Tuesday, March 26, 2013

ABC's of Anger Management

I abruptly got up from the seat where I had been waiting for twenty minutes or so and left the hair salon without a word or a haircut. I let my anger out in the privacy of my car with a few choice words about the stupid stylists who made me wait. I tossed my handbag on the floor, spilling its contents. To really show how mad I was, I threw my sunglasses case on the floor and sped to the exit of the shopping center. At home, I vented to my husband "I am never going to that Great Clips again!" then kept the residual resentment to myself for the rest of the day.

My anger came with a feeling of shame. Shame that I am not more patient. Shame that my anger, even if it is justified in some way, can be so out of proportion to the offense. In this case, the offense was being told on arrival at the salon that it would be a 20 minute wait for a haircut with one man in front of me, then watching as another patron who arrived after me got her hair cut first. When the next available stylist called out the name of yet another customer who arrived after me, that sent me over the edge. At the same time, I was ashamed of being upset because the customers who were served before me were children, for goodness sake!

In my mind, I try to justify my anger - my time is valuable, after all. What am I, chopped liver! I have a lot of self-control; I'm usually patient and calm. For me, anger takes awhile to build, like a pot of water coming to a slow boil. My anger starts with feelings of frustration or annoyance that slowly build up to full blown anger.

Whether or not it appears to come out of nowhere, some event triggers anger, according to the article, Anger Cues and Control Strategies. Events that trigger anger include long waits, traffic congestion, having to clean up someone else's mess, being wrongly accused, etc.

As the title suggests, anger comes with cues - physical, behavioral, emotional and cognitive cues. I find the emotional cues helpful because the feelings and thoughts that come with anger point at what is really behind the anger. My wait at the salon made me angry because I felt disrespected. The stylists didn't take the time to say, "Ma'am, it's going to be another twenty or thirty minutes. Do you still want to wait?" That's what I thought they "should" do.
Emotional cues involve other feelings that may occur concurrently with our anger. For example, we may become angry when we feel abandoned, afraid, discounted, disrespected, guilty, humiliated, impatient, insecure, jealous, or rejected. 
The article summarizes the anger control strategy based on the A-B-C-D Model developed by Albert Ellis and R.A. Harper.

A = Activating Situation or Event
B = Belief System - what you tell yourself about the situation (your self-talk)
C = Consequences  - how you feel about the event based on your self-talk
D = Dispute  - Are your beliefs and expectations unrealistic or irrational?

Ellis says that our beliefs or interpretations related to the angering event are what get us angry, not the event itself. Beliefs that cause us to get angry when triggering events happen tend to come in the form of "should" or "must" statements, like my belief that we should respect other people. Ellis' strategy for controlling anger consists of identifying irrational beliefs and disputing them with more rational or realistic perspectives.

Belief or Expectation
I must always be in control.
There are some things I cannot control. Accept the things I cannot change.
You should like me and give me approval.
I cannot please everyone.
Other people should treat me fairly and with respect.
Life isn't always fair. People are disrespectful.

Now, I don't necessarily believe that my beliefs about the way people should behave are irrational, but my expectations are certainly unrealistic. Yes, people should follow the rules and do the right thing. It would be nice if life was fair and people always treated others with respect. It would be great if everything went my way all the time.  But those expectations are not realistic.

Annoyances are a fact of life, I can't control every situation, I can't control what other people do, but I do have some control over how I react.

Originally posted  on 3/9/2013

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