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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

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.

 

How can one control short temper?

This is a question I received on Quora and my response to it.

Before I answer this question, I must assume that by “short temper” you mean that you are quick to react to an anger eliciting situation and do something you later determine was not appropriate to the initial situation in which you chose to get angry and ended up acting out inappropriately.

Let me elaborate on the italicized words above….

React: The goal in dealing with any situation in which you get angry is to respond not react. To react is to take action without giving much thought to what you do. To respond is to reflect on the situation and choose an effective response which both matches and deals with the situation. This is the heart of anger mastery.

That being said, you should know that anger, as a primitive threat detector, prepares you to react to a dangerous situation and eliminate it with a show of force.

Thus, while to react is normal, it is often not optimal and needs to be resisted.

Anger eliciting: Situations in which you find yourself appear to cause your anger. This is an anger myth. Your perception of your situation as a “threat” is what elicits or leads to your getting angry. You can see this visually in The Anger Master Cycle pdf which you can download, without opt-in by scrolling up to the top of this page and clicking on the link to your right.

Chose: It is important to note that while the initial reaction to a threatening situation is anger, the behavior you engage in is ALWAYS a choice. In addition, whether you stay angry or let your anger dissipate is also a choice and is based on how you evaluate your situation and the nature of the threat you both initially perceived and the perception that arises after you have evaluated what is going on.

Not Appropriate: When your short temper results in your reacting to a situation in such a way that it does not match what is going on, your behavior is seen as inappropriate. It is this lack of a match that results in your thinking you need to control your short temper.

Your belief is that if you control your short temper, you won’t get angry, you won’t do inappropriate things, and you won’t get in trouble or cause trouble which you later regret.

Sorry for the long intro but I needed to establish a context for my answer.

Controlling your anger is only the first step to mastering your anger. Many anger management courses teach that control is not only an important step regarding anger but the most important step. This is incorrect.

The basis of mastering your anger as a strategic tool (the title of my Amazon best selling book) is to validate and accept your anger, control your behavior, evaluate your situation and choose whether to hold onto and take action using the energy of your anger, or let the anger go.

Ok, let’s look at the issue of control.

Control happens when you put a pause between the initial awareness that you are angry and the choice to take action.

Adding this pause to your behavioral repertoire can be learned but it takes a bit of effort and “practice”.

The principle you will be using involves “mental time travel”. Don’t freak out here as I am only asking you to take a moment, relax in a chair, and visualize yourself at some future date being in an anger eliciting situation, beginning to get angry and pausing.

If you have difficulty “seeing” yourself doing this, you can talk yourself through it.

My boss just did xyz. I’m getting angry. I really want to go off on him. I stop myself, take a step back from him, and take a deep breath. This is my pause. I now use that pause to think about what is going on and what actions I choose to take.”

As you go through this script, do your best to “see” yourself doing these steps. Be patient and stay with it. This may be a new “skill set” for you and it may take several tries before it becomes more comfortable to you. There is no failure here. The more you attempt to visualize the future you want, the better you get at it.

By the way, this is not pseudo psychology as there is neuroscientic evidence that this mental time travel is effective.

The most important parts of this pause are 1. taking a physical step back from the situation which is eliciting your anger and 2. taking a deep breath.

Doing these two steps will give you the pause that you are trying to learn.

So, you are “training” yourself to take a step back and take a deep breath whenever you get angry.

Old reaction: Get angry ==> take action

New reaction: Get angry ==> step back and take a breath.

That is the answer to your question but I would like to go a bit further.

Once you have stepped back and taken a breath, you will need to assess what is going on so that you can choose a response.

In the interest of not making this post too long, I refer you back to the Anger Mastery Cycle so that you can see the options available to you as you seek to master your anger.

I hope this answers your question. If it does, or it does not, please leave a comment.

Yoda quotes and emotions as tools

In the Phantom Menace, Yoda says “fear leads to anger .. anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering ( or s/t like that).

While I can’t address Yoda’s universe, using the emotions as tools model, we can unpack and gain a better understanding of what this quote means in our universe.

Fear and anger are two of 6 primary emots which helped us survive as a species when we lived on the savannah and it was “eat or be eaten”.

Fear prepares us to freeze or flee. The message of fear is that the threat we face is dangerous and our life is at stake. The reaction to fear is immediate and taken without a whole lot of thot. This is how we were hardwired and was “designed” to keep us alive just as the same process may have kept a deer pursuer by a predator alive. Fear works today the same way it did so many eons ago.

Anger prepares us for battle. The message of anger is that we are more powerful than our attacker. Our body girds for war, our attention narrows on the opponent, and “it’s on”.

We’ll get to hate shortly.

So, with all due respect to YODA, fear is separate from and would not lead to anger. Run and attack are mutually exclusive.
You could, however, decide that you’ve had enough of being fearful and become angry.
As a domestic abuse victim, with nothing  more to lose, you might decide to go “all in” and attack. Or, the community ravished by gang violence picks up hammers, tire irons and “pitchforks” and says “enough is enough”.
The important point here is that fear did not lead to, elicit, or morph to become anger. Anger was expressed because the victims changed the way they chose to view their situation. They redefined themselves as survivors and thrivers rather than as helpless victims.
The Emotions as Tools model tells us that after we react emotionally to our perception, we choose our emotional response by the thoughts we have.
When you change your thoughts, you change your feelings.
This process is what happens in therapy when cognitive restructuring is used to treat maladaptive thinking and the psychological pain that follows from it.
YODA says that anger leads to hate.
Well,maybe.
As I noted in a previous post, the message of hate is that you both detest
(and are obsessed) another person or his (or her) actions of another.  At the extreme, you may think of nothing else but that which is the object of your hate.
While hate and anger share some characteristics including the perception of threat and a desire to eliminate that threat, hate is all consuming! Anger can become chronic and all consuming.  When this happens, anger, as a primary emotion, has morphed and become a maladaptive anger.  This cancerous form of anger is not only unhealthy psychologically but can also lead to sometimes fatal physical illnesses.
So, getting back to YODA, in the case of anger and hate, he may be right but not necessarily for the reasons you might think.
Here is the progression from anger to hate.
If you are angry with someone and the perceived threat is indeed valid, your anger could become chronic or you could begin to hate the other person if you chose to avoid dealing with the because, perhaps you perceived an insurmountable power difference between you and the other person and you were concerned about your own well-being.
In this example, anger has not led to hate but has morphed into hate.
Not exactly what YODA is implying.
YODA seems to be saying that we should not get angry.
This is very similar to those who say “Anger is one letter away from danger.” and “Anger is a negative emotion.”
While it is true that anger energizes us for battle and that people, when angry, can do things they later regret, anger is ONLY (emphasis added) a tool, does not cause you to do anything, and is not to be blamed for the poor decisions you might make while angry.
The goal is to acknowledge that anger is just a tool and learn how to master it to improve your life and your relationships.
My most recent Amazon bestselling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool shows you how to do this.
You can download the first two chapters of my book without opt-in by scrolling up to the Welcome post above.
Finally, YODA notes that hate leads to suffering.  In this observation, he is absolutely correct.
When you hate, you become obsessed with the object of your hate.  This obsession can cloud your thinking and result in actions you might later come to regret.  Doing something that might get you locked up or destroy a relationship could easily be seen as causing “suffering”.
This does not mean that you eliminate the emotion of hate.
Again, hate, like all emotions, is just a tool.  When you understand and master your hate, your validate the emotion, assess the information that emotion is communicating to you, and choose how you want to respond to the emotion and the situation about which the emotion is informing you.
In the case of hate, the message of obsession and loss of objectivity could be enough to move you away from hate and back to anger and lead you to formulate an effective plan to deal with the perceived threat.
I welcome your comments.

Emotions and disagreements.

In a recent LI post, an article is cited in which the author writes about an interaction between a woman and her spouse. She has been thinking about a romantic trip to Paris and, as she goes into the living room to tell her husband about the trip, she is thinking to herself “I hope he agrees.”

When she tells her spouse about the trip, he says, “I disagree.”

The article breaks down the origins of the words “agree” and “disagree”.

The focus of the article is the the word “disagree”. As far as the author of the article is concerned the words “I disagree.” really mean (my interpretation) that the spouse has no intention of going to Paris.

“Disagree” is a ‘stop’ word.

In other words, the spouse has thrown cold water on his wife’s dreams and is prepared to go to battle with her using his logic about all the reasons that a trip to Paris is a non-starter.

By the way, this same scenario could occur if he approaches her with an idea which is of importance to him and she says, “I disagree.”

It is an interesting article and I recommend reading it.

But, I have a different take from an emotions as tools/anger mastery perspective.

While briefly acknowledging that “disagree” might have some other, less draconian, meaning, the author doesn’t spend much time on this possibility. Nor, does he talk about the woman’s feelings.

Let’s explore some options.

She goes into the living room and shares her dreams with her spouse. When he says he disagrees, she may feel (at least one of the following):

  1. disappointment
  2.  anger
  3. anticipation.

All emotions alert us to how we perceive our surroundings and prepare us to deal with the situations we encounter. This is the message of the emotion. How we choose to respond to the message is what mastering the emotion is all about.

Note: This italicized comments are intended to communicate a general idea rather than a specific dialog.

The message of disappointment  is that an anticipated event has not gone the way you would like. It is focusing on the implied reaction to the event rather than on the motives of the person with whom she is interacting. If she is disappointed, she has interpreted the words, “I disagree.” as meaning… Well, perhaps this trip was not a good idea at this time as my husband’s clear head usually prevails in these type of situations.

The message of anger is that she perceives a threat and is prepared to go to war to overcome the threat. Here the focus is on both the actions and the motives of her spouse. If she is angry, she may perceive him as being oblivious to her needs by thinking only of the cost of the trip, his own desire not to go to Paris, or his too quick reaction to find fault with the idea rather than explore options. She has interpreted the words, “I disagree.” as meaning.. I don’t care what you say, the answer is ‘no’ and that’s final!

The message of anticipation is that there is a future event coming which could have significant beneficial outcomes and which one is looking forward to. If she feels anticipation, than she has interpreted his words, “I disagree.” as meaning… I can’t really see Paris as a possibility now but let’s discuss it and see where it goes.

If she has learned to master her emotions as tools, her feelings will give her some guidance about how she wants to interact with her spouse. Once she identifies and validates the feeling, she can assess whether her perceptions are accurate by interacting with her spouse, expressing her perceptions and getting feedback from him. Based on this interaction, she can choose how she wants to respond.

I welcome your comments.

The Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High are Mastering Their Anger. Are You Mastering Yours?

The recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland Florida is still fresh in our minds for at least two reasons.

The first reason is that the event was horrific, didn’t occur that long ago, and no other shooting has occurred which could grab our attention and replace the MSD shooting.

Other shootings have taken place, grabbed our attention, and then faded away.

The second reason is the impact that this event had on the students who lived through it and the response of those students to the event.

In the interest of transparency, I need to say that I own a gun, I believe in the 2nd amendment, I think the NRA has way too much influence, and I believe (along with a majority of Americans) that a compromise on gun control can be reached which both adds to the safety of Americans and protects the legitimate rights of Americans to own firearms if only Congress had the fortitude to get the job done.

This post, however, is not about gun control.

It is about mastering anger.

In my second Amazon best selling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool,  I discuss what anger is, what emotional mastery is, and where the focus of anger management groups often fall short. I also include individual chapters designed to help the reader understand and master their anger. You can download the first two chapters of my book with no opt-in from my blog TheEmotionsDoctor.com

Anger is one of 6 primary emotions (mad, sad, glad, fear, disgust and surprise).

Four of these primary emotions are threat detectors just like the smoke detector in your house. The primary threat detectors alert us to an impending threat (This is the message of the emotion.) and help us stay alive by preparing our bodies to take action regarding that threat.

Emotions can be understood as tools and each tool has a specific function for which it was designed…

  • Your smoke detector alerts you to an impending fire.
  • Your TV remote enables you to wirelessly control, program, and interact with your TV, your Blueray player, and so forth.
  • Your cell phone…

Well, you get the idea.

Anger is a primary threat detector. The message of anger is that we perceive a threat we believe we can eliminate. Anger energizes us to go to war.

By contrast, fear, as a primary threat detector, alerts us to a threat which will “terminate” us and prepares us to escape (flee) or freeze in place.

Very few tools are so self-evident that they do not require a learning curve to master them and get the most out of them.

While this may be obvious with the cell phone, your computer, and the remote, think about the last time your smoke detector went off in the middle of the night alerting you to a weak battery or you burnt some toast and you nearly broke the detector because you weren’t sure how to turn the damn thing off.

Emotions are the same way. They are just just tools which we need to learn to master in order to strategically use them to improve your life.

So, back to the MSD teens.

These teens felt helplessness and vulnerability during and following the event.

The feelings of helplessness and vulnerability are easy to understand just by thinking about what the MSD students experienced.

The MSD teens then transformed the feelings of vulnerability and helplessness into anger.

Up to this point, the MSD shooting is no different from the Vegas shooting, Columbine or any other of the numerous shootings which we have seen on the news, felt vulnerable concerning, and angry about.

For the most part, however, the anger in these other shootings just sort of faded away and was not mastered.

And, nothing changed.

The difference with the MSD shooting and the reason it is still holding our attention is that the “victims” stopped feeling victimized and mastered their anger.

Anger mastery involves assessing the validity of both the anger and the perceived threat and then using the energy anger provides to take effective action to nullify a valid threat.

The MSD teens clearly realized that the threat from guns was valid and decided to go to war to deal with the threat. They then made a plan to facilitate their battle and executed their plan. This plan was critical if they wanted their message to be heard.

This is anger mastery.

They have come forward and appeared on both public and pay (Netflix) TV. They articulately discussed both the impact the event had on them, the feelings the event elicited (not caused) in them and their proposed solutions. They have mobilized public support, publicly taken their concerns and the solutions they are recommending to lawmakers, and organized public events.

They have raised public awareness and it appears that they won’t stop until corrective action has taken place.

You can see the anger in their voices as they speak and their anger continues to motivate them. We have already seen an impact in Florida where some changes have been made in the law.

This is the heart of anger mastery. How you feel about the MSD teens and gun control is not the issue here.

If you have ever experienced anger and either done something you later regretted or done nothing, you have not mastered your anger.

You now have the choice the next time you experience anger.

Accept the message of anger as valid. Your anger is always valid though the perception of threat may or may not be valid.

Then use your anger as an opportunity to assess the situation in which you find yourself.

If your anger accurately reflects a threat that requires an intervention, then take some time to determine the best and most effective action to take, make a plan, and use the energy your anger provides to implement the plan you have devised.

If you decide that you have misunderstood your situation or “created” the threat by some action you have taken, then you can choose a different course of action and the anger will dissipate.

This is mastering your anger.

I welcome your comments and if you think this blog could benefit someone else, please send them the link.