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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