The Wandering Desert Monk

The Wandering Desert Monk

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Anger Transformation

There are two schools of thought about how to deal with anger: Anger Management and Anger Transformation. 

When most people talk about dealing with their anger they talk about how to cool down - count from 10 backwards or count to 20. Anger management classes which are often taught to persons whose anger got them into trouble with the law focus on skills - breathing, being aware of triggers, some ways to deal with your anger - exercise, punching a pillow. going outside and screaming. One of the best ones I heard told me to get a bowl of ice cubes and go outside and throw them against a brick wall. The goal of anger management is to 'manage' your anger. 

I am not a big fan of anger management; I prefer to teach people anger transformation.

Here are my teaching points: 

1. Anger is a normal human emotion. It is not anger that gets us into trouble, it's what we do with our anger that gets us into trouble. Breaking your partner's dishes, screaming curse words at co-workers, driving irratically down the street - these are all behaviors that will get you into trouble. Anger isn't the problem; its what we do with our anger that is the trouble. 

2. Anger is a symptom, not a cause. When you come home from work and your children (or partner) have left their clothes and dishes all over the family room/living room. What is your immediate reaction? Yelling at who ever is closest about the mess? Your increased blood pressure, your hot face, your voice are all indications that you are one unhappy person. 

3. The problem isn't the problem. We think the problem is stuff strewn all over the house. That isn't the problem. The problem is your unmet need. The human race has universal needs: needs for peace, harmony, community, communication, order, clarity, respect, etc. (To download the list of universal need see, What need of yours is not being met when you walk in the door and see the mess? Peace? Harmony? Community? Identify what need isn't being met. That is the problem. 

4. Now you have to communicate the need to your family. How do you do that? 
First, note your anger. Give yourself some self-empathy. Yes, you are darn mad at the mess in front of you. You want to detach someone's head from their body! 
Second, observe the mess. Note specifically what you see - cups, shoes, toys, etc. 
Third, formulate your message to the offender. 

*Begin with a compliment: "Honey, I love you" is a good start. 

*Then communicate the observation. "Honey, I see cups, shoes and toys on the furniture and floor." 

*Then communicate your need, "I have a need for order and harmony in my life." 

*Then communicate your request, "Can you, please, pick up the shoes, clothes and toys and place them were they belong." 

Now here is the catch. If the person responds defensively to your request, they probably hard the request as a demand. So say something like this, "Honey, I maybe I didn't say that right. Let me try again." Go through the message again.  (Some people begin with their need and then move to the observation and then to their request - either order is equally effective. It is what is comfortable to you.) 

I have taught the above communication skill, I call Anger Transformation, to many couples and parents. Many people tell me that the above communication skills have transformed their personal lives and professional lives. 

I would appreciate hearing how these communication tools help you. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Stay has been granted


"You have been granted a stay," the Judge drops his gavel on his desk.
My heart trembles in relief, head in my hands,
"How do I deserve such an act of mercy?"

Another day breaks, death escapes for one more night
My heart trembles in relief, head in my hands,
"How do I deserve such an act of mercy?"

With gratitude for this gift of another day
I will live as a gift to my world,
"How do I deserve such a gift of grace?"

(c) 2012 Ronald Friesen