Control your anger

Breathe deep and long breaths. Be sure to open your belly and breathe deep into your abdomen. You may not know it, but when you're angry you're panicking. This will help you to calm down. Walk outside and look at the sky while you're doing your deep breathing. This will help you to put things in perspective, and it can have a soothing effect. Do some stretches. When you're angry your body gets tense and rigid. The stretching will open up some of the tight areas of your body and get more oxygen flowing to your brain and help you clear your thoughts. Get some paper and start writing. Write about how mad you are and why. Don't be nice, reasonable or rational. The point is to get your anger out on the paper, to purge it from your mind. Keep writing until you feel some relief or release, and don't stop until you do. For more help with this type of exercise, check out this book. Write about what you have to be grateful for, what you appreciate about your life, your self and (if you can) the person you are mad at. For help with this, check out Dr. DeFoore's newsletter GOODFINDING, or his GOODFINDING CD. Imagine that you are at the funeral of the person you are mad at. What would you say. What would you miss about that person if they were gone? If you know how, pray. Pray for God to guide you through this dark time. Pray for the grace to see the beauty and vulnerability in the person you are mad at. Pray for the wisdom to see beyond the view of the person or situation that makes you so angry. Imagine that you are the person you are mad at. Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the situation from their viewpoint. How do you look to them? Is that how you want to look? Decide who and how you want to be and act as if you were that already. Remember a time in your childhood when you were afraid, hurt or angry. In your imagination, embrace that child, saying "It's okay. I'm here. You didn't do anything wrong. You're a good kid. I love you just like you are. I'm not going to leave you." Then take the child (your child self) out of the situation to a safe place where s/he can relax, heal or even play. Click here to learn about the Nurturing Your Inner Child CD or download. Think about your values. What is the most important thing in the world to you. Who are the most important people in the world to you? What kind of person do you want to be? How do you want to be remembered? Decide that you are that person and you are living by your values, and act as if it were so. This is the fastest way to change your emotions, and it puts you in touch with your true nature, the way you were designed to be. REMEMBER... INSIDE, YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON WHO WANTS TO HELP. THINK, ACT AND MAKE DECISIONS FROM THAT GOOD PERSON AND YOU CAN'T GO WRONG!

THE 0-10 ANGER SCALE: Level 0. You are feeling totally calm and relaxed. You may feel happy and excited about something or not. You have no anger or irritation at any level. Level 1. You feel a very slight anxiety or irritability, but it's not affecting your behavior. You can barely notice it when you try. Your mind is open, and you're very aware of the "big picture" perspective. Level 2. The irritation/anxiety is a little higher, but still not enough to bother you or affect your behavior. You can still see the big picture. It is hard to relax with the agitation you are experiencing. Level 3. You are starting to have negative responses to people, places and things around you. You are still keeping your anger inside, but you're just not settled. Your focus is starting to narrow slightly, but you can still think clearly and make good decisions. Level 4. Now you are starting to think about yelling at that other driver, or calling that talk show host and giving them a piece of your mind. But you don't act on the feelings. Your tone with others might be just a little short, or you might try to cover your feelings by being extra nice. Tunnel vision is starting to set in. Level 5. Now you are definitely not having fun. You are mad at yourself, others or the world in general. You're still in control of your behavior, but others can tell you're not feeling that great. You become grouchy and irritable with others. You are moving into a single-minded focus and your decision-making process is impaired. Level 6. You start thinking about getting away from some situation that is bothering you. You might fantasize about escaping somehow. You might also tell someone off at this point, but you make an effort to be controlled and even somewhat considerate. Your mental clarity has become erratic. You have lost sight of the big picture. Level 7. You are starting to say things to yourself like, "This is driving me crazy." "I can't stand this any more." "That person is driving me up the wall." "If I could, I'd like to really let them have it!"

You're thoughts are racing, and your muscle tension is becoming noticeable. Your vision is narrowing further. Level 8. At this level, a plan of action starts to form. Now your anger is so high that you are ready to do something about it. You are so upset that you really have no choice. Your thinking is not clear, and your plan of action might include revenge and retaliation, or just a desire to hurt someone you perceive as a threat or problem to you or someone you love. You have become almost completely irrational. Level 9. Now you're acting on your anger. You are telling someone off, and possibly trying to hurt them or "put them in their place" with your words. You also might be planning how to abandon, neglect or reject them. At this level, your thoughts are obsessed and totally focused on your pain, fear and anger whether you know it or not. You are ruled by your emotions at this level. Level 10. At this point you have become dangerous to yourself and/or others. You are in the depths of fight-or-flight, and your primitive survival-based brain has taken over. You have tunnel vision and single-minded thought. All you can think about is how to make the pain and/or stress stop. It is a very helpless feeling. You are desperate, and willing to take desperate action. Your fear and anger are doing your thinking for you. Rate yourself: fill in _____ fill in At my worst I am —>> _____ Most of the time, I am —fill in >> _____ At my best I am —>> the the the number(s) number(s) number(s)

NOW! SEE WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES BEST DESCRIBES YOU: 1. MILD ANGER ISSUES: Most of the time you are around a 2 or 3, but all too often you jump up to a 5 or 6--or even an 8 once in a while. A few times in your life you may have reached a 9 or 10, but you're determined never to go there again. Reading and CD's may be enough to help you reach your goals. 2. SERIOUS ANGER ISSUES: You have to struggle almost daily not to lose your temper. You can jump pretty fast to a level 8 or 9. You have reached a 10 a few times, but most of the time you can prevent that. You haven't hurt any one physically, but you are definitely hurting others with your words and actions. You may need professional help in addition to reading and listening to CD programs on anger management. 3. EXTREME ANGER ISSUES: Your anger has control of you most of the time. People around you are not safe emotionally or maybe physically, and many times you endanger yourself as well. You may escalate from a 3 or 4 (your normal level) to a 10 in a heartbeat. Your anger is running your life. You definitely need professional help, in addition to reading and listening to CD programs on anger management. 4. EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY: You live around a level 0-2 most of the time. In extreme circumstances you may escalate to a three or even a four, but you will take positive, effective action to resolve the problem and return to a sense of well-being.

THAT'S MY LIFE YOU'RE PLAYING WITH! It is clear that the most dangerous place you can be is flying down the highway in your motorized vehicle. Think about it. There you are, a fairly soft, vulnerable creature sitting in your huge chunk of metal hurling down strips of concrete at break-neck speeds often only inches away from others doing the same thing. Some of your fellow travelers are a little confused. They think the highway is a video game or a racetrack--or maybe that's you that drives that way! The only time the highway looks like a video game is when some car, truck or motorcycle is treating it like one. To some people, it is actually fun to drive their chunk of metal within inches of your chunk of metal and scare the daylights out of others! And then there are those who are just downright aggressive behind the wheel. Some of us actually use the relative anonymity of driving alone in their vehicle as an opportunity to release the anger they are not venting anywhere else. That means that all the other motorists are potential victims of anger release from total strangers. This makes the road dangerous for you and everyone.

Ignoring the flow of traffic, driving slowly in the fast lane, driving too fast in any lane, tailgating, cutting into openings that are not quite big enough, making last minute decisions that shock other motorists and requiring them to make sudden adjustments are all aggressive and dangerous moves to make when driving. You know that rush you feel when you are exposed to one of these situations? That surge of energy that pulses through your body? Well, that is a mix of survival-based fear and anger. Your life is being threatened out there on the open road, and there is virtually nothing you can do about it. The roadrage addicts get off on this rush. The rest of us just want to get where we're going in one piece. How often do strangers threaten your physical life on a daily basis? If you're like most people, it only happens on the highway. What an excellent opportunity to study your own anger! If these examples apply to you, you can use your driving experience as a sort of laboratory in which to study your anger and anger response patterns. When you are pushed, crowded, tailgated, honked at or otherwise put at risk on the road, your fear is saying to you, "Danger! Watch out!" and your anger is saying, "I don't like this and I'd like to do something about it!" Do you see anything wrong with these reactions? Of course not. They are natural and healthy. The fear is because of the threat, and the anger simply brings the question of what to do about the threat. Anger is designed to spur action to protect life, limb and loved ones. That is its most basic level of functioning. Options for protective action on the highway: Unhealthy options include: making an obscene or aggressive gesture, yelling and cursing, following the dangerous driver and running them off the road (becoming a dangerous driver yourself), or in the worst-case scenario reaching for a handgun. All of these of course add to the problem, and in some cases are against the law. If you're not careful, your anger will make you part of the problem, and then someone else will have to figure out what to do about you! Healthy options include: calling your local free cell phone number for reporting dangerous drivers (check with your cell phone customer service for this number), driving all the more carefully to counter the insanity of the driver who has just endangered your life, or silently wishing for that driver to be stopped by a patrolman soon, before s/he kills someone. I learned in a defensive drivers class that if someone is tailgating you-which is one of the most common and frequent ways in which your safety is endangered on the road-you can just slow down to a speed where 1) the driver is very likely to pass you and 2) if an accident happens there will be less damage because of the slower speed. This is an interesting option from the standpoint of learning about anger. Regarding your own anger, it gives you a way of communicating to the tailgater that you don't like what they're doing, and it further shows them that you are not going to be intimidated into driving faster or dangerously to get out of their way. This is a good example of a healthy anger response. The idea here is that we need lots of options for dealing with our anger. One reason is that anger is so closely connected with the emotion of love, and we want as much love in our lives as possible.

Here are some techniques to use: 1. Imagine sending love and joy to every motorist you see. Sounds hokey, but all we're trying to do here is get you and everybody else where you're going safely--so, whatever works!

2. Imagine that it is your loved ones that are in those other cars. 3. Remember that every one of the motorists around you has a mother, father, children and may in fact be a good person that you could like!

4. Turn on some soothing music. Breathe deeply, and try to relax your muscles. Wherever you are in a hurry to get to, think about how you will feel if you get a ticket, have a wreck or go to the hospital instead of arriving. Go ahead and slow down and risk being late.

THE POWER OF INTIMACY Have you ever been afraid of really loving someone? Have you been afraid of letting someone really love you? Most of us have known this fear. To love and be loved is what we want more than anything, so why would we be so afraid of having the deep, intimate experience of loving and being loved? Why do we feel the most fear and anger with those we love the most? Why is it that domestic violence is considered by the police to be the most dangerous situation they can walk into? These are important questions. Let's consider some possible answers. As adults, we "fall" in love. This experience of loving at some point reminds us of how we were hurt in past experiences of loving. Of course, we are afraid of being hurt, no matter how big, strong or healthy we may happen to be. So we try to protect ourselves. This is human nature. It follows that the more we love, the more potential we have to be hurt, afraid and angry. Fortunately the love can grow and mature in such a way that the pain and fear are minimized and we no longer need anger for protection from those we love. This happens as our skill, strength, knowledge and awareness expand, allowing the more vulnerable inner core of love to grow and expand into the world around us. You can imagine this by picturing the walls of protection, fear and pain breaking down, allowing the inner circle of love in Figure 6.1 to expand and blend with the outer circle of skill, strength, knowledge and awareness. So how does this happen in real life? THE FIRST STEP TO TRUE INTIMACY The first step to true intimacy is to know, understand and become intimate with yourself. Your self is what you bring into a relationship. If you don't know this self or you feel ashamed of some part it, you will not be able or willing to share those aspects with your loved one. If there are wounds that have not healed, you will automatically hide and protect those wounded parts. You will not offer yourself fully to another, as is required for true intimacy, unless you feel good about the self you are offering. This simply means that each of us must make a journey into ourselves to learn about our own defense mechanisms, to manage our fear and to heal our pain. Only then can we reach the healing core of love that is the heart of who we are. Only then will we be willing to allow someone else to really know and love us for all that we are. The first part of ourselves we offer to others is what we consider to be our best self. We smile, shake hands or hug and act as if everything is just fine, whether it is or not. We show our social skills, demonstrate our knowledge and awareness in our conversation and try to give the impression of being a healthy, together person. This is the realm in which we operate at work or with people we don't know very well. This is the part of ourselves we use to "make a good impression" on someone we like. This may even be all we really know of ourselves. In school and throughout our lives, we have gained knowledge, skill, strength and awareness about the world around us--but we never really learned very much about ourselves. But it is your self that you are having trouble with. Your anger comes from you, not from somewhere else. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE DEFENSES? One of the first things that happens when you start trying to get to know yourself is that you run into your own defense mechanisms. Defenses fall into two basic categories: fight and flight. In other words, we tend to protect and defend ourselves by either getting angry or getting out--of the situation.

Do you know how to take a break in a relationship to give yourself time to think and calm down? If not, are you trying to solve your problems with anger, and finding that you're only making it worse? Do you shut down until you can't stand it any more and then you explode in anger? Don't judge yourself at this point, just try to figure out what your defense strategies are. Next ask yourself what you are afraid of when you are using these defense methods. Whether you know it or not, you are afraid of being hurt when you're angry. Fear drives your anger. If you don't know what your fear is, you will be blindly controlled by your anger. Fear falls into two basic categories. We are either afraid of being attacked, assaulted, smothered or violated (something happening to us), or we are afraid of losing someone or something we love (feelings of rejection, abandonment and jealousy come into play here). All of your fears came from some past experience of pain. To deal with your anger, you have to understand your fear. To understand your fear you have to understand and heal your pain. We have all been hurt. That's part of being human. If you don't know your pain, you are unconsciously driven by efforts to avoid it happening again. This is what drives most of the anger problems we see in the world every day. Your task is to learn how you were hurt, and heal those wounds. That will take the fire out from under your fear and anger, and you will be able to gain control. You can do it. Don't ever give up on yourself!

THE INTIMACY YOU HAVE ALWAYS WANTED When you have experienced some emotional healing from your past wounds, you will be a more compassionate, empathetic and loving person. This will make your efforts at intimacy much more successful. Intimacy is not just great romance, fun and affection. Intimacy is being close and connected through the hard times. Which means being comfortable with your own and your partner's pain and fear. I have found in my 30 plus years of counseling that when a person heals from her/his emotional wounds of the past, intimacy becomes possible for the first time. The skills are easy to learn, once you're ready! You may want to preview Sacred Roles in Marriage now to hear Dr. DeFoore speaking about how to create true and lasting intimacy and joy in your relationships! What to say — When your child is in the middle of expressing anger, your verbal response is extremely important. Though it remains true that your non-verbal signals will speak more loudly than your words, we must not underestimate the power of the spoken word, particularly during intense emotional experiences.

For a very young child, or if the anger is being expressed mostly in non-verbal ways, say something to the effect of,"Wow! I can see that you are really angry right now. I'm sure you have good reasons to be angry. Your anger seems really strong to me. I want you to know that it's okay with me for you to be angry, and I want to help you deal with it so that nobody gets hurt — including you." In these and other words, communicate the idea that "There's nothing wrong with feeling anger, the important thing is what you do with it." Practice reflective listening. Repeat back to the child what you hear her saying in a nonjudgmental, soothing tone. This provides a comforting effect, and lets the child know she's being heard. Start with phrases like,"So what I hear you saying is..." or "So you're saying..." Stick with their words and references, using as little interpretation and as few of your own words as possible. Express empathy and understanding. This is simply a matter of imagining yourself in the child's position, and attempting to see things from his viewpoint. Use phrases like, "When I put myself in your shoes, I can see why you would feel that way," or "From where you stand, it looks like ..." or "I think I see what you mean" or "That makes sense to me."

Avoid teaching, correcting or instructing while your child is angry. Only when the child starts to calm down and relax, you may want to share some of your own similar struggles or

experiences. The goal is to help them deal with and understand their anger. Discipline needs to be kept separate from this kind of communication, and administered when both you and the child are calm. That way the child gets the clear message that it is not their emotion that is being disciplined, it is their behavior. What to do — If your child is small enough, you might want to try holding her during her anger episode. This has been found to be highly effective in many cases. It provides loving, powerful and safe boundaries when the child is feeling out of control. The non-verbal message is, "I'm here. I'm not going to leave you. I'm not going to hurt you, and I won't let you hurt yourself or anyone else. I'm going to hold you until you feel safe again." Here are some recommendations to make this procedure safe and successful:

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If you are extremely afraid or angry yourself, do not try this technique. Your emotions will feed the anger and fear of your child and make the situation worse. If you feel comfortable doing so, hold the child from behind, ideally with him sitting in your lap. Protect your face in case he tosses his head back toward you. The goal is for no one to get hurt. There needs to be both love and power in your embrace. Strong but not too strong, relaxed but not too relaxed. This lets the child know you are in charge, that you love her and can and will protect her.

Be ready and willing to devote some time to this. If you don't complete the process, you may do more harm than good. Hold the child, and wait until he calms down and relaxes. Often he might cry or even fall asleep as the anger subsides. Through this gesture you are communicating love, acceptance, safety, protection and power all at the same time. What to have the child do — In some cases, the child may need to release anger physically. This can be accomplished in a number of ways:

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Supervised play with toys, or play therapy in a professional setting, can be very effective in helping children release anger. The violence that occurs between the toy characters is nondestructive, and can be very informative to the therapist and/or the parent who is observing. This can also include drawing pictures, or throwing clay against a wall or board where no harm can be done. Hitting pillows or a mattress with a harmless object such as a nerf bat or bataca bat. This can be done in a playful manner, and the child will still receive benefit. In therapy, I often call it "the anger game", so that children feel safe in approaching the activity. Children may sometimes benefit from the "temper tantrum technique" described in Chapter 12. Parents should use their own judgment as to when it is necessary to contract for the services of a professional for this type of exercise.

One of the best parents I know told me that he had his daughters use the "Name it, claim it, aim it" technique for dealing with anger. In other words he taught them to put a name on their feeling, take responsibility for it, and direct it into some kind of release or constructive activity. An example might go something like, "I'm angry and sad, Daddy," (naming and claiming it) "and I want you to help me talk to Bobby about taking my things" (aiming it). This is an excellent approach, and I highly recommend that parents use this and any other guidelines they run across that help them to teach their children to manage and express their emotions in healthy ways.

Compulsions and addictions are great "smoke screens" or distractions from the real issues in our lives. They are also common ways in which we suppress or bury our anger. Here are some examples of compulsive/addictive behavior patterns:      Compulsive busy-ness Alcohol and drug abuse Codependency Love/relationship addiction Sexual addiction Compulsive overeating Anorexia and/or bulimia

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Rage addiction Gambling addiction Workaholism Compulsive shopping Television addiction Internet compulsion Video game addiction Obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as:      Counting Excessive hand washing Excessive house cleaning Constant checking and re-checking locks, security systems, etc. Obsessive worrying

You may know of other disorders that fit in this category. There are many effective programs designed to treat these disorders, including psychotherapy and the many twelve-step programs around the world. Our focus here is on the emotion of anger and how it relates to these thought and behavior patterns. Compulsive and addictive behaviors are designed to protect you from all of your emotions, and they accomplish this by burying your anger, fear and sorrow deep beneath the complex of dysfunctional patterns. All compulsive/addictive disorders affect body and brain chemistry, providing an unhealthy “self-medication” for emotions. Buried anger does not go away. We can medicate it, deny it and pretend it’s not there for days, weeks, months or even years. It's only a matter of time, however, before it shows up in some form of bitterness, depression, illness, outburst, violent attack or suicide. Buried anger always claims a victim, and the victim is often the person its buried in. THERE IS OFTEN ANGER BURIED UNDER ADDICTIONS We tend to react to buried anger in one or both of the following two ways: 1. We get sick. Depression can result from buried anger, (see Fauva and Rosenbaum, 1999 and Elam, 2003), and that reduces the effectiveness of our immune system (Scanlan, 1999, Schleifer, et. al. 2002 and McGuire et. al. 2002). Physical illness can result from the depression or from the stress caused by the suppressed emotion. The anger does not get expressed, but it makes its presence known. This is sometimes called internalized anger or self-hatred, leading to suicidal thoughts or suicidal behavior. In extreme cases, phobias, delusions and even psychosis can develop over time. 2. We explode in fits of anger. These explosions can range all the way from violent rages to minor eruptions. The main point is that we are not in control, and we do things we do not intend to do. We often hurt others and ourselves when our buried anger erupts to the surface. This is the "pressure cooker" syndrome we talked about earlier. Compulsive and addictive behaviors can develop in either of the two above scenarios. Keeping feelings inside doesn't feel good. It hurts. Drug and alcohol addiction often Rageaholics may use substances or compulsive behaviors to try to control their rage. "I am so relaxed and pleasant when I drink. I only fly into those rages when I'm sober." This is a statement from a woman in denial, using alcohol to attempt to control her rage. I'M SURE I COULD STOP DRINKING IF I COULD JUST STOP GETTING ANGRY Clarice's presenting problem was her rage. She would usually start out being upset over some trivial detail around the house and eventually drag in 17 years of her husband's inadequacy and attack him with it. "Everything will be going just fine" Clarice explained while staring out the window of my office, "and then I get this feeling. I start out complaining, and the next thing I know I'm screaming at the top of my lungs and throwing things at Foster. I've even hit him in the face with my fists a few times. I don't know why I do that.

"But you know, after I have a couple of glasses of wine, I just calm right down. He even brings me a glass of wine when he gets home sometimes. I guess he's figured it out by now." Without realizing it, Clarice had mixed two very serious addictions. She was addicted to rage and to alcohol, and the two problems were feeding into each other. She was in total denial about her alcoholism. "My drinking is not a problem. I'd be in bad shape without it though. I can quit any time I want to but I have to learn to control my anger first." I decided to use her belief that the alcohol was not a problem as a way to get past her defenses. "Since you can quit any time you want to, I'd like you to abstain from drinking just for a few weeks, while you are in therapy, Clarice. Let's just see how it goes. You'll have greater mental clarity, and also make much more progress that way. I'll give you some other ways to control your anger, besides drinking." It was a long shot, but I knew I couldn't help her if she continued drinking while I was working with her. "Sure, that's no problem. Like I said, I can quit any time I want to--even though I am worried about the anger." She squirmed a little when she said this. I think her body was telling me the truth she was not ready to admit. Over the first few days of her abstinence, Clarice's struggle with her rage proved more than she was ready for. Without the alcohol for self-medication, she found herself in either violent rages or serious depression. Her marriage was collapsing rapidly. The up side to this is that Clarice learned through this process that she indeed was an addict. She realized that part of her anger was the addict not getting what it wanted. The other part was the old anger she had been medicating with the alcohol. There are many other examples of how anger and addictions relate. The point here is that they are a bad combination, and in most cases must be treated separately. Just don't give up on yourself. No matter what, make up your mind that you are going to get healthy, and don't stop trying. You can do it! Learn about overcoming anger addiction and other related problems by clicking here to purchase Anger: Deal With It Before It Deals With You with free shipping, or download to listen immediately. Special reduced prices in effect!