Friday 27 May 2011

Standing Up For Yourself - Why Bother?

Julia wrote to me following my BLOG article on anger:

Hi Chris,

So true about the anger. I have experienced it a lot lately. I am usually one of the most relaxed, laid back people that I know and I've always been the one to let things pass.

But lately I am full of anger and I usually become defensive. As if I am finally standing up for myself but not sure I am doing it the right way...

I get especially angry with certain people I've know for a long time and I can't stand anymore. I tried to step back and realized that my expectation of them will never become reality because they are who they are... Is it then ok for me distance myself from these people or try to take them as they are?... Then what was the point of standing up for myself in the first place?... Just wondering...

Many thanks,


Here's my reply;

Hello Julia,
If you're not used to it, standing up for yourself can be daunting and acutely uncomfortable, and it's difficult to control. It's easy to go from the extreme of "doormat" to "monster" without realising it. The key is to recognise the difference between aggressiveness and assertiveness.
Anger feeds aggression and comes when you feel abused in some way. But assertiveness is a way to gain control and so anger should not arise. You can say "no" with in a whisper with a smile on your face. No ranting involved. The other thing to note is that it takes a while for the world to understand the new you. They will be unsettled and perhaps fed up with your new you. DISAPPROVAL, or the fear of it, is what usually drives passivity. People feel they have no choice but to comply of face dire consequences (unpopularity or disapproval) and they're usually "nice" people who hate to tarnish their reputation. If that's you, then recognise that (a) being popular need not be the name of your life's game, especially if it's crushing you, and (b) disapproval MAY follow assertiveness, but more commonly, RESPECT is the outcome and a far more healthy relationship with those around you.
Your question about standing back is an interesting one. Well done for recognising that these people are unlikely to come up to your standards. Yes, feel free to distance yourself from them. The point of doing so it to find new friends who come closer to your standards. One of the most significant factors in a person's success is who they choose to surround themselves with. Think of your companions in life as a project for you to engineer=, rather than as an inadvertent outcome of chance.
Good luck with it!
Best Wishes,

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Wednesday 25 May 2011

Dissolving Anger

Hello Jacqueline,

Anger is driven by two things:
  • a mis-match between what is and what ought to be
  • a sense of powerlessness to change it.
Removing the anger can involve:
  • changing a perception about how things are
  • changing a belief about how things ought to be
  • increasing control
  • finding new coping tactics
- Sometimes it's a mixture of some or all of these.
It's important to try to tackle this because anger is corrosive. It generates chemicals inside the body which are harmful and it damages our experience of life and often, our relationships with others.

One great way to get started is to raise your awareness of, and then externalise your thinking. Acknowledging anger is often both difficult but also valuable. In recognising it, we are, in some sense, stepping outside of it, and that distancing can give us more control of the it - disempowering our emotional mind and giving control to our intellects.

When you have that increased control, ask yourself why you are angry. Resist the temptation to tut, or think it's obvious. Instead, write it down in terms of the list above. What expectations do you have that are being violated?

One of the insights which NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) brings us is that people tend to think in distorted patterns which include omission, exaggeration and over-generalisation, so watch for those by pushing for precision in your analysis. Don't leave it at "Jesus! People are such pigs!" - instead, push it to extreme specifics about this situation. If your intellect is in charge, you can use it to challenge your initial formulations. "Is it really true?" "Is is ALL true?", "is it ALWAYS true?". "Do you KNOW that that is what happened - or are you filling in the blanks through the lens of your beliefs?". You might end up with "Susan seemed to me to be dis-respecting me when she didn't ask if I wanted to join the group for a pub lunch". See how it's far less certain, more specific and entirely less offensive? Less to be angry about? Maybe nothing to be angry about? Ask what alternative conclusions you might reach, or what missing information you might seek to resolve mysteries.

In a way, these thining flaws we have  encourage us to think in tabloid headlines. We tend to prefer

- to


Not much of a headline, huh? But then - the truth seldom is.

Usually, the truth is not what you fear it is, but be prepared to face some ugly truths, too. If you are difficult to know, spiky, and snappy, then maybe Susan really WAS deliberately excluding you because she fears you or simply doesn't like you. Do you deserve what you're getting right now? Be prepared to say "yes", but don't jump to this conclusion. It's unlikely to be true - but it might be.

I have great success with clients using this simple technique. It's worth trying for yourself but here's the usual pitfall. Your beliefs about the way the world is may be so entrenched that you can't see them for the arbitrary beliefs that they are. They may be part of the fabric of your universe and therefore beyond question. It took many hundreds of years, and the birth of a mind like Einstein's, to question the notion that time was absolute, and only when he saw that that was actually an assumption we all make which might not be true, was he able to conceive of the notion of space-time, and in that blinding leap, was able to lay down the framework of general relativity. Back to Earth(!) you may not even spot your "assumed truths". The kinds of blind spots I see might include notions of courtesy, gentlemanly conduct, rules about personal hygiene, feeling your fellow adults should afford you the loving attention you'd expect from a parent, recognising the degree of importance you occupy in the lives of those around you, accepting that your agenda may not be shared by those around you, and so on.

What you get from these analyses is new information. Your task after that it to recognise that it is gold dust and to use it to make your life happier.

Good luck with it!

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Monday 9 May 2011

The Worry of Worry

Hello Debbie,

So you want to be more relaxed and worry less.

Worry is a big source of misery in many people's lives and the causes and cures are varied.

Start by getting your worry monsters out of the shadows and onto a well-lit table. When you're fully alert and feeling good, write them down in sentenced like "I am worried about money".

Next express the worry in terms of consequences: "I am worried that my outgoings will exceed my income".

Finally, push these consequences through to their terrifying conclusion:
"I am worried that I will drift into debt"
.. so what?

"I'll default on the mortgage" what?

"I'll become homeless and live in a puddle"
... so what?

"then I'll die.

Usually when you do this - when you externalise the full chain of worry where it can be examined with your intellectual mind - you find the worry loses a lot of its power because you recognise it's bizarrely irrational. Many of my clients laugh out loud when we do this in session.

That is the start of the process of removing worry.

What comes next is rational analysis of how to remove the worry. Usually that's a combination of two things:

1) mediating your self-talk to minimize the insanity
2) taking practical steps to remove the route causes of the worry.

It's not usually plain sailing but it's always possible and the benefits to happiness levels is wonderful to behold.

So why not get to know one of your monsters today?

I wish you well with it.

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