Anger Management Courses - Anger Busting

by James A. Baker
(February, 2009. Recovery Today)


My lawyer and my soon-to-be ex-wife are both pushing me to take an anger management class. I am okay with that, because it is getting to be obvious, even to me, that anger is messing me up pretty bad sometimes. The thing that bothers me though, is that I already know that I ought to be able to handle this better, and I have tried. But there are just times that anger kind of takes over, and I don’t know why. Is some course going to be able to help me understand this better?

Frustrated in Florida

Dear Frustrated:

“Situations Don’t Cause Emotions. What I Believe About the Situation is What Causes My Emotions!”

Study the above statement very carefully. Repeat it out loud to yourself five times, saying each word carefully and deliberately. Do it now.

Do you understand what this means? It is very simple. Before we can get angry, or before we can experience any other kind of emotion, for that matter, we first have to form an opinion about what is happening and what is likely to be the result of what is happening.

Think about it this way. You have just discovered that you bought the only winning Lotto ticket last night and it is worth $30,000,000. As you hold the ticket in your hand now, what kind of emotions are you experiencing? Most likely you are thrilled, ecstatic, laughing out loud and dancing around the room, but why? After all, what you have in your hand is only a little piece of paper. Yes, but the paper says you are about to receive a HUMONGOUS amount of money, which will allow you to quit your stupid job, send your kids to college, pay off all your bills, buy a gorgeous new home in a resort community, drive a Bentley and spend the rest of your life fishing or playing golf and watching your kids and grandkids grow up. That little piece of paper in your hand is the promise of a brand new, stress-free, blissful life for you and the ones you love. It isn’t the Lotto ticket - IT IS WHAT YOU BELIEVE ABOUT THE LOTTO TICKET - that produces your excited and happy emotions.

Okay, does that make sense? It works the same with all emotions, including anger.
The connection between thoughts and emotions plays an incredibly powerful role in the way anger can get out of control in our lives. Here is a list of common anger triggers that people tell us can prompt them to get really angry with other people:
They laugh at you.
They take something important away from you.
They insult you.
They ignore you.
They reveal private stuff about you to others.
They criticize you.
They disrespect you.
They reject you.
They put you at risk in some way.
They physically threaten you.

What is the common element in every one of these events? They all MIGHT lead to some kind of loss or negative consequence. Perhaps, as a result of these actions, you might lose friends or lose your job or lose something of monetary value (which means you lose the ability to meet your needs) or lose the esteem of someone you care about, etc. When events like these happen, they set in motion thoughts that are rooted in a set of core beliefs that were ingrained into you a long time ago. It might go something like this:

Somebody who is important to you (maybe you secretly have a crush on them) ignores you - and that makes you suspect that they don’t like you - and that makes you worry that they will reject you - and that makes you think that maybe they think there is something wrong with you - and that makes you worry that maybe there is something wrong with you - and that causes you to panic because if there is something wrong with you, then you will never have any friends and you will end up lonely and abandoned. And THAT makes you angry. The fear of being rejected, abandoned and alone is terrifying to most people. It makes them want fight back.

Did you follow that chain reaction thought process? This is the spark - the trigger - that can lead to an anger attack. The trigger isn’t what someone did or said to you or about you, it is what you BELIEVE might take place as the result of what they did or said that sets everything in motion. After all, if you were Donald Trump and you encountered a homeless person walking in front of Trump Towers, and that homeless person ignored you, would you even notice, much less care? Of course not.

What Did You Believe About Your Situation?

Think back to a couple of the most recent situations where you lost your temper with someone. Get out a piece of paper, write out these questions, and then write out your answers to each question. Repeat this process for at least three recent anger events.
1. What did this person do or say that made you upset?
2. What did you do or say because you were upset?
3. Looking back on it now, what kind of thoughts were you having about the situation, and what kind of fears or worries was that producing?

Once you know what you are afraid of, you can evaluate the reality of those fears and make a plan to deal with the real problem, instead of just blowing up at whoever walks into the room.

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