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Anger Management: Effective Strategies for Your Out of Control Client
On the last track we discussed Four Fallacies of "Should". These included the entitlement fallacy, the fallacy of fairness, the fallacy of change and the "letting it out" fallacy.
On this track, we will discuss Four Aspects of Blame. These include awareness, good-bad dichotomizing, assumed intent and magnifying.
Four Aspects of Blame
Aspect #1 - Awareness
Vernon, age 40, was upset about his son Michael, age 18. Vernon stated to me, "Michael knows I’ll be upset and that he diminishes his chances for college when he brings home C’s and D’s. He knows better, but he does it anyway!"
I stated to Vernon, "‘Knowing better’ is not sufficient to ‘do better’ if Michael’s awareness at the time is focused on stronger and opposing motivations. If his need to go out with girls or rebel against the family rules is larger than his need to please you, then grades will be a low priority. It all comes down to what is most important at the time. Blaming labels people and behavior as bad, when, in fact, each person makes the best choice available. By blaming, you end up punishing people for actions they could not help performing."
Is your client aware of his or her tendency to blame? If so, you might consider trying the Components of Awareness Technique.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy Technique: The Components of Awareness
Try to see how these factors could combine so that his or her decision was the best choice available. Vernon said, "Michael’s awareness is different than mine, but I guess I’m going to have to accept it. He’s a grown boy now, and he can choose what’s important to him and make his own mistakes."
Vera stated to me, "I frequently show him physical affection, like hugs and kisses. I do his laundry and invite his friends to dinner…but he just doesn’t seem to notice!" Do you have a client who dichotomizes? Could he or she benefit from listening to this track or trying the "Finding Shades of Gray" technique which follows?
CBT Technique: Finding Shades of Gray
After trying this exercise, Alexander stated to me, "I had been in this one-track state of mind for so long, just focusing on Vera’s faults, that I stopped looking at her as a whole, complete human being."
#3 Assumed Intent
She stated to me, "Elaine deliberately excluded me from this luncheon she was having at her house! I thought, ‘Is this supposed to be some kind of slap!!?’ I was furious."
I stated to Annemarie, "For one day, make a commitment to yourself that you will make absolutely no assumptions about the motivations of others unless you check out your assumption with the other person. Your rule for yourself for this day will be that you either avoid assumptions or find out if they’re true. For example, a person might ask, "When you said the potatoes were overcooked, I felt like you were mad at me or something, is that true?" or "Is it true that you’re being slow getting ready for the movie because I didn’t wash the car today?"
Annemarie said, "I asked Elaine if she excluded me from the luncheon because she was mad at me about something. It turns out that she was honoring a co-worker I didn’t know. I guess I just jumped to conclusions."
I asked Janna, "Does he really never smile?" Janna replied, "Well…ok, I’ve seen him smile maybe once or twice. But really, he’s not nice very often!" We had talked about trigger thoughts in a previous session, so I said to Janna, "Magnifying your trigger thoughts is like throwing gasoline on fire. Your anger explodes because you feel so wronged or so justified." Do you have a client who magnifies?
CBT Technique: Never Say Never
As a result of trying this exercise, Janna stated to me, "I realized that my boss isn’t purposely trying to be grumpy at us all the time. He’s just stressed from work and often busy."
On this track, we discussed Four Aspects of Blame. These have included Awareness, Good-Bad Dichotomizing, Assumed Intent and Magnifying.
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