No More Anger!: Be Your Own Anger Management Coach

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There are now many studies supporting the view that the best treatment for a range of conditions is CBT. Indeed, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and the NHS have both recommended CBT as the treatment of choice when working with conditions such as depression, anxiety and anger. By adapting many of the strategies associated with CBT allowed to put together a model that helped individuals get the best from everyday life. In addition, by integrating aspects from the new field of Positive Psychology which aims to increase an individual's basic appreciation of life and general happiness it became possible to produce a model that worked for everyone and not just those with an identifiable mental health problem.No More Anger takes the skills and techniques of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Coaching and offers you the opportunity to take control of your anger. It aims to help you understand what is happening to you and teach you how you can overcome your anger. If you use the skills outlined in this book you will learn how to become your own anger management coach.

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HOW WILL THIS BOOK HELP ME?

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This book takes the skills and techniques of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Coaching and offers you the opportunity of taking control of your anger. The book aims to help you understand what is happening to you and teach you how you can overcome your anger. If you use the skills outlined in this book you will learn how to become your own anger management coach.

Some of you may find it helpful to read the book through once before returning to do the exercises. Others may find it more helpful to tackle each of the exercises as they come up. It is up to you to decide which method suits you best. What is important is that you work through the book at your own pace and in your own way making sure that whatever way you choose ensures that you understand each and every chapter and exercise. Change will only come about if you practise the skills in your everyday life. Don't expect your behaviour to change overnight, because it took you time to be the person you are and it will take time to change yourself. Be realistic and praise yourself for every change, however small you think it is. Remember that you are doing something positive to coach yourself, and even if you think you may never manage to change, you have taken the first step in doing so.

 

WHAT IS ANGER?

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Anger can be a good thing. For example, if I go to cross the road and see a car speeding towards me, I would experience all the physical and emotional sensations of stress, and, for some, these feelings would immediately translate into feeling angry at the person driving the car. However, if I felt the same way while waiting in a queue, or find myself screaming and shouting inappropriately at the bus conductor because the bus is late, then these would not be helpful or appropriate responses. Anger is a crucial survival mechanism and our bodies are pre-programmed to protect us from dangerous situations.

Biologically, our bodies produce several stress hormones, for example, adrenaline, that encourage changes in our physical and mental state, helping us either to escape from the situation or to face it head-on. This is called the ‘stress response’, and you may have heard it called ‘fight or flight’. The three key players when it comes to stress hormones are adrenaline (associated with flight), noradrenaline (associated with fight), and cortisol.

 

WAYS THAT ANGER CAN SHOW ITSELF

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Irritability, although associated with anger, is not at all like anger. For example, I may feel irritated because someone pushes in front of me in a queue, or because the gas man has not arrived at the specified time, or because it is the third time today I have had to tidy up after the children. When we are irritable we feel unsettled, and may grumble a little about what has happened. I may say something to the person who pushed in, or ring the gas service to complain, or tell my children that they need to learn to be more thoughtful. However, our comments are more measured than they would be if we were angry, rather than merely irritated. If we have a headache, we may find ourselves with less patience than we would normally have, so that things that would normally not bother us or that we would normally take in our stride seem more annoying than normal. When we are irritable, it is usually only passing and associated with an event or a general ‘under the weather’ feeling. Irritability does not have a great effect on the individual's well-being or that of others.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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There are a number of studies that have shown that angry people can harm themselves. A recent study found that being angry could, in the long term, harm lung function, and other studies have shown a link between anger and coronary heart disease. There certainly do seem to be a number of physical problems associated with being angry and that is not surprising when you consider that muscle tension and an increase in heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure are all present when a person becomes angry.

In addition, if anger turns to physical violence, then an individual is also more likely to become injured.

Anger does not cause problems like nervous breakdowns. Many people who suffer from mental illness may feel angry, but anger itself does not cause mental illness; it is more of a by-product of the illness. For example, if someone is experiencing bouts of anger due to suffering post traumatic stress disorder, then it is possible that the individual may need psychiatric or psychological care of some description, but his or her anger is attributable to the condition and is not something that is the cause of it.

 

BECOMING ANGER-FREE

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As stress is likely to make anger worse, or even be the cause of an angry outburst, it is important to learn how to deal with stress. Help yourself by remembering that you can always take some action to minimize, even if by only a small amount, the stress you experience. Additional tips on how to manage stress are provided in the section ‘Stress busting’ (pp. 158–160). The following strategies are those which are particularly useful to people who experience anger as their initial response to stress. Come to your own aid by:

You can choose from the following range of techniques to suit your own preferences and circumstances.

Maintain or establish a strong support network. Come to terms with your feelings and share them with others. Ask for help when you need it and accept it when it is offered. You can always offer help to other people when you are stronger and they need it. For now, it's your turn to accept help.

Research has shown that people who have strong support networks are able to withstand the pressures of life more effectively than those who do not.

 

ANGER-FREE THINKING

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Whenever you learn something new, regardless of whether it is a practical skill like using the Internet or a mental skill such as changing behaviour or negative beliefs, you go through a set sequence of learning:

•  stage one, unconsciously incompetent;

•  stage two, consciously incompetent;

•  stage three, consciously competent;

•  stage four, unconsciously competent.

This process is known as Robinson's Four Stages of Learning.

‘Don't know it and can't do it.’

You feel unhappy but have no idea why.

‘I begin to notice just how often I have negative thoughts but I don't seem able to change anything.’

During this stage you become aware of what is happening but seem unable to do anything about it. This is the awareness stage: for example, realizing the ways in which you make yourself feel angry by magnifying situations in a negative way, which increases your anger, but not being able to stop.

‘I have skills and can handle situations better although I still have to think about what I am doing.’

You now have a range of strategies to use, but you still have to think about what you are doing, as it does not feel natural.

 

ANGER-FREE EMOTIONS

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Emotional intelligence is about learning to being emotionally smart. It is not always the person with the highest IQ who does best. Emotionally smart people get the most from managing their own and other people's emotions. If you can learn the skills of emotional smartness it will help you overcome your anger. When you are angry you may find that people do not listen to what you have to say because they are too busy reacting to your anger. They may decide not to consult you because they do not want to antagonize you and deal with the fall-out. They may talk about you behind your back and you may get a reputation as someone who is difficult.

The skills fall into five key areas.

Emotionally smart people are able to identify their own emotions. This means learning to tell other people how you feel. It means taking responsibility for your own emotions by starting sentences with ‘I feel … ’

Emotions can be difficult, and emotionally smart people know when to take care of themselves. For example, when you find things difficult what are the things you do to take care of yourself? Do you have a long hot bath and relax? Do you talk to a friend? Do you get a DVD or video and watch that? There are times when you need to take care of other people's emotions and there are times when you need to motivate yourself and others.

 

ANGER-FREE ACTIONS

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If you want to overcome your anger you have to challenge your behaviour. Anger makes us behave in ways that are not helpful, and when you give in to your feelings all you do is give power to the anger. Also, you may well find that as your anger increases, your positive outcomes become less favourable. For example, you are on the phone to arrange for someone to come out and repair your hands-free car phone system and the call does not go the way you think it should do. You have given them a lot of information but, because you have not got the response you think you should have, you end up slamming the phone down and then having to ring back and start all over again with someone else as the agent was at a call centre where many people are answering calls.

If you really want to conquer your anger, you need to engage in what is called graded exposure, which means that you start to face those situations you find difficult by engaging a range of coping strategies to help you deal with your feelings. Research has shown that when you face a difficult situation your feelings will peak, and if you can stay in the situation the feelings will come down to a more bearable level.

 

WHAT AN ANGER-FREE LIFE REQUIRES

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You have the skills to improve the way you interact with other people, influencing a more positive outcome for yourself, although there are still some common areas of concern that you need to consider before you can really say you live an appropriately anger-free life.

If you are unable to manage your time effectively, you will not follow through on the promises you make yourself to improve your life. You might find yourself wanting and wishing things to be different, but saying you don't have enough time to practise your new skills.

Time is a valuable commodity. How many times do you catch yourself saying, ‘I'd want to but don't have the time’, or ‘There really does seem too much to do’? Too much activity leads to exhaustion; too little and you could become bored and frustrated. There are 168 hours in a week and 8,736 hours in a 365-day year, and so, with a finite amount of time, it is important that you make the most of what you have.

If you have answered yes to 2 and 3 and no to 1, 4, and 5, you might need to consider how you allocate your time and whether this is effective for you

 

THE ANGER-FREE DIET

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Anger can be made worse by taking stimulants such as tea, coffee, colas, and chocolate, all of which contain caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, and stimulants are best avoided when we are experiencing emotions such as anger. Because we produce stress hormones when we are feeling angry, this can affect our blood sugar levels, and they may indeed drop dramatically. Therefore, in order to keep those levels balanced, it is important to eat ‘little and often’ during the day. It may also be helpful to avoid refined sugars and other substances that ‘give too much of a high’ too quickly. Slow-release foods such as carbohydrates (potatoes, pasta, rice, bread, apples, and bananas) are a much better idea as they fuel the body in a more even, controlled way.

These days it is impossible to avoid information on healthy eating. However, what we eat also has an effect on our confidence levels and our ability to cope emotionally.

As was outlined in the ‘Stress busting’ section above, our bodies produce stress hormones and release fatty acids and sugars to help us cope with a perceived crisis. When such events take place our bodies’ natural blood sugar levels are disturbed, and this is also the case when we become angry or anxious. Our blood sugars help us regulate the fuel requirements needed by our bodies. Low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia contributes to symptoms of anxiety.

 

APPENDICES

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