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In the last section, we discussed how feeling controlled causes anger. Some main ideas we considered were why control occurs, how a client responds to control, and the acknowledgement of freedom.
In this section, we will discuss five myths that perpetuate anger. These myths are a history of rejection leaves a client with a feeling of impending rejection, letting go of anger means conceding defeat, no one understands the client’s problems, the client doesn’t deserve to be happy, and there is nothing to look forward to anymore. As I describe these myths, decide if you can apply them in cognitive therapy with your client.
♦ #1 The History of Rejection... Leaves a Client with a Feeling of Impending Rejection
Katie, age 27, stated, "My father was always so damn cold toward me. I felt like a nuisance. I just feel like most of the time I’m a nuisance to everyone. I want affection, but feel like I’m unwanted." As a result, Katie chose physically and verbally abusive relationships which fed this pattern of feeling rejected. This led Katie to draw the conclusion she was worthless. Katie told me, "It’s more than I can take! I just want to explode!" Do you have an anger management client like Katie who has the myth of impending rejection in his or her relationships feeding into their anger? Later in this section, I will explain a technique which was effective with Katie.
♦ #2 Letting Go of Anger Means... Conceding Defeat
♦ Cognitive Behavior Therapy Technique: Thrive Anyway
Here are the affirmations that Chet created for himself: "Stopping resentment is not the same as condoning wrong. I accept other’s freedom to live in unhealthy ways. I accept responsibility for my emotions. No one has the power to make me stay angry. Letting go of anger has nothing to do with winning or losing." In addition to repeating these words, Chet also spent time focusing on the meaning behind these phrases and was able to benefit.
♦ #3 No One Understands My Problems
To break the myth that no one understands their problems, the client may need to realize that someone with different experiences can empathize and that someone does understand their problems. As you know, feelings of isolation can be hard to dissipate. With Chet, I encouraged him to stop focusing on the differences between his situation and others and instead focus on the fact that others also experience fear, pain, disappointment, etc. in some form. Do you have a Chet who feels that no one understands his or her problem? We’ll talk about a technique shortly.
♦ #4 The Client Doesn’t Deserve to be Happy
♦ #5 There is Nothing to Look Forward to Anymore
Clearly, clients can be so determined to be angry they lose sight of their goals. Sally, age 48, stated, "At this age, I know what I am, an angry person and I know this is it for me. I don’t have anything going for me. I’ve made so many damn mistakes that I can’t afford to be optimistic." Sally believed there was nothing to look forward to anymore.
♦ Cognitive Behavior Therapy Technique: Changing Inner Rules
First, I spoke with Sally concerning these rules and asked her to keep a journal for one week. Whenever Sally noticed an inner rule restricting her actions, she described the rule and its consequences in her journal. Sally identified an inner rule which perpetuated her anger and related directly to the myth of having nothing to look forward to. Sally intentionally denied herself an optimistic approach to anything in her life. Sally saw this rule as being logical. However, as the week continued, Sally saw that she was missing out on a lot and was perpetuating her own anger through practicing continuous pessimism.
Second, when Sally returned for her next session, we reviewed the rules she identified. I focused on her rule of not allowing optimism. Sally stated, "I know. I’ve just always thought that if I expect the worse, I can’t be disappointed. But now it seems like what I’ve been doing is spending a lot of my time being pissed at people who try new things, because I don’t try new things." Sally’s journal entries made it clear that she was aware that this inner rule helped perpetuate her anger.
Third, I asked Sally if she could change this rule in her journal and refer back to it during the week. Sally chose to change the rule to "be optimistic." She stated, "The number of times I get angry seems to be less." The journal of Inner Rules allowed Sally to see how she was making herself angry with inner rules derived from a myth. The journal also allowed Sally to see how she was benefiting from changing her inner rules.
In this section, we discussed five myths that perpetuate anger. They are history of rejection leaves a client with feelings of impending rejection, letting go of anger means conceding defeat, no one understands the client’s problems, the client doesn’t deserve to be happy, and there is nothing to look forward to anymore.
In the next section, we will discuss how other emotions create anger. The five areas we will discuss are pride influences anger, fear’s effects on anger, loneliness creates anger, and anger can reflect inferiority feelings.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Rees, L., Chi, S.C. S., Friedman, R., & Shih, H.L. (2020). Anger as a trigger for information search in integrative negotiations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 105(7), 713–731.
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