Facts about emotions you probably didn’t know. Part 1: Some emotions have a “flipside”.

In all of my posts, I talk about mastering emotions and strategically deploying feelings (remember that feelings and emotions are the same) to improve your life and your relationships.

You master an emotion when you understand the emotional process, validate your specific feeling, give yourself both physical and psychological distance from the threat, analyze the nature of the threat, and choose a response.

If the threat is valid, you use the energy of the emotion as motivation to effectively deal with the threat.

All of this is very good information, but there is something I haven’t told you about emotions…

I want to introduce you to a different way to understand some of your feelings.  Emotions such as anxiety and anger, which may be experienced as hedonically negative and which focus on a threat to be eliminated have a flipside which has a similar message to the original feeling and provides motivation but which transmutes the original feeling into a hedonically positive emotion and focuses on creating a desired outcome rather than eliminating an unwanted outcome.

Think of the two sides of a coin.

  • On one side, you have “heads” and on the other side you have “tails”.
  • The two sides, while different, are not opposites.
  • There is no positive side and there is no negative side.
  • They are two sides of the same coin.

Now, let’s think of emotions. Each emotion…

  • conveys a message about how you perceive the situation in which you find yourself.
  • prepares your body to “deal” with the situation as you perceive it to be
  • can be mastered when you learn how to read the message and strategically deploy the energy of the emotion to the situation.
  • like a coin is neither positive nor negative.

Two widely experienced emotions and their “flipsides”.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a future based emotion the message of which is: There might be a threat out there which could be harmful to me.

Anxiety is an early warning emotion which alerts us to a possible upcoming event. Because anxiety is hedonically experienced as negative or uncomfortable, it motivates us both to choose how we might deal with with the threat and to take action. Note that anxiety, per se, is not negative (there are no negative emotions) but it is experienced as negative as you would want it to be.

Anxiety can become toxic and debilitating if..

  1. you can’t easily identify the nature of the possible threat you think you perceive.
  2. you can identify the possible threat but do not believe you can do anything about it
  3. you procrastinate and do not use the “warning” as a motivator to prepare for action
  4. you deny the validity of the warning

In all of these examples, anxiety can be labelled as distress.   Anxiety in this form is debilitating and will tie you up in knots. Another word for anxiety in this form is stress.  When chronic, stress can harm you physically. By the way, this is the anxiety that most people experience and want desperately to avoid.

If you choose to listen to the warning, use the energy of anxiety as motivation to take effective action, then your anxiety become eustress.

This is what happens when my students get anxious (nervous) about an upcoming exam and get motivated to study.

The “flipside” of anxiety.

Very few writers talk about the flipside of anxiety.  But it exists.

The flipside of anxiety is an emotion that is.

  • future oriented
  • hedonically pleasant to experience
  • prepares you to look forward to a desirable future and take whatever action you need to insure that this future occurs.

This emotion is called anticipation or desire.

The energy of anticipation is the same as that of anxiety and, therefore, is just as motivating. However, you are upbeat, sitting on the edge of your chair waiting for the specific event to occur, and you are motivated to engage with and facilitate the desired future.

So, let’s look at an upcoming exam.

The good student notes the scheduled exam and gets anxious.

Choosing to master his (or her) anxiety, he heeds the warning of his anxiety as eustress and uses the energy of the emotion as motivation to study. The exam is still a “threat” and he is using his anxiety to prepare so as to eliminate the threat.

Doing all that he can, he knows he is prepared. He can now engage the flipside of anxiety and can effectively anticipate doing well on the exam.  If there is any residual concern about what might be on the test, and there might be, it is diminished.

You don’t need to experience anxiety to engage anticipation.  Whenever you are looking forward to an event such as Christmas, the arrival of a friend, taking a trip, you engage anticipation.

Anger

Anger is an in the moment emotion, the message of which is that you perceive a threat that you believe you can eliminate if you throw enough force at it.  You are prepared for battle and believe that when you engage the threat, you will be victorious.  The threat can be to your values, your family, your sense of right and wrong, your goals and so forth.

My second Amazon Best Seller book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool specifically focuses on the emotion of anger.

The flip side of anger is the emotion of determination.  When you are determined to do something, you focus on the task or process at hand and you are highly motivated to succeed and get the task completed.  It is the same energy that you experience with anger but there is no threat.

To put it another way…

Anger prepares you for battle.  Determination prepares for engagement.

Anger is certainly energizing but it doesn’t always feel hedonically positive.  Determination is both energizing and experienced as hedonically positive.

Chronic anger can be physically harmful. “Chronic” determination can make you successful.

I welcome your comments.

 

 

Tips for Parenting an Angry Child- my two cents

A recent LinkedIn Post highlighted the following post “Tips for Parenting an Angry Child” .

The Philippi Center website recommends to parents who are attempting to deal with an angry child to 1. Take a break, 2.Model appropriate expressions of anger, 3. Practice empathy and 4. Get help.

While these suggestions are good, the Emotions as Tools Model and Anger Mastery Approach add additional information that can help frustrated parents master their own and their children’s anger.

Take a Break

As I discuss in my book Beyond Anger Management:Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool, once you become aware of your anger and how you are about to react, your best option is to manage your anger by creating some “space” between you and your angry child.  You do this by taking a step back from your child (create physical space) and taking a deep breath to lower your arousal level (create psychological space).  Physical space prevents from doing something you later regret and psychological space enables you to assess what is actually going on between you and your child.

Practice Anger Mastery

When you “practice anger mastery”, you are “model(ling) appropriate expressions of anger and “practic(ing) empathy”. I am just going into more detail and coming at the topic from a different point of view.

Using the space you created by managing your anger, your next steps in mastering your anger are to assess the nature of the perceived threat and choose a response.

There are two perceived threats in your interaction with your child.

The first is the threat that you perceive in your child directing all this anger at you.

It is important to acknowledge that you may react with your own anger to an angry child.

The threat you might perceive could be to some goal you are trying to accomplish that is being impeded by your angry child, your belief (conscious or unconscious) that your child’s anger is challenging your authority as the parent, your sense of vulnerability because you are not sure how to deal with the child’s anger or calm your child down and so forth.

The second is the threat that the child perceives in the situation that is eliciting (not causing) his (or her) anger.

Remember that the message of anger is that a threat is perceived that the anger person believes they can eliminate by throwing enough force at it.  While this is easier to see in an adult, your child’s crying, yelling, fussing, or throwing a tantrum (or something else) is a show of force.  He may not think about overpowering you but he is upset that something he thinks should be happening is not happening and his anger is his attempt to show his frustration and change the situation.  Whether he is aware of this is not the issue at this point.

The response you choose should match the nature of the threat.

In the case of your own anger, your response should be to validate your own anger by acknowledging your anger and the “threat” that you perceive and then switch your attention from yourself to the child.

This does not mean that you ignore your anger.  It only means that your child needs some adult attention right now and you are the parent. You can attend to your needs later.

This where your “empathy” comes in.

Remember that the anger you see is your child’s best attempt to resolve his discontent, discomfort or disbelief.  It is not the best that can be done in the situation…. Only, his best.

So, talk to him and try to find out what the issue is for him that is eliciting the anger.

Note: Ask him “You look angry.  What are you angry about?” Do not ask him “Why are you angry?” Please click on over to September 2016 archives for my post talking about the difference between “What”and “Why” questions.

Once you have a good idea of the issue, you can choose a response including (when appropriate):

  • Resolving the issue by giving in.
  • Distracting his attention away from the specific issue
  • Helping him to gain an understanding (at his level) of what is going on
  • Giving him a hug and comfort him
  • Ignoring his anger and maintaining the status quo
  • Seeking help from someone with more experience than you have.

When you have mastered your own anger and attempted to help your child with his (or her) anger, you have done the best you can do.  Later, you can reflect back and assess whether the action you took was effective or not and learn from your experience what to do next time.

I can assure you that there will be a “next time”.

I welcome your comments.

Easy access to all posts now available.

In order to make it easier for you, my readers, to access all of my previous posts, I have put together and published an index to all my posts.

Here is what you need to do…

  • You can access the index by scrolling up to the top of this page and clicking the index tap in the upper right corner.
  • This will open up to a page with the index.
  • Click on the index and you will see all of my previous posts with the month that post was printed.
  • Go to the right side of the home page where all of the posts are archived by month and click on that month.
  • This will take you to the page with the post you are seeking.
  • You may have to scroll down a bit but the post will be there.
  • Thank you for being a loyal reader.
  • Please let everyone you know who might be interested in the material I write about each week and let them know the index exists.

I will keep the index updated.

All the best,

Ed

Ed Daube, Ph.D.,  The Emotions Doctor

Jealousy and Envy: They are not the same.

Scenario #1

You and your significant other are out on a date or at an event and another person talks to, makes eye contact with, or otherwise engages your significant other and you have a very strong feeling.

Scenario #2

You observe that your friend, a co-worker, or even a stranger, owns something, has something, or even has options you don’t have and you experience a very strong feeling.

Scenario #1

In scenario #1, the issue is that you perceive a threat to your relationship with your significant other. At least two feelings are possible.

Or, some combination of both.

The goal regarding all emotions is to master them so that you can improve your life and your relationships.

Anger:

If you believe that the threat is to your view of right and wrong and the way things “should” be, or your sense of security, and you are ready to go to war to make things right, then the feeling you most likely are exclusively experiencing is anger.

Mastering Anger

I have discussed mastering anger in my book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool and in numerous posts on this blog. You can download the first two chapter of the book by scrolling up to the Welcome post.

Anger can also be experienced along with a second feeling.

Jealousy:

If you believe that your relationship with your significant other is threatened because your significant other is attracted to the person with whom they are interacting, then you most likely are experiencing jealousy. Jealousy always involves a third party and the message of jealousy is “I have something that I think you want, that I think you are coming after and that you might take from me”.

The other side of Jealousy is that your significant other may be interested in someone else because there is something wrong with you. So, along with jealousy, you might be experiencing, inadequacy, self-doubt, embarrassment, uncertainty and/or insecurity.

Mastering Jealousy

You master jealousy when you use the energy of your emotion to:

  • validate the feeling in yourself
  • understand that there may be some areas of your relationship with your significant other that you need to reexamine
  • engage in a conversation with your significant other about your feelings and their understanding of the nature of the relationship between the two of you and between them and the third party.

Scenario #2:

In scenario #2, the issue is that another person has something, or some ability, that you wish you had. There is no threat.

Envy:

The emotion you experience is envy.

The core message of envy is “I want what you have”.

Envy can be experienced as a painful emotion.  When this is the case, you have  taken the focus of your attention from the advantages enjoyed by another and focused it on yourself.

You have added feelings of inadequacy, self-contempt, shame, or inferiority. The message here is “I don’t measure up or have what he (or she) has  which means there is something wrong with me.

Mastering Envy

You master envy when you use the energy of your emotion to:

  • validate, or accept, the feeling in yourself,
  • take a comprehensive look at what it is you are envious about in that other person,
  • decide how important it is for you to emulate that person or obtain what they have,

and, if it is important,

  • make a plan to do what is required to acquire the skill, or obtain the desired item.

In this post, I have addressed the emotions of jealousy and envy.

I welcome your comments.

 

 

 

How can I control my words when I am angry?

This post is based on an answer I posted on Quora.com to this question. While the question addresses (angry) words, the same advice applies to unwanted or inappropriate (angry) actions.

In my answer to an earlier question, I noted that the message of anger is that you perceive a threat to some VITAL aspect of your life that you believe you can eliminate if you throw enough power at it.

I also noted that the body’s anger initial reaction to any perceived threat is to go on “red alert” and prepare for battle. In your case, your “angry words” are your battle plan.

As it turn out, there is a slight time delay between the message that goes to the amygdala which prepares you to react to the threat and the message to the cerebral cortex which allows you to decided what to do about the threat.

It is this time delay that you can learn to use to your advantage.

Regarding anger, most writers talk about anger management.  I believe that anger should be mastered (strategically applied to remedy the situation which elicits the anger) rather than managed as “management” implies primarily “control”.  While mastering anger does, initially, involve controlling one’s physical and psychological reactions to anger as the anger management approach teaches, anger mastery teaches you to validate the anger, assess the nature of the threat, and match your response to the level of that threat.

The angry words to which you refer are usually your first reaction to the threatening situation you perceive.  You want to defend yourself and lash out.

Anger mastery always recommends controlling this reaction as it may or may not be appropriate to the situation once you have assessed what is actually taking place.

If the best you are capable of doing for now is controlling your anger and your behavior, then “bite your tongue” (figuratively, not actually), force yourself to keep quiet or walk away.  This is better than cussing out your boss or getting yourself in trouble with friends and loved ones.

Anger mastery can be learned but it takes time.

With this in mind, there are three components to mastering your anger and the behavior you engage in when angry.

The first component involves the cerebral cortex (the thinking part of your brain)

In order to give yourself a few seconds to think about your situation and make a decision, you have to reduce your level of arousal and give yourself some space between you and the threat.

This is the basis of taking a physical step backwards, taking a deep breath, and counting to 10.

While this is easy advice to give (and it is accurate), it isn’t always easy to do in the heat of the moment.

So, it is important for you to prepare yourself to take a deep breath before you get angry.  You can do this by thinking about the situations  which “push your anger button” and imagining yourself taking a deep breath in that situation.

You can also think about where, in your body, you experience anger. Do your muscles tense up? Do you get a warm sensation somewhere, etc.

Knowing how your body alerts you to anger gives you some additional warning time.

If the above sounds strange to you, I understand.  Do the best you can.

With practice, you will be able to anticipate your anger and reduce your arousal just enough in the situation to stop yourself before you react.

The second component is to evaluate the nature of the threat.

If the threat is to a vital goal, a critical belief, to your family or your reputation, you will need to take action. But, you will learn to respond rather than react.

If the threat is to your ego, some less important aspect or your life, or is, in fact, not a threat at all, you may not have to take any action at all.

The third component involves deciding what  you will do about the threat.

Based on your evaluation of the nature of the threat, you can make a plan involving what you will do to resolve the threat.

Rarely, in the case of anger, does action have to be taken “right now”.  In the vast majority of cases, you can take a few moments, reduce your arousal (count to 100 if you have to or take a couple of deep breaths), and then choose how you will RESPOND to the situation.

In summary, to manage your anger rather than control it, remember the following”:

1. You always have some time to choose a response

2. The message of anger is that you perceive a threat you believe, on some level, that you have the ability to eliminate.

3. Think about what kinds of situations “push your anger button” and become aware of how your body alerts you to your anger.

4. Practice in your imagination, reducing your arousal in these situations.

5. Take a moment in the anger eliciting (not causing) situation to evaluate the nature of the threat.  Your first perception of the situation is not always accurate.

6. Based on your evaluation in the moment, choose how you will respond, and do what you decide.

7. Practice the above in your imagination as best you can and implement it as needed.

I welcome your comments.

What should a teenager know about emotions before entering adulthood?

There are many important lessons a teenager should learn before entering into adulthood including issues related to being responsible and accountable,  time and money management, how to interact with adults in different situations including job interviews, and so forth.  

My comments below are only directed to knowing about emotions, are not comprehensive, and are only intended to be a general overview.

The lesson: Know what your emotions are and how to use them as tools.

  • Emotions are tools, just like your cell phone, that you can learn to effectively use to your advantage. They may hurt like hell when you experience them but they are just tools.
  • Just like a computer game in which you must find a “secret” doorway to the next level, the “secret” to each emotion is the message it tells you about how you are interpreting the situation in which you find yourself. When you understand the message, you can move to the next level and master the emotion by choosing how you want to respond to the situation.
  • Know that you create all of your feelings by the thoughts you have about the situation you are in.
  • Others do not make you mad, anxious, guilty, shy, etc.
  • You are responsible for what you feel and, equally as important, for the actions you take  based on your emotions.
  • There are no negative emotions.  Some emotions hurt when you experience them but all emotions can be useful in helping you interact better with your environment.

 The message of the two most common emotions that you might have difficulty with and how to use them as tools are as follows:

Anger: The secret message of your anger is that you perceive a threat that you believe you can eliminate if I throw enough power at it. Anger prepares you for battle.

Remind yourself that just because you perceive a threat, it doesn’t mean there is a threat.  You have to think about what is going on and “analyze” the nature of the threat.

Take a deep breath and DECIDE if the threat is sufficiently important (to life, values, critical goals)  for you to take EFFECTIVE (Doing something that resolves the issue without hurting yourself or someone else.) action to eliminate the threat.

If action is needed, CHOOSE an appropriate response.

The meaning of “appropriate” is that you should choose an action that will resolve the “threat” you face without doing unnecessary harm to you or the other person.   In other words, starting a conversation, and expressing your concerns, taking assertive action or walking away are different from starting a fight. You can always defend yourself physically if you have no other choice.

Beating up your girlfriend or cussing out your boss, parent or teacher is not acceptable.

Understand that, if you are male, anger may be substituted for other feelings because anger is energizing and empowering.  If you are female, you may be criticized for expressing anger. You may choose a different way to express but do not eliminate or suppress the feeling.

Anxiety: Anxiety is a future based emotion.  The secret message of anxiety is that you believe a threat MAY exist and that it MAY do you harm.

Evaluate the threat and the possible risk.

If your anxiety is telling you that you need to take action (If I don’t study, I will fail the exam.),  use the energy of the anxiety to motivate you to take effective action.

If you decide that you can survive the threat (I may not get the job if I interview but I will be okay.)  or  (Susie may reject me if I ask her out and it will really hurt but I will be okay.), take the action in spite of the feeling, deal with the outcome, and learn a lesson about how you can improve next time.

If you decide that there is no real threat and that you have misunderstood what is going on, remind yourself to “let it go” and move on.

Always remember that you are not alone and seek an adult you feel you can trust to ask for some help.

Learning how to master your emotions is the same as learning anything else like riding a bike, playing a sport, or getting to the highest level in your computer game.  It may be hard at first but it gets easier the more you do it.

I welcome your comments.

The Anger Cycle-“CliffsNotes” style

When I attended UC Berkeley, way back in the day, if you wanted a quick overview of a book or a specific topic, you could buy the CliffsNotes version.  This would give you all the important information about the topic and would save you a bunch of time.  If you wanted or needed more indepth knowledge, you could always go to the original source material.

In my most recent Amazon best seller book Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool, I discuss the Anger Mastery Cycle in detail.  You can get a PDF of the Cycle by scrolling up to the Welcome Post and downloading it.

That being said, for any reader who would like it, here is the CliffsNotes version of the Anger Cycle.

Anger starts as a perception which gives rise to a feeling which elicits a reaction which is reinforced by an explanation which becomes a response.

Anger: This is the label we put on the emotion we experience.

Perception: By evolutionary design, we subconsciously scan our surroundings for any threat.  In caveman times, this was a specific survival mechanism as all threats would kill us.  Today, the scanning is the same but the nature of the threat has changed from a survival threat to a psychological threat.

Feeling:  This refers to the “sensations” you experience.  These sensations are matched to the threat you perceive and involve your body and your thoughts. Anger energizes you and prepares you for battle.

Reaction: This is the initial action you want to take to eliminate the perceived threat. The reaction is behavioral and not necessarily well thought out.

If the threat is not valid, your reaction will be seen as excessive.

Explanation:  This is the justification you give yourself about your feeling and your behavior which reinforces both the perception of threat and the actions you want to take to eliminate that threat.

When you master your anger, you take a step back from the threat and analyze what is really going on and adjust your explanation accordingly.

Response:  This is action you finally choose to take.

If you have evaluated the nature of the threat, your response will be valid for the situation and will include only the amount of force needed to eliminate the threat.  If there is no valid threat, there will be no aggressive force.

Again, as a reminder, you can download a PDF of the complete anger mastery cycle by scrolling up to the Welcome post.  You can also download the first two chapters of both of my Amazon bestselling books in the same post.

I welcome your comments.

The Golden, Platinum and Bronze Rules: Working with Others and Dealing with Yourself.

Working with others:

All of us are familiar with the Golden Rule which says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

This is an interpersonal rule from an intrapersonal perspective.

The problem with the Golden Rule is that it starts with you as the focus.  As long as everyone is the same as you, this Rule works and gives you very good guidance.

However, as  each of us is unique as an individual, the Platinum Rule teaches us to “Do unto others as they would like to be done unto.”  Steven Covey offers the same advice in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  where he says, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”  The point here is that, in effectively dealing with others, we need to understand their point of view and gauge our interactions accordingly.

This is purely an interpersonal perspective.

While the Golden Rule might work when you are dealing with people who may be just like you, deploying the Patinum Rule will probably be more effective and work in more diverse settings.

Dealing with yourself..

 

Let me ask you a question I asked my students in my Personal Growth Class..

If other people said to you the same things you say to yourself about you, how long would you tolerate it?

When I ask my students this question, the answer is always “Not very long.” And yet, we tolerate it when it comes from ourselves.

Most of us tend to be very hard on ourselves when we make mistakes or when our lives are not going the way we would like them to go.  In other words, we tend to be very unforgiving when we are criticizing ourselves, trying to correct our own behavior, or just rehashing all the errors we have made in our lives.

I would like to propose a Bronze Rule to help you deal with your own issues.

The Bronze Rule says “Do unto you as you do unto others.”

The point here is that, in general, we all tend to be our worst critics. This wouldn’t be so bad, by itself, except that when you tell yourself something, you tend to believe it without question.  You do not apply the same filters to your own self-talk that you do to the comments others make about you.

When an associate, your kids, or a friend make a mistake, you probably attempt to understand them, give them the “benefit of the doubt”, offer some reassuring comment, or attempt to be supportive in some way.  I am not saying that you avoid holding them accountable.  I am only saying the the way you deliver your message may be couched in “warm fuzzies” rather than prickly thorns.

When your self-talk is directed at you, however, it is often “no holds barred”.

So, the Bronze Rule reminds you to implement some self-compassion when you are addressing your own issues.

When you are being hyper self-critical, stop, take a breath, and ask yourself how valid the criticism is, are you being overly harsh, is there another way to look at your situation, and so forth.

I am not saying that you should let yourself off the hook, so to speak, or that you should be too easy on yourself.  I am only saying that you should give yourself the same consideration and compassion you give others when they make a mistake or mess up.

I welcome your comments.

There is no such thing as an “anger problem”.

There is no such thing as an “anger problem”.

Following a recent college class I teach in which I discuss what emotions are and how mastering them is a key element of critical thinking, a student came up to me and volunteered, “I have an anger problem.”

When I asked him to explain, he noted, “When I get angry (emphasis added), I tend to (do inappropriate things).”

The things he does, when angry, get him in trouble, ruin relationships, or result in other issues he has to apologize for, and so forth.

You might think you have an “an anger problem” or that someone you know has an “anger problem”.

As I’ve written in many different places, the statement “I (or you) have an anger problem.” seems to make sense and to convey a statement of fact.

However……

At its best, what my student said tells me little about what may be going on with him.

At its worst, his statement is misleading and, potentially, harmful.

I see TWO problematic issues with his claim that he has an “anger problem”.

First of all, there are the facts about his situation and his anger.

His statement clearly identifies  the emotion of anger as the issue that needs to be resolved.  In other words, the anger, per se, is the cause of the challenges facing my student and it is the anger that needs to be fixed.

Other then noting that he has the “problem”, my student’s statement seems to eliminate himself as an issue. It is the same as if he said, “I have a cold.”

“I have an anger problem.” does not focus any attention on himself as part of the “problem”. Nor does it acknowledge the real “problems” facing my student.

These “problems” include, but are not limited to:

  • his tendency to inappropriately react when he gets angry,
  • his tendency to perceive another person, their actions, or their words as a threat when no threat may exist,
  • his low levels of emotional intelligence, and
  • his failure to assess the nature of the threat he perceives so that he can choose an appropriate response to what is going on.

In other words, he experiences complications with others because of:

  • his thinking about the situation he faces,
  • his tendency to react rather than respond to what is going on, and
  • the actions he takes when angry.

These are the factors that are at the heart of the consequences he elicits when angry and not his anger, per se.

His statement is misleading because, my student, his thoughts, his decisions, and the actions he takes are the “problem”.

Anger is never the problem.

Secondly, there are the psychological implications.

By “blaming” the anger as the problem, my student can avoid taking responsibility for his actions.  You see a similar situation with the celebrity who abuses his significant other and says “My anger made me do it.”or “If I wasn’t angry, I would not have done it.”  While it is most likely true that he would not have done it if he weren’t angry, his anger did not force him to do what he did.

If someone says that he ate too much because he was hungry, we don’t let him off the hook for violating his diet.

We say, “You are right, you were hungry so you ate. But, it was your choice to take that extra piece of pie.”

What my student  “sees” in a given interaction is that something happens (point Alpha), he gets angry and does something he later regrets.  He concludes that he has an “anger problem (point Omega).

Here is the process of getting from Alpha to Omega…

  • Someone does something. (Alpha)
  • He interprets their actions as a threat to his goals, values, basic beliefs, or opinion about the way things should be and he believes that he is more powerful than they are.
  • His Amydala picks up the interpretation and prepares his body for war.
  • He does not evaluate the situation but react as if the threat is real.
  • He takes action to eliminate it.
  • He does not  get the result he expected.
  • He blames the anger. (Omega)

His statement is potentially harmful because it directs his attention away from himself and his need for help to learn new skill.

Here is the solution to my student’s “problem”.

Anger management classes will teach him to calm himself down and prevent himself from taking action.

This is good as far as it goes but is often ineffective because it does not alter the problematic issue which is his thinking.

In my opinion, he needs to learn to master his anger.

The Anger mastery approach teaches that we need to start by taking a breath and a physical step away from the “threat” (anger management). Then we need to engage in the V.E.M.A process.

The V in VEMA stands for validate.  We validate our anger by acknowledging that we are angry.  By itself, this makes the anger a conscious response rather than an unconscious reaction.

The E in VEMA stands for examine.  The  next step is to examine the threat and decide whether it is valid and, indeed, a threat.  Perhapts, we have misunderstood what is going on and no threat exists.  We may have to ask some questions here to gain more knowledge about the person with whom we are interacting and their motivations.

The M in VEMA stands for motivation.  Based on our examination, we can decide what action we want to take and use the energy of our anger to push us forward.  This action can involve anything from a conversation to an apology or to aggression depending on the nature and urgency of the threat.

The A in VEMA stands for taking the action we have chosen.

Once we acknowledge that our thinking and not our anger is the “cause” of our actions, we no longer have an “anger problem”.  We are then empowered to initiate the VEMA process whenever we get angry.

While this is difficult to do, it is doable with practice.

You can download the first two chapters of my recent Amazon best selling book: Beyond Anger Management Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool by scrolling up to the “Welcome” post above.

I welcome your comments.