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…

Keeping Love Alive Loving Through Difficult Times

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

How we love family members during the emotional distances and dark shadows of our relationships determine the long-term quality of those relationships. All relationships have ups and downs and our ability to ride out the extremes is challenging but a normal process of loving others. At the heart of the dark moments, we want to abandon the roller coaster ride for the firm safety of the ground. Our inner brains want us to fight or flee or if both of these options fail us, to freeze internal emotional reality. How do we overcome the turbulence and deep disconnect for the long haul?

One truth is to develop our identity and remind ourselves that relationship in not contained in the ups and downs but over the entire course of life. Look for the long tail of relationships and how to keep a spark alive even if it just nurture by you and not the other. The fight or flight mechanism of the brain wants us to rush our actions or re-actions when we really need to do in these crucibles is slow down and evaluate our choices. My best advice to families in the middle of chaos is to slow down but that is one of the hardest things to do. Many fail in the attempt.

A lot of my therapeutic work is with adoptive families. Many times the early life trauma results in an out-of-control teenager that ultimately forces the parent to consider residential care. They believe they have failed as parents and the relationship feels like it has ended. The truth is that relationship trumps residence. Your connection is stretchier than you thought. You may have to make a decision to create distance to ensure safety but you are not letting go of the relationship. You are protecting it and that is very different.

Because we like “up” moments filled with laughter and hugs and emotional closeness and hate the “down” moments with its harsh words, self-pity, victimization, and loneliness, we can start a rocking motion that swings faster and faster between the ups and downs. Pushing on one side and then the other increases chaos that throws everyone off the see-saw entirely.

When I work with bitter couples, hurt by infidelity and emotional rejection, I ask them to step off the see-saw, remember what attracted them to each other, the values they used to believe and to forgive one another. Too many nurture the wound and do not receive the healing. It is difficult to forgive but unforgiveness is like a poison that kills the heart of the relationship. It doesn’t say what was done was acceptable or that I will “forget and forgive”. You do not forget but you must forgive to allow life to start up again. From here we rebuild new creations that last.

Give up the illusion of control. You cannot control anyone else. You only have 100%, guaranteed results with yourself. You must manage you. Controlling your reactions is what allow the extreme ups and downs to settle and become smooth again. Take 5 to keep your relationship alive and pause to consider your best long-term actions. Take 10 and then reconsider again. If you need to make a hard, drastic decision, it is better to take the time to think it through completely vs. carrying a weight of regret.

Identity is the most important ingredient in loving through the distance.  Victim-minded people seek their identity through others instead of operation from a place of a sense of self. If I need you in order to be me and you are the source of my hurt and pain, then I cannot manage me that doesn’t exist. I cannot sustain a relationship that is one-sided. Start a journey of knowing yourself and your needs and your drives and your desires to deal with others in the distant relationships. Operating FROM a place of identity allows you to remain you even if others reject you. A simple starting place is journaling or talking to a therapist.

A final truth is that love is unconditional. It doesn’t have to agree with the other person’s actions or allow it to continue damaging the family but it doesn’t have to turn off. It can continue from a safer distant to provide an opportunity to bring it into closer intimacy. We don’t turn off love when others don’t do what we want. That is false power. Real power says I can set a boundary and I can exist without you but I choose to continue to love you. If you do not choose the same than I will remain me and love myself and others too.

Fight Now or Fix Later? A Parenting Tool to Manage Defiant Behavior

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Parents can diffuse defiance by delaying actions or a response. Conflict is inevitable in a family. Parents and children will not always see things eye-to-eye and arguments may pop up. If this becomes a regular hassle, this may mean that children are starting to consider it a game for how to guarantee mom or dad’s attention. Of course, it is negative attention, but that can make it all the more challenging to eliminate. 

Who says that mom or dad have to fight with the child? Why do you HAVE to reply to talking back or rude comments or annoying demands right now? A favorite Love and Logic tool of mine is Delaying Replies. Instead of fighting now, say: “I love you too much to argue with you…” or “I will have to do something about this behavior or attitude but not right now.” Delaying allows parents to cool off and consider a consequence or reply in a clear headed way and gather the support of the other parent. 

Try this Parenting Tool next time your child is defiant with you: 

Parenting With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition)

(affiliate link)

What else is Ron reading? Click here to see…

Use Your Words…

Children have to learn to use their words in order to manage their emotions. In order for parents to model this type of control, they have to show that they can handle their children’s frustrations and anger in a calm, response-able manner. This way the child will not come to believe that their feelings are too big to be managed or will get too out of control to be controlled with their words. Parents who respond to anger and frustration with anger and frustration will magnify the emotions and create a belief that emotions rule us instead of the other way around.

Take back control of your home: 101 Parenting Tools: Building the Family of Your Dreams

Cool Down Cubes to Manage Anger in Children

Cool Down Cubes 

 

I have several students on my caseload who struggle with anger management and emotional regulation. I loved this idea for Cool Down Cubes from Entirely Elementary and decided to make a set of my own. 

Supplies: 
Plastic ice cubes – I purchased a bag of 30 from Bed Bath & Beyond for less than $4
Container – The one pictured came from the Dollar Store
Permanent maker 

Using a permanent marker write a safe “cool down” strategy on each ice cube. For example: count to ten, walk away, talk to a friend, take three deep breaths, etc. I also left a few of the cubes blank so that the students could come up with their own strategies. The original post suggested placing the ice cubes in the freezer for an additional “cool” effect. That’s it! Easy right?

 
I have used the Cool Down Cubes in both individual and group settings to discuss ways to “cool-off" when angry and have gotten a great response from students.

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

Childhood Aggression Predicts Health Care Use Later in Life

Ron Huxley Responds: This repost from Brain Blogger outlines how children who are chronically aggressive at children has increased risks of health issues later in life. The most obvious reason for this is that angry children turn out to be angry adults, which has serious social and health costs. The 15-year longitudinal study revealed that aggressive lifestyles led to increase drug use, alcohol dependency, injuries and overall poor health. Anger takes a toll on our lives!

The blog states: “Young children can be physically aggressive, owing to a combination of instinct, temperament, cultural and social influences, and (sometimes) not getting what they want. But, by the time most kids reach preschool age, they have learned to control their aggression with coping skills and relational techniques. However, children who do not learn to regulate aggressive behavior are at risk for physical and mental health issues, as well as serious patterns of aggression and violence, as adults.”

Children have to learn social skills. They will hit, bite, or knock other children down as a very primal solution to who “gets to play the toy” or any other challenging social situation. Parents have the responsibility to model appropriate social behavior and teach children common social skills.

Homes with lots of stress and conflict can make teaching children how to get along with others as they look for a release valve for their anxiety. This can turn inward or outward depending on the temperament of the child. The solution to this, while not always simple, is to have healthier marriages and improve family communication.

How have you managed anger in children? What tips can you share on teaching social skills?

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