Is Forgiveness Manly?

The following article is reprinted with permission from The Art of Manliness. Of course, forgiveness is tool #7 in our toolkit of anger management tools in both our local classes and in our online programs. Click here to watch our video of forgiveness as well as our other anger management videos, then read the following article which deals with the question of “Is it manly to forgive?

Enjoy………..

Is It Manly To Forgive?

“No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick — on account of the dampness of the catacombs. I hastened to make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I reerected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!”

In the Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allen Poe paints a haunting picture of one man’s mission of revenge. After bearing a “thousand injuries” and a grievous insult, Montresor decides he must punish his antagonist, Fortunato, “with impunity.” “A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser, says Montresor. “It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.”

And so under the guise of seeking his opinion on some amontillado, Montresor lures Fortunato deep into the cold, damp catacombs. When they arrive at a niche in the walls, Montresor chains Fortunato to a rock and slowly begins to wall up the enclave brick by brick, leaving the stunned and confused nobleman inside to die a slow and agonizing death. Montresor’s revenge is complete.

***

The idea of justified revenge is one of the most common themes in masculine literature, movies, comic books, and video games. From the Count of Monte Cristo, to The Punisher, to Red Dead Revolver, revenge is often the driving force behind our most popular stories.

For thousands of years we have cheered the manly and heroic character who personally sought to avenge the wrong done to him or to his loved ones. The more perfect and complete his plot for revenge, the colder the dish served, the more delicious and admirable we find it. When the evil doers finally get their comeuppance, we are filled with vicarious satisfaction.

The great satisfaction we derive from stories of revenge is quite understandable. Revenge played a healthy role for much of our evolutionary history. Within tribes, revenge ensured that misdeeds were punished and deterred would be wrong-doers from committing egregious acts in the first place. Eye for an eye. It was a rudimentary but effective way to mete out justice. And since it was men carrying out this basic form of law enforcement, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that our brains appear to be hard-wired for revenge.

So if the desire to seek revenge comes so naturally, why should we attempt forgiveness? Is forgiveness even manly?

What Does It Mean to Forgive?

As men I think we often resist the idea of forgiveness both because it seems contrary to the idea of justice and because it seems like an action born of weakness. After all, many people equate forgiveness with letting someone off the hook for their crime and allowing them to get away with wrongdoing. Doesn’t the lack of just punishment encourage the person to commit the same act again and put us in the position of condoning their crime? And if so, is forgiveness for suckas? For whipped push-overs?

But true forgiveness shouldn’t involve ignoring the issues of justice. It does not preclude justified anger. It shouldn’t be a get out of jail free card you bestow upon everyone willy nilly. It is not something you agree to simply to avoid conflict. It should not involve being a doormat who allows someone to hurt you over and over again. It is not the same as reconciliation, and it does not mean that you forget what has happened, nor that you automatically trust a person again.

What it does mean is that you let go of both your ill-feelings towards the offender and your need to personally balance the scales of justice. It’s a process whereby the antagonism you feel for the offender is replaced with compassion.

Sound sissy? It’s not. In fact, summoning the strength to forgive someone can increase your manliness is a variety of ways-

Forgiveness:

Shows Maturity

The reason it’s easy to cheer for revenge in a movie is that typically the plot is set up in a very black and white way. The hero is an admirable and virtuous guy; the villain is pure evil and kills the hero’s family simply because his heart is a black lump of coal.

Of course the real world is rarely so simplistic. Seeing things in black and white is generally reserved for children.

At a certain point the boy must become a man. Maturity involves the ability to step into another person’s shoes and see things from a different perspective. It requires a mind that understands the human condition and recognizes people as truly complex creatures, with frailties, failures, and checkered histories.

You need not condone the wrong someone did, but you should try to understand it, and them. Okay, your dad was a dick, but why was that? Probably because his dad was a dick to him and that’s all he knows about being a father.

Did your friend do something completely out of character? What was going on at the time? Was he acting out of the hurt of his recent break-up?

Sometimes people do wrong us randomly. And perhaps these offenses are the most difficult to deal with. But even then the person typically has a screw loose; something is just not right upstairs.

Forgiveness can change your whole perspective on life and people. We come to see others as fellow travelers in this world; everyone’s walking around with various wounds and various capabilities for dealing with those hurts and angers. They’re not evil villains who are out to get you, but people stumbling around, trying to do the right thing, and sometimes failing miserably. Kind of like….you.

Involves Taking Personal Responsibility and Shunning Victimhood

Being a man means taking personal responsibility for your life. But we often hold onto our grudges because they make for handy excuses, excuses that keep us from finally growing up. We can’t forgive our dad for what he did to us because when we do we will no longer be able to use that as an excuse for our personal failures. We’ll have to move forward and accept full responsibility for our lives. And that can be scary.

When we hold onto a grudge, we hold onto our identity as victims. We let someone else’s actions define us. When we forgive, we decide that we define who we are.

Puts You in Control

By withholding forgiveness you feel like you’ve got the upper hand on someone. You can dangle reconciliation on a string, make them continually grovel with contrition. Grudges thus offer the illusion of power and control. Yet they can’t fulfill that promise.

Because ironically, the offender is still the one holding your puppet strings. Your mental state is dependent on them. You’ve made your happiness contingent on another person: you need to show me X and treat me like X for me to be happy. If we wait until the other person is sorry, we’re giving them control over us-we’re waiting on them. Don’t give them that power. When you choose to forgive you embrace your free choice and agency-no one can make you feel like shiz without your permission.

Grants You Freedom

When we hold grudges and plot our revenge, we limit our freedom. Yes, we get to keep the other person in prison and wield that power. But what we don’t realize is that we’re stuck in jail with them, having to play the role of the ever vigilant warden. You can put someone in the doghouse, but you better make room for two. Or as a Chinese proverb says, “He who seeks revenge should remember to dig two graves.”

Revenge eats us up from the inside. It’s a pile of coals that we hold in our hands, giving off heat while it burns our body. Once you let the other person go, you’re not just releasing them, but you’re releasing yourself, breaking free from the rotting prison and moving forward.

Allows You to Grow

What people usually won’t say out loud is that resentment and anger make us feel good-powerful, tough, untouchable. And having an enemy and plotting revenge gives our life purpose, a tent pole for our thoughts to revolve around. Where would superheroes be and what would they spend their time doing without an archnemesis?

But this kind of purpose is a dead end and a waste of our valuable energy, consuming us and retarding our progress.

When you come to a place of forgiveness, you can start to find meaning in your suffering. You figure out what you’ll do differently next time and come to an understanding of how the pain helped you grow and become a better man. Forgiveness can become a platform for leaping forward in life.

Requires Bravery and Confronting Pain

Blame and bitterness might make you feel powerful and tough, but they’re often a cover for the inability to face pain head on. Holding a grudge against your ex-wife, thinking about how much of a she-devil she is every time she crosses your mind is a coping mechanism. Continually drinking from the well of anger keeps the pain from the dissolution of your marriage at bay.

We use bitterness as a way to keep ourselves from having to mourn a loss. Once we let go of the anger, we’re forced to confront the pain directly. Forgiveness involves taking a risk; we have to open ourselves up to the past hurt and the potential of being hurt again. And that takes courage.

Creates a Manly Legacy

Perhaps the manliest benefit of forgiveness is the way it enables you to not only free yourself from being locked inside bitterness, but how it creates a powerful legacy for those who come after you. You may come from a family where generation after generation has been hurting each other and keeping those feelings locked up, sickening the men from the inside.

Instead of making the same mistakes with your kids as your parents did with you, forgiveness says, “The buck stops here with me.” You have the courage to acknowledge and feel the pain and then to let it go instead of passing it on. You have the power to weld a new link in the chain of generations, and manliness.


Can’t change your partner? Try Looking in The Mirror!

Anger is an emotion. But, angry emotions often trigger a specific behavior (like yelling, throwing things, hitting, insulting someone, etc) which causes problems for you either at home, at work, on the road, or in your family. Most people in our anger classes tell us that one of the reasons they exhibit the angry behavior is because they want to change someone or something, they want somebody to think a certain way (or not)  or to do something (or not).

That is another way of saying that the angry person is trying to somehow “influence” the behavior or thinking of another. Unfortunately, angry behavior usually does not work; even if it does, the cost is so high that it almost always just isn’t worth it. We teach that there are better ways to influence others without getting angry or antagonizing others. But, where to start?

Questions to ask yourself:
The place to start is by looking in the mirror. As painful as it might be, ask yourself if you are behaving in ways that increase the probability of getting what you need and want from your partner? In other words, you have a lot more influence than you might think in terms of getting different responses from your partner. Ask yourself, how do other partners behave that do get what they want or need? (I know what you are thinking: “The reason they get more of what they need is because they have a better partner.” That may be true, or partially true,  but it also may not be. So, better to first ask, “Do I behave like people that do get more of what they want or need ” and then see what happens if you change.

Case study
Jose and Maria have been married for ten years. Jose has his own business; Maria is a stay- at- home mom. Jose sees Maria as lazy because she often does not prepare meals regularly, she does not clean the house up to Jose’s standards, and she often is too exhausted to do fun things in the evenings. Worse, according to Jose, Maria rarely ackowledges his great contributions to the marriage (he is very successful in business, and he is a good dad) ), she rarely shows affection, and praise of any kind is very rarely given.

Jose handles his frustration by yelling at Maria, calling her horrible names related to laziness, and accusing her of using a diagnosis of depression as an excuse for  not doing the things, in his mind,  she should  be doing. As I asked Jose in one of our sessions, what does he think the probability is of getting her to do more around the house by yelling, calling her names, and criticizing? Research shows, I told him,  that yelling, name-calling and criticizing decreases the probability of change in partners.

Jose decided to try to change things by applying the tool of  Respond Instead of React (The third tool of anger management in our system- Video; Respond Instead of React). Next morning, the kids were screaming, he needed help and his wife was still in bed. But, instead of yelling at her as usual, he went upstairs and calmly told her, “Honey, I need your help. I am overwhelmed down here.” Guess what? Maria at first did not stir, but five minutes later she came down the stairs and pitched in. Now this was not an earth-shaking change, but it was a start and it meant a lot to Jose.

There are ways to influence the behavior of someone that work much better than other ways. These ways can be called “relationship habits.” Just like you should copy the golf swings habits of golf champions if you want to improve your golf game, or the financial habits of very successful people if you want more financial success, you should copy the habits of those that may be more successful in relationships than you may be. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks- and often they should!

Related Articles and Blogs:

How to tank your relationship – Part 1
How to tank you relationship – Part 2
How to tank your relationship – Part 3

    Dealing With Life Stress: Should We Use a Scale or a Broom?

    MHH_cartoon-a-thon_2009-2stress

    This cartoon illustrates how stressful life can be, even in normal  situations like family life. (By the way, if you enjoy mental health humor, visit (http://blogs.psychcentral.com/humor) for more.) In our anger management programs, we teach specific methods to handle stress as one of our anger control tools, because stress and anger are very much connected and related.

    Is stress control about achieving life balance? Perhaps. Maybe not. In the words of our humorist Chato,

    “If you’re seeking balance because your life is a mess, then you’re looking at the wrong thing. What you need to be seeking…….is a broom!”

    My experience is that sometimes we might need both a scale and a broom. A scale to keep things in balance and proportion and a broom to sweep out all the stuff that is irrelevant to your life goals and dreams and may be bogging you down, like trying to walk through wet cement.

    Lets start with the scale:

    scale

    Many personal development coaches teach clients to make a pie chart like this……………

    pie chart

    ……..and then teach clients to put a label on each piece of the pie representing life areas where time and energy and spent. Typical categories would be work, family, community, religion, leisure, etc. Then, by keeping track of how much time or effort you spend in activities related to each category, you can easily see if your life is out of balance or not.

    Take the case of a 43 year old small business owner who worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He slept eight hours a day, leaving only 6 hours  a day for everything else including his marriage, his family, personal time, etc. Soon, he felt overwhelmed and burned-out and then he felt  “used” by almost everyone because his needs outside of work were not even close to being satisfied or fulfilled. Often people like this have a classic “type A” personality and are seen as “driven.” One client we saw had had three heart attacks by age 33 and still was unable to slow down or add balance to his life.

    Is happiness higher in people who have a more balanced life? Are these people less stressed? I’m not sure that this has even been directly researched, but it seems intuitively true from observation of happy and relaxed people. Balance comes not only from how you spend your time, but also in terms of  how purposeful or meaningful what you do seems to you. Do what your love and your life will not feel out of balance to you (although others may not see it the same way). Spending much effort doing what you feel you have to do without counter-balancing it with enjoyable or meaningful or rewarding things will lead to much stress and unhappiness. We all have to spend some time on things we don’t like or things we don’t want to do; but happier people balance these things with doing at least one enjoyable or rewarding  thing each day – something they can “look forward to”

    Now The Broom…..

    broom

    Life activities, thoughts, focus on the unimportant or focus on that which cannot be changed can clutter our minds just like stacks of old newspapers can clutter a room in your house. Both types of clutter make it difficult to navigate life because they bog us down, and occupy space that could be much better used. Mind clutter may include things like:

    • Focusing on trivia or the unimportant while missing the bigger, more important issue (for instance, happily straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic, while being oblivious to the fact that the ship is sinking)
    • Devoting significant portions of your life to changing that which cannot be changed instead of focusing on that which can be. This includes people as well as causes or issues.
    • Staying  stuck in a life style or life situation you stopped liking long ago, but yet you stay in it or keep on doing it. Being preoccupied with the negative clogs your mind and your perspective to try new solutions or try new life styles that may be less stressful and bring more happiness. Think: “If I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem.”
    • Thinking certain self-talk or holding certain beliefs about yourself or the world which may not be true, yet stop you from pursuing or achieving some life dreams that may still be within you reach.
    • Holding resentments or grievances which poison you inside like a cancer and block your potential for happiness or fulfillment.

    AngerCoach Show – Episode #11 – Anger and Sex

    This months episode we discuss the relationship that sex and anger share. As a practicing Psychologist and Marriage Therapist, I have come across many couples who experience sexual frustrations in their relationships. Often times anger can arise from sexual frustration, and as this episode discusses, sexual frustration can result from anger. In this podcast we teach four practical and easy-to-employ techniques for reducing sexual frustration and anger in your relationship.

    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.

    How To Tank Your Relationship- Lesson 2

    blackandwhitethinking

    In our last blog, we taught you Lesson 1 of how to tank your relationship: React to bad behavior by your partner  in way that indicates that you think they are 100% wrong and you are 100% right. Then assume that there is only one way (your way) to view or look at the situation, so there is no need to try to see things from the perspective of your partner.

    Today we continue with our lessons on how to tank a relationship- just in case Lesson #1 hasn’t worked for you yet:

    How to tank your relationship: Lesson 2- Handle anger toward each other poorly.

    african american couple fighting

    To tank your relationship, get “stuck” in your anger either as the partner with the original anger or as the partner who is on the receiving end of anger. Either way, getting stuck in anger can quickly turn to  disgust. Eventually, you might even get to contempt for your partner which is a deathblow to most relationships. With a contemptuous attitude, you don’t even bother to get angry back at your partner because you tell yourself “I won’t stoop to my partner’s level by getting angry.”  So you stonewall (don’t talk at all to your partner), become passive-aggressive (get back at your partner in a sneaky way), or emotionally shut-down.

    Fact is, research on successful couples (as described in a book by marital therapist Brent J. Atkinson called “Emotional Intelligence in Couples Therapy”) shows that anger itself is not a dangerous emotion for marriages. Many highly successful couples regularly blow up at each other. Blow-ups are not necessarily destructive (within limits). Rather, partners getting stuck in their resentment for having been attacked is an equally serious  issue that brings down a marriage.

    That is because when a person fails to stand up forcefully when feeling disregarded or criticized harshly, they almost always harbor resentment and in internal attitude of contempt (That is, they think of themselves as “better”  in some sense than their exploding partner.) And, as mentioned above, having contempt toward your partner is a very serious problem in terms of longevity of the relationship.

    Caution: Only read the next paragraph if you have decided NOT to tank your relationship:

    So, what is the healthy way to handle anger in a relationship? First, if you are the primary angry partner, learn to communicate better and deal with normal angry feelings more effectively without destroying your partner or the relationship in the process. There are many ways to handle anger so that you get a better result and you get more of what you truly want from your partner! These techniques (including something called a “softer startup”)  are what we teach in local anger management classes as well as in our online distance-learning program.

    Second, you do not have to suffer in silence if you are in relationship with a person who handles their anger poorly.  The trick is to stand up for yourself and deal with the issue rather than “stuffing it” and building resentment through the years. (Of course, do not put yourself in a dangerous situation by standing up for yourself with a truly raging or violent partner).

    Research strongly shows that partners of people who act badly in any way (including anger) have more influence than they think on future occurrences of that bad behavior by their spouse. You do not have to tolerate it and can even change it to some extent if you do the right things.

    AngerCoach Show – Episode #10 – Is Humor a Remedy for Anger?

    This months episode we discuss the positive effects that a sense of humor can have in dealing with anger. Appropriate humor can help all of us deal with difficult situations better, and if we have a problem with anger humor can gives us new ways to respond to frustrating situations. Humor shifts the way we think and helps us to be response-able – capable of handling stress, frustration, tension and other hard to deal with emotions. In this episode, we also teach four easy ways to develop a sense of humor.

    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.

    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.

    Managing Expectations: A powerful happiness tool!

    When people graduate from our anger management classes, we ask them which of the eight tools of anger control helped them the most. Often graduates tell us that it was Anger Tool # 6– “Adjust expectations” that was of most help to them. But managing expectations helps in more life areas than just anger; it also is a very useful tool for happiness, to fight depression, and generally to have a more balanced life.

    What is an expectation?
    An expectation is a mental prediction of what will happen in the future when we don’t know for sure. If what does actually happen matches or exceeds our expectation of it we experience positive emotions such as satisfaction, joy, surprise, or gratification. If, on the other hand, what occurs is different from what we expected or is less than what we expected, we experience negative emotions such as disappointment, anger, or frustration.

    To fight depression, to be less angry, to have less life frustration, it is important to develop the skill of closing the gap between what we have and what we expected in the first place. This is not easy because it is a real challenge to decide what is reasonable to expect of ourselves, our loved ones, our employees, our friends, or our marriage partners. To complicate matters, we live in a culture that often encourages unrealistic expectations of our marriages, our sex lives, our financial success, our body beauty, our children, and our “rights” to unlimited material things.

    Given our culture and our attitudes, , how can we NOT be disappointed when we actually look our age, when we only have a normal sex frequency of once or twice a week , when we can only afford one family car instead of that second SUV, when our children our good citizens but only average in achievement, and when we “only” earn $80,000 a year at age twenty-eight.

    Shouldn’t We Aim High?
    Not that we shouldn’t aim high. Achievement and success often follow dreams. But, as we are looking toward the sky we also need to remember to keep our feet on the ground. Lowering  or at least having different expectations gives us emotional room to be surprised, delighted and awed by good things that occur that we didn’t demand or depend on for our happiness. With this attitude, good things  are like a bonus of life rather than a condition for happiness.

    What should we expect in marriage?
    In relationships, unhappy people often expect something different than what they get. Again, this is sometimes due to children growing up with the Hollywood fantasy of what marriage is like. Later, these same children expect, for instance,  that their marriage partner’s purpose in life is to satisfy all their needs, that making a marriage succeed shouldn’t be hard work, and that you should be able to “be yourself” and still have your partner love you (even though you are a very poor marriage partner). Unfortunately, sometimes we discover that we don’t know our partners very well at all, even though we thought we did back when the hormones were still distorting our perception during courtship. Some psychologists maintain that many of us don’t marry a real person; rather we marry a “concept” (or an expectation) of what we want them to be.

    Marital trouble then strikes when reality sets in!

    What are some ways to Adjust Your Expectations for More Happiness?
    To examine your expectations and adjust them, it often helps to talk to trusted friends or older people that you respect and look up to. Research show that it really helps to talk to trusted people who have been through what you are confused about. You might also have  sessions with a qualified therapist to help you sort things out. Other suggestions would include

    • Mentally prepare yourself and others ahead of time for what may or may not happen.  Sharing possibilities and outcomes with others can do much to reduce conflicts.
    • Stop “shoulding” in your self-talk. Think of the word “should” less often because that word is a sure-fire formula for frustration and upset.
    • Try to see disappointing things or people from a different perspective, focusing on different aspects of the person or situation.

    Anger and Sex: Part 1- Sexual Frustration

    sexproblems

    As a practicing psychologist and marriage therapist, I often encounter clients who are angry because they suffer sexual frustration in their marriage or relationship. As we teach in our anger classes, anger is sometimes a secondary emotion, meaning that there is something underneath it which triggers it. Often that “something” is sexual frustration.

    The most common type of sexual frustration is what sex therapists call “low libido” which means that one partner just isn’t interested in sex often enough to satisfy the other partner. Persons with low libido enjoy sex once they get into it, but rarely want to get into it. Their partners often complain that they never initiate it, or show lack of enthusiasm about sex. To use a metaphor, persons with low sex desire are like a car that has an engine that runs fine, but the battery is often dead.

    My experience has been that persons with low sex desire love their partners very much, and are still attracted to them, but feel guilty that they no longer desire sex as often, rarely think about sex, and usually don’t know what to do about it. Their partners often take it personally, feel rejected, and sometimes need to find an explanation for why their sex life has dwindled. Unfortunately, they often come to the wrong conclusion such as their partner is having an affair.

    Sexual frustration in a relationship is the elephant in the room. Often, the couple stops talking about it because they have learned that it just leads to conflict. Yet, the problem invades almost all aspects of the relationship, even if nobody talks about it:  A couple may go to bed at different times to avoid having to deal with sex; watching your partner talk to other men or other women is interpreted differently; one partner may start withholding favors (like cooking a favorite meal) out of sexual resentment; partners stop touching each other at all to avoid sexual arousal or potential rejection; sleeping with a scared child in another room is seen by the other as a method to avoid intimacy.

    There are many causes and reasons for low sexual desire. People just have different sexual desires, just as they have different appetites for many things. These sexual desires often change at different ages and different life circumstances. Having periods of low sex desire is normal, and often related to events such as recent childbirth, normal marital stresses and demands that cause fatigue, and work demands.

    Contrary to popular opinion, low sexual desire is distributed about evenly among men and women. Many times the problem is not so much the level of sexual desire, but the discrepancy between your desire and your partner’s desire. This means that “low desire” is a relative term, depending on who you are with.

    That said, sometimes  low sex desire is caused by relationship issues, especially anger or resentment. What this means is that sometimes  anger can be the cause of low sexual desire (especially in women), and anger can also be the result of sexual frustration (in both genders, but probably  more often in men). In my experience, many women lose sexual  desire for partners they resent or feel anger toward. Likewise, many men are constantly nasty and emotionally withholding toward their partners because they are sexually frustrated.

    While sex therapy with a professional therapist is sometimes required to deal with sex problems, the tools that we teach in our local anger management programs as well as our distance learning anger program can help with your sex life in many ways. Tools learned in our programs include dealing better with stress, developing more empathy for your partner, communicating assertively with each other, adjusting marital and sexual expectations to a reasonable level, and learning to let go of past resentments and grievances.

    The bottom line is that learning to deal with anger can improve your sex life. And, improving your sex life can help with your anger!

    Is humor a remedy for anger?

    funcouple

    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