Dear Anger Diary

diary

Have you ever kept a diary? Maybe as a child, you did. I still do although I am not as diligent with it as I used to be. Using a diary is a simple way to manage your anger. Anger triggers and solutions are very predictable. Unfortunately, we miss the clues to both of these anger management tips and continue to repeat the negative process of outburst and tantrums.

Every day for two weeks, write in a diary using this four-step anger management process:

1. List what made you angry.
2. List how angry it made you feel on a scale from 1 to 10, one being cool and calm and 10 being a major rage.
3. Put a plus sign (+) down if you handled it well and a minus sign (-) if you didn’t.
4. Write what you will try next time this situation presents itself.

After two weeks are over go back and see what you have learned. You will be surprised by how much info you gathered in a short time and how much insight and change you have accomplished.

Coming soon: The Anger Toolbox ecourse! Join our newsletter now to get more info when it arrives…

A recent article by Scientific American reviews desperate attempts to change unruly teen behavior around. One of the toughest challenges is to reach an adolescent who is angry, defiant and acting out in destructive ways. Confrontational strategies and harsh punishment, the article explains, has only short-term benefits. No studies prove lasting results from this type of “scared straight” intervention. So what does work? The article ends with this summarization: 

results show that merely imposing harsh discipline on young offenders or frightening them is unlikely to help them refrain from problematic behavior. Instead teens must learn enduring tools—including better social skills, ways to communicate with parents and peers, and anger management techniques—that help them avoid future aggression. Several effective interventions do just that, including cognitive-behavior therapy, a method intended to change maladaptive thinking patterns and behaviors, and multisystemic therapy, in which parents, schools and communities develop programs to reinforce positive behaviors. Another well-supported method, aimed at improving behavior in at-risk children younger than eight years, is parent-child interaction therapy. Parents are coached by therapists in real time to respond to a child’s behavior in ways that strengthen the parent-child bond and provide incentives for cooperation [see “Behave!” by Ingrid Wickelgren; Scientific American Mind, March/April 2014].”

What can you do to strengthen your bond with your child? How can you reach his or her heart, locked behind a wall of pain and anger? Don’t expect overnight miracles. Turning your defiant teen around will require consistency and continual micro-shifts of change in you and your child. You will probably blow it on days and be exhausted from the effort on others. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on who the child will be and not on who they have been or what they are doing. Consequences are natural and necessary. Boundaries are even more important! Just don’t equate your love with positive behavior. Nothing your child does should make you love him or her any less and nothing can make you love them more. Love just is…

Anger Management: “Jump!”

by Ron Huxley, LMFT

Four frogs were sitting on a log and one decides to
jump. How many frogs are left? Still four. Deciding to jump does not
mean that the frog actually did jump. Managing our anger is often the
same. We decide to make a change in our attitudes and behaviors but
we never “get off the log.” The difference between the person who
succeeds in managing anger in their life and the one who doesn’t is
commitment. One must be committed to change if it is to become a
reality. There are no easy alternatives. Stopping the destructive
path of anger is hard work and takes courage and discipline. 

Today, write out a statement of commitment to
changing the role of anger in your life. Make it strong and make it
clear. It can be as long as you like but there can not be any
ambiguities in your language. No “maybes.” No “trying.” Just “doing.”
Oh, you will mess up and you will fall a few times but you have to go
back to your statement and do it again. How many times? As many times
as it takes until anger is your slave and not the other way around.

Dear ANGER Diary

by Ron Huxley, LMFT

Have you ever kept a diary? Maybe as a child you did. I still do although I am not as diligent with it as I used to be. Using a diary is a simple way to manage your anger. Anger triggers and solutions are very predictable. Unfortunately, we miss the clues to both of these anger management tips and continue to repeat the negative process of outburst and tantrums.

Every day for two weeks, write in a diary using this four step anger management process:

1. List what made you angry.
2. List how angry it made you feel on a scale from 1 to 10, one being cool and calm and 10 being a major rage.
3. Put a plus sign (+) down if you handled it well and a minus sign (-) if you didn’t.
4. Write what you will try next time this situation presents itself.

After two weeks are over go back and see what you have learned. You will be surprised by how much info you gathered in a short time and how much insight and change you have accomplished.

Get more help on anger management by Ron at http://inner-healing.tumblr.com/anger

inner-healing:

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Anger Makes You Stupid:

I know this sounds rude but it is a fact of science. When we get angry our “thinking brain” is literally hijacked by our “emotional brain.” This is nature’s way of forcing us to react instantly to a danger or threat. You don’t want to stop and contemplate the dynamics of your situation when a car is speeding right at you! You need to move NOW! That is what the emotional brain does to protect you.

Unfortunately, the “emotional brain” doesn’t worry if the danger is real or not. It just acts. In our hectic, high tech, modern society many things can trigger our “emotional brain” into action. For some of us, we are being hijacked continually throughout the day due to repeat stressors as the “emotional brain” considers any stress to be a danger.

To illustrate how anger makes us stupid (suspends reasoning), remember a time when you got really angry. Did you say things you wish you hadn’t said or do things you wish you hadn’t done? That is the “emotional brain” at work. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a victim to your own emotions. You can learn to manage them instead of letting them manage (or mismanage) you!

Problem Experts:

You are already an expert on your problems. You know what anger and aggression has done to you and your family. Has this knowledge helped you control it? I didn’t think so. Focusing on your problems will only help you understand where you’ve been. It can never tell you where you need to go or how to change it. What you need are solutions to your problems!

Now I don’t want to invalidate the painful experiences you might have suffered in your life that have led you to be angry. Those were very real experiences. I also don’t want to pretend you haven’t hurt other people in your life with your anger. We have to take responsibility for our actions. I simply want to help you focus on what works, instead of doesn’t work, when it comes to anger.

One way to help you focus on solutions instead of problems is to think of a time when anger did not control your life! Remember a time when anger was not the main character in your life story. What was different about this time versus times when anger was present? How were you different? How do other people in your life act? Be specific. If someone walked in and observed you without anger what would he or she see you saying or doing?

More of the same:

When you don’t have the right solution-focused tools to control anger and aggression, you end up doing “more of the same.” What you have been doing hasn’t worked but since you don’t know what else to do, you just keep on doing it. Out of desperation, you try variations of what hasn’t worked hoping that this time it might. IT WON’T! Instead of doing “more of the same,” try something new — anything new!

Science calls this the Habituation Response. It simply means that you get stuck in your old ways of doing things. Without new ideas or insights you can’t get unstuck. Husbands and wives fight constantly on the same old issues. Parents and children power struggle about the same subjects. Employers and employees cycle around the same problems. Are you seeing repeat patterns in your life! Getting more and more frustrated because nothing changes for long? You are doing more of the same. Do something different!

Myths of Anger Management:

There are lot of myths in our society about how to control anger and aggression. The biggest myth is that “if you let it out, it goes away!” This is called the “volcano myth” because on the venting that occurs and the destruction that results from just letting it all out.

It is true that when you let off a little steam you feel a little better. But where did the problem go? Is it gone? NO. In fact, letting it out may have caused a bigger problem to develop. If you got mad and stormed off in your car you may have gotten into an accident or received a ticket. Now you have something else to be mad about. If you punched a hole in the wall you will have to repair the wall…and maybe your hand. How did that help you? If you threw a tantrum and yelled at a loved one, friend, or boss what did that do to your relationship? Now both of you are angry and looking for revenge! “Letting it out” may feel good in the short-term but it doesn’t help you in the long-term.

Anger is Power:

Ben Franklin once said: “Anger has a purpose, but seldom a good one!” What he meant is that anger is not inherently a bad thing but people have LEARNED that anger and aggression give them power over others. A child learns that a tantrum will get them a toy even when mom said no. Parents learn that yelling gets their child’s attention even though no one is happy afterwards. Employers know that they can get results, in the short-term, by intimidating or harassing others. Spouses use anger to control one another. And so the sad story goes…

With power comes responsibility. What is the negative result of your anger? Is it really worth it in the long run? How have anger and aggression affected your relationships, health, and career? It is time to take responsibility for yourself before you lose/hurt all the important people and things in your life.

Stop YELLING at your kids to get them to cooperate!

Stop NAGGING your spouse to help a little!

Stop FRUSTRATION from ruining your work day!

Contact Ron Huxley today for more information on how to get the right anger tools to better manage your anger. Online coaching and consultations are available for court-ordered anger management requirements. Email Ron now at rehuxley@gmail.com

Change the Way You Deal With Anger

Did you have a parent who was out of control when they got angry? Are you afraid if you express your anger, you will get out of control? Learn a healthy way of expressing and learning from your anger.

There is much to learn from anger, yet many people are afraid of this feeling because they don’t know how to express anger in ways that are helpful rather than harmful. I teach a process at my weekend “Inner Bonding” workshops called “The Anger Process.” This powerful process, which is described below, is not only for releasing pent-up anger in harmless ways, but for discovering what your responsibility is in a conflict with another person.

Often, when I describe this process in a workshop, some people get anxious and want to leave. They are afraid of anger and of expressing their anger. This is invariably because they come from a family where one or both of their parents or other caregivers were angry in a mean, violent way – a way that caused harm to others. These people are so afraid of being like their mother or father that they repress their anger, taking it out on themselves instead of others.
Neither dumping anger on others nor repressing it and taking it out on yourself is healthy. Anger expressed in these ways is about controlling rather than learning. Venting anger on another is about controlling through intimidation and blame. Anger dumped on yourself is about controlling feelings that are harder to feel than anger, such as fear, anxiety, loneliness, heartbreak or helplessness over others.

Anger is an important emotion. It informs us that we are thinking or behaving in ways that are not in our highest good. You may have been taught that other people’s behavior causes your anger, but this is generally not true. Others may behave in ways that you don’t like, but your anger at them is frequently a projection of how you are not taking care of yourself – a way to control them rather than take care of yourself.

It’s important to differentiate between blaming anger and justified anger, which can be called outrage. Outrage is the feeling we have when there is injustice, such as seeing someone abuse a child. Outrage moves us to take appropriate, loving action in our own or others behalf.
Blaming anger comes from feeling like a victim and gets us off the hook from having to take personal responsibility for ourselves. This anger does not lead to learning or to healthy action.
The anger process is a way of expressing anger that leads to learning and growth. When people in my workshop want to leave rather than do the process, I explain that it is very important for them to reassure the frightened child within that this anger is not like their father’s or mother’s anger – it is not being expressed with the intent to control. It is being expressed with the intent to learn.

The “Anger Process” is a 3-step process that is done when you are alone:

  1. Fully express anger toward a person you are presently angry with (not in their presence!). You can yell, call names, kick something, and pound with fists on a pillow or with a bat or towel, but do not harm yourself.
  • Ask yourself who this person reminds you of in the past – parent, teacher, sibling, friend – and then let the angry part of you again fully express the anger.
  • Finally – and this is the most important part – allow the angry child within to express his or her anger at you, the adult, for all ways you are not taking care of yourself in this conflict, or ways you are treating yourself badly, or treating yourself like the other person is treating you.
  • Step three is the most important part, because it brings the issue home to personal responsibility. If you just do the first two parts, you are left feeling like an angry victim. The anger that comes from being a victim is a bottomless pit, and will never lead to learning and resolution.

    Once you understand that you can express your anger with an intention to learn, your fear of your own anger will go away. You don’t have to repress your anger in order to not be like your parents.

    –>

    This Blogger’s Books from

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    Healing Your Aloneness: Finding Love and Wholeness Through Your Inner Child

    Ron Huxley’s Resolutions: Over the years I have trained people on how to manage their anger and there is one big truth that I try to get across: Anger management is life management. As we enter into a new year, stop focusing on managing your emotions…emotions don’t want to be managed. Start focusing on life changes. Get out of the abusive relationship. Get some professional help through a marriage counselor, psychologist or doctor. Start getting healthier. Do whatever it takes to change your life and you will see anger lose its hold on you.

    Click on the link to the right to join our 12 year long anger management group online –>

    Join our Parenting “Inner Circle” and get exclusive tools to deal with anger in the home –>

    What’s Behind A Temper Tantrum? Scientists Deconstruct The Screams

    Anatomy Of A Tantrum

    Source: YouTube (by permission), iStockphoto.com

    Credit: NPR

    Children’s temper tantrums are widely seen as many things: the cause of profound helplessness among parents; a source of dread for airline passengers stuck next to a young family; a nightmare for teachers. But until recently, they had not been considered a legitimate subject for science.

    Now research suggests that, beneath all the screams and kicking and shouting, lies a phenomenon that is entirely amenable to scientific dissection. Tantrums turn out to have a pattern and rhythm to them. Once understood, researchers say, this pattern can help parents, teachers and even hapless bystanders respond more effectively to temper tantrums — and help clinicians tell the difference between ordinary tantrums, which are a normal part of a child’s development, and those that may be warning signals of an underlying disorder.

    The key to a new theory of tantrums lies in a detailed analysis of the sounds that toddlers make during tantrums. In a new paper published in the journal Emotion, scientists found that different toddler sounds – or “vocalizations” – emerge and fade in a definite rhythm in the course of a tantrum.

    “We have the most quantitative theory of tantrums that has ever been developed in the history of humankind,” said study co-author Michael Potegal of the University of Minnesota, half in jest and half seriously.

     

    The first challenge was to collect tantrum sounds, says co-author James A. Green of the University of Connecticut.

    “We developed a onesie that toddlers can wear that has a high-quality wireless microphone sewn into it,” Green said. “Parents put this onesie on the child and press a go button.”

    The wireless microphone fed into a recorder that ran for several hours. If the toddler had a meltdown during that period, the researchers obtained a high-quality audio recording. Over time, Green and Potegal said they collected more than a hundred tantrums in high-fidelity audio.

    The scientists then analyzed the audio. They found that different tantrum sounds had very distinct audio signatures. When the sounds were laid down on a graph, the researchers found that different sounds emerged and faded in a definite pattern. Unsurprisingly, sounds like yelling and screaming usually came together.

    “Screaming and yelling and kicking often go together,” Potegal said. “Throwing things and pulling and pushing things tend to go together. Combinations of crying, whining, falling to the floor and seeking comfort — and these also hang together.”

    But where one age-old theory of tantrums might suggest that meltdowns begin in anger (yells and screams) and end in sadness (cries and whimpers), Potegal found that the two emotions were more deeply intertwined.

    “The impression that tantrums have two stages is incorrect,” Potegal said. “In fact, the anger and the sadness are more or less simultaneous.”

    Understanding that tantrums have a rhythm can not only help parents know when to intervene, but also give them a sense of control.

    Green and Potegal found that sad sounds tended to occur throughout tantrums. Superimposed on them were sharp peaks of yelling and screaming: anger.

    The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible, Potegal said, was to get the child past the peaks of anger. Once the child was past being angry, what was left was sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger, the scientists said, was to do nothing. Of course, that isn’t easy for parents or caregivers to do.

    “When I’m advising people about anger, I say, ‘There’s an anger trap,”’ Potegal said.

    Even asking questions can prolong the anger — and the tantrum.

    That’s what parents Noemi and David Doudna of Sunnyvale, Calif., found. Their daughter Katrina once had a meltdown at dinnertime because she wanted to sit at one corner of the dining table. Problem was, the table didn’t have any corners – it was round. When David Doudna asked Katrina where she wanted to sit, the tantrum only intensified.

    “You know, when children are at the peak of anger and they’re screaming and they’re kicking, probably asking questions might prolong that period of anger,” said Green. “It’s difficult for them to process information. And to respond to a question that the parent is asking them may be just adding more information into the system than they can really cope with.”

    In a video of the tantrum that Noemi Doudna posted on YouTube, Katrina’s tantrum intensified to screaming, followed by the child throwing herself to the floor and pushing a chair against a wall.

    “Tantrums tend to often have this flow where the buildup is often quite quick to a peak of anger,” Green said.

    Understanding that tantrums have a rhythm can not only help parents know when to intervene, but also give them a sense of control, Green said.

    That’s because, when looked at scientifically, tantrums are no different than thunderstorms or other natural phenomena. Studying them as scientific subjects rather than experiencing them like parents can cause the tantrums to stop feeling traumatic and even become interesting.

    “When we’re walking down the street or see a child having a tantrum, I comment on the child’s technique,” Potegal said. “[I] mutter to my family, ‘Good data,’ and they all laugh.”

    Noemi Doudna said she now looks back on Katrina’s tantrums and sees the humor in them.

    Katrina often demanded things that made no sense in the course of tantrums, Noemi Doudna said. She once said, “’I don’t want my feet. Take my feet off. I don’t want my feet. I don’t want my feet!’”

    When nothing calmed the child down, Noemi Doudna added, “I once teased her — which turned out to be a big mistake — I once said, ‘Well, OK, let’s go get some scissors and take care of your feet.’”

    Her daughter’s response, Noemi Doudna recalled, was a shriek: “Nooooo!!”

    Ron Huxley’s Reaction: I enjoyed this story on several levels: 1. It helps parents normalize a very frustrating behavior problem and informs them that the best thing they can do is “nothing.” I would add that “nothing” doesn’t mean no empathy. Sit with the child and make sure they don’t hurt themselves accidently but don’t give them any extra attention either. This makes it worse. 2. It links the emotional connection between anger and sadness. Anger is a very irrational behavior that is pure emotional brain with no logic. Anger pushes others away. Sadness draws them closer and is usually what underlies the harsher, more energetic emotion of anger.

    OK, one more point: 3. A child’s nervous system is literally trained by an empathic but non-attention getting response to a child’s tantrum. The cause of tantrums is an undeveloped nervous system that requires external input to develop regulation and self-control. That is the job of the parents. Have fun 🙂

    Dads get depressed too

    There is some interesting research on the link between depressed dads and its effects on their children. This supports much of the posts I have written on the importance of father/child bond. The research is summarized by Child-Psych.org at http://bit.ly/mvo6nu: “The current study used a nationally representative sample of fathers of one year-olds, 1,746 dads in total.

    The men answered questions in four different areas: interactive play (e.g., peek-a-boo), speech and language interactions, reading to the child, and spanking. Whether or not the fathers had talked with their child’s pediatrician during the past year was also assessed. Seven percent of the fathers in the study reported being depressed during the past year. Seventy-seven percent of these dads also had spoken with the pediatrician over the past year… there were no differences between fathers that were not depressed and those that were in their reports of playing interactive games and singing songs/nursery rhymes with their children. Depressed dads were less likely to read to their one year-olds and much more likely to spank them.”

    Conclusions of this study focused on the relationship between a fathers well-being and the child emotional and academic abilities later in life. As you might expect, the higher the depression in dad, the lower the functioning of the child. In addition, there is a connection between how aggressive dads were in their discipline. A higher percentage of dads spanked or acted out of anger with their children. Why do I keep harping on this topic? I want dads to be aware of and accept how vital there role is in the life of their children. I want others (moms and society in general) to be more mindful of the need to educate and support dads in this role. As men, we don’t get the same amount of formal or informal training to be parents as moms. More focus is needed for men to rise to the challenge of parenting.

      17 Hugs A Day

      My wife and I have a joke that we tell each other and family members: It takes a minimum of 17 hugs a day to feel normal. I will confess that there is no scientific research that supports 17 hugs per day therapy…at least not yet. Nevertheless, we have come to recognize that need for touch and have adopted the idea that hugs, at least 17 is what gets us through the daily life hassles.

      At a recent conference on Attachment Theory, where there was some real scientific data, a presenter on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stated that data suggests that the little stressors of everyday living can add up to the same effects of someone who has undergone a single, major life trauma, like a robbery or death of a loved one or car accident. We let these little incidents of life go by without any real concern. Perhaps we feel embarrassed to admit how much a poor marriage or teenager defiance or even workplace stress really does affect us.

      Can parents acts as prevention specialists for our children. As adults, we need 17 hugs just to maintain normal living. Our children need them to counter the cumulative effects of stress on their lives to avoid PTCS – Post Traumatic Childhood Stress. If you don’t believe there is a such a thing, just observe children interacting on a play ground. There are some mean things thrown back and forth on the jungle gym, let me tell you! Add to that some homework pressures and the constant media bombardment of negative words and images and what child wouldn’t feel slightly traumatized? As parents, the least we can do is give some touch therapy with a few hugs a day.

      John Bowlby, the great attachment theorist, stated that attachment is essential to normal development (see my blog post on this here). Guardians are supposed to be our safe haven from life. Home should be a place of refuge from the constant stress of school and work. Granted, there are chores and homework to be done but how can you carve our 30 minutes a day for some connection. Parents are quick to use Time-Out, how about some Time-In? It might be good for mom and dad too.

      Starting today, give a few more hugs than usual. It is OK to start slow and work your way up. And yes, teenagers love them too. You just have to be a little more crafty in your approach.

       

      Putting your worst parenting foot forward

      I have spent a lifetime being defensive. The world, frankly, is a harsh place to live and over time one can become quite hyper vigilant and self-protective. It takes some risk to put yourself out there after suffering rejection and betrayal. Unfortunately, that is the only way to live in an intimate relationship with other people, like your family.

      I get that there are abusers out there and it may not be wise counsel to open yourself to that. I am not asking for anyone to be a victim. I am addressing the more basic, day-to-day willingness to be open and non-defensive. I have spoken about the benefits of this in other posts on TransPARENTcy, etc. It may be worthwhile to read those posts.

      Try an experiment with me: Put your worst foot forward. Instead of covering up your mistakes or telling little white lies about your parenting performance, try sharing a parenting issue you really want to change about yourself. You will have to pick the right moment and to be safe, the right person at first. After you do that, ask for some honest feedback. I mean really honest. Look the person in the eye and don’t talk until they are done. If they hedge their comments, ask for further clarification until you get to the bone of truth. Finally, state your appreciation and willingness to consider incorporating that information. Take the next 24 hours to do just that.

      I wonder what response this will initiate in others? I am curious what it will do to you if you can live in a non-defensive position? Protecting ourselves takes energy. Lots of it. What would happen with all that creative juice if you applied it to making your parenting better versus avoiding change?

      Change is uncomfortable but nothing real and satisfying is achieved by avoiding it. The biggest therapeutic truth I know (I didn’t say I always practice it) is that you have to go through the pain to get to the other side. I wonder what that other side will look like for you in your closest relationships.

      Share your experiences with this by leaving us a comment or tweet us @ronhuxley or go to our Facebook page!