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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

What’s the best advice for a young person suffering with “Anger problems”?

This is a question that was posted on a LinkedIn forum.  I believe the answer involves two issues.

The first issue involves the phrase “suffering with anger problems”. The second issue involves explaining emotions to kids. The two issues are related.

Let’s talk about the idea that your kid “suffers” from an  “anger problem”.

To approach your child and his (or her) behavior from this point of view will not, over time, be productive.  And, it is not accurate.

Your child may “suffer” from a cold, a  broken bone, or a rash all of which are physical in nature and each of which will eventually heal and go away.

Anger is an emotion which reflects how your child views his world and prepares him to deal with that world.

Anger is a primitive threat detector. Your child’s anger reflects his perception that a threat exists.  That threat could be to his goals, his expectations, or his immediate needs.  The behavior you see is his attempt to deal with the perceived threat.

Anger is a psychological phenomenon which is experienced physically.  Anger is never the “problem”.  It will not go away over time and there is nothing that needs to be “healed”. Behavior that is elicited in the service of anger may be problematic. The way to deal with anger is to understand the underlying perceived threat and address that.

It is important to note that your “advice” will vary with the age of the child.

I view all emotions, including anger, as tools. This is both a description of an emotion and a metaphor.

Anger as a metaphor lets you explain what emotions (including anger) are.

Using “emotions as tools” as a metaphor enables you to explain the concept of an emotion to both kids and adults. As a metaphor, your kid can understand that his anger, the TV remote, his phone/computer, or mom’s sewing machine are just tools that have a specific function. You can choose a “tool” that your child will relate to given the age of the child.

Anyone can understand that you have to learn how to use the “tool” in order to get the most out of it. This is called a learning curve.

From this perspective, you own  a phone, you do not have a phone problem. You experience anger, you do not have an anger problem.  What you do have, in both cases, is a knowledge or training issue.

Anger as a description lets you teach your kid about anger.

Anger, as a tool (description) is a primitive threat detector. When you get angry, your anger tells you that you perceive a threat that you believe you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it. The anger cycle describes how mastering anger “works”.

You can download a copy of the Anger Mastery Cycle by scrolling up to the Welcome post above.

When angry, your kid is perceiving a “threat” to his goals, his needs, his values, his sense of “fairness” or how he thinks things “should” be.

From this perspective, you can talk to him (or her) about the perceived threat (This validates him.), whether or not there actually is a threat (This is the beginning of anger mastery), and the best action to take in the situation (This empowers him.).

You can also talk about the consequences he currently experiences when he gets angry. These are the reasons you say he has an anger “problem”.

The issue here is not necessarily whether those who are labeling him are right or wrong. In fact, they could be either one.  The issue is that your teen is getting in trouble and needs to learn how to deal with that situation.

It is important to note that everyone, including your kid

To view anger as a tool validates (does not necessarily agree with) the anger and shifts the focus to your child, consequences, actions, and making a plan. This is what you want.

To view anger as a “problem” invalidates an important feeling and disempowers your child.

So, what do you say to a teenager who is being told he (or she) has an “anger problem”?

First, you need to ask your teen if he thinks he has an anger problem and what he thinks might be going on that someone else thinks he has an anger problem.

This should get you some valuable insight into how much your child knows about himself, to what degree can he empathize with others, and to what extent he tends to “blame” others for difficulties he is experiencing.

The information you are looking for is the “threat” your teen perceives which is eliciting the anger.

You can then validate his perception with or without corroborating the validity of the threat and attempt to move him toward an adaptive resolution of the interaction.

If his perception of the threat is accurate…

“I can see what you mean. What might we do to resolve this situation?”

If his perception is inaccurate…

“I understand how you might see the situation as you do.  Is there another way to look at it? What do you think it might take to resolve this situation?”

When you validate your child’s anger, you establish that you and he are on the same “team”, the goal of which is to understand the anger and help resolve the perceived threat. Again, remember that you are not agreeing with the anger (or that there is an actual threat). You are only validating that he is angry and that he perceives a threat.

You can then begin to discuss the nature of the threat and how you can help him (or her) resolve it.

I welcome your comments.

Feeling Lonely vs Feeling Alone

The words “lonely” and “alone” sound like they are the same but they are different.

Being “alone” refers to your physical status relevant to other people

Feeling “lonely” refers to your psychological status relative to others or to yourself.

You are “alone” when there are no other people around you.

You are “lonely” when you feel disconnected, unsupported, or separated, from the world around you. You are present, psychologically, in the moment but your experience is that something (or someone) is missing.

Please note that I am not talking about  being “dissociated” from the world.  Dissociation is a clinical symptom which implies that you have lost contact with the real world.  You may be in the world physically but you are not there psychologically.

You may have noticed that there are times when you just want to be left alone.  You need the solitude to recharge your psychological batteries, you need time to think about or process something that has happened to you, or you just want to enjoy some quiet solitude. For example, you might want to be left alone with your thoughts to contemplate a beautiful sunset or the quiet solitude of a forest.

You aren’t necessarily being antisocial although those around you may interpret what you are doing as antisocial.  You may, however, be choosing to be anti-social.

To be “antisocial” is to reject the idea that interacting with others is either necessary or important. Unless it is expedient, you have no desire to spend time with, and you choose to avoid being around, other people.

To be “anti-social” is to say that you want to be away from others for the moment.  You are choosing to be with yourself and not with others.

In other words, you want to be alone, for now.

When you are “alone”, you are very comfortable with your own company.  You are okay with being you in your own skin.

Being lonely is a different state of being.

You can be lonely in a crowd of people.

There are two different elements to being lonely.

  1. You can be lonely if you are in a situation in which you do not feel a connection to the people around you.  You miss being around someone you feel close to or supported by.  You are lacking a specific connection and feel isolated or lonely.
  2.  You may feel lonely when you are not comfortable with yourself, your inner thoughts or your sense of who you are psychologically. In this case, being lonely can be thought of as being without yourself. If this is the case, you will find that you must constantly be around someone in order to feel that every thing is okay.

If description #1 applies to you, my suggestion is to accept (validate) your feeling but do not give in to it and get through the situation in which you find yourself.  When you do this, you will notice that the feeling becomes less important and relevant.  This is what you want.  Once you have left environment in which you were feeling lonely, you can move on if the feeling subsides or reconnect with that special someone.

If description#2 applies to you, then you might want to get some professional help in order to explore your self-image, your self-worth, and your self-esteem.  The danger of #2 is that you can become too dependent on others or be seen as too needy.  Should this happen, others might push you away.

I welcome your comments.

The Key to Understanding Anyone Better..Hint: It is not empathy, although that would help. Part 2

This is Part 2 of my blog on Understanding another person.  If you have not read last week’s blog entry, please take a moment and scroll down to read my earlier comments.

Assumption #1: Here, the focus is on you.  When you assess, or judge, another’s behavior as right/wrong or good/bad, you are acting “as if” you already know all there is to know about the person and their behavior. Suspending judgment enables you to be more objective in your interactions with the other person.

While you may disagree with them and even have an opinion about their behavior, for the moment, it is best if you suspend judgement. At a later point, any disagreement you might have can become a focus of discussion.

Assumption #2 and #3 focus on the other person.

Assumption #2:  To assume a person’s behavior is “valid” only means that you are saying that they believe what they are doing is right for the situation in which they find themselves.

You are not saying their behavior is appropriate, effective, or even beneficial. You also are not saying that you agree with the behavior.

This is a critical key to gaining an understanding of another person.

Assumption #3: The basis for this assumption is the idea that each of us wants to engage in a behavior which will help us achieve whatever outcome we want in our present situation.  To the extent that this is true (as it most often is), we do what we have to further our own agenda.

There is no judgement here about the “agenda”.  The other person may be acting in their own self-interest or altruistically.  The only relevance here is that it is their agenda and they are pursuing it.

To do less than the “best” we can won’t help us achieve our agenda.

I am not saying that their behavior is the “best” possible.  In many cases, what they are doing clearly (initially to you and later to them) is not the best possible.  It is only their best in the moment given their model of the world.

This assumption also leads to the possibility that they might choose to change their behavior if they acquire new knowledge, new skill sets, or a  different model of the the world.

Based on these three assumptions, your task of understanding the other person can now focus on gaining information about, insight into, and a better understanding of their model of the world and their skill sets for dealing with those they come in contact with.

When you focus primarily on the behavior, which is what most of us do, you most likely will get bogged down in judgements (on your part) and rationalizations (on their part) and will find that your discussion does not lead to any useful understanding of what is going on.

Asking “why” is often ineffective.

So, another person does something we disagree with and we ask “Why did you do that?”

In an earlier post (9/28/16) entitled: “What” is a better, and more accurate, word to use than “Why”. Here is why. I discussed the reason you want to use “What” rather than “Why” whenever you are questioning your own actions or the actions of another person.

I noted:

When you ask a person, “Why did you do that?”, what you really want to know is:

  • What was the basis for your decision to (do what you did)?
  • What did you hope to accomplish (by doing what you did)?
  • What other alternatives did you consider (before you did what you did)?
  • What motivated you (to do what you did)?”
  • In what way might your opinion of me lead you to believe you needed to approach me in the way you did?

When you ask “why”, what you will likely get is an excuse.

While I did not really delineate it my earlier post, the rationale for asking “What” rather than “Why” involves gaining an understanding of the other person’s model of the world.

When you understand how they view their world, their relationship with you, their goals and their view of their ability to accomplish their goals, their view of their strengths and weaknesses and so forth, the behavior which originally prompted your concerns now becomes self-evident.

My California Youth Authority Example

When I worked in the California Youth Authority, many of my clients were young black women who had committed serious crimes including murder. I am a white male, raised in a middle class home, with no criminal past.

We were separated by age, gender, race, a criminal past, a history of physical and sexual abuse, and a variety of cultural issues.

This being said, it was my job as their therapist (There were no black female therapists at the time.) was to help them gain a better understanding of themselves, their self-image, their values and so forth.

I approached these young women by admitting that I could not “know” what they felt (empathy) or what they had experienced. I explained that they were an expert about themselves and I was an expert on dealing with (psychological) issues.  I needed them to help me help them. So, if they helped me understand how they viewed their world (Their model of the world, including me.), I could help them gain a better understanding of themselves and an improved ability to get out of “jail” and stay out.

While their crimes were always unacceptable and they were held accountable for what they did, the specific behavior which got them incarcerated could only be approached once it was clear to them that I had an understanding of what they were experiencing.

Understanding opened up the door to further exploration of important issues.

I was not always successful.  But, sometimes, I was.

This is an example of pursuing understanding not empathy.

I hope the above was helpful.

If you found this information useful, please send a link to anyone you know who might  benefit from it.

And, finally,  please leave a comment.

The Key to Understanding Anyone Better..Hint: It is not empathy, although that would help. Part 1

Situation:

  • You are interacting with another person whose behavior you find excessive, inappropriate, or “wrong” and you have no clue as to what is “causing” the behavior.
  • Because you have a “relationship”with this person, you want to gain a better understanding of them and their actions.
  • You have no clue how to begin the “process of understanding”.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar “situation”?

Most likely, the answer is yes.

Possible “relationships” include:

  • a parent with their child
  • a boss with his or her subordinates
  • a leader with his or her followers (volunteers/team)
  • a spouse
  • an adult child with aging parents
  • a person dealing with clients or customers
  • and so forth.

In pursuit of understanding, you may have read , or been advised, that you should “put yourself in their shoes”. This is what empathy is all about.

While empathizing with another person is good, there are at least 3 reasons why you might find it difficult to achieve.

  1. You may have tried to do this but “empathy” is not your strong suit.

I know of a very intelligent individual who works in the medical profession.  He views himself as very good at “understanding” the clients he works with but tends to focus on the issues he sees in the client’s reasoning or behavior.  He does not seem able to put himself in their shoes and experience his understanding from their point of view.

  1. The gap between you and the other person is too wide and inhibits your “putting yourself in their shoes”.

This gap could be due to a difference in age, gender, race, religion, or culture. Or, some other factor such as your values.

  1. You found yourself judging the other person as “wrong”.  When you judge another person, you have made a decision about them and the process of empathizing with (or even understanding) them stops.

While empathy is beneficial, it isn’t crucial.

So, even if you find it difficult to empathize with another person, you can still begin to understand them and their point of view.

Understanding another person facilitates your effectively interacting with them, improving the relationship you have with them and even, where appropriate, disciplining them.

A person’s behavior is based on their perception of the situation in which they find themselves.

Their perception of the situation is based on their “model” of the world.

Their “world” includes you.

In attempting to understand how another person is perceiving what is going on and the behavior they are engaging in based on that perception, you need to make three assumptions.  These assumptions set the stage and create an environment for understanding.

  1. Assume that the behavior you are seeing is neither “right” nor “wrong”.  It is just their behavior.
  2. Assume that every person’s behavior is “valid” for them because it is consistent with their model of the world.
  3. Assume that their behavior is the “best” that they are capable of doing given their current skill set and their model of the world.

I will discuss each assumption in more detail and give an example in Part 2 next week.

I hope the above was helpful.

If you find it useful, please send this link to someone else who might benefit from it.

And, finally, please leave a comment.

 

Anger: How to be calm and collected when you are angry and discuss an issue that bothers you?

When it comes to anger, control is important so that you do not go off the deep end.  This is what it means to stay calm.

Staying calm does not mean that you stop being angry.

What you want to learn is how to both manage and master your anger so that it works for you and you can use the energy it gives you to correct a negative situation.

This is what I mean when I talk about strategically deploying your anger.

Let me give you some background information so you understand what anger is and what happens to you when get angry.  I will then give you some suggestions you can use to help you master your anger so that you can say what you need to and deal with the situation.

Anger is one of the 6 basic emotions (mad, sad, glad, fear, surprise and disgust) that humans have had since time began.  The job of anger is to prepare us to fight off threats that will harm us if not dealt with.  When we were living in caves, these threats were always real and usually were life threatening.  When angry, adrenaline is released into the body and prepares us for battle by giving us the energy we need to overpower our adversary

Fast forward to the 21st century.

Today, anger acts on  you the same way that it did for Mr. Caveman.

Your anger tells you that you perceive a threat to you.  Today, unlike for our ancestors, most threats are not survival based.  They are threats to our ego, our sense of right and wrong, our values and so forth.

I call these psychological threats.

With the above in mind, let’s take a look at what you can do.

  • The suggestions I will be making sound simple to do and they are.
  • However, they will not be easy to do in the situation when you are angry.
  • Consequently, in order to use these suggestions, you will have to practice them.

This is a mistake that many writers make.

  • The writer offers a strategy. The reader tries to implement the strategy.  Nothing changes. The reader feels more frustrated.
  • I hope this does not happen to you, my readers.

Anger management:

You should practice moving into anger management as soon as you become aware that you are getting angry.

You manage your anger when you create both psychological and physical “space” between you and the person with whom you are interacting.

You create psychological space when you lower your initial arousal level so that you can respond rather than react to your situation. You do this by taking a deep breath as soon as you become aware of your anger.

There are two reasons for taking a deep breath.

1. The first reason is that the deep breath relaxes you physically and lowers your arousal (level of energy).  If you need to take several deep breaths, that is okay.

Most people tend to get over-energized in angry situations.  The deep breath helps to counter this,

2. The second reason is that the breath gives you a few seconds to collect your thoughts.  Your thoughts (perceptions) are what create the anger in the first place.

You create physical space by taking a step back from the other person.

You do this for two reasons.

1. First of all, it gives you some additional safe space if you need it.

2. Secondly, it sends a message to the other person that you are not a threat to them.

This physical space can be a small or a large step back.

Anger Mastery

Anger management involves lowering your level of arousal and most writers talk about anger management as an end goal.

I suggest you move on to anger mastery which involves resolving the situation in which you find yourself by either strategically deploying your anger if the threat is valid or letting go of the anger if you determine that you have misinterpreted the other person’s behavior.

When you master your anger, you attempt to assess the nature of the threat and choose your most adaptive response.

When you are in the middle of an interpersonal interaction the goal of which is to communicate your concerns, there are two assessments to be made:

  1. On the one hand, you need to assess the validity of the threat that you perceive in the situation that is leading up to (not causing) your anger.
  2. Secondly, if the other person is expressing anger (or its lesser cousin irritation), you should attempt to assess the threat that he (or she) perceives in you.

There are two reasons for assessing the nature of the perceived threat (both yours and theirs).

1. When you think about the threat, you give yourself a few moments to “calm down” a bit further and plan your response.

Note: You are not becoming less angry.  You are simply letting some of the energy go so you can take effective action.

As an analogy, when you are in your car, you slow down just enough to get around the curve.  Too much speed, you get in an accident.  You don’t stop the car, you just drop the level of energy (speed, in this case) to remain effective.

2. Thinking about your adversary’s perception of threat gives you an advantage in that it helps you manage your own anger by giving you some awareness of where their anger is coming from so you don’t take it personally and helps you deal with him or her.

If you can’t figure out what their threat is, this is okay.  You can still master your own anger.

You may decide that there is no real threat and just let go of your anger.

If you decide that the threat is real, you can use all of your energy to effectively deal with it.

As I said above, it is easier for me to make these suggestions then it is for you to implement them when you are angry and over-energized. But you can learn to implement them!

With this in mind, I suggest that you “practice” these strategies.

Here is how

In the comfort of your own home,

A. Review the strategy in your mind ==>

1. As soon as I become aware of my anger, I will stop and take a deep breath.  If I need to, I’ll take two deep breaths.

2. Once my thoughts are more clear, I will think about the nature of the threat I perceive.  If I can, I’ll try to get a fix on his or her perceived threat.

3. As my thoughts continue to clear and my energy level drops just enough, I’ll engage him or her in conversation.

B. Next, think about the last time you got angry and did something that was not very effective ( like crying or screaming)==>

1.   Let’s say this is point B in the interaction.

2. Try to think back to point A when you first became aware of the anger.

3. Imagine yourself taking a deep breath and successfully implementing the strategy.

4. Do this several times.

C. You can also practice taking a deep breath with other feelings such as stress, anxiety and so forth.

The purpose is to give you a sense that you can do this (YOU CAN) so when you find yourself in the next angry encounter, you are more prepared to take effective action.

I welcome your comments.

How do I get over the fear of being wrong and the fear of failure?

This is a question that I was asked on Quora.com.  I thought  some of you might be interested in the issues this question raises.

Most of the answers that were given by others on Quora tended to focus on the reality that we all make mistakes and need to learn to accept that.

While this is a good response to this question, I, as an expert on emotions with two Amazon bestselling books, Emotions as Tools and Beyond Anger Management, would offer a bit different perspective.

The above question uses the word “fear” as it is commonly used i.e. “fear of being wrong” and “fear of failure”.

Unfortunately, both of these uses are incorrect because the emotion the writer is really referring to is anxiety.

I should mention that, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t really matter which word you use. However, when you understand the difference between anxiety and fear, you enable yourself to master both emotions and the suggestions I make below will make more sense to you.

Fear is an in-the-moment emotion, the message of which is that you are perceiving a threat that will “kill” you unless you get out of that situation. Fear is the hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck raising up. The best response to fear is to get out of the situation. Too often, women, and sometimes men, experience fear but ignore it to their own peril. An example is when your feelings tell you the guy standing in the elevator is bad news eventhough he looks fine and has done nothing wrong. While you might be wrong about him, trust your feelings and take the next elevator.

Anxiety, on the other hand, is a future based emotion the message of which is that there might be a threat that might hurt me.

Notice in the question that the writer is concerned about what might happen if, at some future date, he (or she) is wrong or experiences “failure”. Both are future possibilities. If the writer were wrong or had failed when they were writing the question, they would have asked a different question.

So, let’s address the question.

The antidote to anxiety (fear of being wrong) is to ask two basic questions about what might happen in the future.

The first and most important question is this: If the worst possible outcome happens to me (however you define “worst” and “being wrong”), can I survive (however you choose to define “survive”) it?

If the answer is “I won’t like it but I could survive it”, then you no longer have to dwell on the issue and can move on to the second question.

By the way, there are very few situations in which you would not “survive” if you made a mistake. So, the answer to question #1 will usually be yes. Now, if you are talking about being wrong about whether or not the mushroom you are about to eat is poisonous or not, or whether you have chosen the right rope to repel down the side of a mountain, well it will be in your best interest to get more information before you make a decision.

Whether you could survive the future or not, question #2 becomes your next focus.

Question #2 is: What do I need to do, learn, or make happen in order to reduce the possibility of “being wrong” or “failing”.

I need to explain that there are two types of anxiety. The first is called distress and the second is called eustress.

Distress is disabling, focuses on the worst case scenario, and leads you to act as if this undesirable outcome is inevitable. It is distress that the writer is most likely referring to when he talks about the “fear of being wrong”.

Eustress is enabling, uses the same motivating energy of anxiety, and focuses on what you need to do to make the right decision. This is the energy my students use to motivate them to study for an upcoming exam. When you prepare for a future event, you no longer have to avoid it because you are now prepared for it.

So, if you are prepared for the future event and you can survive it if goes bad, you will no longer have a “fear of being wrong”. You may not like it, but you won’t be “afraid” of it.

Finally, let me give you a different definition of “failure”.

Most people think that “failure” is a destination. You either “succeed” and reach your goal or you “fail” and fall short.

This is a disabling definition as it only gives you two options-achieve your goal and label yourself a success or miss your goal and label yourself a failure. And, as all kinds of things can happen which delay or interfere with you reaching your goal, you are more likely to experience “failure” rather than a need to recalculate and redirect your attention.

A more adaptive definition of failure is to see it as a process or journey. As a process, failure is defined as “falling short Y times and getting up X times, where  X > Y”. It is this definition the person who quoted Edison  as saying: “I didn’t fail 1000’s of times to make a lightbulb. I found 1000’s of ways that didn’t work.” is referring to.

As long as you pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, make the corrections you need to make, and move forward, you can’t fail. You only fail when you give up.

I hope that gives you, my readers, a bit different perspective on this question and I welcome your comments and feedback.

Things happen after an “anger”.

You are probably wondering what an “anger” is.  And, rightly so. I am using the emotion of anger as a noun or as an event.  In other words, when you get angry, I am suggesting, for the sake of the discussion, that you are experiencing an “anger”.

In both of my Amazon bestselling books and other posts, I have written about anger  as an emotion that:

  • communicates a specific message
  • can be mastered
  • can be strategically deployed to improve your life and your relationships.

Whenever I write about specific emotions, about emotions in general or about the model of emotions, I talk about all emotions, including anger, as tools.  This is a very useful metaphor because you use tools on a daily basis including your cell phone, your computer, your car, your TV remote and so forth. In the same way that you learn how to get the most out of your cell phone as a useful tool, you can learn how to get the most out of your anger as a useful tool.

While this model of emotions  remains useful, I want you to think about the display of anger as an “event”. In other words, your getting angry at someone is an anger event (or an “anger”) and you can get a better understanding of anger by analyzing this event and learning from it.  This is true whether it is your anger or anger directed at you.

My goal is provide many different ways of understanding anger not because one is better than the other (They are all effective.) but because one metaphor may work  better for you than another.  You pick which model works best for you.

Or use some parts of each model.

Events

Let’s say you are setting up an “event” such as a book promotion, a soft-opening for a new business, a surprise birthday party for a good friend, a plan to study for an upcoming exam or a trip to the store to do grocery shopping.

Every event can be analyzed in terms of at least three elements:

  • What is the purpose you wish the event to accomplish?
  • What set of actions do you need to complete in order to fulfill the purpose of the event?
  • What is the outcome that you can measure to determine whether or not your event was “successful” in fulfilling the purpose?

This “outcome” is what happens after the event has taken place.

Anger as an event.

Purpose

Anger, as an emotion, has two purposes.

  • One purpose of anger is to alert you to and prepare you to deal with a perceived threat.  Typically, this threat will involve a specific goal of yours, a basic value such as respect or your view of right and wrong, your finances, your view of “territory” including your personal space, your home, your family and so forth.
  • The second purpose of anger is to warn others that you perceive them as a threat, that you are prepared to defend yourself and that you are ready to go to war to eliminate the threat.

Actions needed

When you get angry, you choose the amount of force needed to eliminate the perceived threat.

If the threat is relatively minor (yet important enough to be seen as a threat), you will act accordingly including engaging the other person by expressing your concerns and so forth.

If you perceive a major threat, you may go on “red alert”, fire up your “phasers”, and take your best shot. (Sorry for the Star Trek analogy.)

Measuring the outcome.

Once you have completed your “anger” (remember the event), you can look back on it and decide whether it was successful or not.

This is the step that most anger management approaches miss because they tend to focus on controlling the anger rather than mastering it as a strategic tool.

Your own anger.

Let’s go back to the events listed above and say that the specific event we are looking at is a trip to the store.

You go to the store, do your shopping, get home and realize that

1) you forgot to buy milk,

2) you spontaneously bought some items you really didn’t need (Think about all those goodies beckoning you on the shelves by the check-out counter.)or 3) you purchased some items you already had at home.

When you analyze your shopping event, you realize that you made some mistakes.  You did not make a comprehensive list and you were hungry when you went to the store. So, while you did get many of the items you needed (advantages), you had outcomes you didn’t want (disadvantages).

So, let’s look at your anger.

You get angry and, once you calm down, you look back on your anger event so that you can learn from it for next time.

Did you achieve your purpose in that the threat was eliminated without unnecessary collateral damages?

If you were ignored or criticized for your anger, or you ended up hurting someone physically or emotionally, or the threat was not nullified, then your anger was not completely successful and you will need to make some adjustments the next time you perceive a threat and get angry.

Some relevant questions.

  • Did you misperceive the nature of the threat?
  • Did you miscalulate the amount of force you needed to deal with the threat?
  • Was your message misunderstood, misinterpreted or ignored?

Someone else’s anger

I wrote  three part series of posts entitled “You are the target of someone else’s anger.”  which covered this topic in great detail.  You can get to these posts by clicking the February and March 2017 tabs in the archives.

The short version is that you can get a better understanding of this other individual by analyzing his anger (event).

Some relevant questions to gain understanding.

  • What is the nature of the threat that he perceived as he interacted with you?
  • Did he correctly interpret something you did?
  • Did he misunderstand what you were doing or saying?
  • Did he want me to give him some space (put me on notice)?

Some important questions to determine your response.

  • What is my goal in this interaction?
  • What is the best way to communicate with him in this situation?
  • If I was “wrong”, how can I effectively apologize?
  • If I did nothing wrong, how can I help him understand what I have done?
  • If I can’t directly deal with this person because of his “superior” authority, power, or potential to “harm” me, how can I safely accomplish my goals with “indirect” action?

I think you get the idea.

When you get angry, you set in motion a series of consequences, actions, and reactions that are directly related to your “anger”.  This is inevitable.

Your responsibility, after an anger, is to analyze whether you were effective or ineffective in resolving the situation which elicited your emotion and resulted in (not caused) your anger.

When you learn from your experience, you have the opportunity to change your behavior the next time you perceive a threat, your “anger” becomes more adaptive, and you avoid making the same mistakes.

You can become a better..

  • shopper
  • event planner
  • student
  • angerer

I welcome your comments.

 

 

 

 

What is the difference between guilt and shame?

The emotions of guilt and shame are often confused and I devoted an entire chapter to these emotions in my first Amazon Best Seller Emotions as Tools: Control Your Life not Your Feelings.

While different from each other as we discuss below, both of these feelings are elicited when an action is taken that is viewed as

  • wrong,
  • violating some value, or
  • hurting another person.

The Emotions as Tools Model notes that all emotions are tools which help us understand how we perceive what is happening to us and which can, with practice, be mastered to help us interact with our surroundings in a more adaptive manner.

A quick overview

The message of guilt is that “I have done something wrong.”

The message of shame is that “There is something wrong with me.”

The bigger picture

Guilt

As a tool, the emotion of guilt informs us that we have violated a standard of behavior.  This standard can be internal and based on our own values or an external standard of behavior.

In other words, you feel guilty when you realize you have done something wrong. This is an error of commission.

You might also experience guilt if you failed to take some action you reasonably could have been expected to do.  This is an error of omission.

Both of these two cases are included in the message of guilt.

This is what a court is saying when you are found “guilty”of an offense. Because you did something or you were negligent and failed to take action, you will be punished.

As a motivator, the emotion of guilt moves us in the direction of taking responsibility for and taking action to correct the “wrong” that we have done.

In this sense, guilt is an adaptive emotion which facilitates social interaction.

Let’s look at the phrase… “You are making me feel guilty.”.

You might say this if someone is talking to you about something you have done, or something you might not have done, that they might view as inappropriate.

While no one can make you feel anything, the point of what they are saying to you is that you need to take a look at what you did, take personal responsibility for it, do what you need to do to make it right, and learn from your actions so that you do not do it again.

Shame

While all emotions are adaptive in that we can learn from them, master them and develop psychologically, shame is an emotion that…

  • can lead to destructive outcomes,
  • is often unwittingly elicited, and
  • should probably be avoided or replaced by other feelings under most circumstances

Shame implies self-repudiation.  The message of shame is: “There is something wrong with me.”

We know from history that if an individual violated cultural norms, he (or she) might be publicly shamed, branded, or even excommunicated.  The message was that not only was the behavior unacceptable but the individual was tainted.

I will give you two examples of shame.

Many of the young women I worked with in the Department of Corrections-Juvenile Division had committed some heinous crimes.  Based on their crimes, they experienced intense shame.  They had concluded that, based on their crimes, they were damaged beyond repair.  For most of these young women, this was not true.  While horrific, their crimes could often be understood in terms of situational conditions which led to the crime.  They were still responsible for their actions and were punished for what they did. But, and this is critical, I had to help them realize that while their actions were “monstrous” they were not monsters.  I had to help them move past shame or they would not grow psychologically.

A second, and more common example that you might hear in a park, in a restaurant, or, possibly, your own home is a parent saying to their child in reacting to some undesirable behavior, “You are a bad boy (or girl). What is wrong with you?”

While I am not suggesting that if you have ever said this to your child, you done irreparable damage.  No, you have not.  I even have said it, in anger, once or twice.  Well, maybe it just slipped out?

What I am saying is that you should carefully think about what your child is hearing you say.  This is not always the same as the words you are using.

As a humorous example, think about the next time you see an acquaintance and ask, “How’s it going?” The intent of your words is usually to acknowledge the other person and maybe, or maybe not, start a conversation.  The typical expected response is, “Fine, and you?”

But, let’s suppose the response you get is, “I’m glad you asked.”  And they proceed to tell you everything that has happened to them. TMI.  They have heard you asking them to fill you in on all the intimate details of their life.  Same words on your part but the message they received is very different.

If you react to your child’s inappropriate behavior by focusing on the child, you may be communicating to them that they are somehow damaged.  The emotion they may begin to embrace is shame.

If your goal is to eliminate the unwanted behavior, then that needs to be the focus of your interaction with the child.

When someone has done something wrong, guilt is an appropriate and adaptive emotion which can, and does, motivate that person to correct the injustice they have committed.

Shame, on the other hand, is an emotion that is difficult to justify, often hard to overcome if it is deeply embraced, and insidious in its potential effects on the self-image of the person who feels damaged,or irreparably flawed.

I welcome your comments.

 

 

 

What to do when it feels like anger but isn’t.

In my most recent Amazon Best Seller Book, Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool, I discuss the Anger Mastery Cycle.

The Anger Mastery Cycle:

By the way, you can download a copy of the Anger Mastery Cycle by scrolling up to the top of the page, looking over to the Right hand side of the page and clicking on the “Anger Mastery Cycle PDF”.

Once you have labelled the emotion you are experiencing as anger and moved into anger management which involves lowering your arousal and creating both physical and psychological distance between you and the perceived threat, you can then move into anger mastery.

You master your anger when you take a moment to assess and validate the nature of the threat.

There are only two options here:

  • You are expressing anger and there is a genuine threat.
  • You are expressing anger but there is no threat.

If the threat is genuine and your initial perception is accurate, you stay angry and you choose how you will respond to the threat.

If you are angry and there is no threat, there are three possibilities:

  1. You have misunderstood or misperceived the situation in which you find yourself
  2. You are using anger as a secondary emotion
  3. You are using anger as an instrumental emotion

If you have misunderstood or misperceived the situation, you can change your thoughts about what the interaction in which you find yourself. When you do this, the anger goes away because there is no threat.  This is what you want to do when your understanding of an interaction changes.

Secondary and Instrumental Anger

This is the real focus of this post.

Both secondary and instrumental anger look like valid anger but do not function as valid anger.  There are at least three reasons for this.

  1. Definition:

Valid anger is an emotion, the function of which is to alert you and prepare you to deal with a threat you believe you can eliminate.

Secondary anger is an emotion that is deployed to substitute for another emotion you would rather not feel

Instrumental anger is deployed as a blunt force instrument designed to manipulate another person into doing what you want them to do.

2. Threat:

With valid anger, there is an observable threat.

With  both secondary and instrumental anger, there may not be an observable threat to your goals, physical integrity, or basic values.

3. Function:

The function of valid anger is to prepare you for battle.

The function of secondary anger is to insulate you from experiencing uncomfortable emotions.

The function of instrumental anger is compensate for inadequate social skills and facilitate you getting your way.

Some explanation:

Anger, by evolutionary design, is a powerful emotion.  This is true in both how we experience anger and in how our anger is experienced by those with whom we interact.

This is the key to understanding secondary and instrumental anger.

Secondary, or substitute, anger.

For men, primarily, emotions such as hurt, anxiety, and guilt are experienced as uncomfortable. With these emotions,  a man can experience himself as vulnerable, exposed and even weak. Vulnerability and exposure, while part of the message of hurt, anxiety and guilt which can be utilized to master these emotions, typically elicits a desire to avoid these uncomfortable emotions. Men are not used to these feelings.

Anger, on the other hand, elicits a feeling of power.  When angry, men are prepared to take on the world and go to war.  In addition, men are socialized to experience and are usually comfortable with anger.

Consequently, a man is motivated to substitute anger for feelings of hurt, anxiety and guilt. Hence, anger as a  secondary emotion.

  • The upside of secondary anger is that a man can avoid uncomfortable feelings.
  • The downside of secondary anger is that it is dishonest and that it prevents its user from dealing with the issues at hand about which the adaptive emotions of hurt, anxiety and guilt are alerting him and attempting to prepare him to address.

Instrumental, dishonest, or manipulative, anger.

Anger, by evolutionary design, prepared us to deal with a survival based threat. We were set up for fight or flight.

Well, “fighting”, which involves confrontation, can take many forms.  We can go to war and physically engage the aggressor. Or, we can display our superior force and hope the aggressor backs off or disengages.

  • You see this in movies where an aggressor assesses the armies of an enemy and decides whether armed aggression will be successful or not.
  • You can see it when you look at videos of “aggressive facial expressions of  pacific islanders”.
  • And,  you can see it in news stories of people backing away from someone on the street who appears to be angry and aggressive.

Anger, with its accompanying facial and physical expressions, communicates the message that you are a formidable and powerful individual who should not be messed with. Our cave dwelling ancestors may have lived to fight another day if their display of anger “convinced” a marauding predator to leave and go somewhere else.

Based on this function of anger, men, more so than women but women as well, can use a display of anger to manipulate another person to change their behavior and conform in order to avoid the wrath of the “angry” person.

Please note that I am not talking about the display of valid anger.  If there is a valid threat, you experience and display anger, and the threat is neutralized, you have mastered your anger. This is honest, or valid, anger.

However, when you are not angry because there is no valid threat and you display anger because you know the other person will submit to you, then you are using anger to manipulate that person. You are using anger as an instrument to accomplish a specific end.  This is dishonest or manipulative anger.

Hence, it is instrumental anger.

Your next step

If your goal is to master your own anger or the anger of another person, the most important question you can ask, in the presence of anger, is this: “What is the perceived threat?”

If you are using anger as secondary or instrumental emotion, it will become clear to you that there either is no significant threat or that you are experiencing an uncomfortable or unfamiliar feeling informing you that an issue you are facing person needs to be addressed.

  • Hurt: Someone has done something that leaves you feeling interpersonally wounded or damaged and you need to address this with them.
  • Anxiety: There is a future possible threat that you need to evaluate and possibly prepare to confront.
  • Guilt: You have done something wrong that you need to take responsibility for and move to address and make right.
  • Manipulation: You are using anger to manipulate another person either because anger seems more efficient in the moment or you lack either the power or the interpersonal skills to interact with this person and facilitate their changing their behavior.

Once you identify your anger that isn’t anger, you can choose to approach the situation in which you find yourself in a different manner.

You might have to acquire some new skill sets to do this.  But, it can be done.

If the secondary or instrumental anger is being displayed by someone elce, questioning the nature of the threat should begin the process of understanding and mastering their anger for your and their benefit.  Just be aware that a man covering up feelings of vulnerability with secondary may not be willing to give up his cover.

I welcome your comments.

 

 

A comprehensive video overview of emotions and emotions theories

I am including this video from YouTube’s Crash Course on Psychology for any of you who might want more indepth information on what emotions are and the psychological theories which attempt to explain them.

Full disclosure:  This is a 10 minute and 50 second video. While the information is quite good, it is somewhat long.  So, if you aren’t really interested in diving this deep into emotions and emotions theory, skip this post and we’ll see you next week.