Anger Management Classes - My Adventures with Anger Management

by James A. Baker
(October, 2008. Recovery Today)

I get home. I’ve got a long day of smiling at people when I just want to scream at them, morons on the road, stuff piled up at home and at work. I’m tense, seething, and every nerve in my body seems to be firing at once. And then, someone at home says something. Anything would be the wrong thing. And I explode: screaming, profanity, cutting remarks, sarcasm, and maybe something kicked.

One evening I took out a 3/8” ballistic glass panel at my wife’s business. The panel was part of her office door, which some moron locked (the moron was me, in fact)"”my car keys were inside, I was late to pick up my daughter, and I’d had a less-than-perfect day at the office. When I found out that the key was not instantly available (my wife was driving in with it), the correct thing seemed to be to break in the door. Since I wasn’t thinking logically, I let my ANGER made the decisions for me: my 230 pounds hit the door like a hammer. The rest is history.

Clearly I was in trouble with my wife: very big trouble. I actually felt ashamed and bewildered about why things had happened the way they did. In my business, “bewildered” is not a thing I usually let myself feel. Usually, my mind has something to do with my behavior; in this case as in many cases in the past, my mind was somewhere else as events unfolded around me.

Desperate situations call for extreme remedies. I found myself typing “anger management training” on my browser screen and up popped a long list of links. The first on the list was “” I read the short blurb"”it sounded good, to the point, no touchy-feely BS. I clicked on it and started reading the home page, taking things in as rapidly as anyone terrified of losing his family can do.

Literally, my life was on the line here. I clicked on the “contact us” link after putting in my e-mail address, and e-mailed my query. “I have a problem. What do I do now?” I figured I’d look at some other sites, but decided to check my in-box. There was an e-mail from James Baker, and a life-changing dialogue began. First, the rules: no drugs, no alcohol, no physical abuse of persons (objects were broken at times), no associated psychiatric diagnoses. I seemed to be a perpetually angry man with a major problem with self-control (well, at home with the people who matter the most, not in the office) and a very bad temper.

Second, the beginnings of a solution emerged. No profanity was allowed. That one surprised me"”why profanity was one of my real talents! The answer was staring at me from the computer screen. Profanity is a fuel which gets my anger going, like an accelerant poured on a flame. Then, other directives came thick and fast: no sarcasm, no criticism, no arguing, no “free” advice, no yelling at motorists, no hostile touching, no rapid-fire corrections of other members of my family.

For a moment, it all seemed overwhelming. And then I began to get it: confrontations get my anger started. My problem was rooted in a lack of any braking mechanism"”I accelerated and kindled my rage until I crashed and did something so rotten that it stopped me short, or everyone around me just ran away. Either way, the outcome was inevitably going to be bad for me and everyone around me.

The next item of business was to take the on-line course, which I did. I won’t go over that in detail. Take it, if you haven’t done so already. It is $45.00 well spent. I found it practical and oriented toward a solution to the problem of dealing with anger. I freely admit that I have deeper problems which will need a great deal of work in the years to come; getting the anger out of the way is critical to buying me the time to solve those problems.

An early indication that this anger management stuff was working came 48 hours after my initial query. I was at the computer working on a lesson, when I heard a tremendous crash which I knew meant that something or someone went down the stairs. From the wailing, I knew it was my 23 month old. Ordinarily, I’d have let out a loud “F---!” and blasted out a blue streak of profanity as I tore upstairs.

I decided to try something different--pretend to be a doctor at home. So I went up quietly, did a quick assessment of the little guy (who went down in a tent, the result of a game gone wrong)--scared, but not seriously hurt.

“Upstairs my 12 year old son is pounding his eight year old brother who he blames for the accident. The boy is sobbing uncontrollably. I raise my voice in a tone I’ve heard police and firemen use on scene, and said, “The baby is NOT hurt. The baby is all right.”

“At that point, I discovered something interesting--everyone is looking at me for guidance. My wife goes down to the baby, and I separate the boys. I calm the eight year old down by holding him, speaking in a level tone of voice, reiterating that his brother is fine. I had him squeeze my two fingers for thirty seconds as hard as he could with each hand and then relax, and repeat several times, an old relaxation technique I use with patients. After about a minute, he was coherent and I set the game up again in a safer location. Obviously, my 12 year old son has learned to use me as a role model.
”But, I discovered that rage doesn’t address my scared and powerless feelings--actually, being the calmest guy in the room also made me the most powerful guy in the room. Interesting discovery (as a doctor in the office, I always pretend to be calm) at age 48.”

The take-home message for me was to behave differently than I would have in the past, to act like the person I hope to be immediately. Phrased differently, if I act the way I once did, I will get the same results I did in the past. That is not the same as becoming a different person"”modifying my self will take a great deal of time and effort. Modifying my behavior allows me to get the help and support of the most important allies I have: my family.

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