May 20

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​Beliefs that Ease Anger


When someone takes away your power it is natural to get mad. The justified anger of childhood comes from having to give up primitive wants and desires in favor of socially acceptable behavior. The firm, controlled voice of adult anger can replace the strident outbursts of youth when three things happen:

1.        Society’s rules become your own.
2.        You can trust yourself to find both support and freedom.
3.        You acquire enough self-esteem that it cannot be taken away by an
           off comment or a minor mishap.

Once these developmental tasks are accomplished, people can look through others’ eyes to see the whole picture and decide when they need to take action to correct a true loss of power. If you have many mad moments, it may be because beliefs instilled during early life experiences make it difficult to empathize with others and consider your options.

Directions: Mark any of the thoughts below that you’ve had in your “mad moments.” Then, mark the beliefs you would like to have to pick your battles and take constructive action.

Underlying painful thoughts

Underlying healing beliefs

I’m unimportant if I don’t get my way.

I still count even when I don’t get my way.

I’m weak or a loser If I don’t defend myself.

My power comes from understanding others.

I’m stupid or foolish if I’m deceived.

Deception is caused by others’ dishonesty.

I’m defective or guilty if I’m corrected.

I have the right to cry and be illogical.

I’m a failure if I don’t make things go right.

I’m responsible only for my part.

Thoughts of entitlement​​​

Accepting, responsible beliefs

People should accept me as I am.

People can love me without liking all of me.

I should get what I want.

I can ask for what I want and negotiate.

I shouldn’t have to . . . .

I can take care of myself, do my part, and say “No.”

I should be able to release all my anger.

I can turn my anger into effective action.

Others cause my anger.

I’m responsible for how I handle my anger.

Others are too sensitive.

Understanding others gives me choices.

Generalizations and distortions

Observant, curious beliefs

People are evil, greedy, out to get me.

There are reasons for the worst behavior.

All men (women) are . . . .

I can see differences in people.

I cannot trust anyone.

I can learn whom and find people to trust.

I know what others feel without asking.

Assuming without asking is asinine.

The worst will happen.

Most of my “catastrophes” don’t happen.

Perfectionist, rigid thoughts

Realistic, flexible beliefs

I’m better than others.

I’m as good as others and they’re as good as I.

My way is the best.

There are many good ways of doing things.

Things are either right or wrong.

I can respond when I don’t like others’ actions.

​​I’m a failure if I don’t make things go rightPeople should be appreciative, courteous. hardworking, fair, good drivers, etc.

Others don’t have to live by my rules and can experience the consequences of their mistakes.

INSTILLING BELIEFS THAT EASE ANGER

When you are not upset, the beliefs that prevent (unnecessary) anger may seem completely true. It will be harder to maintain them during conflicts of interest, when you feel controlled or unsupported or when things aren’t going “right.” To begin to change thinking patterns, start keeping a journal of your mad moments. Use the questions below and the previous table to identify the provocative thoughts that each incident triggers. Write a calming belief that you would like to have instead and affirm it regularly.

BACK UP BELIEFS WITH ACTION

You can bolster beliefs that reduce the frequency of mad moments by acting on them. Don’t wait until you feel good enough to change your behavior. Acting as though the beliefs you want are true is the fastest way to make them work for you. You will find yourself going from fury to frustration, anger to annoyance, and ballistic to bothered without even realizing it. Check the strategies you most need to adopt:

References

Feeling Good by David Burns (Avon Books, 1980)

EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy by Francine Shapiro (Basic Books, 1997).

Letting Go of Anger by Ron and Pat Potter-Efron (New Harbinger, 1995).

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