We are very excited to announce the release of the AngerCoach Mobile iPhone/iPod Touch app available in the iTunes app store!
With the pace of technology catching up to our busy schedules we feel this new platform is the ideal way to deliver the timely and practical content the AngerCoach provides. People of all ages and backgrounds can access these useful anger management tools in the palm of their hand. Not only does the app provide skill building tools for the 8 tools of anger control, but it provides an easy way to monitor your progress and access constantly updating tools for 6 unique anger zones.
Click here to download the app via the App Store, and remember to tell us what you think!
Question: How many psychologists does it take to change a light-bulb?
Answer:Only one – but the light-bulb has to really want to change.
In my experience as a psychologist and marriage therapist, I have often see people struggle with the question of how much they are capable of actually changing. At social events, when people discover my profession, they will sometimes ask, Can people really change, even if they want to?
Some folks believe in the philosophy that “A leopard cannot change its spots” while others believeÂ “anything is possible”Â in terms of ability to change. As is often the case in psychology, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Obviously, certain habits and some personality traits are changeable, many psychiatric conditions (such as phobias, depression, sexual dysfunction and anxiety) are now very treatable,Â but certain core character traits, attitudes toward life, core personality traits, and personal beliefs are not.
A question that often comes up in therapy (or socially) is: “Can an unfaithful partner change or is cheaterÂ always a cheater? Too bad questions about human behavior are not more easily answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”‘Â Truth is, some unfaithful partners can and do change and others don’t. Depends on the circumstances (the type of affair) and the character structure of the offender.
The reason the “change” issueÂ is an important question is that it lies atÂ the core of setting expectations about people. It is our expectations that determine to a large extent what we will feel toward others or certain situations. If we have in our minds that someone could change if they really wanted to, but, in fact, they cannot, we may unjustifiablyÂ get upset with them.Â We may also get unduly upset with ourselves for not changing something about ourselves when, in fact, we need to acceptÂ limitations in that particular area of our lives. People often have unrealistic expectations about themselves and then either unduly berate themselves (expectations too high) if life turns out differently than they anticipated or, give up too easily(expectations too low)Â when they could have done more!
What does change require?
Can You Change? It Requires Ability To Do So
The philosophy that “anything is possible” does not square with life experience,Â although this notion is popular in our society. For example, for ten years my first wife was convinced she could teach me how to sing. Being a music teacher, she saw me as a real professional challenge the first time she heard me, even though I told her that I couldn’t even carry a tune in a box. Poor woman really tried..and tried. We both eventually gave up, bowing to the harsh reality that one has to have the proper brain structures to be able to sing, no matter how hard one tries, desires it, or commits to it.
Is It Worth It? Change Requires Motivation
On the other hand, we can we learn to change how we communicate, how we handle anger, how we function or show love as a wife, husband, partner, or parent! Many times it is not innate limitations holding us back, but simple lack of skills. If you didn’t get the skills earlier in your life, Â you can still acquire them, but this will involve motivation to do so, assuming the thing is changeable in the first place.Â Take the young women who comes to our anger management classes because she has just lost her third boyfriend in a row because they could not deal with her anger. Is she motivated to change? You bet! Was she motivated during her first conflictual relationship? No, because at that point she did not see herself as the problem. But, now she does!
Should You Change? ItÂ Requires Trait of Flexibility in Your Personality
Some people do not believe in change. My late mother was one of those people. She did not believe in personal change and could not successfully deal with change in others or change in circumstances. At age 63 she was proud of the fact that “I am the same person today as I was at age 19.”
When I went away to collegeÂ and then returned home with fresh ideas and life views, she was very upset because she did not see me as the same boy that had left home (“College has changed you” ). Change requires the flexibility to accept it rather than being scared of it or threatened by it. It requires the ability to be adaptable (instead of rigid) in a changing world and to see the necessity of changing in order to be a more effective person. It is the attitude: “Well, if that doesn’t work for me, I better try something else.” Unfortunately, many people are the opposite: they hold onto what obviously doesn’t work any longer in the hopes that somehow it will work again for them.
When Should You Change?Â Often itÂ is required to Deal with LifeÂ Stages. Most people realize that children go throughÂ developmental stages, but failÂ to recognize that adults do too. What you need and how you see the world is often quit different at age 60 than at age 20. People sometimes naturally change at different life stages. The man who was a terrible father because he was always gone to support the family when younger,Â may be an excellent grandfather at age 60. The 19 year old girl who was attracted to the “hot” young men , at age 40 may value stability more than muscles in a man now. To some extent, nature forces us to change as we age, but some people fight it more than others or become frightened because different survival skills are now needed.
Some people mellow as they get older while others sour. Perhaps one reason for the difference is that of adaptability – or change.Â It seems to me that happier people are better at accepting change as natural and as part of the universe while sour people are often bitter, disillusioned, disenchanted or unfulfilled with their life or life situation.
Believe it or not, old dogs CAN learn new tricks. Life is change and the wise person asks themselves what they need in THIS life stage to be happier, to be more effective, and to deal with the current as well as future personal challenges.
When I was a boy growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, it was my Italian-American father who was the mood setter of the house. If he was happy, everybody was happy. If he was angry, the home atmosphere turned ugly with discontent spreading like an August fog in San Fransisco, from one family member to the next.
Like many psychologists, I was attracted to the field of psychology to find answers to the many strange and vexing questions about my dysfunctional family, including why one person’s mood in a family can so drastically affect everyone else in the family, and beyond.
I am happy to report that new research now provides some answers. This research shows thatÂ everything we do or say tends to ripple through our social networks, having an impact on our friends (one degree), our friendsâ€™ friends (two degrees), and our friendsâ€™ friendsâ€™ friends (three degrees). That means when you feel happy, your friendâ€™s friendâ€™s friend has a higher likelihood of feeling happy too.
The implications of this finding for familyÂ members is gigantic, especially if family members also happen to be your friends.Â As famed researcher Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University points out:
1.Happiness is not only an individual matter.
The research shows that taking control of our own happiness can positively affect others. Happiness is not oneâ€™s own business anymore.
2. One plus one does not necessarily equal two.
Happiness does not spread among people in a â€˜1 to 1â€™ manner, but infuses up to three degrees of separation. Your happiness thus depends on the pleasure of individuals beyond your own social horizon. The power of this transference of happiness is no more 1+1=2.
When you stop and think about it, how many people “up-line” contribute to your happiness or unhappiness? When I grew older, I realized that my father’ s moods were being influenced by His mother, who maybe was being influenced by her relatives or social contacts.
Thinking about all this reminds me of how important it is to (1) be aware of whom you associate with (and who they associate with) as they may be influencing you more than you realize, and (2) You can greatly influence many people in the world with your own moods, including happiness.
So, set the tone positive for your social networks at home, at work, in peer-based activities and on your virtual social networks.
In our anger management classes in Southern California as well as in our online anger management programs, we try to teach people how to be happier as an antidote to anger. What we areÂ discovering now is anger reduction replaced by happiness not only greatly affects the individual, but many people around him or her.
Now for the drum roll……
Remember, before you decide to laugh with someone, you are not only laughingÂ with him or her, but with everyone they have laughed with before you!
Learning to respond instead of react to frustration and anger triggers is anger tool #3Â in our “tool kit” of anger control strategies. An important skill to use this tool is the skill of being grateful for things in your world and in your life. It is almost impossible to be angry and grateful at the same time. But, it is very challenging to be grateful when you look around and see only negatives in your life. You want to ask yourself: “what should I be grateful for exactly?”
Being able to answer that question for yourself is a major step toward anger control and increased happiness in your life. Following are some resources to help you do just that. We begin with a Budhist quote:
“A wise man, recognizing that the world is but an illusion, does not act as if it were real, so he escapes the suffering.”
We continue with a concept promoted by David Block, creator of the “Gratitude Balls” to be squeezed whenever you feel depressed, angry, or discouraged. We hand out these balls to participants of our local (Southern California) anger management classes. David recently organizedÂ The First Gratitude Tour of San Diego: Here is his you tube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7NKhHGIlzM
Finally, we turn to the master,Â Deepak Chopra, who teaches you how to meditate in order to get in touch with gratitude which he believes is the quickest way to “get in touch with your soul.” His video can be seen also on you tube atÂ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIXIwdhOmSM
Research backs up the claim that being grateful leads to increased happiness! Try it and see if it works for you!
As I mentioned in my last blog, psychologists are now doing major research in determining what makes people happy. These researchers are called Positive Psychologists and some of what they are discovering is fascinating. Take Sonja Lyubomirsky at The University of California at Riverside who wrote a book based on her research called “The How of Happiness.” She addresses the question of what determines happiness? and finds the following:
(1) about 50% is due to genetics; that is, we all have a biological “set point” that probably cannot be modified. Some of us are just naturally more dour than others. On the other hand, are the disgusting people who wake up chirping like a bird every morning.
(2) About 10% – yes, only 10% – of happiness is due to life circumstances. This includes circumstances such material wealth and beauty.
(3) About 40% of happiness is due to intentional activity. Wow! What a finding. This means that at least 40% of your happiness is under your control and includes specific behaviors and ways of thinking that will increase or decrease your happiness.
So, what are these activities and which ones will work for you? Lyubomirsky discusses and describes 12 happiness activities that seem to have a positive effect on people’s happiness.
Which ones will work for you depends on your personality, needs and circumstances. Many seem to be commons sense, yet unhappy people have not yet learned these basic life skills.
I just returned from a 3-day conference in Philadelphia sponsored by the International Positive Psychology Association. The positive psychology movement is about ten years old but has really “taken off” in the last year or so. It is about scientific research related to concepts like optimism, happiness, resilience, courage, love, achievement, and goodness. The emphasis is on helping people develop positive traits or enhancing what is right and good rather than focusing on fixing what is wrong with a person. The movement believes that we are not so much victims of our past as we are motivated by being pulled into what we want in the future.
Being an anger management expert, my listening at the conference was mostly how all this fits into anger management. Would developing “happiness” or “well-being” skills decrease anger? Can a positive emotion like happiness offset a negative emotion like anger? Rather than trying NOT to be angry, should we instead focus on skills to be happy?
As is the case with most things in psychology, the answers to these questions is probably “it depends.” For some people, practicing and mastering happiness skills probably WILL make them less angry. For others, anger might be very situation specific so that they could be happy in most areas of life, but still have anger in a specific area of life (like in their marriage).
To see which category you fall in, I would recommend starting with a happiness skill that almost all happiness experts recommend- expressing gratitude. This is defined as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation of life.” Research clearly shows that those who count their blessings on a regular basis become happier as a result. It is simple to do; once a week, simply write down in a journal or log what you are grateful for that week. Seems to work better if you only do it once a week, rather than every day.
If you have an Iphone or Itouch, you can even download a free app that allows you to keep a gratitude journal.
Sounds simple-minded, but sometimes simpler things are amazingly effective. Try it, keep track of both your happiness and your levels of anger, and see if this works for you!
In a recent anger management class, someone asked the question: “what is the opposite of anger?” If we don’t want to be angry, what emotional state do we want to be in that would be the reverse of anger? The answer, of course, is something likeÂ “inner peace”Â or maybe even “happiness.”Â
So, theÂ discusssionÂ continued, does inner peace or happinessÂ occur naturally or do we have to do specific things to achieve these states of mind? Â Â New research sheds some light on this question and reveals that people who have happiness make conscious decisions to be happy- or not angry. It is a mental skill set that we can acquire and learn. According to a prior president of the Amercian Psychological Association, happiness is something that we consciously choose.
In our classes, we teach eight tools of anger management, one of which is the tool of learning to respond to stressful situtions instead of just reacting to them. This means being mindful of the choices that we have. “Mindfulness” creates a mental distance between one and one’s behavior which increases self-awareness and the opportunity to chooseÂ and direct our actions, rather than being on automactic pilot.
Individuals who flourish in the face of adversity are those who believe that they have control over their emotions and employ the necessary actions to alter their behavior when faced with stress or anger triggers.
What is emotional happiness? Can people predict how happy they will be in the future? When people look back at their lives, do they regret inactions or actions more?
These and many other questions are answered in a fascinating best seller by Harvard Professor Daniel Gilbert titled “Stumbling on Happiness.”Â The answer to the first question is that emotional happiness is a very personal and subjective feeling. There is no way to compare the experience with others or measure it with anything in the physical world. If someone says they are happy or not happy, you must take their assessment at face value, even though you have no way of knowing if their “happiness” is the same feeling you are having when you say you are “happy” or “unhappy.”
As for the second question, research show that people are very poor at predicting their future happiness, which may explain why people make all kinds of life decisions thinking they will be happy, but many times, they are not.Â He argues that our brain is wired to base future happiness on how we feel when we make the prediction (the present) which may be quit different than how we feel when the actual future event occurs. Thus, things get confused and distorted.
Finally, studies reveal that at the end of life, people more often regret what they didn’t do than things they did do. This means that maybe we should do more things for happiness.
This book has hundreds of other fascinating conclusions and findings about happiness and well-being. Many of these concepts are part of our anger management live classes as well as our online classes; our thinking is that the more we achieve happiness the less angry we will be, as the two emotions are pretty much incompatible. More informations at www.angercoach.com