Anger Management Techniques
Anger management techniques must be implemented in 1/18th second. That is about twice as fast as you can blink your eyes, which takes perhaps 1/10th second.
If that seems impossible to you, remember that you have done this hundreds of thousands of time, at least you have if you are my age, 59.
Breakdowns in our ability to manage the interior feeling part of our experience can be deadly, and are at best mean spirited.
So what techniques or tools does Mike the Counselor advocate to manage anger?
Well, knowledge is important, so there are definitely some didactic tools you need to be aware of.
Those might include the works of Albert Ellis, and his Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy. Likewise, Aaron Beck, and his work called Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. I use Doc Childre’s HeartMath with my court ordered anger management clients, and I am very partial to Les Fehmi’s Open Focus materials.
The later two are biofeedback tools. HeartMath is a tool that allows you to learn how to manage the time between your heart beats.
I also use the work of Paul Ekman on facial expressions. Ekman reports that facial expressions may play across our face in as little time as 1/25th second, and that all of us respond physiologically to facial expressions, especially contempt. He reports that the human response to contempt is cross cultural, so an aboriginal who has never seen TV would respond just as I would, who sees too much TV.
It is important to be able to listen effectively, and reflect back what you hear nonjudgementally. Often folks who are upset simply need to be heard, and if I do that, they will calm down.
Assertive communication, expressing preferences and being prepared for “no” is an incredibly important anger management tool.
Managing Emotions is Like Steering a Car
My anger management clients often think that they do not need the anger management techniques because they are seldom enraged.
I like to teach that if they are paying attention to their emotions like they steer a car, they can often handle an escalation of feelings just like they avoid a pothole on the street, with a minor correction of the vehicles position on the road.
The cognitive corollary would be to change the thought to change the feeling.
The HeartMath technique would be to move their attention from the external to the area around their heart, and to breath through that area, and ask the brain in the heart for its suggestion for handling that stress.
The Open Focus technique would involve imagining the volume of space around the thought which produces the feeling. In other words a narrow focus becomes a diffuse focus, which actually changes brain waves from beta (focused external awareness) to alpha brain waves (relaxed external focus). That process can happen at the frequency of brain waves which is in cycles per second.
John Gottman in his The Art and Science of Love workshop speaks to the need for couples to actually take their pulse and if their heart beat is over 100 beats per minute, which can happen in one heart beat, the husband and wife are to take 20 minute time outs, until their pulse rate returns to normal.
I also like to work with perceptual tools, in order to help my clients understand that the only place they can experience vision is in the visual cortex, which is inside the skull.
Think of it this way, the only place you can actually see this material is inside your head.
Same for the experience of sound. It is only a vibration at the ear drum, it becomes words and/or good-bad interpretations inside the skull, in Broca’s area.
Pressure (touch) is processed in the sensory motor cortex and taste at its areas on the tongue and in the brain.
Smell is a special case, and is processed in the limbic brain, which gives us one last chance to express disgust and spit out the poisoned or rotten food. (Do you remember smells from your Sunday afternoon dinners some decades later, or the smell of the perfume your first love wore? Ask the limbic brain why).
All of this discussion is to make sure that my clients understand they are responsible for the thoughts that bring their feelings, and that nothing external makes them feel angry.
In his book “FLOW”, written in 1993, Mihalyi Cziksentmihalyi, on page 28, speaks to the limits of human consciousness. He reports that the Central Nervous System is capable of processing seven bits of information at the same time, and the information that we process is all nonverbal, changes in sound, subtle body postures, changes in expression, ect. and that the shortest amount of time between one set of seven bits and the next set of seven bits is 1/18th of a second, which means that I can process 126 bits of sensory data every second.
Better have my anger management game plan in place.
Daybreak Counseling Service