Chambered Nautilus Training Group
Permanent Stress Reduction
Dealing with Anger:
Rational Responses to Emotional Pitfalls
Mood, motivation, plans, imagination, self-assessment, all the things we think make us who we are or can be, are found within the constant flow of our consciousness, whether we are awake or asleep. It follows that much of what we feel or choose to do comes from perceptions of our own making.
Before you saddle up, grab your lance and head off into the fields of problem windmills, its important to have some idea of what is going on in the “brain shop” between your ears. The more you recognize how your mental process influences your behaviors, the easier it is to apply that process in a positive, constructive way. The Chambered Nautilus programs of Rational Response training will assist in recognizing your complicated thought processes.
Anger, frustration, anxiety, etc., stem in one way or another from faulty thinking and an inability to figure out the real cause of our emotional concern.
Ignorant humans that we are, we have some in-born need to find stability in a life, a world, that is constantly changing, minute by minute. We resist change when it threatens that
hard-won stability that we try to impose on our daily lives.
Paradoxically, we welcome change when that same stability becomes too predictable and boring. We say we need to get away, recharge our batteries and get a new perspective so we can return to the battle of maintaining a meaningful stability.
Some of our most important skills then, center upon our ability to deal with change. This is the fine art of adaptation. Adaptation gets us where we need to be when change becomes necessary.
By examining our thinking process will we be able to foster better adaptive skills.
When we are skilled at a kind of “thought awareness” we can not only recognize when adaptation is necessary but also come up with the best tools or methods to deal with the change.
How I respond to the world around me is easily prejudiced by the quality of my thinking. If my thinking is swamped with negative outlooks or “no-can-do” precepts that I may not even be aware of, my responses will likely be in the form of negative behaviors. What comes out in my actions always starts in the workshop of ideas. Positive ideas produce positive results.
The following is a simplified example but it serves a purpose;
- the need to adapt to a changing situation presents itself; (formulate your own example, big or small):
I report to work one day and find the memo in my email that corporate beings in far-off Decision Land have made some substantial changes to how the company is to operate, beginning today, and have issued corresponding changes in the work flow. This is bothersome to me as I have been at my job several years, trained hard to learn the specifics, refined my techniques, so that I’m very comfortable with what I do and have a positive self-image and very specific hopes for advancement. Now every thing is about to change.
My response mechanism is being challenged. If I’ve learned positive thinking techniques. I’m sure I have some choice in the matter. I know I have access to a variety of responses; how do I choose a course of action?
My response behaviors generally depend on my personal beliefs, which I think are relatively stable and consistent – they represent me and the person I have become.
If my adaptive skills are not sharp enough I might find myself making a counter-productive response to the situation because I have been UN-aware, UN-conscious of the link between my belief system and my behavior.
The result of course would be negative and could reinforce the belief that I cannot adapt. This leaves me with growing problem of insecurity and self-doubt. The next stage might well be depressed moods or severe anger at being a helpless victim of the “System”.
Fortunately there are antidotes to careless coping skills,poor thinking habits, regarding stress, anxiety, or anger.
Our system of study methods, available at this blog site, combine certain physically relaxing exercises with ways to examine personal thinking habits that influence our emotional responses. These methods of adapting our behaviors are further enhanced by meditations that aim at reinforcing the changes that must become second nature if an individual is to achieve lasting change.
The system is presented in a number of Segments, which like a chambered nautilus, represent stages of growth that lead to effective adaptation in a sea of constantly shifting waves and currents. The very environment in which we live and thrive can also flood us with constant challenges to our survival.
Chambered Nautilus Training Group offers a complete program:
Segment 1 Program for Permanent Stress Reduction;
Segment 2 A Guided Meditation to sustain Self Awareness,
Segment 3 Physical and Mental Relaxation Techniques Made Habitual,
Segment 4 Rational Response to Anger
Segment 5 Clear Thought Processing
Segment 5 A Rational Response to Anger
Table of Contents
Part I. Anger types defined
- Key ideas [Pt. I] Anger characteristics
Part II. Brief Analysis of Anger Process
- Key ideas [Pt. II] Addressing the Anger Process
Part III. Recognizing Thinking Styles in Myself and Others
Thinking Habits that contribute to negative anger responses
Part IV Practice Makes Perfect
Part 1- Anger Types
- Anger. It’s like a tiger in the closet.
Everyone gets angry and that’s a good thing. However, there are different kinds of anger and we need to be aware of anger “styles”.
To keep it simple, anger is either “Just” or legitimate or it is “Unjust” or illegitimate, i.e. it is out of control emotion.
Legitimate or Just Anger is a natural function of the human response system and could be called Useful Anger. Without it we would have been devoured by our enemies a long time ago. Just Anger moves us to action when social wrongs for example become intolerable and we need to take strong action to set things right. Just Anger is helpful when dealing with negative and threatening situations. It is a part of the animal “fight or flight” response that is an instinctive survival technique of human nature.
Unjust Anger , or Useless Anger is when our emotional response to a perceived wrong or threat is out of control. This type of anger can actually be harmful to the person responding to the threat.
In both cases the emotional experience of anger can feel exactly the same. The secret to dealing with anger lies in understanding how I perceive the situation and recognizing my ability to control my responses.
Just Anger usually takes some time to develop and express itself.
A person may not be sure how to address the anger provoking issues and must decide on the most efficient mode of action to effect change.
Unjust Anger can be more sudden and usually arises from the daily, frequent, frustrating incidents that test my patience. I can be angered in no time flat by the slowness of the check-out line, the turtle-pace of rush hour traffic, or the insistence of young children, mine or others’, to do what they please and not what I am insisting they should do. My angry out-bursts can be totally out of proportion to the situation. This kind of Unjust Anger has both a history and a pattern of emergence. It is a learned response that I have acquired from my past behaviors. Lucky for me, anger is a process which means I am able to interrupt my growing anger and avert a possible over-reaction or loss of control.
Unfortunately, bad habits of thinking and poor coping skills lead to a “shortening of the fuse” of unjust anger. They tend to disrupt the response process. Thus, I need to explore my emotional history and my habits of how I think about what is going on around me.(See Segment 5 on Clear Thought Processing).
Remember the principle: actions follow upon perceptions;my perceptions are unique and could easily be erroneous. it is essential that I know how I am actually perceiving the situation and what I am telling myself about what is happening.
Key Ideas Summarized – part I. Anger characteristics.
- there are different kinds of anger.
- Anger is a process that can be interrupted.
- Perceiving and assessing the object of my anger allows me time to choose how to respond.
- Unjust anger is a learned response.
- To be in control of my anger I must take responsibility for my feelings. People or situations that happen to me have no power to MAKE me angry. In reality, I allow myself to become angry. In this program we are learning how to choose a controlled response precisely because my anger is within my control.
Part II. A Brief Analysis of the anger process.
Put two people in the same situation and watch as one calmly sorts out the issues and reaches some kind of solution while the other “goes ballistic” and escalates the situation out of control. The difference lies in how each person perceives the situation and what their possible responses are.
Let’s analyze the perception-response process.
Two things must be considered.
1). First there is my thought process. Am I aware of my self-talk? What am I “automatically” telling myself about this situation? A wrong interpretation of the facts might make me a victim of my personal perceptions rather than a cool head who is able to resolve the situation.
2). At the same time, there is a physical, bodily, emotional response that tells me I am becoming angry and feeding into my response. I can learn to recognize this process and short-circuit it before it becomes a disaster.
If I am quick to anger I need to be aware of the changes in my body that are driving my physical response to the situation. If my child or another driver on the road is not doing what I think they should, this is not usually a life and death situation that requires all my energies of “fight or flight” and does not require an extreme response on my part.
When I feel my anger growing I need to take some counter-measures to offset my feelings before they grow into rage. The typical physical, bodily emotional response is signaled by but not necessarily in this order:
- an increase in heart rate
- “butterflies in the stomach” nerve reactions
- tensing of muscles, alerting “flight response”
- more rapid and more shallow breathing
- increase in perspiration
These feelings are common to most people, in varying degrees of course. This is a process and as such it has a beginning and an end. Some people seem to be more “volatile” than others, some are more laid back. Regardless of one’s natural disposition, it is essential that as responsible individuals, we learn how that process works in our own bodies and what we can do in order to keep our anger response within manageable limits.
Oddly enough, the bodily, emotional responses are the same in different stimulus situations. That means that when I feel a strong sense of anger growing it is essentially the same feeling, described above, as when I experience heightened anxiety, stress or fear.
The good news is, once I have mastered the skill of controlling my anger with deep breathing and muscle relaxation, and calm self-talk I can apply this control tactic in a variety of emotional settings.
Once we understand our own response process we can begin to interrupt that flow and remain calm and safely “in charge”, displaying a level of anger that is not out of proportion to the situation.
Chambered Nautilus approaches controlling the process on 2 fronts.
First, limiting negative self talk and secondly, inducing muscle relaxation to counter specific body reactions.
Making use of positive self-talk.
Self-Talk goes on all day in our consciousness. We constantly assess our situation, our work, our moving about, our relation to others in our environment. Most of the time, this is a rewarding experience. We keep on course and we feel good about ourselves. However, there are times when we feel threatened or frustrated by people or places or things and in our frustration we begin to distort our perception of the reality.
“Why are the so many cars here right now when I have to be home in 30 minutes!”; “I just stopped in for a quick-lunch and that stupid waiter hasn’t bothered to even come near me!” “If that driver cuts me off again I’ll run him right off the road!”
We all know how this goes and can feed one’s level of agitation. In these scenarios I become my own worst enemy. I scare my self, put myself down, compare my self to others, and only succeed in escalating my anger, blaming others for causing my anger in the first place. I can easily get to the brink of saying and doing things that could have severe consequences for me. Negative self-talk is self-defeating and I have to be able to interrupt and extinguish it quickly.
Interrupting self-talk can be difficult. First, I have to be aware of what I’m telling myself at any given time in an anger situation. Then I need to have an almost automatic positive self-talk response.
Positive self-talk says; “Wait a minute, I’m getting all worked up when I don’t need to” or “This is not the end of the world. I’ll make the most of this delay”, or “I’ve handled this kind of situation before”. The last thing I need is to lose my temper.”
I can actually look at how I have typically responded in certain anger provoking situations in the past and then practice a “script” like that above, a few words that remind me that I can not afford to let my self go over the edge. With a practiced familiarity with my frequent anger situations and a mental stop switch to automatically throw, I will begin to master my anger responses in just about any situation.
Muscle relaxation and calming breath.
If I know what my most noticeable physical reactions are during an anger episode, I can also practice being aware of these bodily changes, just as I can be aware of my negative self-talk, thereby preventing further emotional escalation and risking disaster.
We all know the phrase, “count to 10”. It really works if I take a practiced approach to using it. 10 is not a magic number. Counting should be done using a slow, controlled, cleansing or deep breath. Do this, by letting your shoulders relax, taking a deep breath by pushing the stomach down and out and filling the lungs slowly and completely and then doing a slow exhale. Doing this slowly and calmly is more important that trying to get to 10 so you can then scream at somebody. At least 4 or 5 breaths should do it.
The deep breath will help to slow the heart rate and put more oxygen and blood into the muscles to relax them rather than prepare them for a fight. Consciously relaxing the arms, fists, and related muscles will also induce over-all feelings of relaxation and lesson the stomach butterflies’ fluttering. A progressive pattern of moving the major muscles from toe to neck, contracting and releasing them in series will improve the feeling of relaxation and can be done quickly.
For detailed help on muscle relaxing and deep breathing, see our program Segment 3, on Relaxation.
Another principle to live by:
I am always responsible for my anger and its consequences.
It is necessary for me to take ownership of how I think and what I do. No one can make me angry – if they are pushing all my buttons, I have to admit that I made those “buttons”. If I have a lot of hot buttons, it’s my responsibility to deal with them. If I can’t do that it will do me no good to blame other people or situations for any negative consequences. I make my self angry. Few people want to believe this. We prefer “the devil made me do it” excuse but in never holds up in court. In reality, loss of control will always rest with me.
Controlling self-talk and deep breath relaxation are deceptively easy measures to counter Unjust Anger. Deceptive, because they do have immediate effect and at the same time will not easily come to mind in an agitated situation.
Practicing them is essential to make them as automatic as possible, especially if one is prone to volatile reactions.
Being in control of my anger is certainly worth the time invested in learning self-awareness and coping skills.
Key Ideas Summarized – Part II
Analyzing and addressing the anger process.
- be aware of the role of self-talk, positive and negative.
- be aware of the physical/emotional responses of heart rate, muscle groups, etc.
- use thought-stopping and positive self-talk.
- learn to relax with deep breathing and muscle relaxation.
- take ownership of all anger responses.
Part III. Recognizing thinking styles in my self and others.
Sadly, there are many people who have found themselves on the wrong side of an anger situation that turned negative and got out of control. Some have been needlessly harmed physically, hospitalized, been arrested, even killed in such situations. The pleas of “I don’t know what happened; “I just blacked out;” or, “I lost it!;” seldom bring comfort and almost never serve as an excuse. Society holds us responsible for our behavior and if that behavior results from poor judgment, lack of awareness or information, the individual will suffer any negative consequences.
Rational Response to Anger here examines some common but very dysfunctional thinking styles. It is important to recognize these patterns in our thinking process and learn to adapt our responses accordingly.
Thinking Habits that contribute to negative anger responses:
Here are some examples of negative mental short-hand “excuses” that are substituted for rational explanations and take away our ability to deal with each anger provoking situation on its own merits. In some cases they may also be connected to personality disorders. Let’s look at the most common of these simplistic judgments.
- I get angry when – all I “see” is the down-side of everything I think about. This is having too narrow a focus. One gets focused only on negative perceptions. If all I see are bad things then the world becomes a negative place. I can get angry with life itself. “Look at what’s happening in the world to-day; we need to nuke them and start all over.” Negative judgments come from negative attitudes and vice-versa.
- I get angry when – people don’t agree with me that “Reality” is either black or white, period! Anything less than 100%, total success, perfection, etc. is not good. My position is “my way or the highway” “You are with me or you are against me!’ Neither party has room to defuse.
- I get angry when – I encounter situations or people I’ve had negative experiences with before. “See one, you’ve seen them all.” This is a jump from a single happening or event to all similar happenings or events.
“I know a guy who works there; they’re all a bunch of liars. Don’t trust them.”
“So, you’re from over there, huh? All those people are ignorant.
You can’t tell me what to do”.
- I get angry when – I believe people and things are conspiring against me.
This is a low-level kind of paranoia. Many people fancy
themselves great judges of what others are thinking .
These folks are “natural born mind-readers” and react accordingly. “I know that look!”; “I can tell by your tone of voice you are…”; “whenever you act like that, I know what’s coming next”, and so on. This can be a preemptive kind of anger.
If I think I know what you are going to do or say next, especially if I feel threatened, I can attack you first and get the upper hand. I act without evidence of fact.
- I get angry when – nothing seems to go my way. Everything is a disaster and I get irrationally angry.
This is imagination in runaway. “I know it’s a small error but I’m getting fired for sure”; “One more day of this and I’m going to lose my mind!”
- I get angry when – I unrealistically compare myself to others. “Everybody here is working faster than I am”; “she has more education; the boss listens to her ideas but not mine”. I don’t recognize my limitations and look for excuses not solutions.
- I get angry when – I continuously see myself as a Victim; “no matter what I do something always happens to ruin it”; “I can never get ahead”; “my only luck is bad luck…;” “I’ll never get out of this situation.”
Life is never “fair”. This not recognizing that “fairness” only comes in situations where humans make the rules.
- I get angry when – people don’t do the “Right Thing”; I’m constantly angry with people who don’t play by the rules that I know they “should” be using – co-workers taking short cuts, drivers violating traffic rules, friends or lovers not paying attention to me when they “should”. Unrealistic demands upon self or others that proceed from what “Should” be, “Aught” to be or “Must” be done or observed, only provide endless frustration, anger and anxiety for people who insist that such demands always be observed.
- I get angry when – others doubt the validity of my judgments. If I feel it in my gut, don’ tell me I’m wrong! The Infallible Gut Feeling is hardly objective and certainly not valid information. This is a discouraging path that only gets more complicated over time.
Obviously there are many other ways that we develop poor thinking styles and fail to deal with situations realistically. Start thinking about how you think. Recognize how your anger grows and take needed action.
(It is so important to build good thinking habits that Chambered Nautilus Training program includes an entire Segment #5, to aid in recognizing and strengthening more precise thinking behaviors.)
[A word of caution regarding dysfunctional thinking styles]. Personal thinking and behavior styles in many ways define a person. They are functions of one’s personality make-up. Most styles of thinking and behavior fall into what we consider to be a “normal” range. There are however, certain personality types that often fall outside those “ranges”.
– Many people are simply unable to meet challenges of anger, anxiety, sadness, frustration and so on, despite sincere time and efforts. Participants in Chambered Nautilus programs who manifest extreme examples of emotional reactions may wish to consider having a professional assessment regarding specific behavior problems that seem to be chronic and completely resistant to change.]
Part IV Practice Makes Perfect
So now I have a better idea of how anger operates in my body. I know the process and the symptoms, the path I follow toward either escalation or control and how my self-talk and careless thinking habits can influence how I experience any given situation.
But. If I discover that I can handle my anger in certain situations, I still don’t know if I can control it in every situation.
No one can anticipate every possible anger situation. This is why our Rational Response to Anger method has encouraged a structured, whole person approach that incorporates the thinking process itself along with deep breathing and muscle relaxation and recommends a commitment to frequent, if not daily, meditation intervals to help the whole person achieve a lasting level of calm, functional self-awareness.
At this point in the program we are attempting to pull together all the newly learned elements. I never know what might “set me off “next, but like a trained athlete or professional performer, I am confident of being able to use my skills when ever and where ever needed.
Practice Anger Response in the privacy of your own home.
Since it makes no sense at all to go out and purposely provoke an anger situation, it is important to use your experience and imagination to clearly recall specific times when you were quite angry and how you managed or failed to manage that situation.
A. Sit quietly and recall a recent anger event.
B. Visualize the people and the place as the event unfolded.
C. As the scene unfolds pay close attention to your bodily, physical reactions. What do you feel first? Rapid breathing, increased heart rate, muscle tension? These symptoms will tell you what you need to do quickly to calm yourself down.
D. You might notice that your self-talk also escalates early in this anger process. While calming your breathing and relaxing your muscles, try reciting your de-escalating phrases you chose back in section 2 on positive self-talk and thought stopping. As you now know, what you are telling yourself right now will make the situation appear either more threatening and drastic or not such a big deal after all. These 2 steps, (C and D) are essential to not losing your temper. The more volatile your anger style the more important it is that you automatically go to these steps as soon as possible.
As you create different scenes from your personal anger history you will feel a sense of accomplishment, an increase in your ability to deal with any anger situation.
Using these exercises, you will have built your personal response pattern. By continued practice they will become second-nature to you, which is exactly the purpose of this program.
A closing note.
We urge all users of the Chambered Nautilus Training Programs to take advantage of the Meditation slides found in Segment 2. (Release pending, early July, 2015)
By simple, brief meditation practice an individual can discover new ways of seeing both themselves and the environment in which they live. These meditations are aimed at reinforcing a sense of well-being, of feeling at home with one’s changing relationships in a constantly evolving world… an evolving universe.
Even small changes in one’s self-perception can lead to significant changes in one’s over-all comfort level with who they are and how they fit into today’s very challenging, fast changing environment.
Likewise, to further facilitate one’s ability to relax and successfully address issues of stress, anger and reduced sense of anxiety about daily challenges, we have added an entire
Segment 3 that details the practices of deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation that are so essential to successful stress management and anger control in our programs.
If you have been using all Five Segments of Permanent Stress Reduction, you will see how all topic areas work together to provide many necessary tools for achieving an over-all personal comfort zone with lasting effects.