Anger and the American Family: Learn to Respond Rather than React
Case #1. Brianna, 32, would get instantly outraged when her ex-husband threatened to file for custody of their two small children. Deciding to respond differently, she bit her tongue, and remained quiet when he began threatening an escalated legal battle.
Unable to get the usual reaction from her, he calmed down and instantly became rational and more reasonable.
Case #2. Tom, 42, would become ballistic reacting to his 17 year old daughter who refused to see she was dating a “loser” boy. The more he yelled, the deeper she dug her heels and refused to give up the boy.
Applying the anger management tool of “respond instead of react”, Tom decided to try something different by includingthe boy into the family activities (as much as he could stand). After about three weeks of this, the daughter—on herown—decided her “prince-charming” wasn’t the person she needed to enhance her life and ended the relationship.
Learn to be flexible
Individuals who practice good health do not continue behavior that doesn’t achieve desired results. Instead, they adjust—or fine tune—their responses depending on the situation.
There are many advantages to learning to be more flexible—and “response-able”— in dealing with the stresses and frustrations in your life.
At the top of the list is a sense of empowerment. It just feels good to know that you are in charge of your responses, instead of being controlled by other people or circumstances.
Case # 3. Sixty-four year old Lynn left anger management class one night to find her apartment completely floodeddue to a burst water pipe.
Adding to her stress, her insurance company initially refused to pay her claim. She later told us, “I decided to use the tool you taught us of responding instead of reacting, so I cleaned up the whole place myself. I can’t tell you how wonderful and liberating it felt to know that I didn’t have to get upset.
Later, calmer, she recontacted her insurance agent who, this time, agreed to honor her claim! Learn to respond differently.
Step 1: Examine your attitude. Negative voices in your head can be quite convincing —persuading you to judge others, be pessimistic, or think negatively, while creating the destructive feelings that go along with destructive thoughts.
Try to create a louder, more persuasive voice that helps you identify an equally believable, more optimistic viewpoint.
Step 2: Regulate your emotions. There are many ways to regulate your emotions and feelings in your life, including being your own best friend, eating well, exercising, playing, listening to uplifting music, getting in touch with a spiritual system, and creating emotional connections with others by sincere listening.
Step 3: Try alternative behaviors. Behaving differently is one of the most effective ways to show response flexibilityand get different results in your life.
But, doing things differently is not easy! We are all creatures of habit and we tend to continue behaving in comfortable and familiar ways.
One of the challenges in behaving differently is, of course, coming up with ideas on how else we can behave differently in various situations.
Start by understanding that much of our behavior is determined by a feeling or emotion we are having—or we wish to have. But a specific behavior does not HAVE to be connected with that feeling.
Try alternative behaviors when you get those angry feelings by asking yourself, “What are some other ways I can dealwith this situation?”
Often they include behaviors like taking a brisk walk, assertively communicating with your family member, taking a timeout, picking your battles, or listening to soothing music.
Ask yourself: What are some other ways I can deal with thissituation?
Respond vs. react: The difference between “react” and “respond” is “automatic reflex” versus a “thoughtful, reflective response” that considers different ways of dealing with a situation. A reaction is a kneejerk,automatic action. A response, however, is dealing with a situation by considering options and likely outcomes,then choosing the best.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Tony Fiore is The Anger Coach. New anger resources are now available Anger Management for the 21st Century: The 8 tools of Anger Control print and ebook,bonuses www.stopyouranger.com. Check our Anger in the News blog and comment at: www.angernews.com.