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Welcome

 

Thank you for visiting my blog.

WELCOME GIFTS

As my welcome gift, I would like to give you the introduction and first chapter to my first book  Emotions as Tools: A Self Help Guide to Controlling Your Life not Your Feelings EMOTIONS as TOOLS TOC_Intro_Ch 1 PDF and the first chapter of my second book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool Chapter 1 and TOC for website download.

INDEX TO ALL POSTS

Secondly, in order to help you to find what interests you, I have posted an INDEX to all of my posts. This is like a Table of Contents in a book. You can access this index by either clicking on the the “Index to blog post by title and date” tab in the upper right hand corner.  This will take you to an updated PDF which will give you the title and date that interests you. When you know the date, you can go over to the “Archives”, click on the month you want and scroll down to the post you are seeking.

THE FOCUS OF THIS BLOG

My focus in this blog is two fold. On the one hand, I want to educate people about their emotions.  Secondly, I want to publish information that you can use to improve your life and your relationships.

In order to do this, I have two requests.

 1. Help me help you…leave a comment

My intention is to post timely and useful information. The only way I can know if the information is useful to you, my readers, is if you comment on the post and let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree with me.  Tell me if you find the information helpful or need me to talk about a subject in more detail.

2. . If you hurt emotionally…GET SOME PROFESSIONAL HELP!

This blog is INFORMATIONAL only!

It is not intended to, and CANNOT, diagnose or treat any specific mental illness or psychological condition.

If you hurt, psychologically, please get professional help.  If you get sick or your car gets “sick”, you see a doctor or a mechanic.  Hurting psychologically is no different, does not mean you are weak, and is telling you that you need some professional help or advice.   PLEASE… GET IT! Therapy works!

So, while I don’t provide individual therapy and can’t promise to address all questions, I will attempt to address issues  which are of general use to both my readers as a group and to you, the originator of the question. If you have a question, post it in the comments section.

So, enjoy the posts and let me know what topics, dealing with emotions, that you would like me to address.  Help me make this blog timely, relevant, and useful.

Thanks, again for visiting, Ed Daube, Ph.D.,  The Emotions Doctor

Emotions and Logic…Mutually Exclusive or Mutually Reinforcing? Part 1: Mutually Exclusive So Less Emotion.

This is part 1 of a two part blog post on emotions…

We live in a world in which events like school shootings, a lone gunman firing an  automatic weapon into a crowd of people attending an outdoor concert, or a policemen beating up a person of interest or shooting and killing an unarmed individual pleading for his own safety strain our ability to understand what leads these people to act in this manner and beg for a reasonable explanation.

As these behaviors do not appear to be logical, the explanations often include some reference to mental illness and attempt to blame the behavior on emotions gone awry.

In other words, so the thinking goes, these people must be crazy to do what they did and they must be under the control of their emotions.

If they were “in their right minds”, they would control themselves and act more appropriately. The implication is that we need both more treatment for mental illness, and more  logic (less emotion) in our country.

Yes, having logical, in control, people making good decisions is both helpful and desirable. And, yes, we do need more to make mental health treatment more available in this country.

Is it possible that you can have logical, in control, people making, what most people consider very bad decisions and engaging in equally egregious behavior based on those decisions?

The answer is, “yes”.

The issue here is neither about mental health treatment or about emotions verses logic.

While I am in no way condoning the deplorable behavior listed above and it is possible that mental illness was a factor, I am questioning three primary assumptions that pop up every time some outrageous behavior appears in the news:

1. All human behavior is either logical or it is emotional.

If the behavior is logical, it is appropriate, controlled, and understandable.

If it is not logical, it must be emotional (erratic, driven, devoid of logic).

2. Any behavior that doesn’t seem logical to us must be the result of emotions gone awry.

If the behavior is illogical, it must be due to emotions which have hijacked the person and are causing the deplorable behavior.

3.  Out of control behaviors imply the presence of mental illness.

So, you are either behaviorally stable or mentally ill.

The implication is that we need more logic and less emotion.

If emotions led to insane, out of control people, we’d be crazy to want more emotions.

Indeed, nobody wants crazed automatons running around doing dumb destructive things. No argument there, we all want to avoid dumb destructive behavior.

But, bad decisions and the undesirable behavior that follows from these decisions do not necessarily prove the presence of mental illness.

And, the unfortunate spin-off from demonizing emotions in the case of egregious behavior is that all emotions (when experienced and misunderstood) begin to be seen as “bad”, “undesirable”, “intrusive”, etc.

Let’s dive a little deeper….

While there may be a modicum of truth in each, statements 1, 2, and 3 are for the most part limited, misguided, incorrect and misleading.

  • Statement #1 is a false dichotomy.
  • Statement #2 implies that one’s emotions have become both autonomous and cancerous.
  • Statement #3 implies that anything we do not understand must be attributed to an underlying disease process.

So, if the issue is not the behavior on which we all agree, what is the issue that we need to discuss?

This is the critical question.

The answer is not the emotions, per se, although how we deal with our emotions is an important topic.

Rather, the critical issue we need to discuss is how we, as a culture, and you, as an individual, view emotions.  In other words, what do you think emotions are and how do believe they impact each of us?

If your picture of emotions is that they…

  • force an out of control road-rage crazed driver to shoot at another car, or
  • leave the out of control cop with no other alternative than to shoot or beat up a perpetrator, or
  • compel the out of control  spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend to beat up their significant other, or
  • cause the out of control  co-worker  to get angry with  and demean you, as a female, when you point out their inappropriate behavior in the office,

then, yes, less emotion is needed.

But, what if your picture is inaccurate?

“Out of control” implies that feelings….

  • have taken over,
  • are totally controlling,
  • are forcing and compelling a certain behavior while eliminating alternatives, and
  • are causing the individual to engage in the clearly unacceptable behavior they’ve displayed.

Take another look at these words…

>taken over  >totally controlling  >forcing  >compelling    >causing

These words imply that the individual’s (male or female) emotions have transformed this person into a  robot.

In this picture, emotions and logic are mutually exclusive.

  • You are either an emotional time-bomb waiting to explode with no logical fail-safe mechanisms in place

or

  • You are an unemotional, logic-only Vulcan (think Spock in the TV series StarTrek) who has eliminated emotion from his life.

I am suggesting that emotions and logic are mutually reinforcing and when used together can lead to better decisions and more appropriate actions.

This is where we’ll begin in Part 2.

 

 

Getting to “Done”: Master Your Procrastination as a Strategic Tool

In an earlier post (Dealing with Procrastination as Anxiety 5/11/16), I noted that most of the procrastination literature tends to focus on two strategies:

  1. setting S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic) goals, breaking those goals down into smaller components, and
  2.  rewarding yourself when you complete those smaller chunks.

These are both very good strategies.

Procrastination as Anxiety

I suggested a three step process based on The Emotions as Tools Model and the idea that procrastination is basically fueled by the emotion of anxiety.

The three steps were:

  1. Accept and Validate Your Anxiety.
  2. Turn Anxiety into anticipation and excitement. (eustress)
  3. Let the excitement motivate you and move you past your procrastination.

These three steps remain relevant as long as you can identify the anxiety which underlies and perpetuates your procrastination.

Procrastination and factors other than anxiety: Mastering Procrastination

But, what if something else (either as a unique factor or in combination with anxiety) elicits your procrastination?

I’m suggesting that you approach procrastination as if it were an emotion. In all my posts, I talk of emotions as tools that provide you with information about how you perceive and interact with your surroundings.

Procrastination is a behavior not a feeling.  But, you can look at your behavior as a “messenger” and learn to master it.

Mastering your procrastination involves assessing what is going on with you and your choice to procrastinate and choosing a more adaptive response rather than the avoiding/delaying reaction which constitutes your procrastination.

The mastery process of dealing with your procrastination requires:

  • validating the procrastination
    • accepting instead of getting mad at yourself for procrastinating,
  • assessing the message of your behavior
    • what is leading you to avoid the important task and focus on the urgent task which is demanding your attention,
  • noticing what you are gaining by procrastinating
    • avoiding an uncomfortable task,
    • being forced to accept that you are not up to or sufficiently prepared for the task
    • accepting that you were not being assertive in making it clear that the task was not appropriate for you or in saying “no”,
    • denying your anger because the task was forced on you
    • etc
  • attending to what you are telling yourself to justify your procrastination,

Moving past your procrastination by making a choice.

Once you understand the message of the procrastination and what your procrastinating is doing for you, you can decide how you want to respond to and deal with your delaying/avoiding behavior.

Possibilities include:

  • Setting better goals
  • Taking a different approach to the task
  • Choosing not to complete the task

Make a plan and get to work.

I welcome your comments.

 

Understanding Feelings: Sunglasses, The Spotlight Effect, and Your World Model (Part 2)

This is the second part of a two part post on understanding feelings.

In my last post, I spoke about a conversation in which my emotionally neutral comment was met with an emotionally tinged reaction which was not expected, did not match the intent, tone or nature of my comment and seemed confusing.

I suggested that the response I received may have been impacted by the filters through which the person I was addressing was interpreting my comment.

These filters, like sunglasses, change how an event is perceived.

I should add here that I am using a conversation as a generic, or general, example of an interaction.  The same mismatch between what you do and how others react to you can involve any action on your part such as making a suggestion in a meeting, asking for a favor, asking someone out on a date, offering to help a friend, refusing a request, and so forth.

Let’s dive deeper.

Feelings and actions

Fact #1: Our actions (behavior) follow from and are directly related to what we feel about the situations in which we find ourselves.

Fact #2: Our feelings (emotions) come from our thoughts about how we perceive our surroundings.

There are 6 primary feelings (mad, sad, glad, fear, disgust and surprise) which have helped us survive as a species since we lived in caves, appear very early in infants and adults across all human cultures (and some subhuman species) and which function today just as they did millennia ago. With the exception of glad and surprise, all the primary emotions are primitive threat detectors.

All the threats Mr. and Mrs. Caveman faced were survival based.

The way the emotional “system” works is that you constantly scan your surroundings for threat.  When subconsciously perceived, threat activates the fight/flight reaction in your brain, generates and emotion, and prepares you to go to war or get the hell away.  This reaction was basically all our cave ancestors had available to them to stay alive in the face of a threat that would kill them.

Today, most of our threats are psychological, not survival based, and we have evolved a mechanism to evaluate threats.  When a threat is perceived,  a second message is sent to the thinking part of the brain (the cortex) which allows us to use the emotion as a tool and think about, assess, and validate the nature of the threat so that we can respond rather than react to the threat.

When feelings are viewed as problematic and as autonomously “forcing” us to take action, we do not assess the feelings (or the nature of the threat) and our feelings become part of the filters through which we view others.

Spotlight effect

FYI: Here is a YouTube segment on the SpotLight effect.

This is the tendency of a person, when emotional, to believe that they are the center of other’s attention and that the actions of others are both directed at and specifically involve the individual.

A classic study was done in which volunteers wore tee shirts with sayings  which could be seen as “provocative” (Barry Manilow ) by a group of others (college students participating in an experiment).

Note: At the time, Barry Manilow was not very popular among college students.

When asked if they were noticed, the volunteers believed that a majority of people in the study group noticed and their shirts.  Most of the college students, when asked, didn’t even notice the Barry Manilow shirts.

When we view the world through a set of filters, we tend to react as if everything that happens around us is all about us.  This is often an incorrect assumption. It is called the Spotlight Effect because we act as if there is a spotlight on us which illuminates and sets us apart.

Your World Model

Your model of the world is your set of filters through which you view the world.

Your model of the world consists of:

  • The stereotypes you use to measure other people.

One example is the following: Marie is doing that because she is a woman (not because she is Marie taking action in the moment).

  • The extent to which you tend to overgeneralize in how you interpret a situation as opposed to dealing with each interaction based on what is actually taking place.

An example is the following: All men are … (not Yes, Sam is a man but he is also an individual taking action in the moment). or The Boss always does XYZ as opposed to The Boss did XYZ in this situation.)

  • The extent to which your past impacts your present interactions.  Being in the present moment is called mindfulness.

An example is the following: Every time I’ve tried to stand up for myself, I’ve been criticized. I’ll just shut up because nothing will happen anyway. as opposed to Well, I’ll give it a shot this time,  maybe, it will turn out differently.

Actions follow from our feelings.  Our feelings come from our thoughts and our perceptions.  Thoughts both create and come from our filters. We don’t question our own thoughts, we accept them as reality.

We take action based on our perceived reality (our filters, the Spotlight Effect and our worldview).

When another person reacts to you in a way that seems contradictory, disproportionate, or inappropriate, you may be able gain an understanding of their actions by attempting to gain some insight into their model of the world.

This is also true when your reaction to another person results in consequences you do not want.

If the relationship with this person is important to you, then learning how to understand their world view may be worthwhile.

I welcome your comments.

Understanding Feelings: Sunglasses, The Spotlight Effect, and Your World Model (Part 1)

You probably looked at the title of this blog and said, “Huh?”

Well, if you will bare with me, I’ll explain a very important concept that will help you make sense of some of the experiences you (or someone you know) have already had.

A few years ago, I started a conversation with an acquaintance of mine by saying, “How are you doing?”.

To my surprise, without even a pause, he looked at me intensely and said, “What exactly do you mean?”

I wasn’t sure how to respond.

So, I rather lamely said, “Nothing, really.”

I found out later from a mutual friend that this individual had been accused of having done something about which he was embarrassed. His comment to me implied that he thought I was prying or drawing attention to his situation.

In fact, I knew nothing about what he was experiencing and was merely saying, “Hello.”

My initial question to him was only intended to communicate to him that I was acknowledging his presence.

In other words, asking “How are you doing?” was the same as  saying “Hello.”

Clearly, my friend viewed my communication very differently than I did.

If you have ever had a conversation “go sideways” and wondered what was happening, here is one possible explanation.

Each of us views the world, and our interactions with it, through a set of filters based on our past, what we may be experiencing in the moment, our expectations, and so forth.

When our interactions with others are not impacted by emotions and there are no effective filters operating, our communication, generally, are clear and absent of misunderstanding.

If, however, in an interaction, you get a response to which you automatically think “Huh?”, then it is quite likely that the person with whom you are interacting has misunderstood what you have said (or done) and is viewing the interaction through a filter.

Sunglasses

When you put on a pair of sunglasses (brown, green, grey, yellow), you notice that your view of the world appears to change. As you know you are wearing sunglasses, you realize the “change” is not real but is due to the filter you are wearing.

But, imagine that you did not know you were wearing sunglasses?

An experiment was done several years ago in which volunteers were fitted with glasses which turned the world upside down.  Initially, as you would imagine, they were disoriented.  Over time, however, they adjusted to their new perspective and were able to function “normally”.  They functioned as if the filters were not there.

But, the filters were there!

We do the same thing with the filters we wear. We get used to them and may not be aware that they exist and impact the way we interact with the world.

What are some of our filters?

  • Gender:

Are you misjudged as a man just because you are a man?

Are you misjudged as a woman in a professional setting just because you are an assertive woman.

  • Age:

Do people misjudge you based on their perceptions of your age (too old or too young)?

  • Race/Ethnicity:

Are you misjudged by others based on your race or ethnicity?

  • Past experiences related to abuse, unfair treatment, feeling misunderstood or inadequate.

To what extent might the past experiences of the individual with whom you are interacting be impacting how they are interacting with you?

If this person’s past experiences have led them to be excessively self-protective, it is possible that they are relating to you, in the present, as if you are similar to those people in their past who misjudged, or mistreated, them.

Disclaimer

It is important to point out that I am not, in this post, referring to someone who, as a “racist” or a “misogynist”, demeans an entire class of people based solely on a specific characteristic.  While there certainly are filters that are operative which impact this person’s actions, dealing with these individuals can be very complicated.

I am more interested, in this post, in people who may not be mean-spirited but who judge others and interact with them based on misinformation or stereotypes. For these folks, the extent to which their filters impair their interpersonal interactions is less severe than it is for a “racist” or a “misogynist”.

Misinformation and stereotypes can be corrected.

Attitudes that are mean-spirited, derogatory and demeaning typically are resistant to change. Racism and misogyny are often denied, are abhorrent, and are very hard to redirect.

In this post, I have introduced the concept of an individual’s filters and the idea that one’s behavior can be, unknowingly, impacted by their filters.

In part 2, I will explore feelings, the Spotlight Effect, and one’s Model of the World.

 

Using metaphor: Ready, Aim, Fire or Ready, Fire, Aim?

Do you know someone who gets angry, does something others view as inappropriate and, later upon reflection, realizes the inappropriateness of their actions and attempts to deny, justify, avoid, or apologize for their actions?

The following post may help you (and maybe them) get a better understanding of what is going on.

Ready, Aim, Fire

As a boy scout, learning to fire a weapon (rifle, bow and arrow, cannon), I remember the commands to prepare the weapon to be used (and myself to use it), take aim on the target, and (when authorized), fire the weapon.

This progression from preparing to execute a response (ready), to focusing your attention on the task at hand (aim), and, finally,taking effective action (fire) makes sense intuitively.

In other contexts such as project management, the same progression might involve brainstorming (ready), goal setting or gathering resources (aim), and starting a project (fire).

Okay, I think you get the idea.

Ready, Fire, Aim

But, what if a person got an idea (ready) and jumped right in to the implementation phase (fire)?

If the result turned out badly, we wouldn’t be surprised.  The failure to focus one’s attention on all the issues (aim) before rather than after the fact would lead to unwanted results.

We would describe the above process as– Ready, Fire, Aim.

For people who believe that their anger controls them and who tend to take action too quickly when they experience anger , this is exactly what they are doing. Their regret and subsequent reflection come later  when they experience unwanted consequences from their behavior.

In other words…

Ready: the subconscious reaction to a situation which is initially perceived as a threat.

Fire: a disproprotionate angry response.

Aim: the consideration, after the fact, that one’s behavior was not proportionate to the perceived threat.

Those who react in this way to a perceived threat are often described by others as “having an anger problem”.

While, as I have noted in previous posts, that there is no such thing as an “anger problem”, revisiting the Anger Mastery Cycle should be helpful in teaching someone a more adaptive way to interact with their anger.

Ready, Aim, Fire and Anger Mastery

Ready:  This is the subconscious reaction to a situation which is initially perceived as a threat.  We are on alert status.

The Anger Mastery Cycle (a free copy of which is downloadable above) notes that we subconsciously scan for, and react to, perceived threats (injustices, our values being ignored or challenged, our beliefs being infringed upon or our boundaries being violated, our security at risk being put at risk, etc).  This scanning is both hard-wired and ancient and prepares us to go into battle.

Aim: The mastery process of assessing and validating the situation to determine whether the initial perception was accurate.

When we master our anger, we S.T.O.P the process from moving to a response from our reaction.

S.T.O. P. stands for stopping or pausing the anger, taking a physical and psychological step back from the perceived threat, observing what is happening and practicing emotional intelligence.

Fire:  The expression of anger proportionate to meet the perceived threat.

Using “ready, aim, fire” as a metaphor

If you have ever attempted to “explain” anger to a person whose anger is perceived by them as more powerful than they and as controlling them, you have discovered that it is difficult to get their attention.

Metaphors tend to cut through defenses because they approach an uncomfortable subject indirectly.

The effectiveness of a metaphor stems from…

  1. You are talking about firing a weapon or planning a project and how ready, fire, aim  is not productive.  You are not talking about “managing anger”.
  2. The person knows that the actions they have taken while angry have elicited unwanted consequenses.
  3. You are putting their actions (and anger) in a different context than others who have tried to address this issue.
  4. You are implying that they can learn a different approach (ready, aim, fire).

Once you have their attention and they are interested in what you have to say, you may be able to address their anger directly.

Please note that this post is intended only to raise some issues and is in no way comprehensive.

If you have additional questions about using metaphors to deal with “touchy” subjects or about anger, please leave a comment or email me.

TheEmotionsDoctor at gmail.com

 

Happy Independence Day. Let’s Talk about Emotional Preparedness and Your Emotional Independence.

Happy Independence Day, America…

Our forefathers knew the consequences when they put their names on the Declaration of Independence. They risked being jailed, losing their land, or worse.

While emotions must have run very high in the room, we have to assume that each signer was emotionally prepared to face the consequences and take the momentous action facing them.

Anyone who reads the news is familiar with the First Responders who rush in to offer aid when emergencies occur.  These “heros” (they don’t see themselves this way) are firefighters saving homes, police protecting citizens and so forth.

These first First Responders are trained to both deal with the emergency they are called in to handle and with the emotions that must be mastered during the crisis so that these feelings do not interfere with the job that needs to be done.

First Responders are expert firefighters, policemen, medical personnel etc and they are masters of their emotions.

While I hope you never have to face a life-saving emergency or threat to your life, loved ones, or property, it is more than likely that, when you face your own emotional emergencies, you will find yourself in a situation in which your emotions seem to take over and get in the way of you “getting the job done”.

Like many people, you may believe (based on your experience) that your emotions control you.  You feel angry and you act out in an angry outburst.  You feel anxious and you worry compulsively about some future event.

While your experience may inform you that your feelings exert some irresistible power over you, your experiences and your interpretations of those experiences are incorrect.

Just like the First Responders who train for the emergencies they will certainly face, you can prepare yourself and “train” for your next encounter with your feelings.

This is what emotional mastery is all about.

Let’s review the emotional mastery cycle.

By the way, you can download a copy of the anger mastery cycle by scrolling up to the homepage above and clicking on the Emotional Mastery Cycle PDF on the right hand side of the page under “Pages”.  While this chart covers anger specifically, the same process (with some modifications) applies to all emotions.

The emotional mastery cycle starts with you constantly, and subconsciously, scanning your surroundings for any possible threat.  Once a threat is perceived, the body goes on “alert” and prepares itself to deal with the perceived threat.

No action on your part is required up to this point as your body is doing what it was designed to do.  Your body is engaged in a process to help you survive.

Once you become aware of the emotion that you are feeling, mastering your emotion calls for you to first “manage” the emotion by S.T.O.P (ing) the emotional process. As I discuss in my Amazon best selling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool, the “S” in S.T.O.P  reminds you to stop or pause your emotion.

This sounds difficult but is quite learnable.  You pause the process by taking a deep breath.

While your current emotional process may involve feeling the emotion and reacting, you can prepare yourself to take a breath whenever you feel an “emergency” emotion such as anxiety, anger, jealousy, envy and so forth.

I call these “emergency” emotions because they alert you to a situation which you perceive to be problematic, needing your attention, or something you might need to avoid or go to war over.

These are the messages of the emotion.  They reflect your initial perception.  They do not, necessarily, reflect the “truth”.

After you take a deep breath, the “T” in S.T.O.P  reminds you to take a psychological and physical step back from the situation.  When you “step back” from the situation, you give yourself some “space” to reflect on what is actually going on.

Taking a step back creates the space so you can engage the “O”which reminds you to observe what is actually going on.

Now that you have taken a breath to slow the emotional process, taken a step back to give you some space to reflect, and used that space to observe, you are ready for “P” which reminds you to practice emotional intelligence.

Being emotionally intelligent is the essence of emotional mastery.

The final step in mastering your emotion is to assess and validate the emotion you are feeling and choose an appropriate response.

In this step, you objectively decide whether there is (or is not) an actual “emergency”, whether the feeling you are experiencing “fits” the situation, and what response, if any, will best serve to deal with the situation you are facing.

When a First Responder trains, he or she, goes through a variety of simulations which approximate the emergencies they will encounter and hone the skills they will eventually need.

Many professional atheletes not only physically practice their sport but “visualize” being successful.  They use their imaginations to prepare them for competition.

Your emotional preparedness.

  • You can use your imagination by thinking about situations which, for you, elicit “emergency” emotions.  When you do this, you may actually feel that emotion. 
  • Once you imagine the situation, visualize yourself going through the emotional mastery cycle (including S.T.O.P), assessing the situation, and choosing a response.
  • You may have to do this several times.

By preparing yourself to master your emotions, you will be more adept at successfully dealing with your “emergencies”.

You also move toward emotional independence because emotional mastery means you are using your emotions as tools.

What I am suggesting is not easy but it is doable.

I welcome your comments.

Anger and Thirst

Recently, the following question appeared on Quora: 

When you get angry at someone, what do you do?

Two answers caught my attention because they reflect very common responses to dealing with anger.

1.When you’re angry, don’t act. Don’t speak. Don’t do anything.

2.When I get angry, I listen to music (not fast) and I eat some food. Maybe I’ll get some sleep or read a book.

Both answers reflect a common misconception of anger as a dangerous emotion which causes one to do something they later regret (my emphasis added).

The first answer suggests that you should do nothing.  This answer is misleading and may prevent someone (particularly a woman) from dealing with a perceived threat.

The second answer is about avoiding anger by distraction or avoidance.

Let’s clear up this misunderstanding.

Forget what you may have been told about emotions.

The facts is that anger, and all emotions, are your body’s way of alerting you to situations in your surroundings which require your attention and, possibly, a decision  from you about how to deal with that situation.

Emotions are your “early warning system”.

Let me put this into perspective for you.

Suppose I asked you this question…

What do you do when your body tells you that you are thirsty?

And you responded, “Don’t act, Do Nothing, Go someplace and listen to quiet music.”

People would think your answer was very strange and that it seemed to miss the point of the question.

The reason for this is that everyone understands that “being thirsty” is…

1) your body’s way of alerting you to a possible threat of dehydration

and

2) a motivator moving you to deal with the threat by taking action (getting a drink).

Thirst is a messenger and a motivator.

Your emotions also are messengers and motivators.

The emotion of anger (one of 6 primary emotions) is a primitive threat detector.

Anger is a messenger and a motivator.

Anger both…

1) alerts you that you have perceived a threat (to your goals, values, view of right and wrong) in your environment

and

2) motivates you to take action to eliminate the threat.

Just like thirst.

Let me take it one more step..

Suppose you were really thirsty and you decided to go into a local store and steal some water at gun point.

Yes, I know I am exaggerating.

No one would blame the thirst for your behavior. They would say, “You were thirsty and you chose to steal the water.”

But, people do blame their anger for their behavior.

Think about the celebrity or athlete who who beats up his girlfriend and says, “My anger made me do it.”

He, in fact, blames his anger so that he can avoid responsibility for his decision to beat up his girlfriend.

I grant you that people do some really dumb things when they get angry. But, their behavior is always a choice.

Emotions motivate, they do not cause behavior.

The solution is not to ignore the anger as suggested in Answer #2.

If you ignore, or avoid, your anger and the situation about which your emotion sent out an alert, the emotion will just come back.

Just like you will continue to be thirsty.

Rather, as I have noted in my Amazon bestselling book: Beyond Anger Management Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool, the solution is to …

*learn to recognize your anger,

*take a deep breath to calm yourself,

*take a step back from the situation to give yourself some perspective,

and

*choose how you want to respond to the situation to effectively deal with the threat.

You can download the first two chapters of my book by scrolling up to the welcome post above and clicking on the link.

By the way, I noted that your answer might rob someone of the opportunity to deal with a threat.

Women today (not my view but that of 2000 professional women on LI) do not feel comfortable expressing anger because when they do (in a professional setting), they are demeaned, labelled, and marginalized by their male co-workers.

I know this does not apply to all women in all settings.

By validating anger for both men and women and teaching them how to adaptively master their anger, everyone wins.

Why do I feel angry when I have no reason to be? P 2

This is the second of two posts addressing three possible explanations for the experience of feeling angry when there is no reason to be angry. In my last post, I discussed the first two possibilities.  In this post, I discuss possibility #3 and give some additional suggestions for actions you could take if this experience applies to you.

3. It feels like anger but isn’t.

a. Anger as a secondary emotion.

Sometimes men (more so than women) will express anger when there is no immediate threat.  When this happens, anger is a secondary emotion. It feels, and looks like, anger but isn’t.

There are at least two reasons why anger is expressed as a secondary emotion.

The first is that men, in our culture, are very familiar with and, in most cases, comfortable with the emotion of anger. They are less familiar with emotions such as anxiety, sadness, and vulnerability.  As a result, a man who feels vulnerable may express anger to cover over this other, uncomfortable, feeling.

Secondly, and similar to the above, anger is an empowering emotion which is experienced as energizing.  Other feelings such as anxiety, sadness and vulnerability are experienced as uncomfortable and weak.  Because of this, anger may be expressed as a secondary emotion in order to avoid discomfort.

b. Anger as an instrumental emotion.

When we lived in caves, our display of anger communicated to others that we were not to be messed with and should be left alone.  In caveman times, this anger display might have saved our lives.

Fast forward to today.  You are walking down the street and you see a person who is obvious angry and is loudly ranting and raving.  You probably will do what you can to  avoid this person.

Because of the nature of anger, it is possible to use anger to manipulate others into doing what you want in order to avoid having to deal with, or be subjected to, your anger.

When anger is used as an instrument to manipulate others, it is called instrumental anger.  It looks like anger but there is not threat so it is not valid anger. If you are not aware that you are using anger instrumentally, you may experience yourself as getting angry for “no reason”.

Some suggestions:

The antidote to all three of the above explanations is mastering your anger.

The Anger Mastery Cycle (AMC), a copy of which you can download by clicking on the link to the right of your screen, visually depicts the anger process and covers both valid (primary) anger and invalid (substituted) anger.

Once you have become aware that you are angry, the AMC indicates that you need to “assess/validate” your angry reaction.  In this step, you are engaging your cerebral cortex to determine whether a threat exists or not.

This will take some practice but I have given you some guidelines which should help focus your attention on what it is you are looking for in your assessment.

Possible arenas of threat include your goals, your sense of right and wrong, the way you think things “should” be, your values, your ego, your family, your finances, etc.  The next time you get angry, take a breath, take a step back from what is going on, and ask yourself “What is being threatened?”

As soon as you become aware of your anger,

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Next, take a physical step backwards from the situation.
  3. Then, just observe for a moment what is going on. Consider both your own perceptions and the feedback you are getting from others.  In this step, you need avoid getting defensive (not easy to do but doable with practice) and remain open to the possibility that what others are telling may be correct.

If you can ID a threat, great. You can choose how you want to proceed. In this case, you really are angry for a reason.

If you are unable to ID a threat, no problem. You may be angry “for no reason” and you have options.

  1. You can walk away and revisit the situation later.
  2. You can apologize to the other person.
  3. You can learn about what anger might be when it isn’t anger including anger as a substitute for other feelings such as anxiety, guilt, or sadness and anger as an instrumental emotion which is designed to manipulate another person.

The bottom line here is that you need to learn to always validate your anger as it is an important emotional tool that provides you with information. Validating, or accepting your anger does not mean that you have a valid reason for your anger.

Sometimes, you will be angry for a reason and sometimes you will be angry for no reason.  The goal is to learn the difference.

One issue is that the information your anger gives you, while based on your perceptions, may be incorrect because you have misperceived what is going on. Explanation 1 and 2 covered this and I gave you some ideas about what you can do.

The second issue is substituting anger for other feelings or intent.  This is explanation 3.  Becoming aware that this is how you are using anger requires that you be honest and open with yourself, get feedback (and help) from others, and work on developing new emotional habits.

Over time, you will become more adept at recognizing threats, when they exist.

I welcome your comments.

 

Emotions, Productivity, Using (or being used by) Anxiety, Assertion and More…

To my readers:

In this week’s post, I was going to conclude my two part series entitled: “Why do I feel angry when I have no reason to be?”

I decided, however, to alert you to this recent podcast I did with Productivity Expert, Mark Struczewski as I believe you will find the information contained in this interview very useful.

I will publish Part 2 in my next post.

Here is the link…..

https://markstruczewski.com/ed

A Conversation with Ed Daube – TMSP 130

During this podcast, we discussed the impact that emotions have on productivity with an emphasis on anxiety.

I noted that there are two types of anxiety.

The first is anxiety as distress.  This is the emotion you feel that leads you to procrastinate or avoid doing the job that is in front of you.  Anxiety is a future based emotion the message of which is: “There MAY be a threat ahead which MIGHT do me harm.”

This is the most commonly recognized form of anxiety.

There is, however, another form of anxiety called eustress which, as an emotion, facilitates productivity because it encourages action.

I discuss both of these forms of anxiety in the podcast.

We also discuss how to deal with both subordinates and superiors, in an office setting, who violate your boundaries when they insist on “visiting” with you.  This topic touches upon being assertive and “escalating” as needed.  I give specific suggestions for effectively handling these types of situations.

I also discuss the Relationship Prime Directive and how it applies to these types of interactions.

Lastly, but not finally, I talk about anger and how it can develop in a work setting and interfere with productivity.

There is much more to the podcast and I strongly recommend you click over and invest the 30+ minutes it will take to listen to and take notes from the program.

You may decide to listen several times to get all the “meat” you can out of the interview.

Why do I feel angry when I have no reason to be? P.1

This is the first of a two part discussion. 

There are at least three possible explanations for why someone might be angry and not be able to identify  a “reason” for their anger. In this post, I will talk about what anger is and discuss the first two explanations. 

In my next blog, I will address explanation #3 and talk about anger which really isn’t anger: specifically secondary and instrumental “anger”.

Recently, I was asked the above question on Quora.com and I thought I might address it here. If this applies to you, or someone you know, here are some insights that could be helpful.

As I have noted in previous posts, anger is one of six primary emotions (mad, sad, glad, fear, disgust and surprise).  With the exceptions of glad (happy) and surprise, the primary emotions are primitive threat detectors which appear in all human cultures and many subhuman species.

In humans, the primary emotions function as primitive threat detectors which both alert us to potential threats and, subconsciously, prepare our bodies to deal with the threat.  While I discussed sadness, fear, anxiety and other feelings in my first Amazon  Best Selling book Emotions as Tools: Control Your Life not Your Feelings, my second Amazon Best Seller book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool focuses on Anger specifically.

Each emotion communicates a different message about the perceived threat. The message of anger is that you perceive a threat that you believe you can eliminate if you throw enough power at it. Your body is prepared for battle.  You are ready to fight.

Whenever you get angry, it is because you perceive a threat.  This the reason behind your anger.

This question appears to address the experience in which one feels angry but can’t seem to identify a specific threat.  The apparent absence of an identifiable threat implies that there is no reason for the anger.

This may, or may not be true.

There are at least three possible explanations for what may be happening.

  1. No threat exists and you have misperceived was is going on.
  2. A threat exists but it is not obvious and, therefore, is not consciously identified as a threat. The individual has, however, subconsciously, identified a threat and reacted to it.
  3. While the emotion expressed appears to be anger, it is not anger as a primary emotion.  Rather, it is either secondary anger or instrumental anger and the individual is not aware that the emotion is not primary anger.

Let’s look at the first two.

  1. No threat exists.

Imagine a situation in which you get angry and everyone around you looks at you as if to say,  “What is going on with you?”. Their comments imply that there is no reason for your anger and that your anger is inappropriate.

There are at least two possibilities here.

On the one hand, you may have correctly perceived a threat and your perceptions are not being consensually validated.  Your experience, based on the feedback you are  getting, is that you are angry for no reason. The truth, however, is  that you are correct and they are incorrect.  There is a reason for your anger and they are telling you there is no reason.

On the other hand, you may have misunderstood the actions of another individual.  Your experience, based on the feedback you are  getting is that you are angry for no reason.

The truth is that you perceived a threat and reacted.  You just were incorrect in your perception. In this case, you are not “angry for no reason”. Rather, there is no reason for your anger.

2. A threat exists but it is not obvious.

The actions of another person are not always what they appear to be.  This can happen when one is being sarcastic, cracking a joke, using evasive or insincere language, or giving a “double message”.

You may get angry because you correctly sense the actual meaning (threat) underlying the communication you are receiving but you don’t consciously identify the threat because it is not obvious.

When this happens, I suggest that you validate and honor your anger as alerting you to a possible threat.  You should not act-out in anger but you do have at least two options.

On the one hand, you can choose to ignore the possible threat because the individual’s message is indirect and, therefore, not actionable.

The second option is to note that you aren’t sure what the person is trying to say to you and ask for clarification.

I will address the third explanation in my next post.