Cinderella is someone who wants her own way, but isn’t getting it. Like most young people, she learned to feel very inadequate to obtain her desires through her own internal resources and competencies. Under these circumstances, some “Cinderellas” feel angry, powerless and out of control. Since she has learned not to trust her own strength, she acquires a tendency to depend on the strength and resources of others. For many people, the Cinderella Story is a paradigm of their lives. Some become vengeful and vindictive. They are no longer Cinderellas; they have become the Wicked Witch! Cinderellas are the ones who come to feel helpless, dependent and discouraged and stay that w
The Cinderella understandably comes to believe that she is, somehow, “inferior” to her older stepsisters who enjoy advantages that she doesn’t have. It seems logical to her that she doesn’t “deserve” to be as happy as those to whom she is “inferior.” Since happiness seems to be “precluded,” all she has to look forward to is a life of drudgery and suffering. She has become Allergic to Happiness. That is a prescription for depression.
She may also have learned early in life, that, if she suffers piteously enough, someone will pay attention to her. She may even be able to get strong people to do her bidding. We call this “using weakness as strength.” Many Cinderellas have learned how to find and manipulate a Fairy God-Person through their own dramatically enhanced “suffering” so that they can obtain “advantages” that they could not have obtained on their own. This attitude is called, “Suffering Pays.” These scenarios set Cinderellas up to conclude that it doesn’t pay to draw upon or develop their own inner resources. It’s so much cheaper and easier to give people the “pleasure” of helping them. They have become dependent.
Unfortunately, the “advantages” that a Cinderella is able to extract in this irresponsible way turn out to be short-lived. She has never learned how to enjoy these advantages on a mature basis. She has never learned that she deserves to enjoy them as fully as others do. She does not know how to parlay these short-lived advantages into long-term ones; in fact, she has a tendency to run them into the ground more quickly than a self-respecting non-sufferer would. This unhappy tendency on her part has the effect of exasperating and discouraging those who are trying to “help” her, and they give up on her. They do not understand her paradoxical, self-destructive behavior. The sufferer is obliged to seek out replacement Fairy God-Persons at increasingly frequent intervals.
Actually, this “self-destructive” tendency is not paradoxical at all. It is entirely consistent with the attitudes she has picked up along the way. Cinderella has learned that she doesn’t deserve to enjoy her happiness. She tends to feel “guilty” after she has succeeded in obtaining the advantage that she sought through her suffering. To relieve her guilt, she must find a way to get rid of this “undeserved happiness” before she gets caught and the clock strikes twelve.
Moreover, Cinderella suffers from a childhood lesson that makes it impossible for her to enjoy happiness the way others do. She has learned that, even if she does wangle an invitation to the Ball, her happiness will be temporary and it will end in disaster! This conviction, below the level of conscious awareness, sets up a terribly painful, irresolvable conflict. On the one hand she would like to be as happy as everyone else; on the other hand, she doesn’t “deserve” it and therefore, she “knows” that any happiness of hers will end in disaster sooner or later. She tends to compare herself unfavorably to those whose happiness seems to be more secure and gratifying than her own, and she resents the “unfairness” of the discrepancy between their state and hers. She acquires the attitude that is for her, “Happiness is only temporary and it ends in disaster.” The only power that she seems to have is the power to end the painful suspense (anxiety). Instead of waiting passively for the clock to strike 12, she actively brings about the destruction of her own happiness. She prefers to do it herself rather than waiting for others to do it to her. She prefers to get it over with sooner rather than later. In the meantime, her attitudes predispose her to live in fear of future disaster; this sets her up to suffer anxiety, which also sabotages any happiness in her life.
The Sufferer from this syndrome tends to be depressed, even at the Ball, because of her pessimistic, unconscious expectation of disaster, but even more so because of her pervasive belief in the unfairness of life. And it is unfair. She did nothing to deserve this negativity in her life, but she has it anyway. In counseling, we reveal to these sufferers that the negativity is often a response to their vulnerability to being abused or neglected by their family members. As a pleaser, she is a safe target for her siblings and her parents. She may even take on the Scapegoat role in her family. The Scapegoat or Cinderella may appear to be weak and passive on the surface, but her victimizers sense her strength. They trust her to take their abuse without cracking. And she does. They relieve the pain of their own self doubt by dumping their anger on her and she takes it. She is a safe target for them. As an adult, she will find herself compatible with people who will play negative roles in her scenario, who will give her opportunities to prove her ability to take it. This is how she maintains the continuity of her particular constellation of attitudes and expectations forever.
When these people come in for counseling, we identify their unresolved anger at their childhood tormenters, anger that pleasing Cinderellas aren’t supposed to have. We identify their anger at themselves for “allowing” the abuse to happen, as if they had the power as a child to prevent it. We show them how to replace their self doubt with self-respect on a mature basis. This is how they come replace their unhappy role with an independent identity as a self-respecting human being.
One client I met with who played the part of Cinderella was a 30 year old woman. She was in a relationship with a Prince Charming who takes her to “fun places” but who cannot or will not, offer security in their relationship. After every date with him, she feels as if the Ball is over and that she is never going to see him again. She prophesies an endlessly boring life of drudgery for herself without him. In the meantime, she finds herself unable to relate to mature, responsible men who could and would give her the material and personal happiness that she says she wants out of life. She sees the absurdity of this paradox, which is a good sign that she will respond to treatment. She just can’t change herself without knowing what she must change to.
I began one session by asking Rachel when she felt secure. She replied,”At age six my older sister Grace used to play alone with her dolls. She used to change her dress in the afternoon. I asked my mother, ‘Why can’t I change my dress in the afternoon like Grace does?’ Mother said, ‘Because Grace sits still. She doesn’t climb trees the way you do.’ I said, ‘I can do that!’ And she changed my dress. I was happy.”
The fact that this woman remembered this incident for 25 years tells us that it has some significance for her in the present. It tells us that she is very sensitive to comparing herself with others who seem to be enjoying advantages that she does not have. That it is important for her to find out how to obtain these advantages for herself. She is mindful that there are some behaviors that are acceptable and others that are not. She remembers depending on the resources of others to make her wishes come true.
Many people remember being independent and taking pride in this accomplishment. Cinderellas usually do not. She is concerned with external appearances, (clothing), and the roles that go with them. This recollection tells us that for her, Life is pleasant when she gets her own way, when she is secure when she is able to do what the Big Kids are doing at the Ball. The implied meaning of this conviction is that life is very unpleasant for her when she can’t find a way to get what she wants, when she can’t have the kind of fun that other people are having. When that happens, it confirms her feelings that she is at a disadvantage. That she is “left out,” and she doesn’t belong at the Ball with the “big kids.” She feels like she is worthless.
Like many people, Rachel was never encouraged to perceive herself as a worthwhile human being in her own right. She has subtly been encouraged to define herself in terms of her external behavior, some of which is “right” and “good,” the rest of which is “bad” and “wrong,” There was no middle ground for her while she was growing up. Since she has never acquired an identity that is her own, she is forced to play roles. The two main roles that were available to her were the “Good Princess” and the “Bad Cinderella.” The first one was taken by Grace before she got there. Neither of these fictitious roles allows the adult woman to prepare for a real healthy relationship. Both of these women have no choice but to gravitate to a phony Crown Prince Charming, who has no more self-respect than they do. They are compatible, but it is a negative compatibility.
While immersed in her “Bad Cinderella” role, people like Rachel may be inclined to seek relief from their unhappy feelings of inferiority by dreaming of their moment in the sun, which comes when they fantasize about finally getting the brass ring. When they are “high,” they dread the imminent destruction of their happiness. They are not able to live in the present moment and enjoy it freely. The time between these peaks and valleys is filled, not with a gratifying existence in the middle ground, but with anxiety, depression and suppressed anger. As a consequence, real life tends to pass them by and they may end their days wondering why their life never really began.
To replace her unhappy constellation of attitudes and expectations, Rachael has to do her Homework. To break her dependency on others for her happiness, she must choose to behave independently, on her own mature, appropriate terms.
For example, Rachael can catch herself comparing herself unfavorably to other women who seem “luckier” than she is. She can realize that this attitude only perpetuates her feelings of anger at the unfairness of life and her own inferiority and inadequacy. Also, she can catch herself paying the role of the Special Princess at the Ball. She can stop feeling like a bored, resentful scullery maid when the music stops. Instead of playing these unrealistic roles, she can choose to perceive herself as a worthwhile human being in spite of her faults and imperfections. She can choose to live in the real middle ground between these unreal highs and lows.
Life soon provided her an opportunity to do a Homework. Prince Bob called to cancel their date that night. He was going out with the boys instead. Instead of pretending to be understanding, as usual, (she didn’t understand at all, she was hurt and angry) she made a conscious choice in her own behalf. She chose to tell the truth about her unpleasant emotion: “I’m very angry at you. I was looking forward to seeing you and now I’m not going to. That hurts my feelings. Don’t plan on seeing me tomorrow. In going out with the girls. They’re so much more mature.”
Bob heard her talking like an independent person in her own right. He respected her courage in standing up for herself on an appropriate basis. She hadn’t overreacted, she hadn’t suppressed her anger, and she wasn’t controlling him or guilt tripping him. She made a cutting remark which she wouldn’t have had the courage to do before. She was behaving like a mature human being with a legitimate grievance against him. He couldn’t respect her pleasing role, but he could respect someone who spoke to him like an equal member of the human race. As Rachael continued to maintain her independence on her own appropriate terms, she felt stronger each time in her self-respect. She was going to know what it felt like to be a worthwhile human being in her own right. Bob grew up with her without even realizing that he was doing so. Their negatively compatible roles from the past were replaced by an atmosphere in which mutual respect was possible.
On this new, more realistic basis, Rachael is finding that her life is more fun than it ever was before, and that she can enjoy her happiness more than she ever did. When the Ball ends, it doesn’t end in disaster. It just ends. She can go to sleep. She is free to go on to something else tomorrow.
This is an attitude that is often an important facet of the Cinderella Complex. It manifests itself as a reluctance to form a permanent relationship with an “ordinary” member of the opposite sex for fear that it will preclude a more gratifying liaison with a “Prince” later on. Compared to this idealized image, flesh and blood human beings seem mediocre and undesirable.
The sufferer never stops to ask herself, “If a perfect male were to come along, what would he want with me?” She is so busy living in the future that life in the present passes her by.This attitude is understood as the individual’s way of overcompensating for her feelings of inadequacy. It is her imaginary solution to her painful feelings of inferiority and “worthlessness” as a female. In her scenario her Prince’s love for her will vindicate her worth as a person in the eyes of all those who scorn her now; it will prove that she has been a “princess,” i.e., worthwhile, all along. This seldom happens.
In the meantime, this fictitious resolution of her painful self-doubts absolves her of any “guilt” she may have felt regarding her present state of inaction. She is not responsible for her own well-being: “It’s not my fault that I am still feeling inferior; it’s just that no one has come along to realize me yet.”
This fantasy serves to exempt the sufferer from any responsibility for relieving her present distress by finding out about her mistaken attitudes and expectations and replacing them with more realistic ones.
Rachael isn’t making any of these mistakes now. She is doing little Homeworks every day. She is finding that these successes give her happiness in the present, which is so much more enjoyable than happiness a year from Tuesday.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Does your management say things like: “Our employees aren’t angry! We run a happy ship! They get frustrated sometimes, or upset, and we’ve got one guy who is disgruntled, but we never get angry!” This popular anger management technique is called “denial.” If we don’t know how to solve a problem, we just pretend that it isn’t there.
Anger comes in many forms, all of them unpleasant. That is why we are so quick to deny it out of existence. That way, the problem is “solved;” we are off the hook. It’s a good thing that we don’t have to solve it because we don’t know how to solve such problems. We’d only fail if we tried. We didn’t go to school to learn anger management. We feel inadequately prepared to cope with it. We deny the problem in order to prevent the humiliating expose of our inadequate preparation.
In the meantime, our angry employees are walking around with unresolved anger problems in their hearts. They become discouraged and depressed. We wonder, “What happened to the morale around here? Why is production falling off? Why is turnover so high? Why are they taking so much sick leave?” When our employees’ energy is bound up in unresolved anger, there isn’t much left over to do the work that needs to be done. They keep on getting their paychecks just the same.
Anger doesn’t have to erupt into violence to take a chunk out of our bottom line. Suppressed, subterranean anger poisons our corporate atmosphere and does its silent damage day after day, year after year. “Denial”, therefore, is a very costly “solution” to the problem of employee anger. It is a luxury that no business can afford. Why do managers “deny” that their “happy” troops might possibly have unresolved anger in their bosoms?
They deny that there is anger in the ranks because they have attitudes about anger, attitudes that they acquired a long time ago and never outgrew:
“Anger is scary and dangerous. I don’t want to touch it with a ten foot pole.”
“Anger is a problem that might take up too much of my valuable time and attention. Why don’t we just fire him and save ourselves a lot of trouble.”
“Anger isn’t ‘nice,’ and angry people aren’t ‘nice’. I don’t want to talk to people.”
“An angry person is a threat, and I have never learned how to cope with threats in the right way, only the wrong way with counter threats.”
In addition to our attitudes about this nasty emotion, we have attitudes about ourselves as problem solvers:
“Life is very pleasant when I solve problems.”
“Life is very unpleasant when I don’t!”
“I feel out of control when I have a problem that I cannot solve.
“That makes me angry! I don’t want to be angry because anger is painful and scary.”
“If I pretend that the problem doesn’t exist, maybe it will go away.”
That’s no way to manage our lives! We don’t realize that we have these attitudes deep down in our psyche. Neither do we realize that these attitudes are predisposing us to behave in the same counter-productive way time after time. Our behavior doesn’t change because our attitudes have never changed.
Jack is a top salesman. Out on the road he is all charm and smiles. Back at the ranch, he has anger attitudes. For one, he is predisposed to get angry whenever he doesn’t get his way, right now! Jack is angry at Nancy for not typing his sales reports fast enough. He wants them “now!” He doesn’t see why she shouldn’t do what he wants, when he wants it. To him, it’s a perfectly reasonable request.
When Jack is angry, everyone in the unit knows it. He slams drawers, he barks at everyone in sight, he clams up, he sulks and pouts. In other words, he is manifesting his anger just as he did when he was four years old. He hasn’t learned a thing about anger in forty years. We all get angry from time to time. Most of us are able to get through these painful periods without making our co-workers miserable with our inappropriate behavior. Jack never had an anger problem until he became Section Chief. It seems that his promotion gave him a license to abuse his fellow citizens that he did not seem to have before. Jack is displaying several main characteristics of the angry employee:
He is angrier than he needs to be,
He isn’t aware that his anger is out of proportion to the provocation.
He makes no effort to manage his anger like a mature, responsible human being.
He doesn’t see why he should learn how.
To Jack, his request for instant service is reasonable or rational. The rest of us see that his anger is not rational or under conscious control. The more Steve, his Department Head, tries to make Jack “understand the inappropriateness of his behavior,” the angrier Jack gets. Jack doesn’t want to understand, he wants his report and, as far as he can see, Steve is doing nothing to speed up the process. He is angry at Steve for letting Nancy “slack off.”
What Steve didn’t know was that Jack had come to define his worth as a person in terms of getting what he wants. He acquired this attitude toward himself during the formative stages of his personality. Jack has plenty of attitudes:
“It is my right to get my way. If I don’t get it. I am nothing! I cannot allow that to happen It’s too scary. It is unacceptable!”
“I am special. I am entitled to special consideration. It makes me angry when I do not get what I am entitled to.”
“When I have to wait to get what I want, I feel out of control. That feeling is painful. I want to get relief from my pain as fast as I can.”
“When I am kept waiting, it forces me to waste time. Waste is irresponsible. It makes me feel guilty of a crime. That is painful, too.”
“Wasting time and irresponsibility are wrong. Wrongness makes me angry. I must be right and never wrong. I must be perfect.”
Jack never outgrew these attitudes; he carried them into adulthood where they are determining his behavior to this day. Each time we react to Jack on the basis of these immature attitudes, we confirm him in his fictitious role. He is so busy defending his “specialness” that he never has a chance to question the basis of his inappropriate behavior.
Steve is learning that many people have these anger attitudes and that they can not be reasoned out of them. He has also learned that the issue here is not Nancy’s typing speed, or her work schedule. The issue is not even “getting my way.” The real problem to be addressed is Jack’s anger when he doesn’t get what he wants when he wants it. The most important thing that Steve learned was that he had the power of choice: to respond to Jack’s anger the old way, which never worked, or to manage his anger in a way that makes things better instead of worse.
He chose not to defend Nancy, (Nancy isn’t doing anything wrong, she does not require defending).
He chose not to defend himself. He didn’t say, “You can’t talk to me that way,” because ‘manner of speech’ is not the issue. It is a distraction from the real issue. It would have poured kerosene on Jack’s fire.
He chose not to take Jack’s demands as a reflection on his competence as a manager.
He chose not to take Jack’s negative, unpleasant behavior personally, as if it were a reflection on his worth as a person.
He chose to retain his self-respect on an appropriate basis.
He was able to remind himself of the definition of self-respect: it is the feeling that I am a worthwhile human being in spite of my faults and imperfections. Jack cannot take that away from him with his posturings.
He identified Jack’s imperious behavior as mere mischief, which means, “that which does not need to be done.” Steve was able to put this mischief in its proper perspective. “It’s only Jack being Jack again.”
He did not overreact to Jack’s provocation.
He did not try to make Jack “understand.”
He identified his own anger at Jack for causing him and Nancy this grievance, but he had learned how to manage his anger. He put it in perspective. Jack’s anger wasn’t the end of the world, it was only a nuisance.
He did not “solve” the anger problem by firing Jack on the spot.
He did not get personal revenge by depriving the firm of the talents of an imperfect, sometimes unpleasant employee.
He did not give up in discouragement.
He did not stand in moral judgment on Jack for his disruptive behavior. Jack is not “wrong,” he is merely imperfect and his imperfections can be unpleasant.
He did not hang on to his anger. It was in his way. He chose to “let it go.”
He was able to sort it out. He was in control of himself. He didn’t try to “control” Jack.
He was able to make a rational choice in a non-rational, regrettable situation.
Steve was able to take himself through this process in a matter of seconds. He had learned the drill. He knew how to find the meaning of Jack’s mischief by identifying the hidden purpose of the behavior. Jack was making him feel powerless and out of control. That feeling told him that he was in a power struggle with Jack over who could make Nancy do what and how fast. This insight gave Steve a new choice to make: he could pull back in a tug of war, or he could drop the rope and end the power struggle on his terms. He chose to drop the rope. He let it go. It was only mischief on Jack’s part. It didn’t need to be done. What really needed to be done was to resolve Jack’s anger problem in the right way so everyone could go back to work.
Steve had learned to spot employee mischief a block away. He had also learned how to disengage himself emotionally, not from the employee, but from his unacceptable, provocative behavior:
He did not take Jack’s behavior personally, as a wipeout of his self-respect.
He reminded himself that “I am a worthwhile human being in spite of Jack’s negative comments.” This technique is called ‘self talk.’ It keeps him on an even keel.
He did not take Jacks words literally, as if he really meant what he said. Jack is only “firing for Effect,” trying to use Steve’s own vulnerabilities against him.
He disengaged from his own predisposition to make counter mischief:
Steve didn’t make any of these mistakes from the old days. He made a new choice using his adult judgment on an informed basis. He knew that Jack’s anger was painful and out of control. It was his appropriate responsibility to deal effectively with his employee’s psychic pain as he would the physical pain of a cut finger. Just as he was prepared to perform the Heimlich maneuver if someone were choking, so is he prepared to give “emotional first aid” when it became necessary. It was necessary now. Steve made the right choice. He cut to the chase. He chose to address the issue of Jack’s anger.
Steve chose to say, “It makes you angry when Nancy takes so long, doesn’t it.” In making this choice, Steve was using an anger management technique called validate. Steve knew that Jack’s accusation was not a valid one. He knew it wasn’t rational, it was based on self-serving attitudes. He did not make the mistake of correcting Jack’s thinking, which would have made things worse for everyone. He knew that he could not relieve this pain by invalidating it. In calling Jack’s anger by its rightful name, Steve was giving Jack “permission” to have this unpleasant, disruptive emotion. He did not “fight the feeling.” He validated the anger, “I don’t blame you for feeling that way.”
Jack heard his anger being validated, perhaps for the first time in his life. He felt that he had been heard and understood by someone who knew what he was talking about. He felt that he was being validated as a person. The pain of his grievance was relieved. The second validate is for Jack. He heard himself being treated with respect in spite of his unpleasant behavior. He respected Steve for doing that. If he doesn’t respect his superior, he will not cooperate with him. He will make destructive mischief instead.
The third validation is for Steve. He had the courage to address the scary problem of Jack’s anger instead of defending Nancy. He had used good judgment. He replaced his good intentions with real intentions. He had earned the right to respect himself as a worthwhile human being with an identity of his own, not merely a role opposite Jack’s immature role.
There are two sides to this anger coin: Jack is one and Nancy is the other. Nancy needs to know what to do with Jack’s anger when it hits. As part of the Anger Management Process, Steve prepared Nancy to cope with Jack’s anger on a new basis. He broke the problem down into its components so she could see what she was up against.
Do not take it personally. It is not a reflection on you.
Do not defend – you are not guilty of a crime and you require no defense.
Do not become counter-angry. That just prolongs the problem.
Do not try to make Jack “understand” the realities of the situation. He is not interested.
Identify the real issue: the issue is that he is angry
Jack is making mischief. He wants to control so he will get his way sooner, also, he wants
revenge. He wants to hurt Nancy as she “hurt” him. These are negative purposes. They need to be identified so that they can be turned around in the right way.
Jack reminded Nancy that she could choose to keep her self respect in spite of Jack’s anger. She is a worthwhile human being whether she pleases him or not. As a self respecting, independent human being, she, too, can choose to validate Jack’s anger, which is the real issue. She, too, can say, “I’m sorry you are so angry, but I’ll have it done by 4:30 today.”
When Jack came by to voice his complaint about the “service,” Nancy did her anger Homework: She disengaged from the mischief, not from Jack. She was able to “Consider the Source”; she reminded herself that it’s only Jack sounding off again. She didn’t hang on to her protestations of innocence, she chose to let them go. When she made that choice, she felt relief from the pressure, tension and stress that these anger situations had been causing her. In letting go, she didn’t feel out of control, she felt in control. She was making this happen in the present. She was choosing to live on her terms, not reacting to someone else’s. She had her own independent identity.
As Jack went on and on, Nancy rode it out. She didn’t prolong the process with explanations of the situation that Jack didn’t care about anyway. She saved her breath. Nancy noticed that the storm blew over in half the time. Jack walked away talking to himself, but he settled down much sooner than he used to when people got in his way and made his anger worse.
Nancy was angry at Jack’s abusive behavior. We relieve pent up anger by giving people choices that they didn’t know they had. Steve has learned what some of those choices are. Instead of ignoring Nancy’s painful resentment, he validated it; “You must be very angry at Jack for dumping on you like that. If you keep it in, it will make you sick. One way to drain it out of your system is to write him an anger letter. It’s not for him, it’s for you.”
Nancy wrote her anger out in a letter to Jack and then tore it up. Steve asked her how she felt afterward. Nancy said that she felt “good.” In debriefing Nancy, he helped her to break this “good feeling” into its many components: feelings of relief, the power of choice, trust in her judgment, control, accomplishment, success, confidence and independence. These good feelings are all components of self respect.
Nancy had done an anger homework in her own behalf. She had earned the right to respect herself. Self respecting employees are more motivated, more productive and more free to be creative than employees who are filled with self doubts, anxieties and feelings of inadequacy to cope. Nancy was able to use an unpleasant anger situation as an opportunity to improve the way she felt about herself as a person in the world.
Even Jack benefitted from Nancy’s new way of managing her anger. He expected to be met with scorn, invalidation, criticism, excuses, denials and all the other counter-productive defenses that people use when they don’t know how to manage anger. Instead, he felt that Nancy had listened to his complaint without demeaning him as a person. She had not compounded his anger as people usually did. He didn’t feel “good” about the conversation, but he was aware that he felt “less worse.” He felt relief from the pressure, tension and stress that he had been causing himself with his unrealistic attitudes. To him, that was progress. Steve had taken the sting out of a potentially inflammatory situation. There were no cuts or bruises, no one got fired. Under this new regimen, Jack’s anger attacks came farther and farther apart, and they ended sooner each time. He remained a productive, valued employee of the firm.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
What is anger management? Anger Management is the name of a movie that is intended to be funny, and it is.
But there is nothing funny about real anger management, it is a very serious issue. Anger management is the process of managing your anger, or perhaps it is better explained using the words controlling your anger.
While there are no public anger management statistics that could be found, there are studies about anger that are very compelling when you are trying to see the importance of anger management.
Anger control problems can affect your job and your relationships to a degree that you may not realize. The inability to control your anger can escalate.
You hear about angry employees who go after their bosses with high powered semi automatic rifles and end up killing 6 people and then himself once he realized what he had done.
These stories are on the news several times a year. Even more often you hear about cases of domestic violence and child abuse that are a result of someone losing control of their anger. 42% of all female deaths from homicide are the result of domestic violence.
Anger problems are not limited to adults who commit crimes and road rage, though.
Children can have anger control problems, too. The biggest problem with this is that many people don’t recognize anger control problems in children or think that it’s just a phase and that the children will grow out of it. However, even if it is a phase it needs to be dealt with.
If you look at the anger management statistics for children you will see that this is a very real problem.
According to the most recent report released from the US Department of Education, in the school year of 1999 to 2000 5.5% of school teachers were violently attacked by students and 10% of all elementary school kids who were expelled from school were expelled because they brought a firearm to school. This is much more than just a phase!
What is anger management? It is recognizing that you or someone you love has a problem controlling your anger and getting help for it before it is too late.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Dr. Keith Sanford, a clinical psychologist and an associate professor in Baylor’s department of psychology and neuroscience, College of Arts and Sciences, and his research team studied 105 college students in romantic relationships as they communicated through different arguments over an eight-week period. Sanford focused on how emotion changed within each person across episodes of relationship conflict. They found demonstrated links between different types of emotion, different types of underlying concern, and different types of perceived partner emotion.
Sanford distinguished between two types of negative emotion as “hard” and “soft.” “Hard” emotion is associated with asserting power, whereas “soft” emotion is associated with expressing vulnerability. Sanford’s research also identified a type of underlying concern as “perceived threat,” which involves a perception that one’s partner is being hostile, critical, blaming or controlling. Another type of concern is called “perceived neglect,” which involves a perception that one’s partner is failing to make a desired contribution or failing to demonstrate an ideal level of commitment or investment in the relationship.
Sanford said the results show that people perceive a threat to their control, power and status in the relationship when they observe an increase in partner hard emotion and they perceive partner neglect when they observe an increase in partner flat emotion or a decrease in partner soft emotion. Both perceived threat and perceived neglect, in turn, are associated with increases in one’s own hard and soft emotions, with the effects for perceived neglect being stronger than the effects for perceived threat.
“In other words, what you perceive your partner to be feeling influences different types of thoughts, feelings and reactions in yourself, whether what you perceive is actually correct,” Sanford said. “In a lot of ways, this study confirms scientifically what we would have expected. Previously, we did not actually know that these specific linkages existed, but they are clearly theoretically expected. If a person perceives the other as angry, they will perceive a threat so they will respond with a hard emotion like anger or blame. Likewise, if a person is perceived to be sad or vulnerable, they will perceive a neglect and will respond either flat or soft.”
The study appeared in the journal Personal Relationships.
Sanford said some of the most interesting results in the study pertain to a complex pattern of associations observed for soft emotion. As expected, partner soft emotion was associated with decreased concerns over neglect, whereas self soft emotion was associated with increased concerns over neglect. Sanford said this is consistent with the idea that soft emotion is a socially focused emotion, often triggered by attachment-related concerns, and that expressions of soft emotion signal one’s own desire and willingness to invest in a relationship.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
You may find yourself feeling miserable because of the way you see yourself in the world. You may say to yourself, ”Why does this always happen to me, you think, or why does life have to be so unfair? or why is it so hard?” You react this way when you secretly imagine yourself as being at the center of the universe. This isn’t conceit or arrogance, but it can be called “narcissism”. It’s what happens when you’re the point of reference for everything that happens all around you. We are all a bit narcissistic. A little of that is natural; you look out at the world through your own eyes and hear through your very own set of ears. But when you act like everything happens because of you, you’re headed for trouble.
Narcissism, a psychological state rooted in extremely low self-esteem, is a common syndrome among the parents of psychotherapy patients. Narcissistic people are very fearful of not being well regarded by others, and they therefore attempt to control others’ behavior and viewpoints in order to protect their self-esteem. The underlying dynamic of narcissism is a deep, usually unconscious, sense of oneself as dangerously inadequate and vulnerable to blame and rejection. The common use of the term refers to a preoccupation with one’s own physical and social image, a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts and feelings, and a sense of grandiosity. There are, however, many other behaviors that can stem from narcissistic concerns, such as immersion in one’s own affairs to the exclusion of others, an inability to empathize with other’s experience, interpersonal rigidity, an insistence that one’s opinions and values are “right.” They also have a tendency to be easily offended and take things personally.
Narcissism sees everything as a reflection on you; the universe revolves around you. Your car has broken down; it is your fault and you must have done something to deserve it. A friend walks past without saying hi; she must have done it on purpose to make you angry! Your child does not do their homework properly; you must be a bad father! A commenter accuses me of something I have not done; it was more a reflection of his distortions. There is no realistic reason for me to feel guilt – and yet you do. When you are narcissistic, you assume the guilt for things that go wrong outside of your control. You may see things as your fault that there was no way you could have prevented. For example, a child may write on the wall with a marker and the mother thinks, “It’s my fault, I am a bad mother. If I was a better mother I would have seen him withy the marker before he could draw on the wall.” Narcissistic emotional thinking leads you to assume that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you.
Take driving in traffic. How many of people raise their blood pressure unnecessarily because they’re wondering why the ‘other drivers are all idiots’ and their sloppy driving is directed at you, individually? Or at the office, where a disagreement with the person in the next cubicle seems to be an act of disrespect or hostility? Or closer to home: your boyfriend goes off the deep end over a stupid little joke you told some friends over drinks. It’s not like you told an embarrassing story about his mother; this was just a silly gag! But now he’s upset and you’re feeling misunderstood, attacked and hurt. However, you’re often fighting about something other than what you think you’re fighting about. Maybe your attempt at humor didn’t offend anyone else, but in your partner, it triggered a response going back to times when his father would criticize him after drinking too much. In other words…it wasn’t about you, at least not all of it.
Let me give you another example. I remember when the first woman I really loved, left me, ‘rejected’ me, for another man. It felt personal. How can I not take this personally? Well I learned the reason I don’t need to take things personally is because it’s not personal. How can that be you may ask? Isn’t the person standing in front of you screaming and being mean to you, doesn’t that say something about you? Isn’t the girlfriend who just went four days without calling you, saying something about you? Or how about the girlfriend who just broke up with you for another guy, isn’t that personal, isn’t that about you? Maybe your boss was really cold and aloof today, ‘isn’t that about you?’ you ask. How about your mother who spent your entire life not being affectionate and warm, ‘Isn’t that about you?’
Do you understand where I’m going with these questions? The operative word in all these scenarios is, you. And here’s the key. Drum roll please! When someone is doing or saying something to you, it is about them, not you. Let me be clear. There behavior speaks to them, not to you. Their insults and antagonism, is about them. So the girlfriend who I mentioned that broke my heart and ‘rejected’, me turned out to be afraid of confrontation, so she found a way out of the relationship without having to talk. She used her behavior not her words. She went off with a man who would take care of her so she didn’t have to take care of herself. When I saw her years later I realized I had been spared a life of misery. So here is the point, when you hear yourself say ‘I can’t believe they did or said that to me’, you need to stop, take a deep breathe, and realize you were not the issue, you were the target. When you use the word ‘me’ about someone else’s behavior, you make yourself the important part of the interaction. The truth is, that its the other person who is acting in an exaggerated way, trying to make themselves the important part of the interaction. That’s why it’s about them. That’s why it isn’t personal. It isn’t personal because their behavior isn’t about you, but it’s a reflection on them.
The important thing is to realize how self-centered this all is. By assuming everyone’s mood and reaction is about you (mad at me! something I did! insulting me!) you assume that the whole world is focused on you, and revolving around you. Narcissistic Personality Disorder refers to a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. But, in its more universal sense, narcissism can be found at the core of almost all psychological dysfunction. Narcissism represents the way you, like the Greek god Narcissus himself, can “fall in love” with yourself. This is not real self-acceptance. Narcissism, conceit, selfishness, all are used as a distraction, an ad campaign, to hide your own inadequacy. This is seen in the person who constantly treats others like “a child” to make themselves feel strong and superior.
Let’s look at an example. I had a client whose boss was the most abrupt man in the world. And she thought it was personal. He was loud, condescending, abrupt, sarcastic, overworked and that was just his professional life. He was also disrespectful. Guess what? She ultimately realized it wasn’t personal, and that it didn’t work for her to be intimidated by him. It’s empowering when you can say, ‘This doesn’t work for me.’ But as long as you take it personally, then you still may feel badly about yourself and you won’t change your situation. This particular client asked her boss “what the worst part about it was?”. He looked at her and thought and laughed because there was no worse part. It wasn’t about her. From then on, the whole dynamic shifted. He wasn’t a bad guy, he was just a bully, as long as he could get away with it. And he didn’t have a large enough support staff to help him, so he was irritated and cranky. My client took her boss’s behavior as his disapproval of her. When she was able to accept that she was a good employee, despite her flaws and imperfections as a human, she could look at the situation differently. Today, they have a good working relationship.
Let me give you another situation. I had a male client who was deeply in love with a woman who wasn’t emotionally available. She would draw him in and then do something to push him away. It’s commonly called sabotaging the relationship. Well at first he took this personally. And here’s why. He had done some things in the relationship that he felt guilty about. So he was sure her behavior was personal. As we talked and he looked at why he had done certain things, he expressed deep sorrow. We worked on letting go of his guilt himself for his previous behavior and to forgive himself. He went to her and apologized. At first she accepted the apology; soon enough, she once again pushed him away. He got to see that she had major issues around emotional intimacy. It wasn’t personal. She had had a pretty tough life and the way she protected herself when she felt unsafe, was to lash out. And she was highly effective! That person may be suffering from a fear of intimacy caused by some abuse, insecurity because of past failures, or be emotionally unavailable due to their upbringing. You may never know the real reason. It is rarely personal when someone pulls away. It speaks to them, It is there problem, They are afraid of being exposed.
Do you see now that people’s behavior and actions are about them? If you go up and hit someone and they hit you back, well that’s a different story. I’m talking about the uncaused action or behavior; the yelling, the pulling or pushing away, the aloof treatment, the manipulations, or the overreaction. Who hasn’t had a challenging relationship with a boss, a coworker, a lover, a friend or a parent? And when you recall these people, you may ask; now why is it that what they did to me wasn’t personal? Because it’s about them. You don’t have the luxury of knowing about the person’s personal perceptions of life. What made them the way they are and why they see the things they do. They may not even know themselves. In fact, I’ll share this with you. After working with people in various mental health settings for the last 10 some years, I can tell you many people have had unbelievably dysfunctional, painful lives. It’s amazing they even keep going.
Here’s a big secret about how to not take things personally. Work on yourself to heal your wounds. As you heal, you can see that other people have wounds that cause them to act or react in all sorts of ways. Often you can’t see the other person if your wounds are too tender. They inadvertently hit a raw spot and you react from the pain. Yet, as you heal, there are less and less raw spots for others to hit and hurt. As a result, there are less opportunities and reasons for you to react.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
What is a pachyderm? Well, “pachy” means “thick,” and “derm” means “skin.” The three most famous pachyderms are the elephant, rhinoceros, and the hippopotamus. Their skin serves them well, preventing them from being bitten. These insects are promoting their own survival; they are not personally going after any particular pachyderm. Now this is the question, are you thick-skinned? Are you being bitten by other people’s words? If you are thick-skinned, you don’t notice or get upset when people criticize you. To have thick skin means you do not take other’s actions personally, as a reflection of your worth as a human. Here are a few tips to developing a thick skin:
Don’t take things personally. Sometimes you may need to reframe a person’s bad behavior by remembering that it’s not about you.
Don’t let others get to you. Refuse to get overly responsive to the negative feelings and provocations of others. Adopt strategies that regulate emotional arousal; otherwise negativity hijacks the thinking brain. Try simple deep breathing or declare time out. Remember that everyone gets rejected sometimes. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few times to get it right. Successful people are rejected over and over, but never stop trying. When you’re rejected or something doesn’t go your way, propose a new solution. Often, the person declining your offer is not rejecting you. He may even want to hear another idea. Successful individuals come back from rejection with new proposals. They’re creative at coming up with additional ways of looking at things and solving problems. Don’t hesitate to un-stick sticky situations. If you’re discussing an issue and the conversation is going off track, stop it and restart it on the right track. You could say: “This isn’t going productively. Let’s reshoot this scene from the beginning” or “Can we take it from the top?”
Don’t be self-focused. If you do focus on yourself, you’ll likely dwell on your shortcomings. Instead, think about your goals and what steps you need to get there.
Stop the self-talk. Counter self-defeating self-talk with truth talk: “You can be your own worst enemy, so give yourself a break.”
Don’t worry about looking stupid. If you are asked a question and you don’t know the answer, you can simply say, “I need to think about that and get back to you later.”
Learn to be patient. Don’t be impulsive or react to a situation without giving yourself time to cool off.
Don’t be quick to blame. Recognize that other people have their ups and downs.
Think about others. Enter social interactions with this thought of making the experience itself enjoyable. Ask yourself, “What can I do to feel more comfortable?”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This seems to be Self-Righteous Indignation Month. Apparently I did not receive the memo. I’m seeing so many clients this month who are filled with self-righteous indignation about the behavior of other people. They really get themselves worked up over it and come in totally frustrated and angry. What is this all about?
The term “self-righteous” is defined by yourdictionary.com as “filled with or showing a conviction of being morally superior, or more righteous than others; smugly virtuous”
Beautiful. That’s exactly it. Not virtuous, but smugly virtuous. It is about feeling superior to someone else. Most of us are most easily tempted into self-righteous indignation when driving. The driver ahead of us is driving too slow, too fast, cuts us off or makes some other terribly heinous error. And we are filled with outrage. We lay on the horn and yell and make sure everyone around knows that driver is not driving “correctly” (or at least how we define correct driving). The nerve of that guy! What a loser.
When listening to someone smoldering with self-righteous indignation I often hear the words, “right”, “fair” or “should”. “They should do it this way.” “They are not doing it the right way.” “It’s not fair.” Why shouldn’t we distinguish when people aren’t doing things “correctly”, or the way they “should” be done, or the “fair” way? For two reasons:
1. Because it’s not real. They aren’t doing it that way. They are doing it “wrong” or in a way they “shouldn’t” or “unfairly”. That is the reality. That is what’s happening. Expecting them to do something else just sets you up to be frustrated and angry.
2. Because it makes us unhappy. I always ask people, “how much time and energy have you invested in being upset about this? What could you have done with that time and energy instead? Most have invested a lot of both. And for what? Is this issue really that important?
If self-righteous indignation isn’t real and it makes us frustrated and angry, why do so many of us do it? Because it feels good. It feels “right”. We feel superior to that idiot over there doing things “wrong”. We feel better than that loser over there being “unfair”.
By pointing out the errors of someone else we are attempting to position ourselves as better than them. People with low self esteem, people who are unhappy in their lives, people who are frustrated with where they are in life are most susceptible to self-righteous indignation. By finding someone we believe to be less than or worse than ourselves and condemning them, we manage to feel some sort of superiority.
We can also use this to sabotage ourselves or make ourselves a target. Being intolerant of the mistakes of other people, and pointing them out loudly, will not make you popular. And it can totally destroy a career. I frequently see people living out the Scapegoat role utilizing this technique to alienate themselves.
A client came into my office fuming about her boss at work and how he was mishandling an account by giving a client preferential treatment. The client made a point of telling him that he was mishandling the account and did not except his explanation as being valid. She then went over his head and complained to his boss. When I asked how the mishandling of this account affected her she could not readily answer. She had no interactions with the client, it didn’t affect her clients, and she would not be held responsible for the account. She then continued to rail against the unfairness of the preferential treatment and her need to expose it. She denied ulterior motives or her long and conflictual relationship with the boss. She denied her wish to see him punished and stated she was unaware of any possible fallout from this action. She reported telling the boss’ superior that she did not mean to be a “tattletale”, but that she needed to know if this was “right” or not. When I asked her what her gut told her about whether it was right or not, she admitted that she already knew it was wrong and her boss’ explanation flimsy. But she continued to insist that she had to go over his head to find out “for sure” whether she was right or not. She was completed surprised when, a few weeks later, the boss attempted to have her transferred to another office. She had completed sabotaged herself with her boss in her need to be self-righteous. This is a pattern she has replicated in many offices prior to this. Her self-righteous intolerance of the foibles of other people and her need to confront superiors about them makes her a target, or a scapegoat. She eventually is let go or fired. Yet she continues to maintain this behavior. She had rather be “right” than employed.
If you are guilty of this pattern, how do you stop it?
1. Instead of deciding what people should be doing, look at what they are doing and then decide how to react to it.
2. If you find yourself condemning people, examine your motives. Is the issue itself really that important? Is it really worth your time and energy? Is this really a battle you want to take on? Or are you doing it for some other reason?
3. Feel your feelings. How do you feel when you are complaining about or reporting this behavior? Superior? Powerful? Is that the true motivation for it, rather than righting a wrong?
4. Examine the effects. What effects is this behavior having on your life? Has it damaged your career? Cost you friends? Caused conflict within your family?
5. Repeat after me: “I cannot change other people’s behavior, only my own.” You have no power over other people. Whatever they are doing is what they are going to do. The only person you can change is yourself. And most of us have more than enough work to do developing ourselves without taking on other people’s issues.
Self-righteous indignation is a heady, powerful emotion that can be quite exhilarating. But it comes at a high cost. If you can only bring yourself up by putting other people down perhaps you need to look at that. Perhaps your time and energy would be better spent developing your own character rather than shooting down other people’s.
Whether you are running for president or looking for a clerical job, you cannot afford to get angry if you are a woman, Yale University psychologist Victoria Brescoll has found.
Brescoll and Eric Uhlmann at Northwestern University recently completed three separate studies to explore a phenomenon that may be all-too-familiar to women like New York Senator Hillary Clinton: People accept and even reward men who get angry but view women who lose their temper as less competent.
The studies, published in the March issue of Psychological Science, provide women with recommendations for navigating emotional hazards of the workplace. Brescoll says it pays to stay emotionally neutral and, if you can’t, at least explain what ticked you off in the first place.
Clinton’s presidential campaign has put a spotlight on the question of whether anger hurts a female candidate. The answer, according to the studies, appears to be an unequivocal yes – unless the anger deals with treatment of a family member.
“An angry woman loses status, no matter what her position,” said Brescoll, who worked in Clinton’s office as a Congressional Fellow in 2004 while she was preparing her doctoral thesis on gender bias. She noticed over the years that women pay a clear price for showing anger and men don’t.
In all studies, both men and women were shown videos of actors portraying men and women who were ostensibly applying for a job. The participants in the studies were then asked to rate applicants on how much responsibility they should be given, their perceived competence, whether they should be hired, and how much they should get paid.
Both men and women in the reached the same conclusions: Angry men deserved more status, a higher salary, and were expected to be better at the job than angry women.
When those actor/applicants expressed sadness, however, the bias was less evident, and women applicants were ranked equally to men in status and competence, but not in salary.
Brescoll and her colleague then compared angry job applicants to ones who did not display any emotion. And this time the researchers showed study participants videos of both men and women applying for lower-status jobs. The findings were duplicated: Angry men were valued more highly than angry women no matter what level position they were applying for. However, the disparities disappeared when men and women who were emotionally neutral were ranked.
A final study showed another way bias against female anger could be mitigated. When women actors explained why they were angry, observers tended to cut them more slack. However, Brescoll noted a final gender difference: Men could actually be hurt when they explained why they were angry – perhaps, says the Yale psychologist, because observers tend to see this as a sign of weakness.
Psychological Science 19: 268-275 (March 2008)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Popular musician Billy Joel sings a song titled Angry Young Man that tells the story of a young man who’s “never been able to learn from his mistakes, so he can’t understand why his heart always breaks,” and is thus destined to “go to the grave as an angry old man.“
A recent study at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine suggests that Mr. Joel—although obviously not a doctor—was close to the truth about heart woes when he penned Angry Young Man. The study, which tracked 1,337 male medical students for 36 years following medical school, found that students who became angry quickly under stress were three times more likely to develop premature heart disease and five times more likely to have an early heart attack. Angry young men, it appears, turn into angry old men with heart problems.
So why does this happen? Is there a correlation between anger and heart disease?
“I see the role of anger in a variety of physical symptoms and disease processes, including heart disease,” says Jerry Kiffer, M.A., psychology assistant in the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology and manager of the Psychological Testing Center at The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
Patients are referred to Kiffer and his colleagues when their anger levels are observed by other people (a doctor or spouse), or the patients themselves recognizes that their anger or stress level is high. Kiffer says that men are more likely to act out their anger when they’re stressed. This may be due to cultural factors (i.e., “boys will be boys”) and their tendency to want to fix or change circumstances. Unfortunately, many men don’t recognize this connection between stress and anger until they have a wakeup call—such as a heart attack.
But how can anger lead to a heart attack? “When you’re angry, your body reacts as though it is under attack,” says Kiffer. “It’s all systems go as you get a rush of adrenaline and your body revs up preparing to defend itself.
“But in today’s world, you can’t go out and attack someone every time you get angry, so your body has all of this pent-up energy and stress. It’s equivalent to sitting at a red light with your foot on the brake and the gas pedal floored. Your tires start spinning and your car is all revved up with no place to go. The same thing happens in your body when you get angry and don’t have an outlet for your anger, only the problem is what’s spinning and burning is inside your nervous system.”
Kiffer further notes that when you get angry, your body releases cholesterol and an array of chemicals called catecholamines into your blood stream. People who are hostile or angry have advanced levels of catecholamines in their systems, and research has shown that these chemicals actually speed the development of fatty deposits in the heart and carotid arteries.
“If you’re mad at the world and you have a family history of heart disease, you’re loading the bullets in the gun and pulling the trigger at an early age without realizing it,” says Kiffer. “People with a strong family history need to recognize that anger can be a strong risk factor. In fact, some research has shown that anger can be just as much of a risk factor for heart disease as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise.”
So does this mean that the young man (or woman) with the classic “Type A” personality is destined to die of a heart attack. Not necessarily. That’s because the old notion of a “Type A” personality was someone who was angry, outspoken and always on the go. Kiffer notes that it’s okay to be busy and always on the go, but anger, hostility and a cynical attitude aren’t good for your heart health.
Kiffer points out that psychologists now consider “Type A” people to be “hot reactors.” “If you’re a ‘hot reactor,’ that means it doesn’t take much for people to push your buttons, and you react fiercely and quickly.”
But even “hot reactors” can learn to manage their anger. “The popular belief is that if you’re angry you need to get those feelings out and get them off your chest,” points out Kiffer. “But if you express your anger, it can snowball. If you get in a gripe session and other people confirm your anger, your anger level could actually increase because other people confirm your feelings and you feel like you have a right to be angry. Now you are self-riotously angry.”
Yet holding anger in does nothing to relieve stress. In fact, Kiffer likens it to shaking a 2-liter bottle of pop with the cap on. Sooner or later the pop bottle will explode, and so will you—probably in the form of a heart attack or some other ailment.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Think about this the next time someone cuts you off in traffic or in a grocery store line: Anger can bring on a heart attack or stroke.
That’s the conclusion of several studies at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere. One study of 1,305 men with an average age of 62 revealed that the angriest men were three times more likely to develop heart disease than the most placid ones.
Angry older men, as stereotypes go, are most vulnerable. But excessive ire can take a toll at any age. Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine tracked 1,055 medical students for 36 years. Compared with cooler heads, the hotheads were six times more likely to suffer heart attacks by age 55 and three times more likely to develop any form of heart or blood vessel disease.
The conclusion is clear: Anger is bad for you at any age. “Among young adults, it’s a predictor of premature heart disease later in life,” says Harvey Simon, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Most anger research has focused on men, so whether the same risk applies to women remains unknown. One study, published in 1995, found that, during two hours after an angry outburst, a individual’s risk of having a heart attack was more than twice that of someone who had not lost their cool. Out of 1,623 people in that study, 501 were women.
“Almost all the anger research I’m familiar with has focused on men,” notes Simon. “However, based on a 2006 study of road rage, I would guess that women are less prone to severe anger and thus to its deleterious effects, which include heart attack, stroke, and even impaired lung function.”
A Harvard study, published in August, concluded that men who showed high hostility at the start of the eight-year investigation exhibited significantly poorer lung function at the end of it. “This research shows that hostility is associated with poorer [lung] function and more rapid rates of decline among older men,” notes Rosalind Wright, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Strokes of anger
Over the years, then, anger increases a man’s and, probably less so, a woman’s chances of heart disease. But, what about a single burst of rage, the guy who cuts in front of you just before the exit ramp? The answer apparently is “yes.” In the Harvard study of 1,623 patients, which included 501 women, intensive anger more than doubled their risk of heart attack if the emotion occurred in the two hours previous to the heart attack.
In an evaluation of 200 stroke patients in Israel, researchers linked a bout of intense anger to a 14-fold increase in risk of stroke within two hours of the emotional incident.
Results from a study published this year found that of more than 2,500 patients treated in emergency rooms in Missouri hospitals, about 500 of them were torn by anger just before the injury. The greater the anger, the higher the risk, researchers concluded.
Anger comes in many doses: annoyance, irritability, frustration, vexation, resentment, animosity, ire, indignation, wrath, and rage, for example. Most people know when they’re mad. If not, someone is bound to tell them so, sooner or later.
Psychologists have developed a scale that rates anger levels. It’s a true-or-false test that presents statements like: “At times I feel like smashing things.” “I easily become impatient with people,” “I’ve been so angry at times that I’ve hurt someone in a physical fight.”
Once you decide how irate you are, you need to decide what to do about it. For a start you can see your family doctor about the wisdom of taking an aspirin a day. Harvard researchers recently found that a single low-dose (81 mg) pill can reduce anger-caused heart attacks by 40 percent. In other words, a daily aspirin may cut the risk of breaking an angry heart by almost half.
How to be cool
Simon adds more advice in the September issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, which he edits. “Try to identify the things that bother you most and do your best to change them,” he suggests. “Learn to recognize warning signs of building tension, such as a racing pulse, fast breathing, or a jumpy, restless feeling. When you recognize such signals, take steps to relieve the tension. Often something as simple as a walk can cool things down.”
Don’t boil in silence. Talk out your feelings with your spouse, partner, or a good friend. If that doesn’t work, write down your feelings. Try to explain to yourself why you are so irritated or vexed.
Simon also suggests learning to meditate, or experimenting with deep breathing exercises. Also, you can, with practice, change behaviors that light your fuse. Here are some examples: Don’t always try to have the last word. Try not to raise your voice. Don’t curse. Wait a few seconds when you feel on outburst coming on then try to express yourself calmly. Don’t grimace or clench your teeth. Practice smiling.
If all such efforts fail, angry people can seek professional help. A 2002 study reported that stress management classes can protect men from anger-induced heart problems, and individual counseling may be even better.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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