The Truth about Anger Management

243Most approaches to anger management are fatally flawed through seeing anger as bad and something to be controlled and avoided. People with ‘anger management issues’ may be referred on to psychobabble specialists like Dr Buddy Rydell (played in the film by Jack Nicholson, right) who treat anger as a mental health disorder rather than as a potentially healthy response to poor behaviour on the part of others.

The study of emotional intelligence suggests a different view.

Anger is good:

  • It brings issues out into the open
  • It gets you taken seriously
  • It corrects poor behaviour
  • It initiates change in others
  • It fights injustice (think Martin Luther King)
  • It protects you from manipulators
  • It urges you to leave abusive relationships
  • It forces you to define yourself and what you want
  • It helps you towards self-respect
  • It maintains boundaries between you and others

Rage is bad….

Rage has little to do with genuine emotion and is something to be avoided. Rage is destructive, childish and emotionally stupid. The emotion of anger, on the other hand, is something you should learn to channel and express for the ultimate benefit of you and people you are in relationship with. This is the first in a series or articles that shows you how.

First, let’s make some distinctions:

Anger is one of the five or six basic emotions produced by the brain in response to changes in the environment. The others are fear, sadness, disgust, joy and surprise (there is some disagreement over items in the list). Anger comes up when the limbic system assesses that you are under threat from someone else who may be taking advantage of you, belittling you, taking you for granted, insulting you or bullying you. The intelligence of the body – or ‘Bodymind‘ – is alerting you to take action to assert your right to respectful treatment and to call for a change in the other person’s behaviour towards you. Contrary to myth the emotion of anger does not call for confrontation or aggression on your part (more on this later).

Rage is emotion distorted by resentment, control and timidity in which pent-up anger and frustration erupts into an out-of-control state in which the person seems hijacked or possessed by the Furies. Rage is ventilated through screaming, shouting, destruction and violence. In some cases – such as road rage the individual will put lives at risk in order to ‘get even’ with other drivers.

Rage is based on two sources:

Repression. Emotions are ignored or denied because the  person has been taught that anger is bad, scary, selfish or something to be avoided. Typically, the habit of repression is learnt in childhood from parents and teachers who shy away from conflict and believe that emotions are irrational. Mild, timid, and ultra-reasonable people, they respond to bad behaviour by ignoring it or by engaging perpetrators in rational discussion through which (it is hoped) they understand the error of their ways and sin no more.

While this is a nice model in some ways it doesn’t teach emotional intelligence and it doesn’t teach children what to do with anger when it is produced in Bodymind.

When anger is created it does not disappear when ignored but is stored in the body, awaiting resolution. However, because the person does not know how to resolve conflicts, or because they see anger as ‘bad’ then resolution is never achieved. The unresolved anger simmers away, just below the level of consciousness, fuelling resentment, irritability or passive-aggressive behaviour such as sulking, non-cooperation and veiled contempt. As rage stacks up a pressure-cooker effect is created and the person eventually ventilates over relatively trivial incidents that have little to do with what really is upsetting her. I once worked with a client who went into an epic 45-minute tantrum over a poorly-cooked steak in which he swore at his wife, smashed up furniture and made so much noise that a neighbour called the police. The real cause? He believed that she no longer cared for him and was secretly planning to leave the relationship – worries that he kept to himself. In some cases rage erupts in dependent relationships because the person is too scared to talk about what is really upsetting them – believing that if they did they would be ridiculed or rejected.

Character traits. For some people rage is a habit. Disagreeable, irritable, impatient and bad-tempered they let off steam on a daily basis whenever events – or other people – do not meet with their expectations, demands and wishes. From delayed trains, slow service and traffic jams to careless drivers, lazy employees and anyone who happens to disagree with them they react in fury.

The origin of these traits is complex. Sometimes the origin lies in childhood: the person may have grown up with parents who were always in a fret and rage comes to seem natural. Others were bullied or intimidated at school or elsewhere and grow up with an underlying sense of powerlessness that fuels resentment, frustration and – later – rage. Such people may grow up with a high need to prove themselves in some way and for control over events and other people which erupts in rage when it is thwarted. Related to this need for control is a perfectionistic, driven, high-achieving attitude which insists on success at all costs – and reacts with impatience should that not be forthcoming. These traits are often seen in what are called ‘Type A’ personalities.

In the next two articles in this series I will be writing firstly about emotionally intelligent ways to express anger and then on ways to eliminate rage.



The 5 different types of mind


On October 9th I am offering a Master Class on using Multiple Intelligences with The Beyond Partnership  in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. In this article I describe the material we will be covering.

Contrary to myth conscious reasoning, like free will, plays only a small part in human functioning.

Intelligence is distributed across the body in the neural networks of the brain, the nervous system, the glands, the heart and in the cell networks. These systems are continually in communication to and from the thinking centres located at the front of the brain. However most of the ‘decisions’ we take relating to life issues are taken outside consciousness mostly via the limbic system and the thoughts we have about those decisions are largely a matter of justification after the fact.

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Facts about Trauma and PTSD

brainatwarTrauma, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition in which a person goes through a terrible experience (as we see in war veterans) and is then plagued by memory ‘flashbacks’, anxiety, panic, depression, sleeplessness and hyper-vigilance.

Here are the most common myths about Trauma:

  • You never really get over it
  • The trauma is stored in the Unconscious mind
  • The problem needs long term therapy
  • Treatment involves working through so-called ‘irrational’ emotions
  • The cure arrives when the individual learns to control those ‘irrational’ emotions with the ‘rational mind’.

Some facts:

  • The majority of people exposed to awful events do not develop trauma and many people with PTSD do recover
  • There is no such thing as the ‘Unconscious Mind’
  • EMDR therapy is extremely quick
  • Successful treatment means getting rid of irrational ideas and reactions, not emotions

And here are some more facts:

  • It’s fairly uncommon – only about 20% of people who go through a traumatic event actually develop a Traumatic reaction.
  • Some types of therapy can make the problem worse rather than better if they focus on reliving the trauma
  • It is not caused by out of control emotions
  • It is caused by the over-attentive conscious mind
  • Tt is relatively straightforward to eliminate traumatic memories and the symptoms that come with them
  • Traumatic problems are best treated with EMDR.

7 Myths about Anxiety

 medium_4599849705Myth 1. Anxiety is natural

Anxiety might be common but it isn’t natural. The fact that anxiety rates in present-day Africa and Asia are far lower than in the West points to this as does the fact that it is almost non-existent in so-called ‘primitive’ cultures. It is arousal that is natural and anxiety is largely exaggerated (and malignant) arousal. Anxiety disorders are created when thinking centres in the brain are allowed too much time to dwell on worry, perfectionism, guilt and other wrong thinking habits.

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The truth about stress and resilience

medium_6072966411This post follows on from my earlier article Why Stress Does Not Exist.

It was Hans Selye who first coined the word ‘Stress’ in relation to non-specific illnesses. Contrary to popular myth, Selye did not say that ‘Stress’ caused illness. What he meant was that if the individual fails to adapt to adverse Life Events then a breakdown in body functions could occur. Examples of ‘bad’ life events include job loss, relationship breakdown, financial disaster, overwork and illness.

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7 keys to Mindfulness

Mindfulness as a word can be misleading as it does not mean a mind which is filled with thoughts. Instead it refers to present-moment awareness. It is a state in which you are focused on what is happening to you in the now. The focus could be on external events such as sights and sounds, or on your sensations and feelings. In fact most forms of meditation, including Transcendental Meditation (TM) are types of Mindfulness. Mindfulness can also be achieved through Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and the like. Recorded tapes are the most common aid to the practice of Mindfulness.

Here are seven key words and phrases associated with Mindfulness:

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