Saturday, May 29, 2010

Is Anger Better than Guilt, Fear, Shame or Hopelessness?

Wesley was angry about everything including being angry
Although not entirely unexpected the call at 5:00a.m. informing Wesley of his brother’s death was startling. The shock was soon replaced by waves of fury. Wesley was angry that he had to fly across the country for the funeral instead of using the money for a family vacation. He was angry that he had no opportunity to say goodbye to his brother. He was angry that his mother didn’t alert him in time.

Anger seemed the best way to avoid feeling anything !
Most of all, Wesley was angry that he had to feel anything at all. He didn’t want to feel sad. He didn’t want to feel the loss. He didn’t want to feel bad for his father. He didn’t want to feel concerned about his sister and how she would cope. He didn’t want to feel the inconvenience of having to turn his life upside down for a while. He just wanted to numb it all away.

Wesley was proud of using anger to keep a lid on all other feelings
A hard coating of anger protected Wesley from all the feelings he wanted to avoid. He never wanted to relive those moments from his childhood when he heard his mother cry uncontrollably and felt helpless to do anything for her. He was determined to prevent any repetition of those times when his father tried to cover his fear with bravado when ever his wife threatened to leave.

Feelings were overwhelming, ugly, scary things that made him feel powerless, lost, and vulnerable to ‘losing it.’ Wesley took pride in keeping ‘ a lid on’ so that he could maintain his sense of being in control. The tighter the lid, the more irritable and angry he became. Anyone trying to reach him was swatted away with a curt, short tone of voice.

Anger was Wesley's only weapon against feeling like a nut case
But underneath, Wesley was hurting bad. The tears were welling up, and the lump in his throat almost choked him. He couldn’t let himself feel anything up close because it was too big for him, and he imagined it was too much for everyone else too. He believed that if he allowed himself to feel any of the messy emotions churning around inside him, it would make him into a ‘basket case.’  No one would want to have anything to do with a ‘basket case,’ so best to keep that lid firmly on top of the raging emotions. Drink them down, eat them away, busy them off the radar screen - anything but feel them.

Anger robbed Wesley of the cure to his emotional turmoil
The rage became more pronounced when no one came to comfort Wesley. Everyone tiptoed around him, trying to pick up chores as a way of showing their understanding. Wesley’s anger not only kept a lid on his feelings, but created a thick wall between him and his loved ones. Giving the impression that he was strong and could handle things using anger as a power source, denied him the very antidote to his turbulent emotions -comfort, understanding and stability.

Anger may feel powerful but it robs you of companionship and love
The plan to numb himself out worked against Wesley. He found that while one part of him was defending himself against massive emotional upheaval, another part of him was expecting his loved ones to penetrate the thick wall and accurately tune into him, offering him solace. He wanted them to feel his pain, fear, sadness and need for comfort so he didn’t have to feel it himself.  He could bypass the shameful feelings that crushed him, while experiencing it second hand through those around him. Let others show their sadness, their worry for him,  their fear that he may not get over it. Let them feel the uncertainty of fear, panic and grief. He was not about to go anywhere near it himself.

Anger leads to loneliness and despair
When his loved ones were unable to breach the wall he put up, and gave up trying to comfort him, Wesley became more enraged until loneliness and despair overtook him. That’s when he felt ready to work on his anger in therapy. Wesley’s feelings of heartbreak and despair gave him an opening to explore his  overwhelming that  threatened to wipe him out.

Sharing feelings brings security and reduces the need for anger
It was his feelings and wishes for comfort and reassurance that opened the door to Wesley’s discoveries:
  1. It takes courage to admit to your feelings and sit with them.
  2. People empathize by using common feelings that are human, not weak or ugly.
  3. Owning your feelings means you can show them to others in an open way.
  4. Showing feelings openly brings genuine connection, comfort, security and calmness.
  5. Bad feelings are lessened and good feelings come to take their place.
  6. Anger isn’t a useful way of feeling powerful or avoiding helplessness.
  7. Feeling understood, secure and cared for reduces the need for anger as a way to demand from others what you are too scared to face yourself.

Take the anger quiz and discover your anger profile and get more free tips.

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    Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2010

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    What's The Best Way Of Expressing Your Anger?

    Do you feel ashamed when you lash out at the people you love the most? Do you wish you could erase it for ever and be free of this beastly emotion? That’s because there is a taboo against feeling and expressing anger, particularly if done in a loud, over the top and explosive way. We don’t like to think of ourselves as uncontrolled and irrational. When our hot buttons get pushed beyond what we can manage we feel scared that we have let ourselves down, that others will think badly of us and that we may never recover our good image.

    Do you prefer showing your anger by giving someone the silent treatment?
    Now think of the time when a friend didn’t return your calls and you felt angry at being ignored. Perhaps you didn’t answer the phone when your friend did eventually call you back. You wanted to get your own back and punish your friend. It is a conscious and premeditated act of anger. Somehow this way of releasing anger is more acceptable, but not necessarily better for the relationship.

    Do you let your anger stew until the moment when you can do the most damage?
    Imagine the last time you pretended you had a headache when your partner reached out for physical contact, affection or sex. You may not have remembered what you were angry about anymore, but the urge to regain the upper hand led you to strike back just when your partner was most vulnerable. It stewed and frothed and fermented until just the right moment. It is fury made to smell a little sweeter to you the injured party, who needs to feel in charge again.

    Do you feel better when you react to anger by laying a guilt trip on the one upsetting you?
    Have you ever forgotten a loved one’s birthday or a special anniversary? Did your loved one make snide comments designed to make you feel guilty? Their anger at your lapse of memory came out in a sneaky but very effective way. It humiliated you and may have roused your anger. Laying on the guilt may have made your loved one feel superior for a little while, but making you feel small just drove a huge wedge between you.

    The good news and bad news about Venting anger
    Venting rage releases tension in the short term and gives you a temporary sense of power and control, but does nothing to address the triggers that push your buttons. The power and control is so short lived that you have to erupt again just to get that feeling back. So you are caught in a vicious circle of becoming enraged and trampling everything around you. You never learn how to deal with your discomfort and have to live with this monster that comes out of you every now and then. In the long run you create fear and push people away. You can end up lonely and deprive yourself of the chance to be heard and fix the problems.

    Good news and bad news about taking vengeance and laying on the guilt trip
    Punishing those that have hurt and upset you by withdrawing love, or piling on the guilt gives you immense power and control. The powerful feeling lasts longer than venting, and you get the pleasure of doing to others what they did to you. But the damage you do to your relationships is more serious and less easy to repair - for the simple reason that you deliberately set out to hurt in order to avenge your anger. The stress that gets put on the relationship removes layers of trust and openness.

    The most productive way of expressing anger
    The first step is to acknowledge that you have a right to feel angry. That small but vital permission will lessen the chances of your explosive monster coming out and shaming you.

    Next, talk to the person who provoked your anger and tell them what it’s like for you when they say or do things that enrage you.

    Then find out what the person’s intentions were and revisit your response. Are you still as angry or do you feel less personally attacked?

    It may not be easy to follow these steps but you will improve with practice. Honoring your anger instead of using it to feel big or punish others improves communication and builds strong and durable relationship bonds.

    Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

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    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Whats the real reason you get mad when you don't get what you want?

    I do what you want, but you never let me do what I want!
    Henry had his heart set on the new plasma TV, but Louise wondered whether it was the best way of spending money at this point. There were important house repairs to consider.

    Henry blew up. “ You never let me have what I want! When you wanted to go to Malta I agreed because I knew what that meant to you. I let you choose the living room furniture even though I hated it. Yet when something is important to me you pour cold water all over it, and make me feel selfish.”

    You just want to stack up points to use against me!
    “ I’m sick of your whining. You have the money. You can buy whatever you want. I don’t know why you bother asking for my approval. You just do it to stack up points that you can beat me with when I don’t agree with you.” Louise retaliated with fury to being manipulated.

    Henry was torn between feeling selfish and being a burden
    Henry had been angry a long time. As far back as he could remember his sick younger brother Samuel got all the free passes at home. His father gave into Samuel’s tantrums to keep him happy. His mother was torn between making sure Sam was doing okay, and trying to take care of her husband. Henry was expected to be the good son who never needed nor wanted anything other than the basics.

    Henry became furious when his carefully thought out plan failed
    The injustice of his childhood kept the anger smouldering on a bed of hot coals that was constantly stoked up. He got more and more furious that even when he didn’t have to compete with a needy brother, he still didn’t get what he needed. Henry made a deal with himself. If he let his wife have what she wanted even if he didn’t like it himself, then he would be entitled to expect the same from her.

    Henry’s plan didn’t work. Louise didn’t buy into his scheme. Henry’s rage grew fiercer and the relationship became a battle ground. Henry refused to give himself permission to enjoy things he could get for himself, and Louise refused to be put in the role of the bad guy who spoiled his life.

    How can Henry and Louise stop the cycle of anger that interferes with their intimacy?
    Henry needs to get clear on what his anger is really about. His anger is not about the car. It is about not knowing where he stands with Louise and trying to figure it out.

    Henry should share with Louise his feelings of guilt, unworthiness and rage at never feeling secure enough to be able to legitimize his own wants and needs.

    Louise should try and hear it as part of Henry’s issue rather than take it personally and strike back. She can then share her hurt when he puts her in the role of judge and jury.

    When Henry and Louise feel and hear each other’s hurt, anger and frustration, they have begun to take a new journey together towards satisfying the hunger they both have to be seen as good, worthy and lovable people.

    Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2009

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    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Are You Mad That Someone From The Past Is Coming To Ruin Your Future?

    A request by his friends makes Cliff feel bitterly betrayed
    The wedding invitations were going out and Cliff refused to ask Floyd to attend. He hated the guy and wanted nothing to do with him. His buddies tried to get him to change his mind. They reminded him of the good times they all had as high schoolers. They brought back memories of the time when Cliff thought Floyd was the man! Floyd used to be the ticket to get into night clubs, hot parties and booze.

    Bad memories cast an angry shadow over Cliff's wedding
    Cliff remembered the times when Floyd ruled his life. He did everything Floyd said so he could have access to the good life. At that time he made a deal with himself that he would put up with taking the ribbing and humiliation. It made Floyd feel good, and if Floyd felt good it meant that he would include Cliff in his plans. Floyd used Cliff’s eagerness to be in his world to boss him around.

    Holding on to grudges nearly lost Cliff his best friends
    Cliff’s life took him to another part of the country. He began to stand up for himself and get what he wanted for himself. He felt good, strong and his own man. Until the time for his wedding came around. The shadow of Floyd loomed large over his upcoming celebration. Just the thought of Floyd being around made him yell at his friends for bringing Floyd back into the picture. A gigantic hot button was pushed when Floyd’s name was mentioned.

    Years and years of holding onto the grudge made Cliff lose control. He called them traitors and didn’t speak to them for weeks. A rift threatened to spoil his big day. He relived every moment that Floyd had made him feel like a loser. Each memory stoked his sense of power. He was pumped with a determination to put an end to the abuse Floyd had inflicted on him.

    Cliff's emotions got hijacked by old grudges, turning him into a killer
    When Floyd called out of the blue to ask why he hadn’t been invited to the wedding Cliff hit hard. He punched and jabbed and poked and floored Floyd with his surprise attack. The years of holding in grudges silenced Floyd. Cliff felt so good! He was drunk with power and vengeance. So different to the shame he used to feel.

    Cliff allowed years of festering grudge to build up his courage. The only way he could feel entitled to protect himself was by holding in anger and resentment until it became a lethal weapon. Stamping on Floyd from this place of deadly emotion took away the shame that he felt as a teenager. But it created an even bigger problem for Cliff in his adult life. He may have successfully axed Floyd, but he also chopped up the connections with his good friends and almost ruined his wedding.

    Forgiveness rather than pardon will be the secret to Cliff's happy marriage
    Cliff’s best bet is to begin the path to forgiveness. He has to forgive himself for not being able to stand up to Floyd. He needs to forgive himself for choosing the goodies that Floyd brought instead of his dignity and sense of self-worth. Then and only then can he begin to forgive Floyd for using the situation as a way of feeling superior. That doesn’t mean he has to excuse Floyd’s behavior, or pardon it. If Cliff re-draws the whole experience as one where both had a part to play, Cliff can repair the damage with his true friends and start married life as a man who uses his power productively rather than destructively.

    Recent research indicates that holding in grudges and lack of willingness to forgive is one of the main contributory factors of unsuccessful marriages. Cliff’s chances of having a stable and secure marriage depend greatly on his willingness to stop holding grudges and forgive himself and others in an effort to understand the mess that is bound to be made in all relationships.

    Take the relationship quiz and get your relationship security profile

    Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    How Do You Get Revenge on the People That Let You Down?

    Is Your Relationship style working for you? Take the quiz!

    It’s so annoying not to sleep well!

    Justin was awake at 3:00 a.m. and he cursed the useless homeopathic sleep remedies he had been prescribed. He teeth clenched as his mind raced with thoughts of the day ahead. He imagined the pain, the stress, the discomfort and having to suffer at work. No one was going to cut him slack at his job. He had to try something different to cure his back pain, or else he would be a nervous wreck.

    Hope got crushed and Justin got mad!

    He called and complained to his homeopathic doctor before he made an appointment with an acupuncturist. Justin’s hopes were dashed again when a series of treatments didn’t do the trick for more than a few hours. He was spending good money for these treatments, following them as directed and it failed him. He became overwhelmed with fury.

    Justin told his acupuncturist that the treatments were useless and began an exercise regimen with a fitness trainer to stretch his back. He also went to yoga classes.

    Justin’s back ache disappears when he blames everyone else

    Justin’s hot buttons were being pushed by people promising him relief and care but not delivering. Each disappointment made his anger stronger. He wanted them to feel guilty for not keeping their promises and letting him down. That made Justin feel big and powerful. When they felt bad and guilty Justin felt strong and in charge. His back ache disappeared!

    What’s getting angry got to do with a back ache?

    When Justin was a kid he was always being let down. He lived through many broken promises and he was disappointed more often than not by those people who were supposed to take care of him. The only time he got a little comfort was when he was sick. He was helpless and couldn’t do anything about it then, but now he can.

    Justin learned to ask for care by being sick. As an adult he did it with backache. When the doctors and trainers don’t provide what he wants he can legitimately lay the guilt trip on them and feel strong. Now he makes up for all those times when he didn’t get the care he was entitled to. Once he yells and punishes, there is no more need for the backache until the next time.

    What’s Justin going to do when he has guilted everyone away?

    Justin doesn’t feel powerful for very long. Soon he needs to be wanted and cared for again, so the backache comes back and he finds another remedy, and begins the whole cycle again. When there is no one left to help him he is alone and miserable. Without knowing it he became his own worst enemy. He can take a step towards feeling strong without having to use guilt as a weapon. Learning to forgive the past and mourn his disappointments will be a good beginning.

    Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

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    Friday, August 21, 2009

    How to stay rational even when you are angry

    Did you know that when you get mad your logical rational brain gets disconnected from your angry emotional brain?

    Listen to Dr. Raymond's radio interview on Transforming Hurtful Anger into Healthy Anger

    Natalia couldn't let him get away with trashing her!
    Natalia sent her colleague a stinking email. She was furious at Julio for saying that going through the sales manual was a waste of time. She felt that all her hours of hard work and commitment were being trashed. How dare he put her down like this! It really hurt! At the moment she felt small and attacked, so chewing him out in the email was her way of defending herself.

    Rational Natalia Can't Reach Hurt Natalia
    Logical Natalia knows full well that Julio said nothing about her or her dedicated efforts to promote their company. But angry Natalia was hijacked by her over active right emotional brain. The right side of her brain was pinging so loud and so frantically that it cut off the information from her left rational brain. She lost access to her intelligent judgment because Julio's comments triggered a very sore spot. When that sore spot was poked, Natalia lashed out.

    Natalia takes it personally
    Julio's comments triggered memories of Natalia's father telling her she would never graduate high school, never get into college and never make anything of her life. Those mean and discouraging comments hurt a lot. When Natalia was a young girl she had no way of sticking up for herself. She couldn't risk her father's anger. So she never dealt with her awful feelings. When Julio triggered them, all those old feelings got stirred up. These feelings were so overwhelming and powerful that her right emotional brain got disconnected from her left logical and rational brain. The information flow stopped. All she had was raw emotion. So she retaliated as if Julio were her dad, putting her down.

    Natalia is so agitated she thinks she is the same thing as a sales manual
    When Natalia came back to earth, she felt embarrassed and a little ashamed. She didn't want to act like a tantruming child when she was at work. Natalia wanted to get to the bottom of this and consulted with me. She understood that Julio wasn't talking about her, or her efforts being useless. He found it more efficient to go directly to Internet marketing professionals to get the company the exposure it wanted. Natalia realized that when Julio spoke, she and the sales manual had become one and the same thing. That's when her rational intelligent left brain got disconnected from her right emotional brain and prevented her from seeing that he wasn't talking about her.

    Once Natalia saw what was happening to her in these situations she stopped to ask herself what sore spots she was reliving. That helped her stay connected to her intelligent left brain, and it helped her make good decisions. She stopped taking things so personally because she kept the path open for her rational brain to feed information to her emotional brain and balance it out.

    Listen to Dr. Raymond's radio interview on Transforming Hurtful Anger into Healthy Anger

    Copyright Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

    Saturday, July 18, 2009

    Mad That Wishing Won't Make Things Happen?

    One sick kitten pushed Laurie’s buttons with a vengeance.

    The vets bill came to $350 yet Laurie’s kitten still had a closed eye and a poor appetite.

    Instead of enjoying the new addition to the family she was playing nursemaid, and ATM machine. She was furious that her kitten chosen with so much anticipated joy was now a sick helpless creature that she was responsible for.

    Laurie has to take a back seat

    Laurie was mad at the Vet for not being able to cure the kitten right away. She snapped at her neighbor who asked her to let a service engineer into the apartment. She lectured her daughter who asked for money to go on a school field trip. She yelled at her colleague for taking a few extra minutes for lunch.

    She resented having to pay for expensive antibiotics that didn’t seem to work. She was frustrated that the kitten wouldn’t eat the expensive food the breeders recommended, and seething with rage that her life was now on hold while all her energies and money went into caring for the kitten.

    What got under Laurie’s skin?

    Laurie wanted something to make her happy. A cute affectionate kitten was just the job. It doesn’t need bathing, grooming or walking! Laurie didn’t want to have to work - she wanted instant reliable love in return for food, milk and treats.

    When good things turned into work it was no longer fun. It became unfair, a burden and the total opposite of her fantasy image. That’s what got Laurie so enraged making her lose all reason which made life worse for herself. She felt punished when her wish didn’t work out exactly as planned. She then took it out on everyone in sight and ended up feeling exhausted, defeated and cynical.

    Laurie’s Pathway to getting her wish

    Laurie was in love with her fantasy and thought that getting a kitten would make the rest happen by magic. If she had created the foundation for the fantasy to become real, she wouldn’t have had such a rude awakening. Laurie could have done some research on the breed, looked at incidences of illness and disease, average cost of vets bills and taken out insurance to cover it.

    Doing all the work before getting the kitten would have saved all the work she had to do after getting it. Preparing herself would have made her less stressed and likely to explode when the first little thing went wrong.

    Laurie’s lesson is to appreciate that she has to marry fantasy with reality if the wish is going to have any chance of coming true and being successful. When Laurie can allow herself to let her emotional and logical brains converse, all her wishes can come true, and she will have a lot fewer hot buttons to deal with.

    Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.