“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”- Viktor Frankl
There is commercial making the rounds on television right now for an Internet provider touting itself for its speed. The Internet service prides itself on being very fast, as opposed to its competitors who are merely “half fast.” When I first heard the commercial couple weeks ago, my initial reaction was, “Did I just hear what I think I heard?” And yes, that is what I heard. I also got an inspiration for the way that I teach clients anger management.
Anger is a very misunderstood and much maligned human emotion. Most of us develop a bad relationship with our anger because we never learn to recognize it correctly, control it, or learn to channel it in the right direction. Our bad relationship with this basic emotion starts, for most of us, in early childhood. The adults in our lives give us messages, before we even enter school, that anger is bad and is not a characteristic of “nice people,” whoever they are. Many of us spend the rest of our days struggling to be “good people,” who stuff their anger inside, keeping their mouth shut during times of turmoil. We believe that anger is an eruption that occurs when that stuffed down anger become so overwhelming that we simply have to “blowup” or “snap.” When this happens to most of us, we feel guilty, believing that we are like those “bad people” we were warned about in childhood. Even worse than that, we may get our needs met, as people back down in the face of our display of anger. I say that this is even worse, because it increases the likelihood that we will act this way again in the future. On a basic level, this kind of interaction teaches us that this is what we need to do in order to get our needs met. We also learn that the greater the need, the greater the amount of anger required to attain it.
So, at this point you are probably wondering what to do with that pent-up emotion that you have inside you at those moments that life puts you in those anger provoking situations. There are a number of ways to prevent you from going from 0 to 60 too quickly. Let’s call them “Half Fast Solutions” to your anger management problem:
1. Recognize that anger is a signal, not a state of being. Anger is a signal that you are either afraid, or that something going on around you is unacceptable to you. Quite often, if you examine the kinds of things that provoke your anger, you’ll realize that it’s often a combination of both fear and unacceptability. Anger is an action signal that you must change something. That something may be external to you, requiring you to influence some other person, place, or thing in your environment. It could also be internal. You may be the at fault party in an interaction, or you may be misinterpreting or misunderstanding something, leading to these disturbing feelings that you label as anger.
2. You must find ways to slow down that automatic response and chain of events that you have become addicted to in these moments. Take a look again at the Viktor Frankl quote. Train yourself to find that space by breathing, sometimes very deeply, and asking yourself two important questions, “What am I afraid of?” and “What is unacceptable to me right now?” This is the key to the Half Fast Solution that began this article. Between stimulus and response there is a space. Good anger management technique will teach you to find that space and use it to your advantage.
3. Learn to use visualization to slow the process down. I often teach my clients the analogy of the balloon that is overfilled with air. I hold my thumb and forefinger in the air pinched tightly together and ask my client if they had ever seen it balloon with too much air in it. Of course, they have, and I then ask, ‘What happens if I release my grip on that balloon too quickly?’ opening my thumb and forefinger. They describe how the balloon quickly flies out of control and lands on the ground exhausted. Another brilliant question I ask is, “Have you ever put your thumb on the top of an open Coke bottle and shaken it up?” You get the idea, and so do they.
4. The key to the Half Fast solution is to use that space that you have found to change, if possible, the thing that you are fearful of or that you find unacceptable. You are in a battle here, but the weapons are calm, yet assertive, words used artfully and skillfully in an attempt to get your needs met. You must make it very clear to the other person in this interaction how you are feeling using words that are skillfully chosen and artfully delivered. Remember, the goal is to get your needs met,not to prove to anyone what a bad ass you can be.
5. Keep in mind that the solution is called Half Fast, not Do Nothing or Walk Away. Doing so continues that pattern that you’ve developed of stuffing your feelings inside. This passive behavior repeated over time can lead to physical illness and relationship problems with people in your life who you consider to be “safe.” How many times does a guy have a bad day at work, then come home and take it out on his wife and kids? Turn on the evening news and you’ll notice it happens all too often. Being assertive, using the Half Fast Solution defuses things more appropriately. Win or lose, after you apply the Half Fast Solution it’s done. You walk away knowing that you did the best you could at that moment.
Think of all the Half Fast Solution is a middle ground. Begin to practice these strategies with little annoyances, being sure to notice exactly what you are doing. This is a skill that you can master with a little practice. Start with the little things that have a tendency to tee you off and consciously seek to use these skills. As your skill set develops, you’ll soon find yourself handling things that used to resemble Hiroshima with ease. And, you just might find that you like yourself a lot better.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
Be careful who you hit with that stick! Contact me at email@example.com if you are looking for some specific anger management training suited to your unique stressors.
P. S. Contact me if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.