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On the last track, we discussed four beliefs and how they relate to Anger Management clients: making good time; being number one; not letting the other driver get away with it; and certain drivers should not be allowed on the road. Obviously, certain circumstances enrage some drivers more than others. In Anger Management clients, these often are events that threaten the client’s sense of self-esteem or worth.
On this track, we will examine the role of self-esteem in Anger Management clients and road rage: anger; inappropriate goal-setting; and replacing the source of self-esteem.
3 Aspects of Self-Esteem in Anger Management Clients
#1 Self-Esteem and Anger
Karl was convicted and sentenced. Why had Karl reacted so violently? When the other driver bumped Karl’s truck, Karl was not concerned with the damage done to the truck itself, but the assault to his own self-esteem. Karl’s mind set had become, "I can’t let him get away with that." When he pulled the trigger, Karl felt he had established himself as someone who couldn’t be messed with. This drive to prop his self-esteem led Karl to react in an impulsive and angry manner.
#2 Inappropriate Goal-Setting
As you know, many Anger Management clients view themselves as evil or not worthy. Whenever an event leads to lower self-esteem, this fulfills the client’s own view of him or herself. Coupled with a goal that would otherwise seem trivial, an incident on the road could escalate into an altercation. Alice was a 22 year old Anger Management client of mine had prided herself on being punctual. When she arrived early, she felt elated and would brag to her friends about her ability to be on time.
However, when she was prevented from this, Alice gave into her impulsivity. One day, another female driver she happened to be following would not turn right on any red lights. Unfortunately, Alice’s path matched that of the other driver. On three occasions, the other driver neglected to turn right on red, slowing Alice’s progress. On the fourth incident, Alice was approximately five minutes behind schedule and becoming furious. She got out of the car and stalked to the other car’s driver side window. Alice began to bang on the window and shout obscenities at the driver, who was an elderly woman.
After Alice got to her destination, not only did she feel upset about being late but also felt guilty about yelling at a defenseless old woman. Alice stated, "She probably couldn’t really see that well, or her reflexes weren’t what they used to be. She was probably just trying to keep herself safe. God, now I’m the crazy bitch who yells at grandmas. I’m such a horrible person." As you can see, Alice’s goals had caused her to react in an impulsive manner, but her overreaction only affirmed her already-held beliefs.
Technique: Driver Stress Test
As you can see, being mindful of her anger and those events that spark it gave Alice a new control over her impulsivity. Think of your Anger Management client with road rage. Could he or she benefit from the Driver Stress Test? On the next track, we will more thoroughly discuss stress and creating an "Anger Management Driver Stress Profile".
#3 Replacing the Source of Self-Esteem
Alice stated, "It was hard for me at first. I was so used to just jumping into the conclusion that the other driver was there to compete with me and didn’t want me to succeed in goal. After a while, though, I decided to think of myself as a nicer person and began to let people in while driving in the parking lots and during traffic jams. I found out that I felt much better about myself for being the more gracious driver." As you can see, by replacing the source of Alice’s self-esteem, she could give up her competitive driving style.
On this track, we discussed the role of self-esteem in Anger Management clients and road rage: anger; inappropriate goal-setting; and replacing the source of self-esteem.
On the next track, we will examine how to create a Larson Driving Stress Profile for Anger Management clients who experience road rage. Also, I will present a technique for driving less stressfully entitled "An Enjoyable Driving Experience."
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