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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

Holiday rage: Where does it come from and what you can do about it.

This is a republication of a post I originally wrote last year.  I have updated and republished it here because you are most likely in the middle of your “Holiday Season” and this information might be useful to you.

If you think someone else might benefit from it, send them the link.

……

The upside of the holidays is that most of us are in a festive mood with all the decorations, the music, the food, getting together with family, and so forth.

But, there is a darker side of holiday feelings. This darker side can include feelings of extreme anger (or rage), feelings of depression, and so forth.

In this article, I will address holiday rage.

During this season, we may find ourselves scurrying around to do last minute tasks (get somewhere or do something) and someone (or something) wrongly gets in the way and thwarts our efforts to accomplish our goals.

When we in a hurry, we may feel stressed and outside of our comfort zone (the place where things are going along as they should be).  When stressed, the threshold at which we get angry is lowered.

Note the words in italics.  “Scurrying” implies that you are under some pressure and “wrongly” implies that the person or thing that is blocking your goals is doing so intentionally. “as they should be (going)” implies that we are less in control of our and what is happening to us.

Let’s look at each of these “issues” and see how they relate to increased anger.

Scurrying

When you are “scurrying”, you are already in a heightened state of arousal.  In other words, you are on an emotional edge. This sensitizes you to (and amplifies or magnifies) any possible impediment (or threat) to your goals.

This magnification is similar to what happens when you speak into a microphone.  The amplifier attached to the mic takes your voice and makes it louder.

Because you are in a hurry, behind schedule, over-scheduled, late, or just trying to do too much at one time, you are overly focused on your immediate goal and you will tend to perceive anything (or anybody) who gets in the way of your goal as not only a threat but, because of your heightened state of arousal, as a mega threat.

Remember that the message of anger is that you perceive a threat that you believe you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it.

Consequently, you will tend to get very angry and energized to overpower the mega threat which is impeding your completing the task at hand. Notice the implication of the italicized words. The arousal of your hurrying about magnifies your perception of threat and amplifies the arousal of your anger.

The slow line, poorly written instructions, or distracted clerk which under “normal” conditions would elicit a feeling of frustration or mild upset, now elicits extreme anger or rage.

Wrong and intentional.

To see another person’s actions as both wrong and intentional will always push your anger button. In fact, the element of intentionality is a key component of anger that is often overlooked.

As an example.. you are walking down the street and someone forcefully bumps into you.  Your initial reaction might be to “push back”.  If the person apologizes or if the person is visually (or otherwise) impaired, the “bump” is now viewed in a very different context and there is no anger.

Or, if the actions of another are viewed as inappropriate but not as intentionally attempting to hurt or damage you in any way, you might feel annoyed but you don’t escalate into anger.

So, if someone makes you late by intentionally taking your parking place or cutting in line, the inadequate instructions prove that the company doesn’t give a rip or care about you, the end-user, or the distracted clerk is only there for the money, is poorly trained, or would rather be somewhere else, they are a mega-threat and your anger is completely justified to nullify the threat.

Again, notice the implication of the italicized words.

The way things should be..

This implies that you have a model of your world in your head which you may or may not be aware of.

Your model might involve wishful thinking along the lines of “I wish the lines would be shorter.” This is experienced as The lines should be shorter! It isn’t right that the lines are this long! or All these people are making it more difficult for me to get my shopping done!

The discrepancy between your model and reality may be perceived as a threat which can then elicit anger.

So, what can you do about it?

There are four actions you can take:

  1. take a breath
  2. Assess the nature of the threat, your model of the “world” and whether or not a real threat exists.
  3. Think about what could happen if you react in the way you are just about ready to do.
  4. Choose an appropriate response.

Take a breath.

The first step when you are dealing with any of the threat detecting emotions (anger, sadness, fear, disgust, anxiety) is to take a breath. Taking a breath lowers your arousal and gives you some psychological distance between you and the threat.  The few seconds or that you gain give you an opportunity to assess the nature of the threat and your options.

Note: If you are experiencing fear (not anxiety), you always want to escape from the situation.

The second step is to assess the nature of the threat and your model of the world.  Perhaps your model of what should be happening is inaccurate given your timing, the nature of the situation in which you find yourself, and so forth.

Thirdly, think about the the actions you are contemplating doing.  This is really a cost-benefit analysis.

Some examples:

Stolen parking place…

Is it really worth risking an accident to try and get that parking space? Probably not. Yes, it should have been your space but there is no “mega-threat” as you can find another.  What if you stop your car and cuss out the other driver and you get into an argument? Now, not only has a scene been created but you will be delayed even more.

To illustrate this, I remember years ago when I got a speeding ticket and went to driving school.  The instructor made a comparison on the board between speeding and getting a ticket.  He noted that speeding might save me maybe 10 minutes on my arrival.  If I got a ticket, the time it would “cost” me to deal with the cop would be more than the time I would save by speeding.  Other costs included fines (if any) time spend in driving school and so forth.  The cost-benefit analysis of speeding clearly showed that the benefits did not outweigh the costs.

Person cuts in line…

You can say something to the person who cut in line.  However, if you approach this person with all the energy of your heightened arousal, the reaction you get might not be the apology you deserve but an aroused angry over-reaction. Is it worth it to get into an argument when an apology would restore the situation?   Probably not.

Poorly written instructions for the toy you are trying to put together at 11:00 PM…

well, I have been there and done that. And, no, getting angry at the company, the person with inadequate writing skills, or the editor accomplished nothing.  I still had to do the best I could to figure out what I needed so I could build the bicycle and get it under the tree.

I think you get the idea.

If someone directs their anger is at you..

The process is similar to the that outlined above.  The only difference is that when someone directs their anger at you, you need to take a breath to lower your arousal so that you don’t react and, remembering that he sees you as a mega-threat, apologize for any misunderstanding (not for doing something wrong). You can then ask him how you can help to make things right.

The exception to the above is if you feel fear in the presence of someone directing their anger at you.  If this is the case, walk away.

So, my suggestion is that you enjoy all the great feelings that the holiday season elicits and be alert to anger if you experience it.  Master the anger so that it doesn’t escalate and potentially ruin your holiday.

I address the emotion of anger directly in my Amazon best selling book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool.

Have a great holiday and I welcome your comments.

 

Questions to ask when you get angry

I have a neighbor who works in “construction”.  The other day, I was trying to build something in my  garage and my neighbor came over and was watching what I was doing.  After a short while, he commented, “Let me loan you a tool which will make your job easier.”  He did loan me the tool  and the tool simplified my project.

There is always a right tool for the job. If you have it, the job is much easier.  If not, the job doesn’t get done or you improvise.  Have you ever used a shoe as a hammer?  You get the idea.

All of you reading this have a tool available to you that will help you deal more effectively with your own emotions (including anger) and the emotions of other.

That tool is the ability to formulate important and focused questions.

Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of questions.

  1. Questions innately call for answers.

When we ask a question, our brain automatically goes into “answer mode” and seeks the information the question is addressing.

By the way, you can use this link between question and answer to your advantage.  When I was in grad school and a paper was assigned for the next class, my roommate would work on the paper until 12 or  1 o’clock and would then go to bed.  I would stay up until the paper was done.

At 4 or 5 0’clock, he would wake up and type out the paper.  It drove me crazy.  I did not realize until much later that his brain was working on the paper while he slept and all he had to do when he woke up was download the information.

I have used this strategy for years to write articles, speaches and book chapters.   It takes some practice and some faith that it will work, but you can do it.

While it is nice to use our brains and the questions we ask to solve challenges we face and compose articles, there is an underlying element to questions you need to be aware of.

Because the question sets up the parameters of the information or answers you get, you won’t get  quality detailed answers if you ask inadequate questions

Put another way, do you really want to have the information your question is seeking?

Let me give you an example.

Have you ever made a mistake and asked yourself: “How could I  be so stupid (emphasis added)?”  Do you really want to know about your (implied) stupidity?   Probably not.

Or, do you really want to know: What can I do to prevent a similar (mistake) in the future?

2. It is important to note that nearly all the behavior we observe in others or in ourselves is an implicit (or unasked) answer to an (often) unacknowledged question.

As an example, when you get angry and lash out at someone, the implicit question is: “What do I need to do to eliminate the threat that is facing me?”  Your actions are your answer to that question.

The questions you ask and the words you use will have an impact on the emotional response you get to the question.

As an example, in response to someone’s inappropriate behavior toward you, is there a different response to the question, “What is his problem?” verses “What is he trying to accomplish here and what are the challenges  he is facing?”

I think you get the idea.

In seeking to resolve conflicts involving anger, the goal is to, as much as possible, adopt a nonbiased, non-defensive, solution-seeking mindset.

With this orientation, you can formulate questions designed to help you gain a better understanding of what is eliciting (not causing) your anger, gain some insight into your behaviorial response and its effectiveness, and create an outlook which can facilitate a successful (win/win) resolution to the interaction between you and another person and improve your relationship with that person.

This approach is also effective if you are dealing with someone elce’s anger.

Questions leading up to your own anger

  • What is the nature of the threat?
  • How valid is my perception of threat?
  • What assumptions am I making about the other person and might they be inaccurate?
  • How else could I think about this situation?
  • Will the action I am motivated to take by the emotion I’m experiencing deal with the threat or am I, perhaps, over or underreacting to the threat?
  • What response can I choose to take to adaptively deal with the perceived threat?

Questions after your anger is displayed?

  • How effective was my display of anger in dealing with the threat?
  • Did I get the response I was expecting?
  • Was my anger appropriate for the situation?
  • What went right with my anger?
  • What went wrong?
  • Did I misperceive the nature of the threat?
  • Did I miscalculate the amount of force you needed to deal with the threat?
  • Was my message misunderstood, misinterpreted or ignored?
  • What can I do differently to get a more adaptive response to my anger?

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.

Some relevant questions to gain understanding.

  • What is the nature of the threat that he perceived as he interacted with me?
  • Did he correctly interpret something I did?
  • Did he misunderstand what I was 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?

When you ask the right question, you are more likely to get an answer which will lead to an effective response that will help you address the perceived threat.  The anger you experience will then be resolved and will no longer be needed.

I welcome your comments.

My wide ranging and informative interview on anger.

This is a link to a podcast I did with Linda Wattley on The Truth Will Set You Free channel.

It is entertaining, informative and covers a lot of topics involving anger.

I hope you will click on over there, enjoy the 50 minute interview and leave a comment.

TLBTV: The Truth Will Set You Free – Let’s Talk About Anger America!

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.