In continuing our discussion on anger management, I would like to share some basic beliefs that one must understand in their journey to anger management (which I also referred to as personal control). As we have previously discussed, anger control is directly related to self-esteem and confidence. That is, the better the self-esteem, the more capable the person will be in controlling emotions. Also, related to this is the concept we refer to as “shame.”
Most kids and teens can stand up to normal and temporary bad feelings about themselves. That kind of shame certainly hurts, but it will soon disappear. Good shame gives every kid (and adults too) a message you need to hear. But for kids who live with too much shame, the bad feelings never seem to go away, no matter what they do. If a child listens to negativity all the time, she or he might do something terrible, or just give up in misery. This kind of shame just seems too painful to stand.
Feeling shame and feeling guilt can really be confusing for a person. So let me tell you about the difference. Guilt is when someone feels that they have done something wrong (like stealing money from your parent’s wallet – that would be the feeling you would get). Shame is when you feel you ARE something wrong (like you just feel badly about yourself, who you are, how you look, how you act or feel). Shame is a feeling everyone feels sometimes and it can be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy shame is normal, lasts a short time and gives you a message that helps you to balance your thinking and behaviour. Unhealthy shame lasts too long and feels too powerful and extreme, so it doesn’t help make you feel balanced in your thinking and behaviour. If a kid has been shamed (made to feel badly about himself) too strongly or too often, the feeling of being bad doesn’t ever seem to go away. That is unhealthy shame!
In Part II of this series, I wrote about the anger circle. As noted in that part, “If one is perceived as angry, amazingly the other person automatically responds back angrily”. As I said, “we don’t know, but it’s the way we are. This is important because the anger circle is a reaction that takes on a life of its own. It grows and the reaction goes faster and faster until someone has the strength and skill to stop it. Uncontrolled and growing on its own, anger leads to troubles with often dangerous consequences and never resolves a problem”. In order to control the anger circle, one must first understand the difference between a reaction and a response. This is very important in the journey of personal control. One must understand that a reaction is when someone does something in an impulsive or spontaneous manner, while a response is when you stop to think about the situation. After discussing this with a ten year old, he said to me, “Oh, I understand; when I respond I put my brain into gear”. I think he got it.
In order to have good control over anger, the individual must understand what I refer to as the six steps to good anger management. In normal situations where there is an altercation, the situation happens very quickly and often leads to a reaction based on what the person perceives as happening. In order to slow the situation down, one needs to learn to respond to the situation rather than react to it. Over the next few parts of this series, I will help my readers understand what I mean by this. The six steps to good anger management need to be internalized because there is rarely an opportunity for one to take a lot of time for these steps. However, as my clients learn these steps, they soon become second nature to them and happen almost spontaneously. The six steps are:
Identify the situation? Will everyone agree what the situation is? Would everyone agree with this?
2. Who is involved in the situation? It’s usually more than just the other person and me. In fact, onlookers are also involved when altercations happen. They can either encourage further conflict or be instrumental in ending an altercation.
3. Why does this situation bother me? This is the most critical of the six steps as I go from merely describing what the other person did to howI believe it is causing my anger. That is, why do I believe this situation is making me angry? This is a very difficult step and takes some help and practice to achieve. Usually when I ask the client this question, he or she repeats the altercation and almost always tells me what the other person did. I have to persist to ask why the situation bothers “you” rather than what the other person did.
4. Options for resolving the situation? What are some of the possible resolutions to this situation? Why would one option be better than another? What would be required to choose that option?
Choosing the best option to resolve the situation: What processing tools are needed to decide which option is best for the situation? Would one option be better for you but another option better for someone else involved? How do you know that you made the best choice?
Action plan to resolve the situation: Decide the most efficient and effective way to implement your option and put an action plan into place.
In Part IV of this series I will share some important “secrets” with you about anger. When you understand these secrets, you will understand the nature of anger and angry people.
Edwin Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements and train-the train workshops. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.regesh.com.