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.


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.


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


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.


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.

How Healthy Is It to Save Anger?

This is an interesting question that was asked on The question presupposes that anger can be “saved”.

For this to occur, anger would have to be a source of energy like electricity that could be stored or it might be an emotional placeholder that could be held in stasis and returned to at a later date much like a document that is “saved” until it is retrieved to be worked on or utilized in some fashion.

The quick answer is that you can’t save anger and chronic anger is unhealthy.

What actually is anger?

  • Anger is a primary emotion, the function of which is to alert us to and prepare us to deal with a threat we believe we can eliminate if we throw enough force at it.
  • Anger, as an emotion, is a primitive threat detector. This is how anger evolved, how it worked when we lived in caves, and how it continues to operate today.
  • Anger prepares us to go to battle. In “cave days”, all threats were survival based (would kill us) so being revved up for war was necessary, appropriate, and life saving.
  • Today, our threats tend to be psychological so, while it may initially be useful to prepare for battle, studies show that it is counterproductive and even unhealthy to stay in a constant state of anger.
  • Anger is a motivator and, within a specific context, provides us with the energy necessary to confront and overpower a threat.

How does Anger happen and what are its consequences?

The emotion of anger follows a specific cycle.

In my most recent Amazon best selling book Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool, I discuss the Anger Mastery Cycle which starts with the unconscious scanning of your surroundings for threat, going into fight or flight when a threat is perceived, managing your anger by reducing your arousal and creating both a physical and psychological space between you and the “threat” and then mastering your anger by assessing the nature and validity of the “threat” and choosing an effective response.

By the way, you can download a copy of the anger mastery cycle and the first two chapters of my book by scrolling up to the Welcome post.

Secondly, anger prepares your body for war.

Chemicals are injected into your body which heighten your awareness, reduce your unimportant bodily functions such as digestion, and increase the ability of your blood to clot.  If you were facing a saber toothed tiger who wanted to eat you, you would want to be able to focus your attention on the beast, be protected from blood loss, be able to run away from the danger and so forth.  You wouldn’t care about digesting your lunch if you were about to become his lunch. These chemicals also give you the energy to fight off the threat.

It is important to note that many studies have noted that these physical changes when associated with chronic anger can have severe negative impacts on your body. In other words, chronic anger can make you sick.

Thirdly, you cannot “save” anger.

The emotion of anger is situation specific and is elicited when you perceive a threat. There is no organ in the body which stores anger.

Anger is elicited when you subconsciously perceive a threat or you “recreate” that threat in your mind when you dwell on a previous event. While it may seem like you have “saved” your anger, in fact, you generate “new” anger every time you revisit the threat. And, if you generate new anger often enough, it is experienced as chronic.

So, what can you do?

Well, if you perceive a valid threat, you can use the energy of your immediate anger to develop and execute a plan to deal with the threat. This is how you master and deploy your anger as a strategic tool. This assumes that you are in a position to directly deal with the threat.

Sometimes, however, as I discovered when I asked many professional women about anger, it is not always possible to directly deal with a threat. This is because there may be unwanted consequences to the direct expression of appropriate anger or you do not have the status to directly deal with the threat. If this is the case, you use the energy of your anger to plan an indirect approach to the threat. You are strategically using your anger but you are not directly expressing it. This is not the same as suppressing your anger which would involve invalidating it and pushing it down inside of you. Suppressing your anger can have both unwanted physical and psychological consequences.

If you experience chronic anger, I suggest you take some time to really look at the unresolved threat you keep reliving and develop a plan to either deal with it or accept that there is nothing you can do about it, forgive the person who hurt you, and get on with your life. Forgiving, by the way, is not absolving this person of responsibility for their actions. Rather, forgiving another person only means that you psychologically remove yourself from, or let go of, that person rather than carry them around with you in your head every where you go.

I worked with young women, all of whom had been physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused. Forgiving was the only way they could grow psychologically and move on. Again, this is not absolving anyone of responsibility for their actions. Nor, is it forgetting any healthy lessons that one needs to remember from past experiences. Nor, is it putting something in the past and not taking any action in the present to prevent any future actions from taking place. Forgiveness only means that you are no longer negatively impacting yourself regarding a situation you can’t change. If you go to March 2017, in the archives above, you can access a post on forgiveness.

When you forgive another individual, you let go of your anger as there is no immediate threat that you can go to war with and eliminate.  However, as you want to remain alert to any future threat, you could become committed and determined. You may choose to experience the emotion of commitment in that you are determined to never submit yourself to the kinds of threats you experienced in the past.  Determination will motivate you just as much as anger will and it is a more effective and sustainable emotion.

In summary, anger, as an emotion, is situation specific and, while anger energizes and motivates you to fight off a threat, the emotion doesn’t act as a “place holder” and the energy that is generated in your body can’t be saved.

I welcome your comments.

Facts about emotions you didn’t know. Part 4: You create your emotions (and this has implications).

What was your first reaction to the title of this post?

Was it…

“What does it mean that I create my emotions?” This expresses a lack of knowledge.


“My emotions just happen to me. I don’t create them.” While partially correct, this reflects a common myth about emotions.

My goasl with this post are to help you understand both how you create emotions and the responsibilities that you have because you create your emotions and to clear up some common myths.

What does “to create” mean?

I have written two books and, while working with wood is not my best skill, I built shelves from scratch in my garage because I needed more storage space.

I can say that I created the books and the shelves.

Here are two “facts” about the books and the shelves…

  1. I envisioned, designed, and brought into existence the books and the shelf.
  2. As the creator, I am totally responsible for the content of the books and the physical integrity and appearance of the shelves.

While the process of creating emotions is different from books or shelves, the responsibility you have for the emotions you create is the same for any thing you create.

How do you “create” an emotion?

In order to answer this question, you have to understand how the emotional process works.

Here is an overview.

You are constantly scanning your surroundings for threat.  When you perceive a threat, your Amygdala unconsciously prepares you to REACT to the threat.  Almost simultaneously, the thinking part of your brain is alerted which gives you the opportunity to evaluate and RESPOND  to the the threat.  Threats are not always what they initially appear to be. The choices you make determine the emotion you end up expressing.

There are 6 (mad, sad, glad, fear, disgust, and surprise) primary emotions. All of these primary emotions with the exception of glad and surprise function as primitive threat detectors and all have been around since we, as a species, lived in caves or on the Savannah.  The purpose of these threat detectors was, and is, to keep us alive so that we could procreate and insure survival of the species.  While our survival is no longer an issue, these primitive mechanisms continue to function today as they did eons ago.

Incidentally, you are hardwired to constantly scan your surroundings for and react to any threat.

When you perceive a threat, an unconscious message is rapidly sent to the Amygdala in your brain which prepares your body for:

  • battle (so you can confront and overpower the marauders who want to kill you),
  • running away (so that you can escape from your enemies and live another day), or
  • staying in place (freezing so that the saber toothed tiger can’t see you and will move on).

I call this the “fast track” reaction. It is also called the fight or flight response.

You do not control fight or flight. Nor, should you, if your life depends on it.

This unconscious reaction is linked to your very quick (and not always accurate) initial perception of the threat.

You haven’t started to create, yet.

At the same time that your body is reacting to the fast track message from your sense organs, a slower track message goes to the thinking part of your brain, the Cerebral Cortex.

Now,  you start creating.

As soon as you become aware of your emotional reaction, you can choose to assess the nature of the threat and the appropriateness of the emotion.

In other words,

  • how real is the threat,
  • to what extent does your initial emotional reaction fit the situation, and
  • to what extent does the action you were initially motivated to take match the situation in which you find yourself?

If you do nothing, go with your initial emotional reaction and do something you later regret, you, in effect, have chosen to let the initial reactive emotional process proceed.  This is now your emotional response and you are now responsible because you have “created” (by choice) the emotion on which you are acting by doing nothing to change it.

If you take the opportunity to assess your situation and either strengthen the initial emotion (if the threat is valid) or change it (if there is no threat), you are “creating” an emotion and acting on it.

The implication here is that you are always personally responsible for any actions (responses) you take which follow from the emotions you are experiencing. This is true because you are “creating” that emotion by the choices you make after the initial emotional reaction.

It is this personal responsibility that gets denied when someone acts out on their anger and says, “If I had not been angry, I wouldn’t have (x)”or “If I had not been so anxious or nervous, I wouldn’t have (y)”.  Yes, your initial emotional reaction set you up for the action you took and you probably would not have done x if you had not been angry or anxious. This, however, is not the issue.

This is the same as saying that because the forward momentum of your car was taking you directly into the pedestrian in the cross walk ahead of you, the law of physics are responsible for the accident not you. If a child runs into the street in front of you, physics may be responsible.  If you could have assessed your situation and chosen to stop or diverted the car in a different direction, it’s on you.

Not to choose is to choose.

Regarding your emotions, the truth is that you did not assess your situation and the appropriateness of the action you were initially moved to make.  Had you done this, the action you eventually took most likely would have been different.

The point here is that, while you are not responsible for the initial emotional reaction to which your perception is leading you, the slower track message to your cerebral cortex empowers you to  make a decision about how you want to proceed.  This is the point at which you “create” the emotion that elicits your behavior and puts the responsibility for your actions on you.

Emotional mastery suggests that, as soon as you become aware that an emotional reaction is starting in your body, you need to create some physical and psychological distance between you and the perceived threat by taking a step back and a deep breath.  In doing this, you give yourself the time and space to assess what is going on and choose how you want to respond to the situation.

You are responsible for any actions you take and the consequences of those action which occur after the initial emotional reaction.

Accepting this responsibility will give you the motivation you need to learn how to master your emotions by:

  • learning to read your body,
  • knowing the message of each emotion,
  • creating physical and psychological space,
  • assessing the nature of the the threat and
  • choosing an effective response.

All of these specifics are covered in earlier posts and in my two Amazon best selling books:

Emotions as Tools: Control Your Life not Your Feelings

Beyond Anger Management: Master Your Anger as a Strategic Tool

You can download the first two chapters for free without any opt-in by scrolling up to the Welcome  post.

Ignorance is no longer (and probably never was) a justification.

I welcome your comments.



Facts about emotions you probably didn’t know. Part 3: Functions of emotions 6 through 10.

Just to recap, in my last post, I discussed 5 functions of emotions.  What I have called functions are labelled as “aspects”, “values” or “purposes” of emotions by authors Michael A. Jawer and Marc S. Micozzi, M.D., Ph.D. in their book  The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion   from which this list is taken.

The comments on each function are a combination of the two authors and my own take on the specific function being discussed.

6. The Motivational Function: Emotions are a barometer of needs unmet or goals unfulfilled.

This is the very essence of what emotions are.  They are motivators and, by evolutionary “design” prepare us for action and “propel us toward acceptance or rejection of whatever external reality (we) (are) encountering” (The authors).

7. The Ethical function: Emotions facilitate socially acceptable behavior and serve as a powerful reminder when one fails to live up to standards whether held internally or externally.

Emotions such as guilt, shame, pride, and embarrassment appear in our children around the ages of 2 1/2 to 3 1/2.  They appear once the child had the cognitive ability including memory capacity to conceive of himself as a separate being in time and space.  These emotions are called self-conscious emotions.

These emotions alert us to our views of ourselves and our behavior often in the context of our goals (pride), and how we measure up to internal and external standards (guilt, shame, embarrassment).

The message of embarrassment is that we have violated some standard.  The message of guilt is that we have done something wrong which we regret.  The message of shame is that there is something wrong with us as a person.

The ethical function of self-conscious emotions is to alert us to when we have crossed some internal or external line of appropriate behavior and to motivate us to take action to  correct the transgression.

8. The Developmental Function: Emotions are essential to personal development and self-actualization.

The authors note that emotions alert us that we are in the middle of a difficult situation so that we can learn from it much like a fever alerts us that we are fighting off an infection.

9. The Evolutionary Aspect: The emotional feedback loop, which involves the recognition of what we and our fellow individuals are feeling, is the driver of our species’ progress.

As I have noted in my books and my posts, emotions evolved to help us survive as a species.

The authors note that the emotional interaction between human beings      “(drives) our species’ rapid intellectual and cultural development”.

10. The Qualitative Function: In tandem with thinking, emotions determine the quality, value, and, ultimately, the meaning human beings place on their lives.

I teach an Introductory Philosophy Class and one of the topics I cover is what makes each individual unique.  One of the examples I discuss is a man who was very interactive, emotionally expressive and involved with his family and his surroundings.  Following a brain tumor, he was unable to experience emotions.  He would look at a picture of a man emaciated by hunger and note that he was looking at a “very skinny man”. Intellectually, he responded to the picture but he was devoid of emotion.

Emotions add color to our lives. Emotions allow us to experience  an interaction in addition to understanding it.  The technical term for these experiences is qualia.   A physical example of qualia is the difference between knowing about and seeing a red apple and experiencing the essence of a bright red apple.

Your emotions allow to experience many different aspects of an interaction. You go to a lecture. While I can video the lecture and record the content, what you take away from the lecture will be very different if you are bored than if you are excited.  This difference is entirely based on the emotions you experience.  This is qualia.

The authors quote Psychiatrist Elio Frattaroli who states, “The simple act of paying attention to your inner world, to the finely tuned layers and qualities of inner experiencing… crystallizes the core meanings of your life.” (citations noted in the book).

The qualia in your emotions creates your experience.

I welcome your comments.

Facts about emotions you probably didn’t know. Part 2: The Functions of emotions 1 through 5.

There is a book entitled: The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion  by Michael A. Jawer and Marc S. Micozzi, M.D., Ph.D. in which the authors list 10 values of emotions.  The authors refer to these values as “purposes” or “aspects”.  I think a better term in function.

In this post, I discuss purposes 1-5.  I will discuss the values 6-10 in my next post.

Disclaimer: The “functions” are taken from the book. The commentary is a combination of my take on the “function” and the authors.

  1. The Self awareness Function: Emotions enable individuals to discriminate “us versus them”.

When we become aware of our own emotions and those of others, we can use the contrast between what we feel about a situation and what others feel to improve our sense of self and learn about how we are interpreting a situation.

Have you ever had the experience of sitting down to a meal, eating too much, and commenting, “I didn’t realize I was so hungry.”  In this example, you are “learning” about your own internal state by observing your own behavior.

When you experience an emotion and analyze the nature of the perceived threat, you can learn about your own values.

2. The Adaptational Function: Emotions enable the individual to react quickly and expeditiously to changes in his or her environment.

This was, and is, the basic function of emotions.  Emotions evolved as primitive threat detectors to help us survive as a species.  This is the “fast track” process I write about in my books and my posts.

3. The Collectivity Function: Emotions enable individuals to communicate something of importance to one another.

A very important function of emotions is to inform others about how you perceive a situation and give them the opportunity to respond accordingly.

The emotion of anger communicates that you are ready to go to war.  When we lived in caves, or even today, an angry face and body posture clearly says “Back off, I am a force to be reckoned with.”

In the process of mastering your emotions, awareness of this function of emotions lets you both read other people and use other’s reactions to you to help you determine how you want to effectively deal with the interaction in which you find yourself.

4. The Interpersonal Function: Emotions cement bonds between people, especially between parents and children.

The authors note and tone of voice are crucial to the healthy development of an infant.

You also experience this function of emotions when you tell you significant other or your kids that you love them. And, you can see how emotions work when people come together in times of emergencies, shared experiences of mourning or distress or joy. Ever watched a sporting event when the home team scores an important point?

5. The Continuity Function: Emotions are integral to memory and learning.

The authors note that memory and learning is strongly reinforced when accompanied by strong emotion.

There is a concept known a “flashbulb memories”.  A significant event occurs about which you have very strong emotions and the memory including everything about your situation at the time is solidly burned in.  For older readers, like myself, the Assassination of President Kennedy is such an event.  For younger readers, it might be the death of  Princes Diana.  For all of us the 2001 bombing of the the Twin Towers certainly qualifies.

The same phenomenon can occur whenever an event is accompanied by strong feelings.

Functions 6 -10 will be discussed in the next post.

I welcome your comments.

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 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 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.