Aggression.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Aggression

Aggression.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

“There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“When introverts are in conflict with each other…it may require a map in order to follow all the silences, nonverbal cues and passive-aggressive behaviors!”

― Adam S. McHugh

“Most of us, I believe, admire strength. It’s something we tend to respect in others, desire for ourselves, and wish for our children. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we confuse strength with other words—like ‘aggression’ and even ‘violence’. Real strength is neither male nor female; but it is, quite simply, one of the finest characteristics that a human being can possess.”

― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

Forgiveness lets you grow.

Sunday Inspiration.   Post by David Joel Miller.

Forgiveness lets you grow.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness lets you grow.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

“There is hope in forgiveness”

― John Piper, A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God

“The forgiving state of mind is a magnetic power for attracting good.”

― Catherine Ponder

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

― Oscar Wilde

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you please share them.

Anger Burns.

Sunday Inspiration.   Post by David Joel Miller.

Anger Burns.

Anger burning

Anger Burns the Holder.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Holding on to anger burns the holder.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

― Mark Twain

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

― Aristotle

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you please share them.

Who taught you about anger?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Angry person

Anger.
Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

How do you know what you know about anger?

Long before you went to school and learned to read and write you learned a bunch of lessons about how the world was. Some of those lessons were about feelings, anger in particular. Did you have good feelings teachers? Did you get those lessons right?

Thinking back to your childhood and how you came to think and believe the things you do can be a happy experience for some people. Others feel that those early life lessons left scars. What you learned about anger at a young age is one lesson you may want to take another look at. If thinking about your early life experiences is painful and difficult, then you are a candidate for counseling or some other personal growth experience.

What are your earliest life memories of anger?

Early life experiences shape personality development. Many of these memories are pictures of what happened or feelings about these happenings rather than the sort of stories we older people tell about these memories.

Do you have strong gut reactions to seeing others angry? How does experiencing others anger affect you now? Are you “freaked out” if someone is angry? Some people learned to avoid anger and feeling angry, others learned that when angry they should “let it all hang out.”

As a child do you remember being angry? What happened when you got angry? Did your needs get met or did you learn to hide that anger?

Infants and young children develop anger spontaneously when their needs are not met or they are frustrated. They quickly learn how they must express these needs to get what they require. Some people learn that others may express anger but they are not allowed to do so. If you learned rules about anger and how to express it as a young child this may be affecting your ability to cope productively with those feelings.

How did those you grew up around express their Anger?

Some families had the unwritten rule that anger or other strong emotions were not to be expressed, ever, under any circumstance. Other families were constantly acting out anger in a variety of ways.

For some people, anger was expressed by cursing or vulgar gestures. Did you adopt those ways of expressing anger and those expressions have become, for you automatic? You may find yourself saying things and doing things when upset or angry that you had not planned to do.

Who was allowed to express anger, who could not?

Was one person allowed to express their anger and others were not? Some families have one person who carries the anger for the whole family. The rest of the family members lives revolve around not making the angry person angry.

If you had a family culture where one person was the angry one you may have perpetuated that system in your relationships or the family you have created. Is that working for you or would you like to change the way anger is allowed to be a member of your family?

How did they express anger?

Families develop rules for how and when anger can be expressed. We often hold on to those rules when we leave out family of origin and then try to make those behavior patterns fit our new relationships. For some anger can be expressed directly, this is what is making me mad. Or it may be expressed more indirectly. There could be yelling and screaming or the silent treatment and stonewalling.

If your life is full of throwing and breaking things it is time for a change. If you or someone in your household has a pattern of leaving when angry this may be keeping you from every finding solutions to the conflicts.

Productive anger management may require time outs when one person becomes overheated but those exchanges also require setting a time to reconnect and work on solving those problems.

Did you learn gender roles in anger expression?

Many people arrive at therapy with a set of rules in their head about how people should fill their life roles. Do you think there are ways men express anger? Are those “male” anger behaviors different from those of women? Should the two sexes express their emotions differently?

Do you expect men and women to express their anger differently?

Are your disagreements win-lose situations or can people disagree?

Healthy families have some rules that are must-haves. The parents must set boundaries that are firm. As a parent, you probably should tell your kids that drugs are not allowed. But there are other things, politics, and religion where an absolute need for everyone to agree might be more optional.

Ask yourself can you allow other family members to disagree about things? Do you feel threatened when they don’t agree with you? Are there things you learned early in life that may not be working for you anymore?

Reexamine how and what you have learned about anger and decide for yourself if there are things about anger and your relationship to that anger that need changing.

For more on anger and anger management check out the other Anger Posts on counselorssoapbox.com.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Anger triggers – What gets you angry?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Angry person

Anger.
Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

What things set off your anger?

Some people are chronically angry, many things set them off. Others have a relative few things that result in feelings of anger. Becoming one of those people who rarely gets angry and manages their anger well is possible but it takes some work.

Learning to cope with anger involves recognizing anger when it comes to visit, becoming aware of the things that increase your chances of being angry and then learning control strategies to turn the “thermostat” on your anger down.

Many things may be “triggers” for making someone angry. In substance abuse work we spend a lot of time on learning to manage triggers to drink and use. For people with lots of anger or other emotional issues, learning your triggers is important as well.

Some authors define triggers as external events that may be the cause of your anger. I am used to thinking of triggers as being either external, situations or people I encounter, or internal, what is going on in my body and my mind. I have roughly divided some reported triggers into these two groups. You may find that there are other very personal triggers for your anger that are not on my lists.

See how many of these fit you and then do some “field research” in your own life, looking for the things that are triggering your anger. Some of these triggers may be real threats to you or your family and friends. Other triggers may be things most of us would call minor but for you, they just “set you off.” Identifying your triggers can help you plan responses for the future.

External Anger Triggers – People, Places, and Things.

These are things that happen to you, others do or events that upset you.

Facing a real threat physically or financially.

Being verbally or physically attacked or assaulted.

Being put down or disrespect in front of others.

An interruption to your plans.

Frustration at things that get in your way.

Financial losses or difficulties.

People who do things we believe are ethically or religiously wrong.

Unfair situations or treatment.

Things being out of our control.

People lie to you or let you down.

Having your things taken or damaged by others.

Having long waits or standing in lines.

Traffic or people getting in your way.

Crowds.

People talking about you.

Not being paid what you are owed.

People saying bad things about you.

Being accused of things you didn’t do.

People who do not clean up after themselves.

Being given wrong information or directions.

Internal Triggers for anger.

Sometimes it is the things going on inside of you that can trigger anger or other negative emotions.

Lack of sleep

Being hungry or thirsty.

Having your mind occupied with problems.

Negative emotions, anxiety, depression.

Feeling physically ill or having health problems.

Being lonely.

Feelings of guilt or shame.

Believing that you are not good enough or unworthy of good things.

Not liking yourself.

How many of these things, either external people, places or things or internal states are triggers for your anger, anxiety or other emotional issues? Once you recognize what is setting your anger off you may be able to work on reducing the impact of those triggers and avoiding the negative consequences of out of control anger.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. Anger triggers

Manage Anger by recognizing it – the Anger Cues.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Anger burning

Anger Burns the holder.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How would you know when you’re angry?

Controlling anger is a problem for many people. Learning to recognize anger when you see it, find ways to avoid or reduce your anger and then to not anger yourself in the first place can all help improve your health and your relationships.

Whether you have been required to learn about anger, someone you know has an anger problem or you want to find ways to reduce and control your anger, there are techniques that will prove helpful. Less anger can also have positive health benefits.

If you have difficulty with your anger let’s start on a crash course in how to recognize the anger monster when he rears his head.

Anger causes physical changes – Your body tells you about anger.

Your body often responses to rising levels of anger way before you realize that anger is the feeling you are having. Think for a moment about how you experience anger and how you see it in others.

Do you feel hot or flushed? Does your blood pressure rise? Are their sudden onsets of “stress” headaches after which you discover you are feeling angry and resentful towards someone?

Changes in heart rate and in breathing are common as the body prepares for the flight or fight reaction that follows anger and hostility. Increasing anger also can trigger higher levels of anxiety in people with anxiety disorders. These fear, anxiety, and anger caused changes result in more blood flow to the muscles and less to things like digestion and rational thinking.

High anger is well-known to cause violence towards others but recently it has been recognized as a cause of self-harm also. Angering yourself, regardless of the provocation, can result in impairment of your physical health.

The result of anger is a flooding of the nervous system with stress hormones resulting in physical problems including, headache, digestion problems, abdominal pain, insomnia, skin problems, such as eczema, heart attack, stroke and many others. Not only does high levels of anger increase your risk of heart disease, anger can impede the healing process if you have suffered heart damage.

Anger can increase your blood sugar levels, especially a problem for those with diabetes. Another common reaction to anger is to begin to sweat. Uncontrolled anger can reduce your immunity and increase the risk of getting colds or flu. Some research has shown correlations between high levels of anger and cancer.

For people in recovery from substance abuse or mental health issues, anger can be a trigger for relapse. If you are in recovery or have uncontrolled anger, the cost of that anger, whether you show it or not can be unbearably high.

Watch for these physical changes in your body and you will make progress in recognizing the things that trigger your anger.

For more on the medical aspects of anger see:

WebMD

Better Health Chanel from State Government of Victoria.

Behavioral cues – Your anger autopilot.

Notice where your body goes without you during an anger episode. You may find that long before you realize you are getting angry you have clenched your fists, changed your body posture or had other automatic physical reflexes.

Pacing and wandering aimlessly may also be signs that anger is taking control of you. You may suddenly realize you have been staring off into space or otherwise zoning out. Many people when angry, find their voice has risen to extremely loud volumes without them being aware they are raising their voice.

Slamming doors, throwing things are also common manifestations of anger. You may begin to act badly even before you are aware you are angry. Some of these reflexes are biological but others have been learned based on how you learned about anger and how your anger experiences have unfolded as you grew.

Learning to spot these behavioral cues can make you an expert in recognizing the Anger monster.

Anger brings other emotions along for the ride – fear, hurt, jealousy, disrespect.

Anger overlaps and cohabitates with many other negative emotions. When you are angry you may also become fearful, anxious or begin having cravings for drugs or alcohol.

This coupling of emotions works in both directions. Anger triggers other negative emotions and those other emotions, especially pain, hurt and loneliness, can trigger angry feelings. Just before you became angry what feeling were you feeling? Jealousy, rejection, feelings of being put down or disrespected can all trigger an angry response. If your anger was preceded by feelings of guilt, shame or humiliation you may need to work on those other feelings to reduce the role of anger in your life. Frustration or impatience can trigger anger episodes.

Anger can also be a trigger for other mental health issues from dissociation to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

Anger hijacks your brain – self-talk, pictures in your head, plans of revenge.

What you look for you get more of. Angry people are constantly on their guard watching for signs they are being criticized. Is someone comments on the things you do are you taking it as devaluing you and your actions?

Once the thought storm begins to build do you see insults and injury everywhere? Do you work yourself up into a lightning storm looking for someone to fry? Many episodes of anger are preceded by a storm of thoughts, rumination, about why people shouldn’t do or must do this or that. If you begin to believe that everything people around you do has something to do with you the anger will rise.

Have you seen changes in yourself as the anger rises? Watching for these cues help you spot anger and work to tame this beast before your anger damages your life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How angry is too angry?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Angry person

Anger.
Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Does your anger get out of control?

People with an anger management problem seem to have only one setting on their anger control.

The anger is either off or it is on. This leaves them with only two settings,

I think I am not angry and I am boiling over with anger. Those boil overs are what gets them in trouble.

Learning to recognize you are getting angry helps avoid boil overs.

A first step in learning to regulate your anger is to install an anger thermometer in your brain. Having this anger thermometer in place helps you monitor how angry you are and what is causing that anger temperature to rise.

Ever notice that in the summer a room that is 68 degrees Fahrenheit ( 20 degrees Celsius)  seems refreshingly cool, maybe even downright chilly if you just came in from outside where it was 100 F ( 37.8 C) In the winter that same room may seem hot if you just came in from outside where it was below freezing?

The same sort of thing happens with anger. When you are tired, have not slept well, are hungry or thirsty, you are more likely to become angry. Small irritations can set someone off when they do not feel well. Failing to recognize what you are feeling and to respond appropriately can also result in anger flare-ups. Mad, as in anger, can often just be sad in disguise.

These things will reduce your ability to control anger.

Alcohol use and abuse or drug misuse can also reduce your inhibitions and make small anger problems into serious events. Unresolved problems in one area of your life, financial or relationship issues can pop up as anger over things that might not otherwise set you off.

Rumination, that repetitive thinking about the same thing over and over, can also heat up your emotions to the vapor point. By rumination I am not referring to evaluating past actions or events to learn from them, what we mean by rumination is that habit we humans have to keep chewing on things that bother us until they make us sick. Rumination is an exercise in creating and maintaining unhelpful thoughts. More on rumination and its role in creating emotional problems is coming up in other counselorssoapbox posts.

How will you measure anger?

Begin your exploration of your anger feelings by creating a scale that works for you. Some people use a temperature scale. Other people find it more helpful to use a scale of zero to ten or zero to one hundred. Having created this Anger scale, begin to take periodic readings of how angry you are at any given moment.

It may be helpful to take your anger reading at the same time each day. Pay special attention to times you notice anger beginning. What was happening just before you felt your anger rise? Try taking your anger reading every day when you rise and when you go to bed. Do you wake up in a grouchy mood or does your mood get worse as the day progresses?

A further refinement to this scale would be to list some words for feelings related to anger and then try to arrange them on a scale from least angry to most angry. Is irritated the same as angry? Is strong anger enraged but moderate anger annoyed? Adding these other feeling words allows you to develop a range of feelings you could be having between not angry and violently boiling-over angry.

The goal of this effort is to learn to measure your anger so that later in the anger management process you can install an anger thermostat in your brain that allows you to turn the anger up or down at will. Most people have little difficulty angering themselves up but learning to keep the anger on low or even turn it off at will, that is a valuable skill.

Clues that anger is growing.

All this anger regulation stuff works if you are able to recognize your anger as it ebbs and flows. But if you find that you did not know you were getting angry and then suddenly you are boiling mad how can we help that?

Think about your past experiences with anger. Have you ever noticed someone becoming angry? They may have given off clues by their behavior or their body language before that anger outburst occurred. There may have been changes in their behavior or language.  In an upcoming post, I want to make some suggestions about how you might recognize that anger in others and in yourself before you hit the boiling point.

What kind of relationship do you have with your anger? Does it keep danger away or does it harm your relationships? Maybe a little of both? Stay tuned for more posts on Anger and how to tame that be

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Does anger management class help anger issues?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Angry person

Anger.
Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

What is an anger management class and how does it help?

Anger and anger issues are factors in a majority of referrals to counseling despite the fact that anger, as such, is not a diagnosable mental illness. Lots of people have asked me how an anger management class works and what do people learn there.

There is a strong connection between anger, and difficulties managing anger, and substance use disorders. Not everyone who takes a drug, medication or drinks alcohol proceeds to lose control over their anger. So in that sense, we can’t for sure say that substance use or abuse causes anger issues.

However, problems with anger and controlling anger are so common among those that have a substance use disorder that most treatment facilities include an anger management class in their substance abuse rehabilitation program.

Most people who contact a counselor because of anger issues are doing so because others have told them their anger is out of control. Often this referral to anger management class is court ordered after an incident of domestic violence or an assault.

Because of the number of referrals that are court ordered, anger management classes and curriculum can vary widely depending on the requirements of the court, probation, child protective services or other agency.

An individual might see a therapist for any number of individual sessions to work on their or their family member’s anger. A few mandated classes run a minimum of 12 sessions, many more mandated, or court ordered, anger management and domestic violence programs are 26 or 52 weekly sessions.

If you have been ordered to attend an anger management program make sure that the program is approved by the agency that is requiring you to get the treatment. Not all anger management classes are equivalent.

Most anger management curriculum is skills based. This means that just learning the ideas in the classroom may not work in the outside the classroom world. There are exercises that need to be practiced and thought about between class sessions. Often there is written or verbal homework.

One saying in anger management books is that mad often hides sad. To learn to manage or eliminate your anger you may need to get in touch with other feelings, especially feelings of hurt, sadness, and shame.

Here are some of the topics an anger management curriculum may cover.

How to recognize when you are angry. Physical and emotional cues.

Many people think of feelings as something to be avoided. Substance users may have “numbed out” and lost touch with their feelings. Men often have only three feelings, good, bad and furious. Learning that this feeling you are feeling is anger and that those clenched fists are a sign of trouble is a first step in learning to manage anger.

You need to learn to measure your anger.

Anger and related emotions can come in a variety of intensities. Learn to recognize how strongly you are feeling this feeling. Recognizing that the angry feeling is on the rise can help interrupt the anger cycle.

Learn how to turn the thermostat down on your anger.

It is not healthy to be at the boiling point all the time. Think of anger as having a thermostat. If the room gets too hot you can turn the thermostat down. Learn how to defuse and reduce those angry feelings.

How to change your thinking to avoid getting angry in the first place.

The way we see the world, the things we believe about why things happen causes our feelings. Learning other ways to look at things can help reduce those angry feelings. Not angering yourself in the first place is a difficult skill to learn for some people and it takes practice to master. This advanced anger management skill is the most effective way to change an angry life into a happy one.

Developing more effective self-control.

Every feeling does not need to result in an action. There are techniques to channel feelings into productive actions rather than into actions that damage relationships and have negative consequences.

Triggers.

Some things make one person angry but not others. Learning to recognize what triggers your feelings and how to avoid being triggered are helpful skills.

Assertiveness training to get what you need without excessive anger.

Many people can’t tell the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. The only way they know to get their needs met is to get angry, become aggressive and hurt others. They can learn simple assertiveness training skills to get those needs met without creating wreckage.

Conflict resolution skills – how to solve disagreements without fights.

Like assertiveness training, conflict resolution skills can help defuse the consequences of disagreements. Most of us were conditioned to the win-lose paradigm. Turns out there are ways to create win-win solutions also. They take some effort to craft but using conflict resolution tools makes solutions possible.

How did you learn about anger? What was your family’s relationship with anger?

If you came from a family where anger was handled by hitting and yelling that may be all you know. Other families never expressed anger or disappointment directly and if you came from that style of family you never learned to express your feelings. People who stuff feelings are at extra risk to get full of anger and then explode. Check out a past post about Gunny Sacking for more on that response to anger.

How has anger affected your life?

One last way anger education can help is by taking a look at your life experiences with anger. Has it hurt you more than helped? What happened when others got angry? Did it destroy relationships? And most importantly how has your anger affected those around you?

Many people discover that when they got angry and acted on that anger they were the loser regardless of the outcome of their anger outburst.

For short anger management classes, SAMHSA publication SMA 05-4009 Anger Management for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Clients is an excellent resource. This curriculum can be covered in 12 sessions, though it is often expanded to more session to allow participants to talk about the lessons and to practice skills.

There are also a lot of self-help books on the topic of anger management. Look for those books based on CBT therapy particularly the ones by Aaron Beck or Albert Ellis.

For those who need a court ordered 26 or 52-week anger management or domestic violence classes, there are longer curriculums available. Check with the provider in your area or the agency that is ordering the treatment. One good resource for anger management classes are the local domestic violence shelters who often provide treatment at low-cost.

Stay tuned to this blog (counselorssoapbox.com) for more on this topic in the future. While I can’t do therapy via the internet if you have questions about this topic I will do my best to answer them as time permits.

For more on anger management see Anger Management Posts.

Till next time, David Joel Miller.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

What kind of person are you? Can people really change?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Change

Change.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are people just that way or can they change?

There are certain things about you and about others around you that are just the way people are. There are other things that change with time, with the situation and with who you decide to be. The trick is to know what about you is just you and what things are possible to change.

There is a world of difference between being an “angry person” and being angry right now.

Some people think that they are always angry, sad, and so on and this provides a rationale for not trying to change. It also can be an excuse for bad behavior.

Someone in your life gets angry, says or does hurtful things and then later says “that is just the way I am, you know I get angry a lot, deal with it.” It is hard to take that over the long haul. Being always full of negative emotions drives others away.

You may have said that yourself about certain characteristics you see in yourself or others see in you. But is this true or is change possible?

Spoiler alert – I believe people can and do change. They recover from what others have done to them and from what they have done. That change is often not easy and changing may have a price.

One way of understanding this is that who you are and who you can become is the difference between states and traits.

A trait is presumably a stable characteristic.

This can apply to outside characteristics like hair and eye color and to inside qualities like anger or kindness. True you can dye your hair or wear contacts to change your eye color. These efforts to change yourself do not change the underlying you. Some people might say that these efforts fall under the heading of deception or telling lies.

These underlying qualities may change as you get older. One way of explaining this is called gene expression. So the gene that gave someone Black hair in their twenties may give them gray hair in their eighties. Emotional expressions that worked for you at 9 months old will probably not work so well at 90.

Are some people born with particular emotional temperaments? Could you just be born blue-eyed and sad, or brown-eyed and angry? If you were just born that way could you learn to control or regulate those feelings? (CBT therapy and neuroplasticity research tells us this is way more doable that we used to think.)

People are not born with only one feeling. So even the irritable baby who cries a lot sometimes smiles. Angry people have episodes when they are not angry or at least less angry. (Watch for a future post on Reactive Attachment Disorder which talks about the challenges of learning new ways of feeling if you did not learn them at an early age.)

What is causing those feelings to change as situations change?

It is possible for something to “cause” or “trigger” an emotional state. One question that I ask in counseling is “What makes you happy?” And then – “What makes you sad.” Some people can quickly give me lists.

People who say nothing makes me happy, that is a red flag they may have depression.

Research has shown us that the brain continues to grow and create new connections throughout the lifespan. If you learned to be sad or anxious very early in life you can learn new ways of feeling.

Granted if you learn one language as a child and then at eighty try to learn another it is much more difficult but the good part is that no matter what age most people can still learn new information.

Learning to regulate your emotions and to move from an angry state to a calm one is possible if you chose to learn this skill. In fact, you can learn to not get angry in the first place. This does not mean you let people walk all over you and just bite your tongue. You can learn other skills to reduce the causes of your anger also.

If your life is full of anger, anxiety, or sadness you can learn skills to reduce the impact of those feelings on you and to create a new happy life. The cost for this? Some effort on your part and the need to stop making others responsible for how you feel.

To change your emotional life you need to take charge and get to work on new emotional skills. More in upcoming posts on this topic.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Your emotional tape measure – scaling

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Emotional measurement.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

What tool should we be using to measure emotions?

Most of us know that we can measure a board with a tape measure. There is a big difference between a shelf that is 6 inches long and one that is 72 inches long.

We can check a child’s fever with a thermometer. It matters if your child’s temperature is 98.6 or 106.

You can see if you’re overweight or underweight by standing on a scale. Please fill in the weights as needed.

Does it matter how much of an emotion you are feeling? It may be the difference between ignoring what was said to you and getting into a fight.

What tool do you use to measure the size and shape of your emotions?

Emotions like so many other things in life come in sizes and shapes. We get ourselves into a peck of trouble by equating all emotions as being the same size and importance.

Take anxiety for instance. Most of us are either anxious or we are not anxious. Anxiety is sneaky that way. There is that little kitten size anxiety and there is that big hungry lion size anxiety. It is important to know which is which.

If every time you feel the sound of hissing you run for your life you will be hiding from a lot of kittens. We talked a little about developing a scale of anxiety and learning to adjust the volume in a previous post on “selective desensitization.”

Anger is a similar creature. Lots of people have only two extremes when it comes to anger, not-angry, and violently angry. People caught in these two extreme modes of feeling anger jump from not-angry to furiously angry at the drop of a – well it could be a drop of almost anything.

One method used in anger management is to develop a scale. Say your anger is at zero when you are feeling happy and loved. When you “lose your temper” your anger is at a ten. How might you develop a scale of degrees of anger in-between?

One way of developing this scale or tape measure for your emotions is to find other similar words for your anger and place them on a scale. First, let’s scale the anger creature and then our old sometimes-friend anxiety.

What other words might describe feeling sort of like anger but more or less intense?

How about – annoyance, irritation, fury, rage, antagonism, ire, wrath, dander, exasperation, rile, aggravate, provoke and so on. While these words may not say anger to all of you, you can see that there is a lot of difference between rage and irritation. If you go looking I bet you can find more words that describe feelings similar to anger.

Take your list and arrange them by intensity from the most awful total feeling to a very mind form of anger.

Now comes the challenge. When you find yourself going from not-angry to furiously rage-full how can you turn the volume down on that anger and move from an anger rating of 10 to say a 6 or 5?

Learning to turn the volume up and down on emotions is a skill called emotional regulation. Being able to feel the necessary level of feelings when you need them can make your life a whole lot better.

Now, what about reducing anxiety?

Words for your scale might include nervousness, worry, concern, unease, apprehension, disquiet, fretful, angst, fear, terror, dread, horror, distress, panic, alarm, trepidation and so on.

Again there is a lot of distance between being uneasy and being panicked-in-terror. Work out your own list and then consider – is this anxiety you have right now a 10 or a 9. How might you learn to turn your anxiety volume down?

It is worth noting here that we have talked about two scales, words and numbers. What most people find is that by changing the word they used to describe a feeling it also changes the number they would give it.

So if you are feeling panic but tell yourself well this is not really the worse panic I have ever had so maybe it is really worrying, you may find that the anxiety meter 10 turns down to a 5 or even a 4.

Try constructing an emotional tape measure and learning to scale your feelings and see if this does not help you learn to turn the volume down on negative feelings and turn the volume up on those happy positive feelings.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.