Part three of the anger management series written by Regesh Executive Director, Edwin Schild, B.S., M.Sc, NAMA anger management specialist, diplomate
Further to Parts I and II of this four-part series on Anger Management, I would like to share with my readers some basic beliefs that one must understand in their journey to anger management (which I also referred to as “personal control”). As previously discussed, anger management is directly related to self-esteem and confidence as well as a better understanding of “anger” and oneself. 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”.
The Anger Circle
In Part II of this series I wrote about the anger circle. “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”.
How Shame Can Lead to Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms in Children
Most people 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 everyone a message you need to hear. But for people who live with too much shame, the bad feelings never seem to go away, no matter what you 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.
Shame Versus Guilt
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 some 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).
How to Identify Unhealthy Shame
Shame is an emotion everyone feels sometimes. It can be either healthy or unhealthy to feel some shame. Healthy shame is normal, lasts a short time and gives you a message that helps you to balance your thinking and behaviour. Unhealthy shames lasts too long, feels too powerful and extreme; therefore, it doesn’t help make you feel balanced in your thinking and behaviour. The feeling of being bad (made to feel badly about himself) doesn’t ever seem to go away when a child is shamed too strongly or too often. That is unhealthy shame!
Identifying a Reaction Versus a Response in Therapy & at Home
In order to control the anger circle, one must first understand the difference between a reaction and 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 and make your decisions based on a thought process. 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.
Managing Your Anger in Therapy
To have confidence in your anger control, one 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. To slow the situation down, one needs to learn to respond to the situation rather than react to it. Throughout the remaining parts of this series, I will help my readers understand what I mean by this.
The six steps to good anger management must 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 become second nature to them and happen almost spontaneously.
The Six Anger Management Steps
- Identify the situation. What is really happening here?
- Will everyone agree what the situation is and would everyone agree with this?
- Who is involved in this situation?
- It’s usually more than just the other person and yourself; onlookers are involved when altercations happen. They can either encourage further conflict or be instrumental in ending an altercation.
- Why does this situation bother me?
- This is the most critical of the six steps as it takes the situation from merely describing what the other person did to how I 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. This means one has to learn to look inside of oneself and understand the triggers and internal feelings causing their situation.
- 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?
- How to Choose the best option to resolve the Situation
- What processing tools are needed to choose the best option? 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. Understand that a good action plan can be reused during similar occasions.
Edwin Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto. Regesh runs many programs helping individuals, families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements and train-the train workshops. Edwin can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.