We all have that special something that makes us feel loved. For some, it is a warm embrace; others may prefer a delicious home-cooked meal or spending time with their mates.

Everybody is different, and we all feel and show love uniquely. This is the basis of the concept of ‘Love Languages ‘, a term originally coined by Dr. Gary Chapman. Love languages are the different ways in which individuals understand and express love. Often, we choose to show love in the same manner as we wish to receive it. However, a couple does not always speak the same love language. What is perceived as a loving action by one partner is interpreted differently by the other and can lead to distance and feelings of neglect within the relationship.

Let’s take Tim and Andrea as an example.

Tim and Andrea have been married for 15 years but can never seem to make the other feel loved. The more they try, the more emotionally distant they become.

Tim tried all manner of different things to show his love for Andrea. He kept the lawn mown, changed the oil in her car, was a faithful husband, and even tolerated her brother, who drove him up the wall with his terrible jokes and strange sense of humor.

Andrea also did all she could to show Tim she loved him. She loved to cook and always had a home-made meal on the table every night, even on the days she was exhausted from her job. She verbally expressed her love for him and would go out of her way to hug Tim when he looked stressed or upset. She even put up with the chaos of football nights when Tim and his buddies would gather to watch the game and down a few brews. 

Over time, they began drifting further apart. They would try new things to show their love, but nothing worked. Tim believed Andrea was pulling away from him; Andrea resigned herself to thinking that her husband took her for granted and felt resentful.

They came to marriage counseling at the end of their rope, and I asked them, “What makes you feel loved? What is your love language?” Both looked at me, confused, and I explained what action the other person could take to help you feel loved.

Andrea replied, “I would love nothing more than to be hugged. I would also love for Tim to tell me he loves me. I always tell him, and he never says it back.” This shocked Tim; he never knew his wife felt this way.

I then asked Tim what he needed to feel loved. Tim replied, “I would like a little more intimacy between us than an occasional hug. It doesn’t always have to end in the bedroom, but I want to feel like I am an important part of her life, and she still desires me as a husband.”

Tim and Andrea believed they were expressing their love openly, but the ‘love language’ they were speaking did not translate. To help rebuild their bond, Tim and Andrea began openly talking about their love language and what makes them feel loved, and then focused on showing love that way. Their relationship improved beyond measure and both felt loved and appreciated in the marriage.

Showing your partner that you love them using their love language is a very effective way to re-establish the bond you once shared. It is a powerful yet surprisingly simple technique to learn. All you need to do is be honest with each other and then commit to changing how you express your love so that you can make each other’s heart sing.

Relationships can be challenging, but showing your affection does not need to be. If you can both discover each other’s love language, then you can start speaking it fluently. Take the time to identify your own love language and have a chat about it with your partner. This simple step can make a world of difference in your relationship. 

An Exciting Announcement…

I am excited to share with you the launch of a new and improved version of my book, ‘Eight Keys to a Happy Marriage.’ This book, which I am truly proud of, is a unique resource that can help you transform your relationship.

‘Eight Keys to a Happy Marriage,’ is a practical guide written in everyday language. It’s designed to empower you to start improving your relationship immediately, regardless of your partner’s involvement. Our straightforward content ensures you can easily apply the techniques and advice to your unique situation, giving you the power to make changes.

 I teach techniques and provide tips and advice that have helped many patients repair their relationships and rekindle the love they share with their partners. Many chapters include worksheets I use within my clinic so you can track your progress and follow the instructions to strengthen your relationship step by step.

So join us and let us help you fall in love with your partner all over again.

Click here to download!

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.

Life would be blissful and easy in a perfect world, and blame would never point in our direction. We could skate through life doing what we pleased, never being held accountable for our actions. Unfortunately, such a world does not exist, and we all must take responsibility. 

While conflicts and disagreements are a normal part of any relationship, how a couple handles these challenges can significantly impact the dynamics of any relationship. 

A common issue in my practice is when one partner blames the other and refuses to accept responsibility for their actions. This is a recipe for disaster and, if left unchecked, can and will cause a breakdown in even the strongest relationships.

Understanding the Blame Game

Blaming and avoiding responsibility can be a defense mechanism. Here, one person is unwilling to acknowledge their mistakes, shortcomings, or contributions to conflicts and instead blames their partner, holding them solely responsible for the problem. This pattern of behavior, if left unchecked, can create resentment and lead to a serious and sometimes irreparable breakdown in the relationship. 

Lets look at one example:

After a hectic day playing chauffeur to her three children, cooking dinner, and getting the kids bathed and in their pyjamas, Sarah noticed the dirty dishes still piled in the sink. She turned to her husband, “You agreed to do the dishes while I put the kids to bed; why are they still here?” she asked, tired and now quite frustrated.

Tom, defensively, responded, “Stop being so demanding and critical! I need a break, I’m the one who has been at work all day, not you.”

Sarah, though exhausted, sighed and started loading the dishwasher. “I should have managed my time better; I’m sorry.” She replied, now feeling both shame and guilt.

This scenario wasn’t new; Sarah often took the blame to avoid arguments. Tom, accustomed to deflecting responsibility, continued, “You always say sorry but never change. You just make excuses.”

Their conversation spiraled into a familiar pattern. Sarah habitually takes the blame to diffuse tension, and Tom habitually shifts responsibility and commitments, leaving both feeling dissatisfied but trapped in a cycle difficult to break.

How Does the Blame Game Affect Communication?

When one partner consistently plays the blame game, they undermine open and honest dialogue as they continue to evade responsibility. Instead of discussing issues together, they engage in a cycle of accusations and defensiveness, making it nearly impossible to communicate openly and honestly, leaving no way to resolve the issue.

Moreover, blaming and avoiding responsibility often leads to miscommunication. Partners may misunderstand each other’s perspectives, intentions, and emotions, further fuelling the conflict. The inability to take responsibility for your actions can result in a lack of empathy for your partner’s feelings and experiences, causing emotional distance and eroding trust within the marriage.

It is essential to communicate effectively with your partner; without communication, the relationship dissolves, leaving both parties feeling isolated and distanced from each other.

Self-Esteem and Emotional Well-being

The blame game within a marriage significantly affects self-esteem and emotional well-being. When one person consistently shifts blame onto their partner, they neglect their ability for personal growth and self-improvement. This can lead to feelings of stagnation and a sense of powerlessness to effect positive change in the relationship.

Furthermore, being on the receiving end of constant blame can damage a person’s self-esteem. Over time, this can create feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and a diminished sense of self-worth. Such emotional distress can lead to anxiety, depression, and a reduced overall quality of life for both partners.

Detrimental Impact on Trust

Trust is the bedrock of any successful marriage. Blaming your partner and avoiding responsibility can severely compromise trust within the relationship. When someone evades responsibility, they say, “I cannot be trusted to take ownership of my actions or their consequences.” This breach of trust can lead to a growing sense of betrayal and decreased emotional intimacy between partners.

Breaking the Cycle

To cultivate a healthier and more resilient marriage, it is important to recognize the destructive pattern of blaming and avoiding responsibility and take proactive steps to break the cycle. This can be a challenging habit to break but here are some strategies to achieve this:

  1. Self-awareness: Acknowledge the tendency to shift blame and avoid responsibility. Understand that taking ownership of your actions signifies emotional maturity and a step toward personal growth.
  1. Active listening: Practice active listening  when conflicts arise. Try to understand your partner’s perspective, feelings, and needs. This will help foster empathy; they will feel heard and validated, opening the door to healthier communication.
  1. Self-reflection: Take some time to assess your behavior and contributions to conflicts. You accept responsibility for your actions and acknowledge that working on self-improvement is vital to maintaining a healthy marriage.
  1. Seek professional help: If the blame game is deeply ingrained in your marriage, consider contacting a Psychologist specializing in couples therapy. They can provide valuable guidance and strategies for breaking the cycle. I am available for Telehealth consultations; my information is at the bottom of this article.

A successful marriage requires self-awareness, open and empathetic communication, and the willingness to take responsibility for your own actions. These may be difficult steps to take at first, it can be hard to look at ourselves and admit our mistakes, but each time we do, we improve the connection we share with our partner. The less we blame, the more open we are to accepting our own faults and it becomes easier to make the changes needed to create a loving, harmonious life with the person you love the most.

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.

Healthy communication is the heartbeat of any relationship, a tie that connects two individuals, allowing them to understand, empathize, and support each other in the good and bad times. A solid relationship filled with harmony and understanding relies heavily on effective communication.

When communication breaks down within a relationship, it can be incredibly distressing for both partners. Understanding and acknowledging the underlying issues and implementing effective strategies can help re-establish a healthy and harmonious connection between partners, restoring the bond you shared and allowing for healing.

Causes of Communication Breakdown in a Relationship

  • Misaligned Expectations: One common source of communication breakdown is the presence of unspoken or conflicting expectations. It is very typical for partners to have different ideas or opinions about their roles, responsibilities, or the direction of the relationship. When these expectations remain unspoken or misunderstood, it can lead to frustration and resentment. For example, Tamara wanted her husband, Aiden, to be more active in household chores and parenting duties. She was constantly frustrated that he sat in front of the TV when he came home and did not want to help her with the kids or the nightly chores. However, Aiden believed in a more traditional division of labor. He focused on his career, providing for the family, and thought his wife was happy as a homemaker and mother. This misalignment in their expectations created tension and conflicts within their marriage, leaving Tamara feeling hurt and used while Aiden felt frustrated. Neither were happy, yet they did not address the issue. This example emphasizes the importance of open communication and the need to compromise when resolving such matters.
  • Emotional Distance: Over time, emotional distance can develop in a marriage, causing partners to become less engaged in open, meaningful conversations. This emotional gap may result from unresolved conflicts, unaddressed issues, apathy, or external stressors, such as work pressures or financial concerns.
  • Poor Communication Patterns: Negative communication patterns, such as criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling, can erode any chance of positive communication and lead to escalating conflicts and further deterioration of communication. This cyclical problem eventually spins out of control, leading to a collapse in trust, destroying feelings of love, and creating a wall between the couple that may feel insurmountable.
  • Unresolved Issues: Unresolved conflicts or past issues can continue to fester, making it difficult for couples to communicate effectively in the present. These unresolved issues can trigger emotional reactions such as anger, resentment, apathy, or distrust, creating tension, distance, and a communication breakdown where both parties feel victimized.

Consequences of Communication Breakdown

The consequences of communication breakdown in a relationship are profound and can have a lasting impact on both partners:

  • Increased Conflict: A small unresolved argument often leads to more frequent and intense conflicts that continue to escalate. This can strain a relationship further and, in extreme cases, result in emotional or even physical harm.
  • Emotional Distress: Both partners may experience frustration, resentment, sadness, and anger due to poor communication. These negative emotions can take a toll on your emotional well-being. One person may find themselves getting sick all the time, another may not be sleeping, and this, in turn, affects their health. Our emotional and physical bodies are inextricably linked. We must take care of both the physical and emotional for the good of ourselves and our partners.
  • Decreased Intimacy: When communication breaks down between a couple, it can likely result in reduced emotional and physical intimacy. This significantly impacts the quality of any relationship, leading to feelings of resentment as the couple slowly drifts further apart. 
  • Risk of Separation or Divorce: Persistent communication breakdown can sadly lead to a breakdown of the relationship itself, as partners may consider separation or divorce the only viable solution.

Overcoming communication breakdowns in a relationship is challenging but certainly achievable. It begins with a slight change on your behalf; your partner may initially not show signs of wanting to make changes but try not to feel disheartened. When you make changes, it encourages your partner to follow suit. The following strategies can help couples work towards effective and harmonious communication:

  • Self-Reflection: Take time to self-reflect to understand your communication styles, triggers, and emotional responses. Are you an assertive communicator? A passive-aggressive communicator? Do you tend to take on a more passive role, or do you attack conversation head-on, aggressively? This self-awareness can help individuals take responsibility for their role in communication breakdown. In a past blog post, I covered harmful versus assertive communication, so take the time to learn and understand how you communicate and how to make changes to encourage communication with your partner. That post has many tips and helpful hints, which I will link to at the end of this article.
  • Open and Honest Communication: Encourage open, honest, and non-judgmental communication. Create a safe space to share and express your thoughts, feelings, and concerns without fear of criticism or blame. You may like to do this in a setting away from home, take a stroll in the park or a walk on the beach, and talk openly with each other.
  • Active Listening: Listening to your partner’s perspective is crucial for understanding their viewpoint. Avoid interrupting and practice empathy by trying to see the situation from their point of view.
  • Work as a team: View your partnership from a joint perspective when conflicts arise. Look at the relationship as a ‘we’ instead of a singular. It is easy to look at the world through your eyes, but to do so through your partner takes patience, understanding, and empathy. Practice this technique when listening to an opinion that may not be similar to your own. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand your partner more deeply. The more you practice, the easier it becomes, and when an argument arises, you can talk together openly, understanding each other’s viewpoints while quickly resolving the issue.
  • Seek Professional Help: Couples experiencing persistent communication breakdowns may benefit from the guidance of a trained marriage therapist. As a couples therapist, I provide a neutral, supportive environment and offer valuable insights and techniques for improving communication. My details are at the end of this blog post.
  • Conflict Resolution Skills: Learning and applying practical conflict resolution skills, such as compromise and negotiation, can help couples address and resolve issues without escalating arguments. A relationship is about give and take, understanding that we can make changes (within reason) for the person we love, and being confident enough to ask for changes to me made in return. 
  • Revisit Expectations: Touching base with each other and revising prior conflicting expectations can prevent misunderstandings and align both partners on their goals and roles within the relationship. It always feels good when you are both on the same page.

Communication breakdown in a marital relationship is a challenging issue that affects many couples, but it is not insurmountable. By understanding the root causes and consequences of communication breakdown and implementing strategies that enable open, honest, and empathetic communication, couples can begin to heal their relationship. A thriving relationship relies on solid communication; talking with your partner about issues can lead to a healthier, more harmonious partnership. Isn’t that what we all want?

To learn more about communication and its importance in your relationship, download our mini-course: “Discover harmony in your relationship: A Psychologist’s guide to conflict resolution.”

This mini-course introduces you to the concept and principles of Verbal Aikido and its application in marital communication. Verbal Aikido empowers you to resolve marital conflict harmoniously, fostering unity in your relationship. We then explore the importance of emotional connection and how modern-day technology has entirely changed our communication methods. Finally, we learn about conflict igniters, what this is, and how this behavior leads to contention and disharmony, and we teach you how to address these behaviors effectively and harmoniously to achieve resolution.

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

Conflict is inevitable in every relationship, however it is very important to learn to understand, resolve and then move forward from the source of this conflict when it arises.

During therapy, I tell my patients to “Think of yourself and your partner as a team, working through problems as a ‘we’ as opposed to a ‘You’ and ‘Me’.”

This allows a couple to work together as a team to help reach a harmonious outcome. Doing so also allows you to understand others opinions and points of view uniting you as a team.

By asking: “How can we work together so that we can both be on the same page?” or “What can I do to help reach this outcome?” enables you to work as a team, encouraging conversation and bonding you as a couple as you work together harmoniously.

As you learn to solve issues together, to find common ground, you discover that problems that once felt overwhelming can be solved in a harmonious and loving manner.

If you or your partner are struggling to communicate effectively leading to perpetual arguments, I encourage you to take our new course titled “Repair my Relationship”. It can be taken either alone or as a couple.

Everyone has heard of road rage incidents wherein usually calm and responsible people “snap” and commit an aggressive or violent act. Turns out, that “losing one’s temper” can occur in many different life situations and cause serious emotional or physical harm to others. It is a pattern in which tension builds until an explosion brings relief, followed later by regret, embarrassment, or guilt. Called “Intermittent Explosive Disorder” (IED), it is defined by attacks of impulsive rage that seem out of proportion to the immediate provocation and has serious consequences such as verbal abuse, threats, property damage, assaults, and injury.

How common is it?

As reported in the September, 2006 edition of Harvard Mental Health Letter recent research on IED is showing that this condition is more common and more destructive than anyone had supposed. One study showed that people with more severe cases (at least three rage attacks in one year) averaged 56 life-time attacks resulting in an average of $1600 worth of property damage and 23 incidents in which someone required medical attention.

Who is most likely to have these episodes?

According to research, the percentages suffering from this disorder are about the same for men and women, blacks and whites. Only age made a difference. Younger people were more likely than older people to show these uncontrolled rage episodes. As you might suspect, persons who suffer from IED are more at risk for other emotional problems because of the increased stress in their lives.

What causes the attacks?

Behavior patterns such as rage attacks are complex and often are a combination of what is going on in your brain chemistry, what is occurring in your life and also what emotions your thinking patterns are causing.

Scientists do not yet have the answers as to what triggers rage episodes but it may have to do with brain chemistry problems as well as the outlook that people have about life as well as attitudes about how to handle life frustrations and stress.

What treatments help?

According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, “Anger management through a combination of cognitive restructuring, coping skills training and relaxation training look promising.” This means that to control rage, people need to learn how to think differently about life events, and to learn specific skills to deal with common anger “triggers.” One of the recommended skills is that of learning to deal with stress through relaxation training.

Other skills that we our anger management clients have found to be extremely useful include:

  • Developing empathy toward others (seeing the world as they see it)
  • Taking charge of how you respond to stress, rather than just reacting instinctively
  • Changing self-talk to create different emotions in response to anger triggers
  • Learning to communicate assertively rather than with anger
  • Letting go of resentments, grievances and grudges
  • Retreating to think things over and calming down before blowing up in rage

How can you find a program for you?

Anger management programs are becoming more common across the country. The following resources provide directories of qualified providers, some of which teach the specific skills listed above:

In addition, there are a variety of home-study and online programs appearing on the internet. The quality of these programs vary a great deal, so it is prudent and wise to pick one that is authored by credible mental health professionals and is approved or certified by state agencies (although unfortunately most states do not approve or disapprove anger management programs) or other professional bodies.

45 year old John terrorized his family when they were his passengers. He would yell at them if they complained about his driving.

He would ignore them when they showed signs of discomfort and even seemed to enjoy scaring his passengers with his maneuvers such as tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, passing other cars dangerously, and pulling too far into crosswalks so pedestrians are unable to safely cross the street. He had no awareness that his driving was not legal, that he was breaking many laws, or that he was behaving like a criminal.

John would show aggression in other ways too — like insisting on choosing the radio station, controlling the volume of the radio, and controlling the temperature, the fan setting and where the vents are aimed while driving. He refused to stop for restroom breaks on long trips.

John was anything but “passenger-friendly” yet he did not see himself as the problem. Statistics show that while 70% of drivers complain about the aggressiveness of others, only 30% admit to their own aggressiveness.

John saw other drivers as “stupid,” his family/passengers as “whiney,” and the roadway as his personal terrain. Unfortunately, we all pay the legal and emotional price for this kind of distorted thinking.

High cost of aggressive driving

According to recent statistics, aggressive driving is at the core of numerous fatalities, injuries and dollar costs associated with accidents. More specifically, it is linked to:

  • Fatalities (425,000 per decade)
  • Injuries (35 million per decade)
  • Dollars (250 billion per year)

The cost to the emotional well-being of family members is also very high. Often, family members develop a fear of driving with the aggressive driver. While they may not talk about it, passengers may lose esteem, respect and affection toward the driver.

Younger passengers may also be affected later in life by being exposed to this kind of driving behavior. By watching and then modeling their aggressive-driver parent, the child may develop similar attitudes and driving behaviors when he or she becomes a driver.

Driving under the influence

At its root, aggressive driving is caused by poor ability to handle angry feelings. The aggressive driver is, in effect, driving under the influence of impaired emotions. Studies list many reasons why driving arouses anger in aggressive drivers. Some of the most common are:

Territoriality. The car is a symbol associated with individual freedom and self-esteem. Our car is our castle and the space around it is our territory. When other drivers invade our space the aggressive driver responds with hostility to protect his “castle.”

Restriction. In congested traffic, you are prevented from going forward. This can lead to frustration, anxiety and an intense desire to escape the restriction.

Multitasking. We become irritated at others when we see them driving poorly while talking on the cell phone, eating, or performing personal grooming.

Poor life planning. We don’t allow enough time to get to our destination on a consistent basis so we “press” to make up for the lost time and then become stressed and angry at other drivers who we see as frustrating our mad dash.

What can you do as a passenger?

While aggressive driving behavior ultimately must be changed by the driver himself, the following are some survival tips that may help until that occurs:

  1. Refuse to passenger with such a person until he or she changes.
  2. Share with driver how you feel when they drive aggressively. For example: I feel anxious about how fast we’re going (instead of “you are driving too fast”); I’m upset about the way you swore at that driver and I am fearful how it will affect our children who heard you; I feel afraid when you approach pedestrians too fast; I feel bullied by you when you won’t stop for a bathroom break.
  3. Encourage person to look at their “driving philosophy” and to develop more empathy regarding how others (like the family) are being negatively impacted by his or her poor driving behavior. That is, help him see himself through the eyes of his family.

This honest feedback from loved ones can be a powerful tool to encourage the aggressive driver to become a better citizen of the roadways.

Joe, a 15 year city employee with a good record began missing work, and showing irritability with supervisors and customers alike. He then started to shout at customers who frustrated him.

As complaints mounted, his supervisors “wrote him up” but did not try to discover the reasons for his drastic change of behavior. Finally, when mildly teased by a co-worker, Joe attacked and hit him. At this point, he was suspended and ordered to anger management classes.

Dealing with angry employees is not only challenging for managers, but extremely expensive in terms of wasted employee time, increased turnover rates, mistakes, and high levels of personal stress and illness. By contrast, proper handling can promote personal growth in the employee, reduce employee stress, and promote increased workplace harmony.

How prevalent is the problem of workplace anger?

In 1993 the national Safe Workplace Institute released a study showing that workplace violence costs $4.2 billion each year, estimating over 111,000 violent incidents.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 500,000 victims of violent crime in the workplace lose an estimated 1.8.million workdays each year.
This presents an astounding $55 million in lost wages for employees, not including days covered by sick and annual leave and a loss of productivity that has direct consequences for an employer’s bottom line.

Joe’s assault on his co-worker did not occur all at once. Anger storm clouds had been forming for quite some time. What signs should a supervisor or manager look for and how should it be dealt with? According to Workplace Violence, there are four levels of anger expression which need to be dealt with at the lowest level, to prevent escalation:

Four levels of workplace anger

  • Level 1 – Employee upset. Sensitive to criticism, and irritable. Displays “passive-aggressive” behaviors such as procrastination of work, expressing sarcasm, being late to meetings.
  • Level 2 – Behavioral symptoms escalate. Angry remarks are expressed. Employee is openly critical of others and the company. More emotional, less rational. Absenteeism and tardiness is common.
  • Level 3 – Escalating physical, emotional and psychological arousal. Raising voice, throwing things about, slam door, threats.
  • Level 4 – Assaultive behavior and or destruction of property.

Anger management training for supervisors and managers can help them as individuals and give them better skills to manage difficult employees, before the situation rises to a Level 4 crisis.

Key management strategies:

Strategy 1– Know your resources
Company resources include EAP (employee referral program), and HR (human resources). Community resources include psychologists, substance abuse programs, and anger management programs.

Strategy 2 – Assertive Communication
This means that you express your thoughts, feelings and opinions directly in an honest, open, straightforward and sincere manner. It also involves learning to actively listen to employees and being aware of non-verbal communication that goes beyond his or her words.

Strategy 3 – Set Limits
When you set limits with others in the workplace both parties know what they can expect from each other. When you clarify individual expectations, you avoid misunderstandings that can occur and thus avoid potential conflicts. For example, instead of asking support staff, “will you get this report to me as soon as possible?”, verbalize a specific time you need it.

Strategy 4 – Establish Consequences
In the real-world workplace, you may encounter conflicts with employees who are uncooperative or are unwilling to comply with the rules or policies of your company. As a manger, you may have to take an action that states to the employee the likely outcome of continuing problematic behavior.

Be sure to deliver consequences so they don’t sound like “threats,” but still get the message across.

After a stressful day as a computer programmer, Jim pulled into his driveway. The children’s toys were scattered on the walkway to the house.
He immediately began noticing slight tension in his muscles and apprehension in his stomach.

Entering his house, his wife ignored him while she talked with her sister on the telephone. His heart started beating a little faster.

Looking around, he noticed disarray; nothing was picked up, the house was a mess. Irritation and frustration started to settle in. Finally, as his feelings grew, he exploded and began yelling at his wife and children.

Stress may trigger anger

Stress is often the trigger that takes us from feeling peaceful to experiencing uncomfortable angry feelings in many common situations such as the one described above.

Stress is most easily defined as series of bodily responses to demands made upon us called stressors. These “demands” or stressors can be negative (such as coping with a driver who cuts in front of you on the freeway) or positive (such as keeping on a tour schedule while on vacation).

Stressors may external to you (like work pressure) or internal (like expectations you have of yourself or feeling guilty about something you did or want to do).

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”.

This response helps you to cope with stressors in your life. To do so, it activates and coordinates the brain, glands, hormones, immune system, heart, blood and lungs.

Avoid Jim’s destructive behavior toward his loved ones. Before your stress response turns into anger or aggression, use these strategies to get it under control:

Read your personal warning lights

Becoming aware of your stress response is the first step to managing it. This means listening to your body, being aware of your negative emotions, and observing your own behavior when under stress.

For instance, notice muscle tension, pounding heart, raising voice, irritation, dry mouth, or erratic movements.

What you see is what you get

For a potential stressor to affect us -stress us out – we have to first perceive it or experience it as a stressor.

Gaining a new perspective on the stressing situation can often drastically change the effect it has on us. Our stress response can indeed be a response (something we can control) instead of a knee-jerk reaction (which is automatic).

Examples: Cut off on the freeway? “It is not personal. That guy has a problem. I will stay calm.” Bullied by a co-worker? “If I react, he wins. Later, I will privately let him know how I feel about what he did. If that doesn’t work, I’ll discuss it with our manager.”

Stress-Guard your life

You can also make many life-style changes to reduce or minimize feeling stressed-out, even if you can’t change some of your actual stressors
For instance, manage your time better, establish priorities, protect yourself from toxic relationships, find a way to manage your money better, or consider changing your job or occupation.

Other stress-guards include those you have probably heard before, but maybe need to do more frequently such as:

  • Getting adequate rest.
  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Avoiding excessive alcohol intake.
  • Living in a way consistent with your core personal values.
  • Developing social networks of friends and support.

Joe and Emily live in Southern California with their three young children. Both work and must commute 2 hours daily on busy freeways, often not getting home until 7:30 PM, exhausted and depleted. Stressed, they have little patience for the antics of their young children resulting in constant shouting matches, defiance on the part of the children, continual yelling back and forth, and escalating family tension.

As this case example illustrates, stress is often an underlying cause of anger in family members. Sometimes the stress is caused by events outside of the family which family members then bring into the home; other times the behavior of family members causes stress and tension in the home. In either case, it becomes a problem when parents find themselves constantly yelling at their children or disagreeing with each other on parenting strategies. In the meantime their children continue to do what they please—or continue bickering and fighting with each other. Between the adults, stress can be a major factor in marital unhappiness and ultimately divorce.

How Stress can affect individual family members

Joe and Emily both suffered individual stress symptoms including fatigue, irritability, angry outbursts, headaches and a discontent with their lives. They began feeling increasing distant from each other. Their children were also stressed-out- being tired, irritable, cranky, and demanding of attention. They often fought with each other and actively did things to get each other in trouble with their parents.

Signs of the stressed family system

Just as individuals can become overloaded and stressed-out, so can families.
To understand how this can happen, we must remember that families such as Joe and Emily’s are the basic building block of our society – and of most societies. Families consist of two or more people who share goals and values and have a long term commitment to each other. It is through the family that children are supposed to learn how to become responsible, successful, happy, and well-adjusted adults. When this no longer happens due to stress, we can say that the family unit becomes dysfunctional in that it no longer serves its purpose fully, easily or consistently.

We can recognize the dysfunctional family by noting that parents and children no longer turn to each other for support, encouragement, guidance, or even love.

Such family members may continue to live in the same house – but often don’t feel emotionally attached to each other, perhaps start living independent lives, and unfortunately don’t view their family as a warm place to retreat from the stresses and demands of the outside world.

Five Tips to Stress-Guard your family

  • Tip #1 – Teach your children “resiliency” — the ability to handle stress and respond more positively to difficult events. Specific ways children can practice “bouncing back” include having a friend and being a friend, setting new goals and making plans to reach them, looking on the bright side, and believing in themselves.
  • Tip #2 – Institute family rituals to provide stability. Have a way to leave each other in the morning, and to re-connect in the evening; have a Sunday morning ritual or a Friday night family pizza ritual. Rituals create a sense of security and predictability – both of which are excellent stress buffers.
  • Tip #3 – Model and teach your children conflict resolution skills. Your children learn how to handle conflict partly by watching their parents. All couples have conflicts; better parents model good conflict resolution skills for their children. These skill include compromise, calm discussion, and focus on problem-solving. If there is much sibling conflict in your home, encourage your children to find a way to resolve their own conflicts rather than jumping in and punishing one or another child whom you think (maybe wrongly) is the troublemaker.
  • Tip #4 – Practice stress inoculation basics. This includes proper nutrition for family members, exercise, and adequate sleep each night. The family may also want to look at time management—and how better time management might reduce both personal and family stress.
  • Tip #5 – Minimize criticism and take time each day to be supportive to each other. Excessive criticism is extremely harmful to both children and marital partners, while emotional support by family members is an extremely important buffer to family stress.


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


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

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?

This holiday season, you may find yourself in groups or gatherings that make you feel uncomfortable. Sometime you can change it without offending anyone, yet standing up for our rights or opinions. We call this “assertive communication.”

When the tone of a social gathering becomes too confrontational, negative, lewd, insensitive, prejudiced, or otherwise distasteful, you needn’t remain at the mercy of it. You can usually find a way to but speak up,so that
things back move back into positive territory.

Speak your mind (in a nice way) by letting others know how you are feelings in response to what is going on. Offenders may be taken aback, but those who share your discomfort will welcome the intervention.

Too often we let situations deteriorate beyond what we find acceptable and may be hesitant to address it. But silence often only helps to condone the behavior and may create resentment and stress in you.

Some people say they know just what to do when their jobs becoming too stressful, but others feel stuck and frustrated. There are tears and confrontations which can lead to poor productivity, abuse of sick days, stealing supplies, and irritability or depression.

Sometimes the stress and anger are due to home problems which the employee brings with them to work. In other cases, it is the work setting itself which is causing the problem. Too much workload, perceived lack of recognition or appreciation by management, and conflict with co-workers or supervisors are often involved.

For more information on tools to deal with workplace stress and anger (sometimes called “desk rage”), click here.

If you have heart problems and are on a ventricular fibrillator, try to stay calm!

Boston researchers are reporting that bursts of anger may trigger potentially fatal heart rhythm disturbances. The hotter the temper, the higher the risk appears of ventricular fibrillation.

“The old conventional wisdom is that, if you know someone has a heart condition, don’t get them upset,” said Dr. Chris Simpson, medical director of the cardiac program at Kingston General Hospital in Kingston, Ont.

There have been hints before that emotional events can cause disturbances in heart rhythm and the balance between our innate “fight or flight” response, Simpson said. But this is the first “direct, solid evidence that an episode of anger can immediately precede a dangerous arrhythmia” said Simpson, a spokesman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Learning to manage anger involves eight core tools including learning to deal with stress, and learning different “self-talk” to take the stress out of potentially stressful situations. Deep breathing, meditation, and better time management can also greatly reduce stress in many people’s lives.