Managing anger

Blog Post No.140

By Dr Jim Byrne

Written on 30th January 2016.  Posted here on 6th may 2016

Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog: Anger management appendix: The Emotional Revolution digested…

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2016

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Prelude

MensGroup1.JPGI have wanted to write a blog for several days now, but I find it hard to free up the time.  Therefore, in this blog, I am going to take some short-cuts by updating you regarding some of the things I’ve been writing about.

Recent writing work

Today, I have managed to write an appendix on Anger Management, which begins like this:

Appendix D – How to control your anger

A holistic approach – by Dr Jim Byrne

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2016.

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Introduction

AppendixDnewbook.JPGIn this appendix, I will outline the four main processes that we recommend in E-CENT counselling for anger management control.  Briefly, these are: better management of (1) your diet, (2) physical exercise, (3) self-talk (or inner dialogue), and (4) relaxation/meditation.  But you will also need to work on (5) your relationships and (6) your communication skills.

In this appendix I will outline seven relatively simple and easy activities you can undertake, beginning today, to get your anger under control.  But first, you need to have a good understanding of the nature of anger.

Understanding anger

Anger is one of our basic emotions.  It’s innate.  It was selected by nature for its survival value.  We would not survive for long without an innate sense of angering in response to abuse or neglect.  We also would not survive for long if we did not quickly learn how to moderate our anger as young children.  My anger is a two-edged sword.  It can help to protect me, and it can attract hostile reactions from others.

My basic emotion of anger is elaborated into a higher cognitive emotion through modelling by my mother and father and significant others in the first few years of my life. And through my successful and unsuccessful experiences of engaging in conflict with others.

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Unhealthy-anger.JPGHealthy anger is present-time defence of your legitimate rights in the face of inappropriate behaviour by another person. Healthy or reasonable anger is the fuel that drives our assertive behaviours.  It pushes us to engage in constructive conflict, when that is necessary!

To ask for what you want, which is legitimately yours to request, requires a certain level of ‘fire in your belly’.  If you lack that fire (that reasonable level of anger), then you will tend to ‘wimp-out’, to act passively and let other people control you or intimidate you or deny you your reasonable share of the social stage.
Unhealthy or unreasonable anger is an over-reaction to a frustrating or insulting stimulus from another person or external force. Unhealthy or unreasonable anger leads to aggressive actions and destructive conflict.

As one author wrote about unhealthy anger:

“A psychotherapist once told me when he was training that, previously, he had been sure that all his angry feelings were brought forth by the person in front of him, but as he learnt more about the psyche (or mind) in general – and his own in particular – he changed from pointing the finger and saying, ‘You, you, you’; instead the finger went round in a circle until he was pointing at himself, and saying far more quietly, ‘Me, me, me’.  As I have said, self-observation is the very opposite of self-indulgence.  It makes self-responsibility possible”.

Philippa Perry, How to Stay Sane. Page 22.

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What you need to realize is that you most likely have a dominant mood or background emotional state, which has been with you since early childhood, arising out of your relationships with mother, father and others.  This dominant mood may tend towards irritability, sadness, or fearfulness and worry; or some mixture or blending of all three of those basic moods.  Those individuals who have the biggest problems with anger outbursts and uncontrollable, aggressive anger tend to be those whose background moods are predominantly irritable.  On the other hand, individuals who have engaged in long-suffering of abuse or neglect, because of their fearful worrisome personalities, may eventually collect enough ‘brown stamps’ from social insults and frustrations to ‘allow them’ (or to give themselves permission) to flip over into payback mode with occasional angry outbursts.

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…end of extract.

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So, that is the first two pages of a sixteen page appendix on Anger Management. I wrote that appendix to expand upon what I had written in Chapter 5 of my latest book on E-CENT counselling.  This is how Chapter 5 begins:

Chapter 5. Understanding and managing human emotions

5.1: Introduction

Theory-of-emotion.JPGBecause counsellors and psychotherapists deal with their clients’ emotions – (as well as their behaviours, goals, relationships and environmental stressors) – every system of counselling and therapy has to have a theory of emotion.  This, however, is problematical.

As one psychotherapist has pointed out: “The terms ‘feeling’ and ‘emotion’, and ‘affect’ are used in many different senses in psychology.  A review of more than twenty theories of emotion reveals a plethora of widely diverging technical definitions.  These vary with the technique of investigation, the general theoretical framework, and the value-judgements of the psychologist.  Often, they are so diverse as to defy comparison let alone synthesis”.

Since there is no universal agreement regarding the nature of human emotions in counselling and therapy, we, in E-CENT counselling, have to account for our own theory of emotion: to justify it, as well as defining and elaborating its elements.

5.2: Buddhism and Stoicism on emotion

E-CENT counselling has been influenced by Buddhist ideas and Stoic ideas, including some of their ideas about human emotions –  (in addition to attachment theory, neuroscience, affective neuroscience, interpersonal neurobiology, and other disciplines – including Rational therapy, Transactional analysis, Moral philosophy, and so on).  With regard to Buddhism, it seems from The Dhammapada , that the Buddha taught that all human disturbance arises out of desire; and this idea is shared with Stoicism.

In E-CENT theory we have taken some of these ideas as points of departure, but we have also found serious flaws in both of those theories.

For examples:

  1. Regarding Buddhist theory: The opening lines of the Dhammapada are as follows:

“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind”. (Page 1)  .

In my view, it would be more accurate to say:

(1) “What we are today comes from our thoughts (and feelings) about our experiences…”

So, we are not talking about disembodied thoughts, devoid of a stimulus in an external reality.  And we are not talking about beings that can think independently of their basic emotional wiring! People are emotionally wired up by their earliest relationships, and they live in the real world of good and bad experiences!

(2) “…and our present thoughts (Plus our feelings and actions, including eating, sleeping, relaxing, exercising, etc.) build our life of tomorrow…”

Thoughts-not-determinant.JPGSo our thoughts (about our experiences) do not act alone; they are not the sole determinant of our lives.

(3) “…our life is the creation of our mind” (Our mind Plus our relationships, plus our experiences; plus our diet, exercise, stressors – including economic and political circumstances, family life, and on and on).

So the Buddha can easily mislead the unwary; as the unwary were misled by Albert Elis and Aaron Beck – who downplayed the role of the environment in human experience; and Ellis downplayed the role of early childhood in shaping the later life of the social-individual. Those theorists also overlooked the importance of our eating of unhealthy diets; or our failure to exercise our bodies – all of which impacts our emotional states).

To serve our clients well, counsellors and psychotherapists need to be critical thinkers; to be awake; to be well informed (meaning widely read, and subject to multiple influences); and to think for ourselves.

…end of extract. Read more here.***

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That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

jim.byrne@abc-counselling.com and dr.byrne@ecent-institute.org

01422 843 629 (UK) – 44 1422 843 629 (outside UK)

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