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On the last track, we discussed the effects of stress on Anger Management clients: increased irritability; less control over impulses; and susceptibility to paranoia. We will also include “The Larson Anger Management Relaxation Breathing Exercise” to help stressed clients relax.
On track 2, we discussed four self-ordained rules of the road that caused Anger Management clients to react aggressively on the road.
On this track, we will present the steps necessary to replace these rules with less stress-inducing rules: discussion; attitude change cards; debate; and relaxation exercise.
4 Key Steps to Installing New Rules
Step #1 - Discussion
This involves making the journey a little bit more enjoyable and less stressful to the client, which will, obviously, prevent any of the effects we discussed on track 5. For this particular rule, a client might want to consider planning their trip at a much slower pace. Julie was a 24 year Anger Management client of mine who would try and make a competition out of long drives. She would pride herself on getting from point A to point B faster than any other driver. I asked Julie to commit herself to slowing down and planning for a slower paced trip.
Instead of going 70-80 mph, to go 55-65 mph. Julie promised to try it. On the way down to the beach, Julie went her usual speed, but coming back, she decided to slow down her pace. Julie stated, “There was such a difference in the quality of the trip. My sister and I bonded and laughed the entire way back. We even stopped at some interesting places and got even more photos to show our family when we got back. Even though we arrived an hour later than we would have, I feel that hour was not wasted at all.”
As you can see, by slowing down, Julie enjoyed herself and avoided stress. This tactic can also be applied to the other rules as well.
Step #2 - Attitude Change Cards
The new attitude here was ideally “be a number one being”. Instead of valuing competition, the value system needs to shift to being courteous. On the other side of the card, there are three more categories: event, urge, and statements. For the new attitude, be a number one being, the event was other speeding cars, but this time, the urge was to be courteous and the statements were: “the road’s too dangerous for games”; “treat yourselves and your passengers respectfully”; and “enjoy your companions”. Julie, who also held the being number one rule, tried this new attitude in the example above as well.
Instead of competing with other drivers, she enjoyed the company of her sister instead of the competition brought on by a stressful, long journey.
Step #3 - Debate
Gerald, a 27 year old Anger Management client of mine, held this rule. To debate for the old attitude, I stated, “I’m not going to let somebody just go around me if I’m in a hurry. I’m driving the speed limit. Why should I let them pass? It doesn’t make sense. They’re usually so pushy I can’t even see their headlights. I hate people like that. They can just wait. I won’t give in; I’m not a wimp. Somebody needs to show them that they can’t just do that to people.” To replace this attitude, a new sense of courteousness must be emphasized.
Gerald responded to my statement with, “But these drivers aren’t bad people, they’re just in a hurry. They’re running late, the need to be on time, just like you. You’ve been in their shoes. You don’t need to make it personal, but you can make it easier for them. I promise it’ll be painless if you get it over with quickly, just as you would if there were guests in your home. Let them go on their way and return to enjoying your life.”
Also, you might consider having the Anger Management client switch positions and argue for the other side as well. By knowing all they can about how these rules affect a person’s personality, I find that clients are more willing to change their own attitudes.
Step #4 - Relaxation Exercise
Kate was a 27 year old client of mine who held the belief that certain drivers should not be allowed on the road. The new attitude I wished Kate to adopt was everyone has a right. Before, Kate would become angry whenever she saw an older person driving. She stated, “I used to think ‘Why aren’t they in a nursing home? Everyone knows they drive slowly and put everyone else in danger. Who keeps renewing their licenses?’”
Kate would then become so wrapped up in her prejudices, she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the road. Even though Kate had grown to accept the new rule live and let live, when she was stressed, she found it near impossible to practice.
5-Step Relaxation Exercise
Think of your Kate. Could he or she benefit from this relaxation exercise?
On this track we presented the steps necessary to replace an Anger Management clients' predetermined rules with less stress-inducing rules: discussion; attitude change cards; debate; and relaxation exercise.
On the next track, we will examine techniques to help Anger Management clients who respond negatively to other drivers: “General Principles”; “Jekyll and Hyde Visualization”; and “Giving Warning”.
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