This topic brings out many conflicting emotions; many of my patients admitted to struggling with the concept of forgiveness and letting go of grievances. Some of my patients feel they need to get even in order to feel vindicated, while others think they will be seen as wimps, especially if the grievance was done on purpose. It’s important to remember that this struggle is a normal part of the forgiveness process, and you are not alone in feeling this way. 

While our knee-jerk reaction may be that we feel vengeful and want to get even, I encourage people to take a step back and think over the situation. For instance, consider a situation where a friend unintentionally hurt your feelings. You may want to snap at them or hurl an equally offensive insult, but it is better to take the time to think things over. Once you have calmed down, you can assess how you wish to move forward, perhaps by forgiving them and maintaining the friendship. 

Given some time, you may realize your friend might have been having a bad day, there may be stress in their lives you are unaware of, or they may have made a comment they did not realize hurt. Taking time to think things over, assess the situation, and then act with a calm head allowed you to move past the situation without escalating the conflict further or harboring resentment toward your friend.

To forgive, we must reframe our negative thoughts surrounding how we felt wronged. We do this by acknowledging the hurt, understanding the other person’s perspective, and finding a way to let go of the negative emotions associated with the event. This is an empowering feeling and an essential tool in this stressful world.

Sometimes, we may choose not to forgive but to end the relationship with the offending person. Depending on the situation, this may be the better path to take. Take Penny and Samantha, for example.

Penny and Sam were friends for many years. Their friendship was not an overly close one but the girls talked at least once a week on the phone and caught up for lunch whenever their schedules allowed.

Throughout their friendship, Sam fell on hard times and asked Penny to borrow money, who happily offered her assistance. All Penny asked was that Sam repay her debt in full over a six-month period. Sam agreed to this, and Penny was happy to help her friend.

Unfortunately, Sam struggled with managing her finances and had no intentions of repaying her friend once the money was spent. Penny gently asked Sam when she was going to be repaid at first, but then, more insistently, Sam ignored her.

Eventually, Sam realized she would never see her money again and resigned herself to the loss. She grieved their friendship but chose to cut ties with her old friend. This choice allowed her to heal and move on from the hurt despite being wronged by her friend. 

Forgiveness allows us to move forward, having learned from the past but not allowing the past to influence our lives negatively. 

Research also shows that forgiving benefits us physically and mentally. For example, it reduces our stress levels, lowers blood pressure, and improves immune function. 

If you feel the need for revenge, instead of reacting, take some time to yourself. Some people like to go for a walk with the dog, while others meditate; kicking back in front of the TV or losing yourself in a good book helps distract you and allow your emotions to settle. Once you have put some mental space between yourself and the situation, you can assess the situation calmly.

As you navigate life’s many complexities, remember the benefits of forgiveness. 

To learn more about recognizing destructive patterns of blaming and avoiding responsibility, download our mini-course, “Why Couples Fight: A Psychologist’s Guide to Understanding Relationship Conflict.”

In this mini-course, we emphasize the importance of centering your mind and body, creating a state of mental and physical calm. We teach you the value of being mindful of your emotions and the importance of acting objectively rather than subjectively. Additionally, we explore concepts such as ‘dropping the bone,’ mastering the art of taking the high road in an argument, and how to deflect sarcasm. While these skills are crucial to every relationship, they are often overlooked. Here, we guide you and help you develop these essential skills so that you can rely on them when stress and conflict inevitably arise.

Our entire course is also available on our website, as well as books, our blog, and other classes. www.angercoach.com, follow the link and start your journey to a harmonious relationship. 

To schedule an appointment, please click here.

Have Road Anger? Think of Luigi

One day last week, I heard from a previous patient of mine named Jim, whom I had not seen for 15 years. I had long forgotten he was in one of my anger management classes. He called to refer someone else and told me he had always remembered my story about Luigi, which I had shared many years ago. He said it cured his road rage problem. I thought I’d now pass it on to you.

So, who is Luigi, and what does he have to do with road rage?

Luigi was a little Italian guy with a handlebar mustache who always wore a sauce-stained apron and a big smile. He owned an Italian restaurant and catering service. His motto was “We deliver hot and fresh.” 

The problem was that he was the sole owner of his catering service, so he had to make deliveries himself. This meant he had to drive and keep his pasta sauce from spilling out of the pot—as he delivered the genuine homemade sauce to his customers.

How did he do it? It was simple. While driving, he put the pot brimming with hot pasta sauce between his legs.

He had to drive slowly to prevent spillage and damage to delicate body parts.

His dedication to his business was great for the customer. But bad for whoever was driving behind him.

So, what has this got to do with my road rage patient?

Well, whenever Jim felt the urge to be impatient and frustrated when following slow-moving traffic, he would imagine that it was Luigi in front of him driving so carefully and slowly with this pot of hot pasta sauce between his legs.

What happened to his anger when he did this? He said it melted away as a big smile crossed his face.

Professionally speaking, this technique is called “using humorous imagery” to diffuse anger. It’s like reducing stage fright by imagining everybody in the audience being naked and or seeing (in your head) your pouting or demanding partner as a small child with a pacifier in his mouth.

You don’t have to tell the other person what is happening in your head. It’s a private thing.

If you struggle with anger in your relationship, download our course Anger and Your Relationship, The Road to Repair”.

My course is designed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of a relationship, the root causes of the issues you experience and provides you with a unique set of tools to turn to in times of stress. 

Each lesson features a professionally created video tutorial where I walk you through the steps and techniques taught throughout the course. Learn from helpful real-world examples from my many years of professional practice. Put the techniques to work in your daily life and see improvements in your relationship – even if your partner does not participate!

This course features the following:

  • Comprehensive online class based on material developed by Dr Tony Fiore specific to Anger and relationships
  • 23 professionally created videos that explain concepts and enhance your online learning experience
  • Many short and fun quizzes to give you feedback on your progress in learning the material
  • 48 page downloadable PDF containing worksheets for you to complete at your leisure – including a personal log so that you can record your experiences and evaluate your progress as you continue the program

Our entire course is also available on our website, as well as books, our blog, and other classes. www.angercoach.com, follow the link and start your journey to a harmonious relationship. 

To schedule an appointment, please click here.

It is easy to fall into communication patterns that harm us and those around us. Unfortunately, this often results in tense workplace relationships, soured friendships, and, in the case of your relationship, partner conflict that can inevitably lead to divorce.

Today, we will address two harmful communication styles and offer some techniques and examples to improve your communication.  

Harmful Pattern Number One: Passive-Aggression

Passive aggression is an emotionally harmful, covert manner of communicating feelings of anger but doing so indirectly. Some people may not be aware they are doing this, as it has become an ingrained part of their communication pattern. Others know what they are doing and use it to get back at people, to ‘stick the knife in’ instead of confronting them directly.

In my experience, passive-aggressive communicator tries to manipulate the situation to their advantage, using underhanded tactics, and when confronted, they often deny they are doing this.

Examples of harmful, passive-aggressive behavior:

  • You are joking at your partner’s expense in front of your friends, humiliating them and making them feel lesser.
  • You are playing dumb to frustrate someone or gain the upper hand.
  • They are ignoring someone, walking out of the room when they speak, or refusing to answer them when spoken to.
  • Nit-picking and arguing over small things to avoid dealing with the real issue.
  • Perpetually portraying yourself as the victim, you take no responsibility or accept any need to change your behavior. 

Harmful pattern number two: Avoidance.

In marital research, this is also termed “stonewalling.” While this may occur in both genders, it is more prevalent in men than women. Avoidance refers to someone being emotionally unavailable and deliberately cutting themselves off from someone. They may not want anything to do with a specific person or avoid discussing the topic causing the conflict.

Avoidance can come in the form of walking out of the room, changing the subject, ignoring others when they speak, or making it known that their interest is elsewhere when the uncomfortable topic is brought up, for example, turning on the television as the discussion begins.

 For example, Sarah and Tom had been close friends since college, sharing a deep bond for over a decade. However, every few months, a minor disagreement or misunderstanding would trigger Tom’s intense anger. Sarah struggled to handle these outbursts; her response was to avoid his texts and calls for a week. This strained their friendship. Following each incident, she would withdraw and create emotional distance, leaving Tom feeling isolated and hurt despite his sincere apologies and efforts to repair the connection.

The Assertive Communicator

Assertive communication enables people to explain their thoughts clearly, wants, needs, and feelings to people without offending others or feeling the need to walk away or avoid the situation.

Assertive communication skill number one: Send a clear message.

An assertive communicator understands that body language is vital to good communication. Research shows that 80% of communication is done without words, using non-verbal behavior. If your comments say one thing, but your body language is saying another, the listener may need clarification. 

Imagine your friend pouring their heart out, saying their relationship just ended. You offer your sympathy and genuinely do feel for them, but all the while, you constantly look at your phone and check your watch while you gather up your car keys. The message would be clear. I am sorry, but I want to get out of here and get on with my day. You may not even be aware of your actions, but those we talk with certainly see the signs.

When talking with a loved one, pay close attention to your body language and actions. 

  • Facial expressions 
  • Eye contact
  • Posture 
  • Hand movement (fiddling with keys, phone)
  • The tone of your voice

Assertive communication skill number two: Learn to listen.

Assertive communicators have well-developed listening skills. As you may notice, many people need to improve their listening skills. They may be distracted with their phones or simply waiting, somewhat impatiently, for their turn to talk rather than listening deeply to what you are saying.

Hearing occurs with our ears, while listening engages our hearts. Put down distractive devices, take a deep breath, and actively listen to the other person. Think about what they are saying and let them talk openly and freely without interruption. When you reply, do so sincerely and respond from the heart instead of moving onto a topic that may interest you more.

 Just remember, taking the time to listen may help someone you love out of a place of inner turmoil. Being open to hearing brings you closer in your relationship and helps strengthen the bond you share.

Every day, the world we live in presents us with innumerable challenges. This results in a constant source of stress; from worrying if we are going to be on time to pick up the kids, what to prepare for dinner with little in the fridge to having to take time from work to care for your child who is home sick. Then there are the worries that keep us up at night; major financial struggles, the cost of living crisis, mortgage hikes to the constant media pressure highlighting the latest tragedy. No wonder we are all on edge.

Unfortunately, as our stress builds, so too can our anger. Participants in both my anger management class and relationship therapy sessions often say that they don’t always know what causes their stress, they are unable to pinpoint the exact issue but it seems overwhelming.

Stress is created when you have more demands placed upon you than you have the ability to meet those demands. For example, you must have four presentations completed by Friday, it is almost the end of the week and each presentation takes a day to prepare. The stress you feel builds as you watch the clock, struggling to make the deadline. Unfortunately, such stress is inevitable and is often brought home into the family environment.

One of the major challenges we face is trying to foster a loving and ongoing relationship with our partner while simultaneously coping with the daily demands and expectations of life. Sometimes this is simply not possible and it is our relationship that suffers, causing yet another source of anxiety.

In my years of practice, I have helped countless couples, guiding them through identifying their major source of stress, teaching them stress and anger management techniques, and how to repair problems building within a relationship due to these issues.

My new course, “Anger and your Relationship: The Road to Repair” focuses on providing you with the skills you need to transform your relationship from conflict to peace, even if your partner does not actively participate in the process.

You can click here to access the course.

The program consists of 23 short videos and many practical worksheets and exercises. This is presented in a way to keep you committed, motivated, and engaged.

We also offer mini-courses of the same program.

“The challenges you have faced, the heart break you have felt may someday

inspire others so they don’t have to walk the same path.”

Be kind to yourself and others and thank you for supporting us.

Kind regards,

Dr. Tony Fiore

One of the major challenges of living and thriving in current times is managing our stress levels in a world of complex demands and expectations. There are times when this proves very difficult and we can sometimes lash out at the ones we love.

Occasional emotional outbursts (within reason) are common in a relationship however when anger becomes a daily occurrence, it is time to take a look at our behaviour and makes changes for our own wellbeing and for those around us.

Surviving in an environment of anger or similar emotions proves challenging for any relationship. Anger instills fear and creates emotional distance between individuals. On the other hand, simmering anger fosters an atmosphere of extreme tension, eroding trust and openness.

Often, people attempt to mend the damage caused by their outbursts or irrational anger, but this process is time-consuming and may not always be successful. A partner or family member may find it difficult to recover from the impact of the verbal outbursts. The negative emotions linger with them, as the image remains vivid long after it occurred – akin to a bell that cannot be “un-rung.”

To help couples learn about anger in their relationship and how to overcome this sometimes overwhelming issue, I have launched my new course titled “Anger and your Relationship – The Road to Repair” which can be taken alone or as a couple.

To take this new course, click on this here and begin your journey to relationship harmony.

Social awareness plays a crucial role in our interactions with others, yet some people seem completely unaware of the impact they have on those around them. They may unintentionally upset people in various settings, like at work or within their family, yet remain puzzled when confronted with negative reactions.


Their lack of empathy prevents them from understanding how their behavior affects others, resulting in the person continuing their behavior which ultimately results in the same unwanted outcome. It is a vicious cycle that can be hard to break and hurtful for all involved.


To increase social awareness, one effective approach is to operate on two mental levels simultaneously—similar to a computer that is running a main program while having an additional program running quietly in the background.


The main program involves conveying a specific message, such as asking your partner to complete a task within the home or to do something for a family member. Meanwhile, the other program encourages you to envision how you may appear and sound as you deliver this message. You are simultaneously asserting yourself while ensuring you do so in a positive yet kind manner.


A valuable technique I frequently employed in anger management courses involves patients imagining there is a video camera recording their daily interactions. I then encourage individuals to ask themselves:

  • “How am I currently presenting myself?”
  • “How do others perceive me from their point of view?”
  • “Is the message I intend to deliver the same as the one they are receiving?”
    By adopting this dual perspective, you can develop a heightened sense of social awareness, leading to more positive and effective communication with others and within your relationship.

A conflict igniter refer to a pattern of communication that often results in a gloves off, battle Royale between a couple. Regardless of who ignited the conflict, the result is the same – escalation.

Conflict Ignitor #1- Blame and Criticism

This igniter occurs when one or both partners are highly critical and blame the other almost exclusively for marital issues between them. It’s always “their” fault  when things go wrong or when there is a break in emotional connection.

Conflict Igniter #2- Needing to always be right

Do you live with someone who always needs to be right or do you always have to be the one in the right? The need to be right is one of the more common conflict igniters in a relationship.

Conflict Igniter #3- Holding onto Grudges and resentments

Some partners never forget anything and constantly bring up their partner’s past misdeed or perceived injustices. 

These are just three of the many conflict igniters I cover in my course.

If you or your partner are dealing with a lack of connection or unresolved anger issues within your relationship, I encourage you to take our new course titled “Repair my Relationship”. It can be taken alone or as a couple.

Assertive communication helps people – whether they are in relationships or not – experience better interpersonal outcomes. In this video, I will help you understand what assertive communication means, and I provide 6 simple ways to implement assertive communication tools in your life.

Improve your relationships with others whether they be friends, family, workmates or romantic.

Anger is an emotion that is often triggered by a common malady of modern life-time stress. When you think about it, you may see that time is the original equal opportunity employer. We all get the same amount of time to work with-60 minutes an hour, 24 hours per day, 168 hours per week, 8730 hours per year. If you live to the average age of 76 years, you will have had 663,480 hours to accomplish your goals, pursue your dreams, satisfy your passions and desires, and make your mark on the world.

Despite the fact that time is fair, it is elusive. It is also extremely valuable, and it is needed for everything you do. Unfortunately, it cannot be stored like money in the bank. At once a moment in time occurs and then it is gone. You can’t come back to it at a later time and use it. Imagine the parent who does not have time for his or her children when they are growing up, but the parent tells himself that “some day” he will make time for them. The misguided parent finally retires and now wants to dip into the “bank” for the lost time.

But, he is unable to do so as the words to the well-known song “Cats in the Cradle” remind us:

I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away. I called him up just the other day. I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.” He said, “I’d love to, dad, if I could find the time. You see, my new job’s a hassle, and the kid’s got the flu, But it’s sure nice talking to you, dad. It’s been sure nice talking to you.” And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, He’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.

Why can some people handle so many pieces of their complex lives so well, while others seem unable to accomplish almost anything throughout the day? We may admire the people who find enough time to run huge corporations (or even countries), contribute to civil causes, sit on numerous boards, participate in the religious community, and spend quality time with their families.

By comparison, we may feel lucky if we just slog through the day and get the basics done, only to gratefully go to bed to prepare ourselves to begin the same process over again the next day.

The difference is often time management. Strictly speaking we can’t manage time (because it marches on without consulting us in any way), but we can manage how we spend it. At its core, time management is about freeing up more time for the things that matter most to you, while still getting the necessary (and sometimes mundane) life duties done and obligations met. Time management will allow you more time for fun and being with the people you love. Successful Time Management often helps you feel less angry and more fulfilled because it allows you to spend more of your life energy the way you choose.

At this point, you may be convinced that time management is a good thing, but remain unconvinced that you can actually do it. It does seem overwhelming sometimes, but we have found that there are six simple steps to successful time management as a tool to reduce stress and anger in your life.

Step 1 – Develop the proper attitude
Time management begins with an attitude. The attitude is one of taking personal responsibility for your time. This means taking charge of your life instead of blaming others or circumstances for low productivity or lack of time to do things that matter most to you. Granted, life makes many demands on us, but effective time managers find a way to make time for worthwhile activities. This may involve learning to spend less time on things that deliver little value and instead focus on things that merit our time and attention.

Step 2 – Monitor your time
Simply counting how many minutes a day you spend on various life activities will focus your attention on noticing how you spend your time. This will help you get into action to perhaps manage your time differently.
There is no one way to do this. You can count your time in various activities by using any kind of calendar, day timer or to-do-list. It can be paper, computer, store-bought or hand-made. You can keep track of your time down to the quarter-hour, or just an overview.
Use a system that works for you.

Step 3 – Plan your time
Looking at your results, how would you answer the following questions?

  • Were you surprised at how much time you are spending on a particular activity?
  • Were you surprised at how little time you are spending on a particular activity?
  • Would you like to find a way to spend more time on things of value to you?
  • Would you like to eliminate some time-wasters on your list?

There is no correct way to plan your time. Planning is an activity that makes room for many different individual styles. Following are some guidelines that have helped many others:

  1. Never start your day without a plan. Loosely pencil-in your day either the night before or first thing in the morning.
  2. Schedule predictable events first. This might include obvious activities like sleep, work, housework, etc. When planning, allow adequate time for these parts of your life. Then schedule other tasks around them.
  3. Schedule your life long-term (like for the coming year), mid-term (e. g. for the month), and short-term (for the week). Sit down with your family with a scheduling method that is comfortable to you, from the “old-fashion” refrigerator block calendar to electronic methods such the Outlook program on your computer. If you are high-tech you might also want to synchronize your Outlook calendar with your PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) scheduling device such as a Blackberry.
  4. Get things done, one task at a time. As you plan, convert any goal into a list of small steps-simple activities that you can add to a daily to-do list.
  5. Define a time limit for activities. Set clear starting and stopping times for each task. Sometimes a task that typically takes four hours can be completed in three. Activities tend to fill up whatever space is allotted for them. By allowing less space for them on our calendars, we can sometimes squeeze out more hours in the day.
  6. Build in some pleasurable, rewarding or relaxing activities each day “just for you.” Find time to emotionally replenish yourself. Charge your emotional batteries to avoid burn-out. This does not have to take a lot of time and can be very simple like taking a walk, reading a book, working in your woodshop, listening to your favorite CD, etc.

Step 4 – Implement proven time-savers
Try to be more effective, not busier. Work smarter, not harder. The example comes to mind of the two campers sitting a river bed watching the sunset. Suddenly a person is seen struggling in the water. The first camper swims out and saves him. Soon, another person is seen in the water. Again, the first camper jumps in, swims out and saves her. After three times of the same routine, his camping buddy finally jumped up and left. “Where are you going?” asked the first camper. “You can keep jumping in the water all night, if you want to,” said the second camper, “but I’m going upstream to find out why all these people are jumping into the water.”

Some simple time-savers that others have found helpful include:

  1. Weed out activities that aren’t consistent with your values-what you deem as important and valuable. Ask yourself if the activity moves you closer to what you want, what your goal might be, or what you want to become. For instance, if you want to earn an MBA degree to better yourself, watching 6 hours of television a day instead of studying probably is not consistent with your stated values.
  2. Avoid the morning rush.
  3. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier than usual and wake up 15 minutes earlier to allow more time to get organized to leave the house in the morning
  4. Lay clothing out the night before to make morning dressing hassle-free
  5. Finish your personal morning routine (shower, getting dressed, etc.) before the kids wake up
  6. Keep necessary items, such as your car keys, purse, briefcase and school backpacks, in a consistent location for ease of locating during the morning rush
  7. Empower your children to get themselves organized (if they’re older) by making their own lunches the night before, laying out their clothes, packing up their school supplies, etc.
  8. Ask your spouse with help in organizing for the following day
  9. Set the table for breakfast the night before
  10. Set your clocks and watches ahead 5 to 10 minutes to keep you on schedule (yes, it’s psychological but it does tend to work)
  11. Do some jobs immediately. Often we can return phone calls or reply to a letter immediately instead of putting it on our to-do list to complete later. Sometimes we spend more time and energy avoiding a task than it would take to get it done.

Step 5 – Get more organized
By carefully listing our tasks for the near future, we can choose how to spend our time. While looking at the big picture, we can rank each activity according to priority and decide when to do it. Following are some suggestions for managing your to-do lists:

Keep all of your to-dos in one place.
Prioritize your tasks. Choose which items are most important and which ones you need to do today, this week, this month, this year and in coming years. Be honest about the items you never really intend to do, and be willing to let them go. You’ll save yourself needles mental and physical clutter.

Clear out the clutter. An important part of this process is deciding what not to do. When we purge the low-value activities from our to-do lists, we open up a lot of breathing space in our lives.

Step 6 – Actually do your do’s
Some people unfortunately are time challenged partly because they spend much of their day making to-do lists, instead of actually doing the items on the list. Obviously, this is useless and counter-productive. It may be another way of avoiding doing what you should do but don’t really want to.

Recommended web resources for further help with time management:
www.franklincovey.com

Leroy was a superstar in the Real Estate business, producing three times the monthly business of his nearest coworker. He was a driven, highly competitive young man who saw his manager as getting in the way of even higher production.

Tension turned to irritability. Yelling and shouting followed. On the day he was fired, he shoved his manager in front of alarmed coworkers who reported his behavior to HR. Anger management classes were required, along with a one month interim, before reinstatement would be considered.
As this case example illustrates, workplace anger is costly to the employee, the company, and coworkers. Studies show that up to 42% of employee time is spent engaging in or trying to resolve conflict. This results in wasted employee time, mistakes, stress, lower morale, hampered performance, and reduced profits and or service.

Clearly, poorly handled anger, frustration and resentment sabotage business productivity. Was Leroy justified in his anger? What skills should he learn to prevent future episodes?

Skill 1 – Anger Management

Using anger management skills, Leroy can clearly learn to control his behavior and communicate needs in a socially acceptable manner without disruptions to work and morale. The issue here is not if he was justified in being angry; it is how to best deal with normal angry feelings. A key ingredient to managing anger is learning to change “self-talk”- that inner dialog that creates or intensifies angry feelings.

Skill 2 – Stress management

Leroy was clearly under a great deal of stress, much of which was self-imposed. Stress often triggers anger responses. Managing stress can help prevent anger outbursts, as well as reducing employee “burnout” and hampered performance. Effective stress-reduction strategies include learning breathing techniques, adjusting expectations, improving time-management, and finding a way to mentally adjust your mind-view and self-talk so that stressors loose their power to stress you out. Other effective stress-reduction techniques include watching your nutrition, getting proper sleep, and taking care of your body through exercise.

Skill 3 – Emotional Intelligence

Popularized by psychologist Daniel Goleman, much research shows that increasing “EQ” is correlated with emotional control and increased workplace effectiveness.

What is “EQ” exactly? According to Goleman, it is “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”
Fortunately, skills to improve your emotional intelligence can be learned. The critical EQ skills ones are empathy and social awareness. Empathy is the ability to see the world from the viewpoint of the other person. Lack of empathy is at the root of much anger and conflict because inability to see things from other points of view causes communication problems and frustration. It also causes employees, co-workers and managers to sense a lack of caring or concern for their well-being which is de-motivating in the workplace.

Social awareness is the people-skill of being sensitive to how we are coming across to others in the workplace. Many people are referred to anger management programs because they are seen by others as hostile, insensitive, or perhaps even degrading toward others. Persons with high EQ are constantly monitoring their own behavior as well as feedback from others as to how they are being seen by others. They then are flexible enough to modify their approach to get a different result, if needed.

Skill 4 – Assertive Communication

Communication problems frequently lead to misunderstandings, conflicts with coworkers and hurt feelings which may hamper concentration and work performance.
Assertiveness is not aggression, but a way to communicate so that others clearly understand your needs, concerns, and feelings. It starts with the familiar advice to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements which can sound accusatory, and may lead to defensiveness instead of cooperation.
Other communication improvements include acknowledging the concerns and feelings of others in your interaction with them, and being more sensitive to what others are saying to you “beneath the surface.”

Skill 5 – Acceptance

While sometimes workplace anger is manifest in “exploding.” other times it is born of grievances held by employees over any number of workplace issues. Much research shows that learning to accept and let go of the wrongs done to you can release your anger and resentment. This, in turn, may improve your health, and help you focus on your job instead of your negative feelings.

Is “acceptance” easy? Of course not. Nor does it mean that you think that whatever happened to you was right, or that you have to like the offending person. What it does mean is “letting go” of the negative feelings you now experience when you remember a negative experience or you encounter the offending person.

It seems that anger is everywhere in our society. One just has to read the newspaper daily or watch the evening news to conclude that controlling one’s angry feelings is a major challenge for many adults, teens, and children.

Uncontrolled anger is a major factor in domestic violence and spousal abuse, in aggressive driving violations, in workplace rudeness and disruption, and in marital conflicts and family fights. Several large and respected studies have shown that one-third of couples studied at least one incident of domestic violence during the course of their marriage. The same study found that about 1, 500,000 children per year are severely assaulted (kicked, punched, beaten up, burned) in their homes.

Managing angry feelings requires mastering specific thought and action skills and then practicing these skills on a daily basis. The costs to persons who do not learn how to regulate their negative emotions are high and include increased risk of relapse, loss of relationships, conflicts at work, loss of respect in the eyes of loved ones, and lowering of self-esteem.

A particularly high cost of anger is on your children. The effect of children witnessing extreme conflict in the home can be devastating—more harmful most of the time than a parental divorce. It is estimated that between 2.3 million and 10 million children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year in the United States alone.

Although many adults believe that they have protected their children from exposure to domestic violence, 80-90% of children in those homes can give detailed descriptions of the violence experienced in their families.

What is Anger?

We view angry feelings as a normal emotional reaction to frustration in our everyday world. It is natural to become angry when we have a goal and this goal is blocked in some way. Anger isn’t just one emotion, but a family of emotions that are related to each other both in our brains and in our behavior. People often give a variety of names to their angry feelings, which range from mild irritation to rage.

Once anger begins, it generates changes in our expressions, our faces, our voice, and changes in the way we think. It also creates impulses to action. In fact, the purpose of emotions such as anger is to organize and mobilize all of our bodily systems to respond to our environment in some way.

Anger, like all emotions, is regulated by that section of our brain called the “limbic system” (located in our mid brains beyond our inner ear) Emotional memories are stored in the “amygdala” and other structures which are located in this limbic system.

You may experience anger now in your life which may actually be caused by a mixture of what is triggering it now and experiences you have had in the past—even if you don’t remember them. This “old anger” is activated by your brain in its attempt to protect you— even though the original danger is no longer present.

It is up to the thinking part of the brain, our frontal lobes, to find a way to deal with the angry feelings the amygdala and other brain structures have set in motion. Fortunately, as thinking human beings we have the unique ability among mammals to have choices regarding how we will deal with our feelings.

My Model of Anger Management

In our view, anger management is NOT about never getting angry—that would be an impossible and ridiculous goal because angry feelings are “hard-wired” in your brain and probably serve a protective and survival function.

Rather, anger management is about learning how to regulate and express those natural angry feelings in a way that makes you a more effective human being. Persons who manage their anger well have better relationships, better health, and more occupational success than those who manage their anger poorly. They also get more of their needs met without antagonizing loved ones or colleagues.

Learning to manage anger involves mastering the eight tools of anger control that we have found to be highly effective in our local anger management classes. This model of anger management is not therapy and does not dwell on the past or the underlying reasons for anger. Rather, our approach is psycho-educational, skill-building, and practical drawing on recent research and findings in neuroscience, marriage/relationships, stress management, and the emerging science of happiness and optimism.

The Eight Tools of Anger Control

Tool 1 – Recognize Stress
Stress and anger tend to go hand and hand. The higher one’s stress level, the easier it is to allow our anger to get out of control. It is a challenge for most of us to manage our stress levels in a complex world with many demands and expectations. Learning stress management techniques us an effective way to reduce the physical, behavioral, and emotional problems caused by too much stress.

Stress is often the trigger that takes us from feeling peaceful to experiencing uncomfortable angry feelings in many common life situations. Whether the stressor is external or internal, scientists have discovered that the major systems of the body work together to provide one of the human organism’s most powerful and sophisticated defenses; the stress response which you may know better as “fight-or-flight”. Before your stress response turns into anger or aggression, use stress management strategies to get it under control.

Tool 2 – Develop Empathy
Have you ever been in a restaurant and noticed that the customers at the table next to you were speaking louder than anyone else? It was as if they had no idea that they were being so loud and intrusive to the rest of the patrons. This lack of awareness is often a sign of not being emotionally or socially alert. Or, have you ever been in a situation where you tried to express your feelings and it backfired in some way?

Some of us are very good at knowing how we feel and expressing it, while others struggle to do so. It is crucial to express emotion in order to relate to those around us. Our ability to know how we are feeling as well as our ability to accurately sense the feelings of those around us help us make positive connections with others. This characteristic is often called “empathy.”

To empathize is to see with the eyes of another, to hear with the ears of another, and to feel with the heart of another. Lack of empathy leads to poor communication and a failing to understand others. To manage anger, it often helps to see our anger as a combination of other people’s behavior and our lack of empathy toward them or their situation.

Tool 3 – Respond Instead of React
Many times we become angry because we find people and situations that literally “push our buttons”, and we react just like a juke box that automatically pulls down a record and starts playing when you make a selection. Rather than reacting to anger triggers in this fashion, you can learn to choose how to deal with frustrating situations — to respond rather than automatically react like that juke box.

There are many advantages to learning to how be more flexible in dealing with the stresses and frustrations of life. At the top of the list is a sense of empowerment. It just feels good and powerful to know that you are in charge of your response, rather than being controlled by other people or circumstances. Many people notice their anger level going down as their feeling of empowerment goes up.

Tool 4 – Change That Conversation With Yourself
“For some reason whenever I get upset I am always putting myself down” said one woman in an anger management class. “Even my friends tell me I am just too hard on myself”, she said. When I get upset, I will often say things like, “I’m such a loser”, or, “if I don’t make it on time, everyone will think I’m a jerk”, the woman explained. “Sometimes I even tell myself that I am worthless and stupid when I make mistakes.”

A crucial tool in dealing with angry feelings is that of challenging that conversation with yourself. Like the woman described above, you are constantly telling yourself all kinds of things which cause you to have certain feelings or emotions—even though you may not realize it. Learning to change that “self-talk” empowers you to deal with anger more effectively in terms of how strongly you feel the anger, how long you hold onto your anger, and how you express your anger.

Tool 5 – Communicate Assertively
Good communication skills are an essential ingredient to anger management because poor communication causes untold emotional hurt, misunderstandings, and conflict. Words are powerful, but the message we convey to others is even more powerful and often determines how people respond to us and how we feel toward them.

Anger expressed toward others is often a misguided way of communicating a feeling we have or a need that is not being satisfied by other people or situations. Assertive communication—as distinct from aggressive communication— is a set of skills to honestly and effectively communicate how you feel and how you are responding to things—without getting angry or hostile about it. 

Tool 6 – Adjust Expectations
Have you ever been told your expectations are too high? Anger and stress can often be caused when our expectations are too far apart from what is realistic to achieve. In other words, anger is often trigg

ered by a discrepancy between what we expect and what we get.Learning to adjust those expectations—sometimes upward and other times downward—can help us cope with difficult situations or people, or even cope with ourselves. In marriage, research shows that much anger is caused by trying to solve problems which are unsolvable and perpetual. Successful couples learn to live with each other around these issues rather than getting angry about them.

Tool 7 – Forgive But Don’t Forget!
Anger is often the result of grievances we hold toward other people or situations, usually because of our perception and feeling of having been wronged by them in some way. Resentment is a form of anger that does more damage to the holder than the offender. Holding a grudge is letting the offender live rent free in your head.   Making the decision to “let go” (while still protecting ourselves) is often a process of forgiveness – or at least acceptance – and is a major step toward anger control.

Tool 8 – Retreat and Think Things Over!
Jim and Mary Jones loved each other deeply, but often went into horrific verbal battles over any number of issues. However, they were unable to give each other “space” during an argument insisting they solve the issue immediately. Even worse, Mary often physically blocked Jim from leaving and would follow him from room to room demanding discussion. Needless to say, this is a dangerous practice as it can escalate levels of anger even further and cause partners to do and say things they don’t really mean and may later regret!

Research shows that we are pretty much incapable of resolving conflicts or thinking rationally in an argument when our stress level reaches a certain point. To avoid losing control either physically or verbally, it is often best to take a temporary “time-out” – and leave.  This tool of anger management works much better if (a) you commit to return within a reasonable amount of time to work things out, and (2) you work on your “self-talk” while trying to cool down.

Guest Article by Sherry Gaba

Conflict is difficult for many people. People with codependency often learn to avoid conflict due to fear of abandonment, rejection, and/or criticism. Learning conflict resolution skills makes it easier to handle conflict effectively so you learn not to fear confrontation. Often with the need to people please and receive outside validation, codependents avoid confrontation.

The following are skills you can use to lean into conflict in a healthy way rather then avoid it all together:

  1. Prepare by getting clear about the problem.Clarify your position by writing down talking points as reminders and to keep you focused.
  2. Practice your talking points with a friend or in the mirror.
  3. Use deep breathing to control your anxiety prior to the meeting. Take conscious breaths during the discussion.
  4. Be ready to experience the “newness” that change brings. If you can shift your thinking from a focus on the unknown to recognize that change involves “newness”—new things, people, places, and ideas—with at least some of it bringing excitement and interest, you’ll feel a whole lot better about it.
  5. Be clear about your bottom line and the things you are willing to negotiate. Understand that negotiation is part of the process and expect it.
  6. Look for points of agreement. Find things that you agree on and talk about how to find a win-win solution that benefits everyone.
  7. Do your homework. It helps to have a good idea of what the other person wants to strengthen your position in negotiations.
  8. Use assertive language. “I want. . .” Or “I would like. . .” Ask what the other person wants, then work toward a solution that works for both of you.
  9. Ask for clarification or details about anything you are unclear on.
  10. Take a break. If you feel overwhelmed by the process, take a break. Go to the restroom or get a drink and take some deep breaths.
  11. Give positive feedback. Let the other person know that you see their point of view, or agree on certain key issues.
  12. Table it. If you do not get the minimum you are asking for, suggest that you table the discussion for now and talk about it again later. Don’t give up or give in unless you are certain you have reached a stalemate.

Downloads

Download a FREE Worksheet PDF file called “Areas of Change” that will help you develop the techniques discussed in this article.

Sherry Gaba helps singles navigate the dating process to find the love of their lives. Take her quiz to find out if you’re struggling with co-dependency, sign up for a 30-minute strategy session, or learn more about how to get over a break-up. For more information visit www.sherrygaba.com or sign up today for Sherry’s online group coaching program. Buy her books Love Smacked: How to Break the Cycle of Relationship Addiction and Codependency to find Everlasting Love or Infinite Recovery 

THE ANGER-DAMAGE EFFECT ON YOUR HEART

Guest Article by By Alan Levy, Ph.D.

How does anger do its damage and contribute to heart trouble? In this brief article, I explain the physiological and psychological mechanisms that are problematic ways of handling frustration and anger. I also present 8 helpful hints to better manage negative emotions and protect your physical and mental health.

How does Anger Affect our Bodies?

First, here’s how the physiological mechanism of anger works, according to the nation’s top heart-brain research centers, such as the Cleveland Clinic: Emotions like anger and hostility stimulate the “fight or flight” response of your sympathetic nervous system, releasing the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline.

These chemicals significantly speed your heart rate and your respiration. Your blood pressure goes up, and your body is hit with a burst of fight-flight energy. That’s often what triggers someone to fly into a rage, to
begin yelling and even throwing things.

This heightened state of physiological activation is designed to mobilize you for real emergencies, but can become habitual. Chronically high levels of stress hormones cause extra wear on your cardiovascular system.

Even the walls of your arteries can be damaged by the frequent anger response, because of the extra load of glucose and fat globules secreted into the blood stream.

The Good News

The good news is that anger and hostility as a risk factor can be changed for the better, just as blood pressure or cholesterol can be modified. Of course, stress can’t be measured as easily as cholesterol, but you can learn to take responsibility for your emotional responses and modify them for the better. Here are a few tips to interrupt storms of explosive anger or relieve yourself of self-damaging, imploded anger.

  1. Recognize, as early as possible, when you’re beginning to feel angry.
  2. Pause, before saying something or doing something impulsively. The time-worn advice– “count to ten”– is still wise.
  3. Put the situation into perspective. Ask yourself if this issue will matter 5 years from now.
  4. Say to yourself: “If this is as big a deal tomorrow as it is now, I’ll deal with it then, when I’ve cooled off a bit.
  5. Realize that, even though someone else’s behavior might have triggered your upset, blaming them for it won’t help you take responsibility for handling it well enough to regain your emotional balance.
  6. Understand that acting angry is not the way to show that you really care about something or someone.
  7. You may understand the nature of your problems with anger, but if you can’t put your insight into practice, it’s time to consult with an experienced therapist. Even a brief investment in counseling can
    produce remarkable results.
  8. Finally, remember to take this to heart: a change of heart comes from a change of mind about how you handle frustrating situations.

To sum it up, stressful reactions such as anger, anxiety, guilt, or mood instability can add up to increased risk for all kinds of medical problems, including heart trouble. Taking care of your emotional health will pay off with big dividends in maintaining your physical health and well-being.

Dr Alan Levy is an seasoned psychologist who practices in Costa Mesa, California. His website: alanlevyphd.com

Downloads

Download a FREE Worksheet PDF file called “Areas of Change” that will help you develop the techniques discussed in this article.

Literally, think again. And then think about what you are thinking about- especially around anger issues.

As famous psychologist William James said over 100 years ago:

“Man can alter his life by altering his thinking.”

The case of Sally and Jim

Sally and Jim sat in my office glaring at each other. Sally told a story around an angry conflict they had had eariler in the week.

I found Sally to be quite humorous and entertaining. But Jim had an entirely different perception. Getting more and more agitated and angry as he listened to his wife, he looked at me and said “see what I mean, doc? Isn’t she irritating?

“I don’t find her irritating,” I replied. I then went on to explain that “irritation” (or most other traits or ways of relating) isn’t as much in the partner as in your perception of it- or how you think about it- or the general attitude you have toward your partner to begin with.

In other words,your mental set or mental framework you have toward your partner influences how you interpret what they do or how they are.

Negative and positive sentiment override

There is much marital research at the Gottman institute to back this up. There, researchers discovered something called “negative sentiment override” vs positive sentiment override.”

In Gottman’s theory, when negative sentiment override (NSO) is present, there is a discrepancy between the perceptions of the receiver and the sender of an interaction.  Just like Jim, we can distort and see a communication through a negative lens, even when their partner did not intend it to be negative.  In fact, objective observers may not perceive the interaction to be negative, at all. (just as I didn’t see Sally as irritating, like Jim did).

 It is in the “eyes of the beholder” so to speak, that he or she are on the receiving end of something negative. By contrast, In positive sentiment override (PSO), negative interactions are not seen as particularly negative, or at least they are not taken personally.  When there is PSO between a couple, the partners give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Even if one partner IS conveying negativity in content or tone, the other does not personalize, react to, match, or “store away for a rainy day” their partner’s bad mood, negativity, etc.

Getting from negative to more positive sentiment overide: Two Steps

Sounds good, but how does a couple shift from negative to positive sentiment override? Try these two steps as a startup strategy:

Step 1- Try to become friends again by doing things you enjoy together -like when you were dating. I know there are any obstacles to this: children, Covid-19 pandemic, money ,etc but try a little harder to re-connect.
See the attached worksheet to give you some more ideas.

Step 2- Consciously alter you thought patterns about your partner by looking at what you are telling yourself about what they do that makes you angry or upset toward then.

Here are some “self-talk” thoughts I teach people in my anger management classes to teach themselves to be less angry at whatever their partner does. These changes in thought patterns have helped many hundreds of partners be less angry toward their partner- even if their partners doesn’t change their behavior.

Change Angry Thoughts to 4 Corrective Thoughts

Angry Thought #1- My partner should think like I do. If they don’t, its my duty to work on them until they do think like me- or at least admit they are wrong.

Corrective thought #1: My partner and I don’t have to think alike: to get along we just have to be tolerant of how the other one thinks.

Angry Thought #2-My partner does things I consider stupid or wrong. Because they are stupid or wrong, they shouldn’t do these things.

Corrective thought #2: Within limits, they have a right to do what they want to- but I also have a right not to want to live with a person who does those things and I will communicate that to them calmly.

Angry Thought #3- I know I am right about the issue we often fight about.

Corrective thought #3: I am not 100% right nor are they 100% wrong on any matter of dispute. Fact is, usually “the truth” is in the middle. In marriage, there is more than one “truth” so it is possible you are both “right” but you are each looking at the conflict or issue from a different point of view.

Angry Thought #4– Things should go my way- because I deserve it and because I want it that way.

Corrective thought #4: I am not the center of the universe, or even the center of our relationship. It is irrational to think that things MUST go my way- even though I would like them to. Rather than getting angry, I need to work on my skill of accepting what is instead of what I self-centeredly want it to be. I also need to practice thinking in terms of “we” instead of “me.”

Downloads

Download a FREE PDF file called “Sharing Things as a Couple Worksheet” that will help you develop the techniques discussed in this article.

There are many definitions of a hypocrite, but the one that I wish to discuss in this blog is a person who professes one thing but does another. The hypocrite imposes standards on others to which his or her own behavior does not comply.

The Anger Hypocrite
One specific type of hypocrite that I often see in my couples work is what I call the anger hypocrite.

Simply explained, the anger hypocrite expects their partner not to lose anger control while they themselves rage uncontrollably and rarely control their own anger, frustration or displeasure. The anger hypocrite justifies their behavior by convincing themselves that their anger is a normal reaction to the horrible behavior displayed by their partner.

But, when you stop and think about it, is it fair to expect more of your partner than you deliver? Put in another realm, if you and your partner are both alcoholics and both agree to stop drinking, would you expect him/her to stop drinking while you continued (and then become upset when they drink)? Or, is it fair to demand financial responsibility from your partner if you are a spendthrift or don’t stick to an agreed upon budget? Preaching one thing but doing another spells hypocrisy, doesn’t it? (more…)

Anger is one of the core emotions or feelings that human beings are hard-wired to experience whenever they are blocked from achieving a goal they have or an end result they wish to achieve. Anger Management is the process of learning how to deal with anger as a core emotion.

Everybody feels anger from time to time. Not feeling it can cause as many problems as eggshell exploding over minor frustrations, set-backs or obstacles placed between us and what it is we may want.

Some anger management programs try teach clients to be less angry. Often this works if people can learn to experience life events in a different way so as not to no longer activate those parts of the human brain that trigger anger in us. For example, rather than telling ourselves that a bad driver on the road is out to get us and make our day miserable we can tell ourselves that they probably were preoccupied with something else and did not even notice they were cutting us off. (more…)

It was labor day when 8 year old Brandon’s mother heard a commotion from her childs room. Seems that his 14 year old visiting cousin said something that upset Brandon which caused Brandon to strike the other boy. His mother Michelle hysterically called her therapist wondering what to do and how to handle the anger in her young son which seemed to be escalating as he became older.

Her therapist wisely explained that children become angry in a variety of situations. Common causes of childhood anger include: frustration, needing attention, feeling powerless, being misunderstood, not feeling good about themselves, feeling helpless, being belittled or made fun of, not having physical needs taken care of, having a parent take over instead of asking if the child wants help, being disappointed, having difficulty saying what they need, or being punished.

The problem of excessive childhood anger is growing. Yet many parents like Michelle feel they don’t have the tools to teach their children how to deal with normal angry feelings in an appropriate manner, without hitting or yelling at others, or losing control. Therefore, some parents ineffectively deal with their child’s anger by demanding that he or she stop being angry. Worse, some parents actually yell at or hit their child in attempts to teach their child not to be angry. That is like putting them alone in the woods unarmed with a raging black bear to teach them not to be fearful!

Alternatively, good parenting requires teaching children the practical skills needed for anger control. Although feeling angry is a part of life that no one can avoid because it is hardwired in our brains as a protective and survival mechanism, we can teach our children positive ways to cope with these normal angry feelings. Learning the tools of anger management empowers children, makes them more effective and pleasant human beings, and improves the world by decreasing hatred, violence and conflict.

Following are six tips for parents to help their children manage anger with the help of aberdovey lifeboat, based on our model of anger management called “The Eight Tools of Anger Control”. (more…)

Silenced

“How did your week go, Samuel?” I asked my married patient who  consulted me for anger management and anger management skills to deal with his wife.

“Much better,” he replied, “because I kept my mouth shut this time when I desperately wanted to argue with her because I knew I was right. I decided to apply one of the anger management tools you taught me.”

“What did you do instead?” I asked him.

Sam replied: ” I took your advice and simply left the house, went into the back yard for 10 minutes to cool off, then came back in and everything was OK. I didn’t argue with her over the issue because it wasn’t that important. I didn’t have to win this time; I just let it go.”

We continued our therapy session pet hair vacuum guide by agreeing that “talking” about an issue doesn’t always solve it. In fact, sometimes it makes it worse. In intimate relationships, sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie, as they say. Believe it or not, over-asking about the issue sometimes becomes the issue.

Have you ever had this conversation with your partner?

“What are you upset about?”

“I’m not upset.”

“Yes, you are. tell me why you are upset. Was it something I said?”

“OK. if you insist. I am upset because you keep asking me if I’m upset.” (more…)

Thirty one year old Harry is a fairly typical client in our local anger management classes. At work he is considered a very nice man, a lamb, really. By his co=workers, he would be voted last place on a list of people who needed anger management.

But his wife Holly tells a different story. She would vote him numero uno on the list! When not yelling or criticizing her, he comes across as sarcastic, nasty and degrading to her. Yet, if asked privately how he felt about his wife he would say that he loved her and he doesn’t know why he treats her the way he does.

Harry doesn’t realize it, but he has developed a habit of communicating those ways to his wife when she says or does certain things that “trigger” him.

A habit is the opposite of mindfulness. It is going though a certain “routine” without even thinking about it. It is mindless behavior…automatic behavior…that does not involve thinking.

When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard – or diverts to other tasks.

Habits are often as much a curse as a benefit. They shape our lives- and our relationships – far more than we realize. They are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them to the exclusion of all else, including common sense.

A bad relationship habit can be formed long before we are in a relationship, often starting in childhood and strengthened throughout the years. How do habits form? According to author Charles Duhigg who wrote “The Power of Habits”, it takes constant repetition of three ingredients for a habit to form:

A Trigger of some kind

A Routine (Reaction to the trigger)

A Reward

Let’s breakdown Harry’s habit and see what it going on.

A Trigger (Holly “commanded” him in sharp voice to complete a “honey-do” around the house………

A Routine #1: Harry (in his head said to himself: “I am not a child; she can’t boss me around that way;I’ll say I will do it but then won’t actually do it until I am good and ready.”)

Routine #2- He says to holly: “Get off my back…you are the last person who should talk about getting things done….you can’t order me around…why don’t you worry about your stuff and I’ll worry about mine”

RewardGains control over wife; feels autonomous, able to rebel and get away with it

This habit cycle probably has occurred all Harry’s life starting with his mother or father (authority figures) and repeated often. Now, it is automatic; he doesn’t even think of trying to think differently.

Harry’s habit is what is known as a relationship “keystone” habit. It has a ripple affect on the family. Unfortunately, it is a negative affect.

Because of his habit the atmosphere of the whole house changes and is soured. Holly has been through this routine many times before with Harry. After waiting three hours for him to do the honey-do, she finally explodes and calls him a passive-aggressive person. They brood all night, barely talking to each other.There is no conversation at the dinner table. The children are upset and tense.

Can People change Habits?

Are You Ready To Change?
Are You Ready To Change?

The answer is YES with motivation, persistence and practice. The good news is that when we are dealing with keystone habits, one little change can ripple into many positive things.

How do we do it? According to Duhigg cited above, we change a habit by changing the “routine” part of the equation, since we often cannot change the trigger or the reward that we are after. That is, we RESPOND instead of REACT to the trigger. Harry should find a different way to deal with his wife’s commanding behavior. How about asking her to ask him in a nicer way? How about being honest with her and actually saying when he will do the task? How about telling her how her tone makes him feel?

Working on changing simple keystone habits is an excellent place to start to repair a relationship and get love feelings flowing again. I encourage it with my local patience because it is simple in concept, it is “do-able,” and it can make a large difference for relatively little effort put into it.

LEARN MORE PRACTICAL SKILLS INSTANTLY…….
Learn more practical tools for anger management and ways to handle conflict in your relationship in our acclaimed workbook Anger Management for the Twenty-First Century ebook. Instant download.

Next time: I will share the most common habit changes that couples make that really make a difference!

AMTC-AD-Light

Copy of assertive-arm and hand movements angry woman

The Problem
“I can’t deal with my own children,” lamented a young mother in one of our anger management classes.“They won’t listen, they do exactly what they want, they constantly fight with each other, and they won’t do their chores without a major argument.”

This young mother was ashamed that she was constantly angry at her own children. In response to their behavior, she would yell at them, call them names, and make empty threats of horrible consequences for non-compliance.But these responses did not seem to work; in fact, it made things worse as the children developed resentment and increased defiance toward their screaming mother.

The Solution As in an airline emergency, first put the oxygen mask on yourself. Then, put the oxygen mask on your children. You can’t expect your children to show good coping skills. and to handle stress well if you are impaired yourself.

Start by learning and then teaching mindfulness. to your children. It is amazingly simple, yet very effective over time. It helps mothers first deal with their own stress and anger and then gives her tools to teach to their children so that they can generally cope better with life. The positive effects of mindfulness has much science behind it and has many applications for both children and adults.

Mindfulness can be many things, but at its core, it is the skill of learning to focus on our present thoughts, feelings and body sensations without judgement. Many people associate this with meditation, but meditation is only one path to achieve mindfulness. It is very useful for relaxation, but it is much more than that. For children, it helps them become more attentive, balanced, and aware. For some, it has the potential to help kids see their lives more clearly, to become more positive and less tired, and to chose appropriate life paths.Learn more about this on CPR Classes Tampa.

As a first step toward helping our stressed client deal with her own stress, we taught her various tools of anger control. As a starter, we introduced the concept of mindful meditation consisting of simple breathing exercises. Mindfulness helps both mother and child calm down, to re-focus on what is important, to become more reflective, and to perhaps teach both to respond in different ways to family stress. Research shows that mindful practices over time increase “emotional intelligence” in children as they better understand how their brain works and how to develop more self-control with that knowledge.

Following are some simple breathing meditations that mother and child can practice together, taken from a book called “The Mindful Child” by Susan Kaiser Greenland :

Counting 1-1-1-1-1-1. When you breath in, let your body relax. When you breath out, silently count one, one, one, until your lungs feel empty. Repeat by relaxing again as you inhale and silently counting two, two, two, two, two, as you exhale. Repeat once more by relaxing as you inhale again and silently counting three, three,three, three, for the entire out breath. Continue this exercise in sets of three breaths (counting 1 on the first exhale, 2 on the second, and 3 on the third), until your mind quiets and you can rest in the physical sensation of breathing without counting.

When teaching this to your child, be aware that it takes time for them to accept the idea. Don’t force the issue, or another power struggle may develop, making things worse. For younger children, you may have to start with a 1 minute exercise, then gradually expand the time as your child progresses and sees the benefit. Don’t force them to close their eyes; some people prefer to keep eyes open.

The actress Goldie Hawn has written a delightful book on mindfulness called “10 Mindful Minutes.” which I would recommend to all parents. Among the wise nuggets of information is the followng: “Mindful parenting involves recognizing and nurturing our children’s unique personalities and not seeing them as projections of ourselves. There’s simply no cookie-cutter standard for how to treat our children.”

In our anger management classes we teach parents to respond instead of react to the behavior of our children that is troublesome. Hawn, in her book, amplifies this approach by saying that “reactive parenting can be very detrimental for our children. Yelling at them for forgetting something or doing something we don’t like only frightens them – it doesn’t make them stop.” We can gain control over our anger by understanding that our higher thinking has been hijacked by our emotional state; hence, we’re no longer in control.”

Once parents learn to respond differently to their children – not just react in knee-jerk fashion- the next step is to teach their children the same. Children need to understand how their brain works and how to deal with anger and frustration that all people experience. Hawn explains this simply as follows: “The anger and frustration that we feel in such moments is simply our Guard Dog amygdala {section of the brain} responding to the perceived stressful situation and taking over our emotions. Once we understand this, we can learn to recognize when we’ve been hijacked and accept that the path back to clear thinking is mindful awareness. ….”

In summary, a mindful approach to parenting quiets the minds of both parent and child, reduces stress, and puts both of you more in control of your emotions. Doesn’t that sound better than living in a family with constant yelling, screaming, negativism, and fighting?

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