Even the "Experts" Misunderstand Anger

Thursday, July 9, 2009
COMMENTARY

Wendy Dolber is an Option Method practitioner and owns Dialogues in Self Discovery LLC, dedicated to teachings in the Option Method. The Method is a personal growth and development tool, and is not a psychotherapy. You can find out more about her at www.TheGuruNextDoor.com. Read her full article about anger at www.newjerseynewsroom.com - posted July 7, 2009.

Wendy recently published an article in the New Jersey News Room.com, and as an expert in the Option Method, she shares some valuable insights about anger, beliefs and choices. However, like many so-called experts on anger, she also misses the mark by a longshot in one key area. Read on - see if you can catch it.

"Anger doesn't change anyone. It doesn't make your kids listen to you. Or do their homework. Or stop texting at dinner. It doesn't make your spouse or significant other love you any more than they already do. Or guess what you want. Or put the toilet seat down.It doesn't make your boss give you a promotion. Or listen to your great idea. It doesn't make traffic, checkout lines, or kids on a school morning move any faster. It doesn't make the car start when it won't. It doesn't stop the dog barking, or chewing or jumping on your elderly parents.

Anger doesn't change you. It doesn't make you smarter, slimmer, younger or stronger. It doesn't make you stop smoking or start exercising. It doesn't erase your mistakes or take back your words.

Anger doesn't find anything. Not lost keys, or where you parked the car. Or airline tickets, when you only have ten minutes to leave for the airport.Anger doesn't change the world. Or the weather. Or the price of gas. Anger doesn't change anything."

Wendy goes on to ask some questions about why there is so much anger in the world:

"Anger makes things happen, doesn't it? Or do we just believe it does? When you want to move to get what you want, to make a difference, to change something, to speak out, how does anger make that happen? Does anger open your mouth to speak or move a muscle in your body? Does anger make your brain remember or create solutions? Does it sit down with your kids or your spouse or your best friend to figure things out?"

Great questions!

She continues on making a great case for what happens when anger develops - explaining that often anger rises because of a mismatch between our perceived experiences and our expectations. But... listen to this...

"We suspect it's (the anger is) not really good for us, but it feels inescapable. As if it were a direct result of what's happening to us or around us. It also feels justified and necessary... Being angry is like being in a maze and constantly going down a dead end... Suppose anger is what we do when we believe our caring or our desires or our passion isn't enough to motivate us to change ourselves or the situation(?)"

Do you see it? Did you hear it? What is the implication in these statements?

Let's clarify by exploring the first two myths and realities of anger (from the Anger Solutions program) and see if you catch it then:

1. Anger is a BEHAVIOUR - can you hear it in her statements above? "Anger is what we DO when..." The reality is that anger is an EMOTION - behaviour is what we choose as a method for expressing that emotion.

2. Anger is BAD - you can hear that too... "We suspect it's not good for us... but it feels inescapable." The reason that anger is inescapable is not because it is bad - but because it is a natural emotion that all human beings experience! Emotions are not bad - they should not be judged as such. Sometimes the choices we make end up with bad results, but we need to stop judging anger as though it is some sort of disease.

While Wendy has some valid points to make about beliefs and behaviour; responses and outcomes; and the fact that we can choose to pursue the outcomes rather than get lost in our emotions, her allusion to anger as behaviour rather than emotion muddies her argument. Not sure you agree with me? I encourage you to go back to the top and read the first few paragraphs of her article again - within the context of anger as BEHAVIOUR then read it in the context of anger as FEELING or EMOTION. It changes the meaning, doesn't it?

You may think that this kind of analysis is "splitting hairs" but I beg to differ. As long as people continue to perpetuate the myth that anger is something we DO rather than something we FEEL, I do not believe that we can ever get to the root of resolving it. When you only address the behaviours, this is anger management. It doesn't stick - more and more anger management practitioners are recognizing this and trying to find the reasons why. When you address the emotions of anger as well as the beliefs that are driving the ensuing behavioural choices, now you are looking at anger resolution. This sticks.

Anger Solutions enables people to effectively examine their emotions, the beliefs they have about each event in their lives, to assess and determine what kind of outcome they want, and the best way to achieve that outcome for all concerned. This is more than managing behaviour - this is an enlightened way to resolve what can often be perceived as a volatile emotion.

Which would you prefer? Managing behaviours and leaving the emotions to run unchecked? Or, acknowledging your emotions for what they are, and finding safe, appropriate ways to resolve the issues that created the emotions in the first place? You choose.

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