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In the last section, we discussed children and anger. The five keys we discussed were don’t be threatened by the child’s anger, let choices and consequences shape the child, don’t preach, don’t major in the minors, and share your own experiences.
In this section, we will discuss rationalizations that perpetuate anger. Four rationalizations you may have encountered with your anger management clients are My past is too painful, Forgiveness is too good, Why should I try when no one else does, and Anger is a familiar habit.
As you have probably experienced, clients may tend to cling to anger in spite of cognitive therapy approaches which provide potentially helpful knowledge. Do you agree most rationalizations contain some type of truth? As you know, this can make rationalizing an easier path for anger management clients than working to change things for the better. As I describe four typical rationalizations, see if you can apply them to your practice.
♦ #1 My Past is too Painful
Or if his wife, Darlene, forgot something from the store, Miguel would state, "You're just like my mother. Always promising, but never delivering. You’re useless. Why did I marry you?" Miguel stated, "Darlene began asking me to stop comparing her to my damn mother. You know, it’s easy for her to tell me to give it up, but how can I when it is so damn real and painful?" As you can see, painful experiences from his past seemed as fresh to Miguel as if they had happened only days before. These painful experiences perpetuated Miguel’s anger.
♦ #2 Forgiveness is too Good
♦ Cognitive Behavior Therapy Technique: Relationship Building
♦ #3 Why Should I Try When No One Else Does?
Gayle, age 42, was concerned with her son, Jeremy. Jeremy’s grades were starting to slip, but Gayle’s husband Greg refused to acknowledge a problem. "Each time I would bring up Jeremy’s grades, Greg would say ‘Oh, everything will be fine.’ He wouldn’t even talk to me about it. He takes this same damn attitude with all family problems, like they’ll just fix themselves. Maybe I should quit trying to help Jeremy and see what happens."
Gayle’s anger increased when Greg was indifferent and feeling like no one else cared. As you know, the danger here is that Gayle may allow her feelings to be so closely linked with Greg’s responses that she may also lose her personal initiative. Gayle’s son Jeremy was the real focus, so she needed to maintain her own stability and focus on Jeremy rather than her husband Greg's "I don't care" attitude.
♦ CBT Technique: Breathe Deeply
a. First, I stated to Gayle, "Deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream, helping the muscles to relax. Also, deep breathing focuses your immediate attention on something other than the object of your anger." I asked Gayle to sit comfortably and relax her neck and shoulders.
b. Second, I asked Gayle to take a deep breath from her stomach, hold it for two seconds, and exhale with a sigh. I asked Gayle to visualize her tension and anger leaving her body with each exhalation. As you may have experienced, having a client relax and refocus their attention helps them calm down, leading to better choices in dealing with anger. Gayle found it easier to stop being angry at Greg and focus on Jeremy after calming herself by breathing deeply.
♦ #4 Anger is a Familiar Habit
Anger becomes so routine for some clients that they can’t imagine responding any other way. Do you agree anger can seem like an addiction? As you are aware, adjustments in thought and lifestyle are necessary to counter anger. You might consider the Relationship Building or Deep Breathing techniques explained in this section to help your habitually angry clients to break their addiction to their anger habit.
In this section, we discussed rationalizations that perpetuate anger. Four rationalizations you may encounter are My past is too painful, Forgiveness is too good, Why should I try when no one else does, and Anger is a familiar habit.
In the next section, we will discuss Assertiveness Training through Role Playing. There are eight steps in Assertiveness Training. They are select an incident, have the client describe how the incident would normally play out, role-play with another therapist, have the client share his or her reaction, have the client visualize the situation once more, have the client role-play the situation twice with the other therapist, give the client feedback, and encourage the client.
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