Anger Management: Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh tongue stirs up anger”.

–Proverbs 15:1

anger

How do you respond when you’re angry? What mentality overcomes you—the “turn the other cheek” philosophy or the “eye for an eye” mentality?

In situations where we experience anger, our reaction to the situation can often times be the deciding factor that either fans the flames or diffuses a situation.

When I worked in the inpatient psychiatric hospital setting, I taught a behavioral management course to incoming staff. Amongst many techniques, the technique that deescalated a situation almost every time was remaining calm in response to a heated situation. Remembering to keep your voice low in response to the angry person, body language relaxed, and eye contact continuous but not overbearing, were the key responses in bringing a person’s anger down to a reasonable and communicative level.

It is in our biological make-up to mirror the actions of another human being (i.e. mirror neurons in action!), especially when we like that other person. So by remaining calm and lowering our voices, it has the ability to cause the person that you may be in opposition with to instinctively lower their voice, and in turn, calm them down.

While you and the other person may not have a positive relationship, the key here is that one person’s reaction to the other has the ability to completely calm the other person down or oppositely, incite them. Next time you are in a heated situation, I encourage you to try this.

When we lash out at another person in response to their anger, it only adds the proverbial fuel to the fire. As in the Proverbs verse above, our response to a situation is very powerful. How we choose to conduct ourselves has great bearing on almost any situation that we are in.

Consider this scenario. Your child is misbehaving. They’ve torn the house apart and are not listening to you when you’re telling them to take a bath. You have two choices here. One, you can scream at them until the cows come home which will most likely result in tears and a spanking—and you losing your cool. Or you can take a deep breath, approach them calmly, offering choices and speaking quietly.

kid

A child’s response to the situation will become directly influenced by how you respond to them. While the first option I mentioned may be effective for the short term, it will most likely help your child develop a maladaptive set of behaviors and they will learn that “screaming gets stuff done”. The second option, although more time-consuming and requiring more patience, will inadvertently teach your child how to handle a tough situation. See the difference?

Second example. Your partner has just really angered you. They forgot to pick up milk and laundry detergent on the way home, are now totally engrossed in that “stupid video game” they like, and their dishes from breakfast are still sitting on the counter.

Once again, you have two choices. The first choice is to give into that disproportionate rage you may feel as a result of working all day, not getting enough sleep the night before, and feeling brain fried-lashing out at your partner and screaming “You can’t do anything right!! What a loser! You are so lazy!”. Or you can calmly make your way to where your partner is, sit down to ask them to clean up after themselves, and or ask them to go with you to the store to get the items that they forgot, turning the anger into a proactive response where you actually get to spend time with your partner reconnecting.

couple reconnecting

I’ve seen the first reaction play out time and time again with the couples I work with in therapy and I will tell you that after a time, the angry partner ends up causing the other partner to shut down. When the screaming starts, the other partner either leaves or slowly begins to detach from the relationship—losing the desire to make their angry partner happy.

Remember: You have no control over what the other person’s response will be to your calmness. But by you taking the responsibility of staying in control of your emotions and reacting calmly and assertively to a situation, it will diffuse your own anger and allow you to become more approachable in the long haul. Not to mention, your blood pressure will stay at a healthy level and after continuing to practice peaceful communication, it will become second nature to who you are!

Developing and cultivating a calm response to situations takes time, energy, and practice. For many people, it is not an intrinsic response. Perhaps you grew up in a household where you watched your parents yell, fight, and slam doors to prove a point. Perhaps over the years, the only way you felt heard was to yell. Either way, when we continually exhibit a negative set of behaviors, they will become engrained pieces of our personalities—humans are patterned creatures with a propensity to gravitate towards the familiar.

Being the best version of ourselves and making healthy choices in responding to anger calmly can be very difficult! Especially if you feel that your newer healthy responses are not as effective as your previous angry self.

Anger has the ability to corrode even the healthiest of relationships. Disproportionate anger especially. Taking out our own personal stress on the people that we are closest to and not giving them a pass for those simple shortcomings (forgetting to buy groceries, leaving the bed unmade, forgetting to take the trash out) are the quickest ways to alienate your partner or children.

The next time that you can feel the rage start to bubble up, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” Seeking to understand yourself and what is causing you to react in a certain way is a powerful key in behavior change. I encourage people to use the Alcoholics Anonymous acronym HALT for a quick assessment on what’s going on. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and or Tired? If you answer yes to any of those questions, chances are you are not in a good place to begin with.

Attempt to alleviate the HALT issues that are occurring and then tackle your grievances—calmly.

Food for thought: if you have “lost your cool” today, remember that you are human and tomorrow is another opportunity to practice peaceful communication and anger management.

tomorrow

 

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” –Proverbs 12:18

Encouraging you to practice calmness and peace in your interactions today and everyday,

Rachel Ann

If the shoe fits…4 ways to find the right therapist for you

Choosing a counselor that is right for you is a lot like finding the right pair of shoes. And one size does not fit all in the case of finding the mental health therapist that is right for you. What works for one person will absolutely not work for another. Consider the shoe shopping analogy. When you’re shoe shopping, you’re going to go for the shoe that you feel comfortable with, has a style that suits you, incites creativity and inspiration, and will sustain the wear for the long haul.

 

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See? More than one style to fit more than one person…

 

Most people aren’t going to think twice about not buying a pair of shoes that pinches toes and has heels so high that you can’t walk a step in them, right!? So why should finding a therapist be any different?

Let’s tease apart these details a little further as there are definitely the do’s and don’ts of finding a therapist/counselor that suits you.

1. No matter what, you must feel comfortable with your therapist. Your therapist is someone that you will be {read should be} telling your innermost thoughts to. Your therapist should not: be judgmental, rigid, and or tell you what you should do.

Good therapists are not advice givers. Good therapists recognize that their client is their own best expert and knows what they need to do, although talking about it with a trusted source is how the healing begins and the decision processes occur.

Your therapist should never judge you or make you feel less than because they disagree with something that you have said or done. Therapists should recognize that humans will make mistakes and have difficult decisions to make—and continue to show support throughout.

2. Your therapist should have a therapeutic and interpersonal style that resonates with you. I’ll use myself as an example. By nature, I am quiet in my tone and assertive in my communication, but not aggressive. I would never do well with a therapist that was forceful or overbearing. Some individuals prefer the more forceful “tell me what to do approach” but I know myself enough to know that I would never go back if a therapist was loud and aggressive with me. If you enjoy a sense of humor or a truly authentic person that will curse in front of you and tell you how messed up the world is—then these are the traits that your therapist should have.

If you cannot relate to someone on an interpersonal level, your therapist and you will not be successful. Therapy is a human centered business. Underneath it all, we all have struggles and it’s important for you to find that counselor who is able to communicate the most effectively with you. And has an interpersonal style that matches your personal preference.

3. Your therapist should help to inspire you. Inspiration occurs when a new idea is brought forth to you, you totally “get” it, and you feel inspired to be a better mom, dad, sister, aunt—person. Maybe your therapist validates your feelings of how difficult and tiring motherhood is, but is able to point out all of your successes in raising your son. This very interaction could ultimately be enough for you to realize what a valuable asset you are and thus propel—aka inspire—you to be the best mom that you can be for your son.

See, therapists have this unique ability to “plant the seed” in their clients. They can tell you a tiny fact that that you may or may not have known about yourself and from that tiny seed grows a beautiful flower. And the beauty of hearing it from someone you’re not related to or friends with is meaningful in itself.

flower growing.jpg

4. Your therapist should be in the therapeutic process with you for the long haul…or until your insurance runs out…! Unfortunately most people cannot afford to attend therapy unless their insurance pays for it—and most managed care companies only allot 6-12 sessions annually. With this being said, your therapist should be someone that is truly working with you, not just telling you what you want to hear, or endlessly scratching notes on a yellow legal pad as you spill your life story and current issues.

Your therapist should not “shy away” from the difficult stuff that you bring to the table. Therapists should take responsibility for choosing this profession and be open to hearing some of the very hard, traumatic details of you—their client’s—life. Burnout in the counseling profession is a very real phenomenon and counselors must take the steps necessary for their own self-care so that they may best help you move forward and heal.

Tying it all together…

Please realize that you always have the option to bow out of receiving individual counseling from a particular therapist if the two of you truly are not jiving on a core level (I’m not referring to an instance where you may not like something your therapist said-tell them why you didn’t like it! I’m referring to a deeper experience of just really not caring for the person you’re about to go bare your soul to).

For example, maybe you can’t put your finger on it but your gut instinct is that you don’t care for them. If you go into a session knowing that you’re not a fan of your therapist, how do you think you’re going to be able to effectively process and work through what you need to?!

Never sell yourself short throughout the process of finding and working with a therapist. As you change, your needs may change and you may have outgrown your current counselor. Maybe you want to reduce your sessions from once a week, to once a month, to once every three months for a periodic check in. Your therapist should not take this personally.

Choose a therapist that causes you to feel comfortable, is easy to talk to, and is focused on you in the session. Therapy is not about the therapist and what they have overcome, how they solved a problem, etc. Therapy is your time to shine so to speak. The therapy session is a sacred place for you to go when you need feedback, evidence based techniques for healthy living/sorting out a problem, or quite simply— to feel HEARD.

I believe that therapy is one of the most healthy, self-indulgent (in the most positive sense of the word!) and glorious experiences that a person can have. How often in life do you get a full 50 minutes to an hour block of time where you are able to talk openly and completely about yourself, your dreams, your triumphs, your progress, your hopes, your fears, your experiences?

“Out of your vulnerabilities will come strength”. –Sigmund Freud

Find the therapist that speaks to you on a deeper level. Just like in any other relationships you have in life, don’t settle. You deserve more.

Wishing you supportive therapy today and everyday should you so choose to partake in the process,

Rachel Ann