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BEING A WISE FRIEND TO YOUR ANGRY SELF, PART 2

In my last post, I discussed BEING A WISE FRIEND TO YOUR ANGRY SELF.

Illustration by Deanna Martinez

I received some nice comments from people who found the suggestions helpful.  Thanks!

For some, the suggestions that I put forth on this blog are easy to carry out in real life situations.  For others, old habits that have been used in anger- arousing situations for years are not so easily changed.  This is true even when people become convinced that the new style makes sense.  After a few tries at using the new style and finding that the attempts come off as clumsy, many people may decide that the new style is just not “natural” for them.  They feel that their effort to change is really an effort to suppress their “natural” style, and suppression is not healthy.

The association of anger suppression with learning new skills to deal with anger is understandable, for when one has spent many years acting one way, learning alternative behaviors can be frustrating.  This uncomfortable sensation may be seen as the suppression of one’s “natural” mode of behavior.  It’s a similar experience to how actors might feel when first learning a new role or golfers a new swing.  At first the skill to be learned feels awkward and the early phase of learning can leave them to observe their heart racing and their blood pressure skyrocketing.

Illustration by Eric Sailer

To take a particularly vivid example, consider what happens when human beings have to go to empty their bowels.  When they are first born, they just empty their bowels anywhere.  No one that I know buys the argument that releasing your bowels whenever you feel like doing it is the natural way to live, and that suppressing the urge to release your bowel movements would be unhealthy.  Most of us now understand that when people feel the urge, they can learn to excuse themselves in a pleasant manner and then wait a bit until they get to a more private place to do this type of business.  No real damage is done if we can get to a bathroom in a reasonable period of time.

It is similar with anger.  To not wait until you get to a private place will end up leaving you in a nasty smelling, icky situation that would not be at all in your own best interest or in the interest of others you happen to be with.

Taking the time to calm yourself in the manner suggested in last week’s blog can work, but for most people, it takes practice.  By designing a program in small incremental steps and heeding the suggestions I will be making on this blog, the feeling of suppressing one’s natural behavior can be largely reduced or even completely eliminated.

First of all, Expect Missteps.

By studying the posts on this blog, it is likely that several situations will occur that you now find yourself handling much better than before.  If the response by others you are engaged with ends up being favorable, this will encourage you to utilize the same approach again and again until it begins to feel natural, that is, second nature to you.  Other skills will come off a bit awkward or you will get a less than favorable response, and you may experience frustration.  When you try the skill again, you may now feel unsure and your effort may lead you to interpret this as suppressing a more “natural” way to respond.  You may therefore give up and conclude that you are helpless to make a meaningful change in this type of skill.

A big part of the solution to this problem is to reread the section that discusses the skill, and then practice over and over in your mind a narrative that has you envisioning utilizing the skill.  When you can smoothly imagine in detail carrying out the skill, try it out again in real life.  You may have to do this a few times until you get it right.

Today, I will provide a little fun practice session to help to better learn the skill of being a wise friend to your angry self.

You and your Friend, Eric

Illustration by Deanna Martinez

You and your friend, Eric, are discussing the upcoming election.  Eric explains why he intends to vote for someone in the upcoming presidential election you believe would do an awful job.  After the discussion has gone on for awhile, eventually it becomes clear to you that neither of you are going to change your opinions.

It’s at this point that you feel your anger toward Eric rising up within you.  Before reading on, spend some time thinking about what you would now do. 

After thinking about this, consider trying to come up with a charming way to say to Eric you’d like to take some time to think about the discussion you have both been having and then leading the discussion on to another topic.  Envision in your mind exactly what you would say, and how you would say it.

Illustration by Deanna Martinez

After you have thought about this, see if your response includes summarizing for Eric his main points.  Then a smile, perhaps a good-nature pat on the back of Eric’s shoulder, and then a comment like, “Well Eric, by now you know my opinion about this and I certainly know yours.  We obviously disagree.  Nevertheless, I’m still very fond of you.”  Finally, a comment by you that indicates your willingness to continue the conversation after you had some time to reflect on what has already been said.

It is now later in the day.  You recall the conversation with Eric and anger rises up within you.  Think about what you would do to deal with this.

After thinking about this, reread last week’s post and compare and contrast it with what you came up with.  Practice this exercise until you can,

1. envision in your mind very quickly and smoothly coming up with a charming way to disengage with Eric;

2. describe how you wish to respond to your anger when it flares up after you leave Eric for the day.

When you can do this three times without using any notes, you will find that the next time a similar situation comes up, you will be able to handle it far better than you thought possible.
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Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.

 

BEING A WISE FRIEND TO YOUR ANGRY SELF, PART 1
ANGER, RUMINATIONS AND MEDITATION

About the Author

Jeffrey Rubin grew up in Brooklyn, received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and has taught conflict resolution there as well as at a psychiatric clinic, a correctional facility and a number of public schools. He has published articles on anger and conflict resolution and has authored three novels.

2 Comments

  1. Perhaps with all due respect, I might add that if you need a break to let things calm down, the other person might feel a bit muzzled or isolated. I think it is important to also say, “let’s take a break and think about this and come back in [specified length of time] and DO just that… I think it is important to validating their anger while also respecting your own boundaries and need to withdraw and calm. Just an opinion.

    • Hi Melinda,
      I like the way you are thinking about this. Your concern about how the other person might feel is vitally important. At the point when you have decided that you are getting angry and therefore think it is best to take a break, you propose saying something like “let’s take a break and think about this and come back in [specified length of time].” That makes sense to me. I think it would help us to do this in a caring, loving manner if we practice in our imagination doing this in a tone of voice that is designed to be caring and loving. More specifically, we would, in these practice sessions, imagine someone saying something that would make us angry. We would seek to feel the anger rising up in us, and, at this point we would then practice what we would say as we begin the process of seeking to take a break. Much thanks for your thoughtful comment.

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