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The Best Anger Management is Anger Prevention
If you are reading this you don’t need to be told how destructive anger can be. You are already motivated to make changes in your emotionally driven behaviors. You just want to know how and what to do to control or stop your anger. I’ll outline a process for getting rid of your anger in this article. The rest of the process is in the courses on this site.
I don’t teach people how to manage their anger. I teach people how to eliminate the root causes of their anger so there is no longer an emotional reaction that you have to control.
I’ll let you know up front that the material in this website can help you understand and change anger and your other emotions. It’s also not for everyone. It requires work, but overall it will be less energy than you are expending on anger, and keeping it repressed. Merely reading an article won’t do it. Emotional patterns need more than just intellectual knowledge to change. You will need to build new habits and perspectives that will build new neural pathways. This article will help you understand what you are dealing with and a process to rid your self of anger. The specific practical actions for change are in the Self Mastery Courses.
A different approach to Anger Management
Anger is a destructive force like fire. It can destroy your home, your business, your career, and your personal relationships. I wouldn’t attempt to manage a fire in my house or my relationships. Any fire, no matter what size, can do unwanted damage. That’s why the best kind of fire management is fire prevention. By the same reasoning, the best kind of Anger Management is Anger Prevention.
Often anger management therapy is directed at how to manage your emotions and behaviors once the fire has started. Later on you also might learn to identify triggers, or sparks, that set you off into anger so that you can stay ahead of it. This doesn’t mean that you have solved your problem. The raw materials for combustion are still lying around for you to trip over.
In Anger Prevention you go after the root causes that fuel your anger. The forces that drive anger are beliefs, specifically false and unconscious beliefs. Once you become aware of these false beliefs, you apply some practical exercises that will enable them to dissolve. When you change those false beliefs, you no longer have to manage your anger. You don’t have to avoid it because it is no longer there.
The Key to Anger Prevention
The key to anger prevention is to identify the false beliefs. Beliefs are the elemental structure in the mind that cause us to generate certain thoughts and interpretations about things.
Two major ingredients to a person’s anger are fear, and a perception of being mistreated, or abused. Often it is a combination of both. Often the mental scenarios driving the fears and abuse are not real, or are exaggerated. They can also happen in the mind below a person’s level of awareness.
Anger is a natural fight or flight survival response to a real threat(fear) or abuse(hurt). Our emotions also respond in the same way to things we imagine. When the abuse or fear is in the imagination, anger is still the emotional reaction, but the causes aren’t seen. This makes anger appear irrational.
The mind can generate fear and emotional abuse through scenarios we imagine. We can call them projections of false beliefs. Imagining someone is betraying us or remembering someone abusing us can cause us to become angry. It happened in our imagination but our emotions still respond as if it were real. Becoming aware of what the mind is creating and changing it is key. Adopting a different point of view about these projections is a big factor that can change this dynamic. Changing your point of view is something that you learn how to do in the Self Mastery Course through some basic practical exercises.
Changing your point of view and beliefs requires a little more introspective work than simply counting to ten or taking deep breaths. Taking breaths and counting is supposed to give you time to do that, but what if you could do it more directly? It involves first learning the skill of noticing your perspective and how to change it. You also learn awareness skills that allow you to notice what the mind is projecting and not to believe it. In this process you also learn to not judge your self, or not believe the judgmental voice in your head. This is necessary because believing that judge often causes such emotional pain and hurt that we respond to anger again. The beliefs of the “Judge” are part of the —>Pain—-Anger cycle. Not believing the Judge, and then dismantling the Judge’s thoughts are key to changing the emotions we respond with. The results of these practices can mean permanent change.
Inventory of your beliefs
The practices for identifying and changing core beliefs that are at the root of your anger are in the Self Mastery Course. There are several skills you will learn in practicing the exercises in the program. Aside from learning to change your point of view, you will also be taking a core belief inventory. To do this process it is NOT necessary to take an inventory of every belief in your life. You can take an inventory about specific emotional reactions you have.
Taking an inventory of beliefs is like solving a mystery of what is happening in your mind. The mystery is about discovering what core beliefs are driving your emotions of anger. Some people might think of this as learning your triggers. It’s not. By taking an inventory, you observe and explore the unconscious part of your mind that is layered below triggers.
If you are like most people, you have not had any training at paying attention to your thoughts and emotions. These are skills in self awareness that we do not learn in high school or college. Some people think they are self aware, or can give a pretty good “self evaluation”. What the don’t realize is that this “self evaluation” is actually a rant from the Judge part of their mind and is a list of criticisms. A real self assessment is objective and points out that the Judge’s “evaluation” are just beliefs from this part of the mind that are not true. This perspective and awareness is extremely useful if you want to change your beliefs.
I’ve included two examples of the causes of anger that was discovered through the inventory process with two previous clients. By practicing some exercises in self awareness these two people were able to immediately begin changing some of their expressions and behaviors. Once their false beliefs were identified, the anger of these two individuals really began to dissolve.
Anger Example 1. How Fear can be a Source of Anger
George had worked for a number of companies and had quit each one under similar circumstances of anger and frustration. George called me after several years of this. He realized that he couldn’t afford to keep quitting jobs. It had taken a financial toll in the past and he didn’t want to continue the destructive emotional and financial pattern.
George thought he was aware of the pattern, but he didn’t see how to change it. He tried to will his emotions away but that only worked temporarily. His efforts at applying self help and personal development techniques made temporary small improvements but he would relapse back to the essential problem of anger. In some ways his self help attempts made things worse because after a relapse he would judge himself for failing. He would then be angry at himself and it could come out to others.
Something that made things worse was that George was becoming frustrated at his current IT job at a nice bank. His frustration had started to turn into anger towards the people around him.
George basically understood the emotional pattern to start with feeling unappreciated. He would try harder to gain recognition and approval but somehow it wouldn’t come. He would work harder for the people around him but still didn’t feel he was recognized and appreciated for his extra efforts. Over time he felt frustrated and angry at the people for their lack of caring and appreciation. At a certain point he would become so angry and frustrated with his work situation that he would quit.
Through several self awareness and inventory exercises George began to identify other elements to the triggers that he hadn’t seen before. One of them was fear. George was so busy attempting to make all the internal clients happy that he had not noticed how much fear was behind his motivation. He was afraid of disappointing his clients. He was afraid that they would judge him. He was afraid of letting them down. He was afraid they would get angry at him. Most importantly, he was afraid that they would punish him.
It turned out that George’s mind spent a good deal of time imagining scenarios where people would get upset with him. They rarely did, but that didn’t stop George from imagining it. George was feeling beaten up emotionally by the people at work even though the whole event was taking place in his imagination.
George’s creation of anger was a natural emotional response to feeling unfairly treated, even if the mistreatment was imagined. His anger emotions were a rational response; it’s just that his thoughts were not.
As we inventoried George’s fear of being punished he flashed on an experience from his childhood of a particularly harsh teacher. George remembered being afraid to go to class because of how she treated him. I asked George to pay particular attention to the scenarios his imagination spun about the people at work and see if there were differences between men and women work associates. There was. George didn’t feel abused or fear mistreatment from any of the men. His fear scenarios all involved women. The realization of this detail made it easier for George to be skeptical of what he thought in his mind.
We had found a defining event in George’s experience where his imagination started to project fear of punishment scenarios. This was related particularly to how women in positions of authority treat him. George’s mind continued to project assumptions about his current and future situations based on beliefs learned from years before. These are unconscious beliefs hiding repressed emotions.
George’s compensating strategy to these fears was to overextend himself as a “Pleaser” to the people he worked for. He was seeking approval and appreciation in hopes of avoiding punishment. Overextending himself with this compensating strategy added to George’s resentment and frustration. These interpretations and emotions added his anger emotions, but weren’t the root cause. They appeared as triggers in his justifications, but hid the false beliefs at the source of George’s anger.
One of the things that made the imagined scenarios seem so real was that occasionally someone at the office would get upset. George’s mind selectively used these events to justify his projections. George also used the emotions he felt from imagined scenarios to misinterpret what was really going on. A simple conversation with his boss about where he was on a project would be construed in his fearful mind as a reprimand that he was behind schedule. He felt punished unfairly based on his interpretation of the conversation instead of the reality of the conversation.
Addressing these and other mitigating factors, helped dissolve the elements that drove George’s anger. A mistake many people make in trying to eliminate their anger is to look for one specific thing to change. There are usually several different elements conspiring together in the mind to produce an emotional reaction. If you look for a simple one element fix, you’ll likely miss a large part of the problem.
Through specific exercises George became aware of the way his mind artificially constructed scenarios and created fear and false punishments. Previously he didn’t even know his mind was manufacturing fear and images of mistreatment. He was so hard at work trying to please people that he was unaware of the fear scenario that preceded his efforts. With his new level of awareness George began to consciously intervene and disbelieve his imagination.
Once identified, and with some practice changing his point of view, George changed the emotional pattern he started in grade school. Not only was George able to drop his anger, but he no longer felt the need to compensate by over extending himself. At first George thought dropping the “Pleaser” side of his personality might cause his productivity to go down. The opposite happened. George no longer spent his mental and emotional energy generating fear, resentment, and anger. He was able to be more productive without the stress of trying so hard to please everyone.
Changing these scenarios also required that George shift his Perspective away from the person being punished in his imagination. This allowed George to be a less fearful, and more empowered person. The last time I checked in with George he had built up the confidence to leave his old job and was making quite a bit more at a new position in a new company.
Anger Example 2. How Self Abuse leads to Anger
David periodically had angry outbursts to his wife for the littlest things. He’s been doing it for years and didn’t know why. After each one he would make a commitment to never do it again. He could will himself to hold back his emotions for so long, but eventually, an outburst would slip out. The result would be a punishing commentary from the voice in his head about what a terrible thing he had done and what a miserable being he was.
In a typical situation David was on vacation driving the car with his wife and kids. His wife grabbed some trash from the center console to clean up the car and that tripped an anger outburst from David. He snapped at her and blurted out, “Leave that alone, I got it,” with toxic venom in his voice. With the kids in the car he got a hold of his words, but fumed inside for many more miles.
You might think that anger is something that would happen to less educated or unaccomplished people. David is neither. He is a doctor. In spite of his education, none of David’s training involved identifying and changing his core beliefs or the way his mind created emotions. With all his intelligence David couldn’t make sense of his outbursts until he began paying attention to his internal dialog and core beliefs. It turns out that they don’t teach these processes in college, or even medical school.
David started applying self awareness and Self Mastery exercises techniques. He used the inventory system outlined in the Self Mastery program to investigate and change the root causes of his anger. By changing his point of view, and increasing his awareness of thoughts, underlying beliefs, and emotions, David has been able to dissolve the large majority of his anger so far, as well as make major changes in other areas of his life.
Finding the root cause of Anger
Through the inventory process David discovered that the root cause of his anger towards his wife was self judgment. He couldn’t see it all those years because he didn’t know how to look at his thoughts from an observer point of view. He also didn’t know how those thoughts were responsible for his emotions. From the observer perspective, and becoming informed about how we create emotions, he could see how his beliefs drove his anger outbursts.
In actuality David adores his wife. He has tremendous love and respect for her. He is amazed at her patience with their kids, how well she keeps the house clean, and keeps everything organized. As far as David is concerned she is wonderful and her behaviors exemplary. However, David’s belief system uses the example of her behavior differently.
David’s unconscious mind uses the behavior of his wife as a standard of comparison for him self. The voice of the Inner Judge in his mind compares his own behaviors to his wife and finds him substandard. This internal dialog is often going on in his background thoughts when he is around her, or just thinking of her.
David’s continual criticism from the voice in his head was so incessant it amounted to emotional self abuse. It hurt emotionally each time his mind compared himself to his wife in certain areas. Belief in all those self judgments created, and then fed emotional wounds. Eventually these self judgments would build up emotional pain to the point that his mind was tired of the pain and had to push back. One way we push back against abuse is with anger.
Since David had no awareness that the pain was from his own self judgments, he blamed whoever was around him. It often showed up around his wife so his belief system assumed that she was the cause of his pain. His outburst of anger was simply a fight or flight defense mechanism trying to stop emotional pain. It’s just that the mind had unconscious beliefs that associated his emotional pain as being caused by other people like his wife. She wasn’t the cause of his emotional pain, but his unconscious mind had agreed that she was.
It would happen so fast
When David’s wife would clean up something around him, like in the car incident, David’s unconscious mind would very quickly run a story. In that story he would compare his own behaviors against the standard of his wife. The inner judge in his mind would conclude he was failing and criticize himself. The anger outburst would happen as a defense against his emotional pain. It would happen so fast that it would surprise his conscious mind.
David began by paying closer attention to what he assumed were insignificant thoughts. Once David was able to identify the false assumptions and beliefs woven in his thoughts, his emotional reactions began to shift. A critical shift happened when he saw how his self judgment created emotional pain that led to an anger reaction. This brought greater skepticism to all the hidden assumptions about his wife being some part of the cause. Suspending his belief in these unconscious assumptions was a big step in gaining control over the outbursts.
Bigger changes happened when David began to dissolve his self judgments. David learned to shift is point of view and that allowed him to suspend belief in his inner critic. Without belief in his inner critic, David’s self criticism lost its power. Once David was no longer so hard on himself his anger reaction began to dissolve.
The next step was to identify and change the beliefs that were driving the self judgments. Without the beliefs that support self judgment, the self criticism dissolves. He no longer needs to manage anger, or attempt to control emotional outbursts. What had been controlling him in so many moments of his past was now gone. David had found a way to cure himself from the angry outbursts by changing his core beliefs.
Return on Your Investment
Taking the time to do a belief inventory and become aware of the dynamics of the mind that drive your emotions and behavior is not a quick fix. You can begin to make changes in behavior right away, but completely dissolving your anger takes a little more time. However, it is a long term solution, and it can be permanent.
Sometimes you will find and change some beliefs that moment, or that day. Other times it takes a few weeks, or even a few months, to develop the skills to change your point of view and identify and change interpretations and beliefs. But consider this, the time and effort you are investing is in your self. And you can benefit from the value of learning these skills for the rest of your life. That means that the return on the investment of your efforts will be paid back to you for the rest of your life.
Before their experience in self awareness and the Self Mastery exercises, George and David continually tried to manage or control their emotions of anger. They had no idea that their anger was just a reaction to their fears, abuse from self judgment, and other false beliefs. No matter how successful they were in controlling their anger, it was only temporary. In each case, the mind was unconsciously generating more anger for them to manage and deal with.
Gaining control of your emotional reactions is like continually putting out fires. This is what most anger management techniques attempt to do. Anger prevention addresses gaining control over the beliefs and interpretations that are at the source of your emotions and anger so you don’t have to control or put out anymore fires.
If you have a sincere desire to eliminate unnecessary and unwanted anger from your life and relationships, then consider investing in your self. Take the time to become aware of your internal dialog, beliefs, how they affect your emotions, and how to change them. With that awareness you can change what goes on in your mind and get rid of your anger permanently.
It begins with awareness, and that leads to practicing actions that create change. The steps to for eliminating anger and other emotional reactions are in the Self Mastery Course.2