s Journey (New Society, 2007) can be viewed at http://www.newsociety.com/bookid/3951  Professor Sandborn can be reached at csandborn@law.uvic.ca

Forgiveness core tool of anger management

Do you believe in forgiveness or revenge? or both, depending on the circumstances? That was the topic this evening in our anger management class held in Orange, California. The topic brings out many conflicting emotions in participants, as all admitted to struggling with the concept of forgiveness and letting go of grievances. Research shows that people who can forgive have better, healthier lives, with much less anger and turmoil. Yet, some admitted they felt like “wimps” for “weak”  if they didn’t get “even” with those who had wronged them, especially if it was done on purpose with ill intent. The rebuttal to that issue is that forgiveness occurs in the heart and not in your interaction with those you forgive. This means that you can forgive, but still protect yourself from further abuse by the offending person. You can forgive, but sever the relationship. We then discussed that this is easier to do if you can find a way to not take the offense so personally and find a way to put positive meaning into the bad experience you had.

Quick Anger Tip #29-Learn To Suffer Fools

We often generate anger or feel irritation toward other people when we tell ourselves they are “stupid,” “incompetent,” “dumb,”slow,” or some some other term indicating that they do not live up to expectations or your performance standards.

We teach people in our anger management programs that the issue here is often unrealistic expectations of people or situations – on your part. After all, some people indeed don’t think as quickly as you do, some employees don’ t have your skills (or they would probably be doing what you are doing), some people just do things differently than you do, and people in your life may just have different ways of thinking than you do. (The classic example on this last point is the frustrated wife who simply asks her husband what time it is and he answers by taking 30 minutes to recite the history of the clock)
All those things may be true. But why become angry over it? The alternative is acceptance and tolerance of what you see as limitations (or differences) in others.

Fact is, they are probably not going to change. To avoid conflict and frustration, your challenge is to find a way to mentally cope with them or deal with them without the anger.

Quick Anger Tip #28- Expect Less, Be Happy

Anger is often generated by disappointment because of the gap between what we expect and what we get in relationships, in life, or on our jobs. Some research shows that the problem is not so much the “reality” of the situation, as your expectation of it.

In martial research, for instance, a consistent finding is that there is a large percentage of issues in any relationship that will always be there – as long as you are in that relationship. Go to another relationship and there will be another set of “perpetual” issues that will arise and potentially cause conflict. Research more specifically shows that 69% of the time couples fight over unsolvable issues.
Learning to adjust expectations and accepting things as they are (and then compromising or restructuring the relationship) can go a long way toward resolving anger and leading a happier life.