Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cognitive Techniques For Anger Management--Part III

Cognitive Techniques For Anger Management--Part III
Please read the previous two articles first...
A common and very pervasive example is prejudice.
Examine your biases towards groups--gender, nationality,
race, religion, political orientation and status--to name
the big six. Prejudices are conglomerates of expectations
impregnated with hidden “shoulds,” “ought to’s,” etc.
“He’s Mexican and shouldn’t be in this country.” “She’s
a woman and probably can’t balance her checkbook.” “He’s
a man and has no feelings.” “She is _______ (pick a
religion) and I’m not.” “He’s ________ (rich, poor),
therefore ________.” “He’s a Democrat so he _________.”
These are common statements people make without thinking.
Biases of this magnitude represent long-standing attitudes
that coalesce into big expectations, usually negative, that
color our perceptions long before we are exposed to more
relevant and specific facts. The “offender” of said
expectations unwittingly violates one or more of our big
expectations because that’s what we “expect.” We are
looking for this, a priori, and “therefore” we will have a
negative emotional reaction before we experience anything
else, like reality, in this case. Again, the problem is
not so much the behavior of the stereotypee; rather, it is
our limited thinking, limited awareness of our thinking and
attachment to our inappropriate sense of rightness, relevant
only to our point of view. Prejudices are judgments at their
biggest and worst. Does this mean we should not have morals,
standards or values? No. Just recognize when they are
prejudicial, not true, and don’t be so attached to them to
cause grief when someone else violates them. What might you
do instead?
Practice empathy. The quick definition of empathy is to
walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins. Try seeing the world
through someone else’s eyes. The idea is to experience
something as someone else does, separate from your own
projections (biases, prejudices, needs, wants, etc.).
The difference between empahty and sympathy is that in the former,
you can fully experience someone else’s way of feeling, thinking,
etc. without losing your own perspective. The latter is when you
experience someone else’s thoughts and feelings, but you lose your
perspective. People are much more likely to lose their perspective
and controls when they are sympathetic. It also turns out, empathic
people have better controls and are less prone to judge.
When angry, try to understand where the alleged perpetrator
is “coming from.” Empathy is very difficult when one is angry
but it can make all the difference in the world, for you in terms
of maintaining control, and for the other person, whose offending
behavior will be mitigated. Once you consider the opposite
position of what made you angry, the anger based on the contrast,
or worse, your righteous indignation lessens, maybe even disappears.
Taking the other person's point of view can be excruciating when
in the throes of anger, but with practice it becomes second nature.
If you can’t be empathic, try to identify your hot buttons.
Most people get angry about some things but not others. If you
find a behavior that consistently bugs you, then you have found
the “grist for your mill.” Look into this and figure out what
about that “thing” (pattern of behavior, phenomena, etc.) really
bugs you. For example, suppose your spouse fails to pick up his
shoes. You trip over them every time you pass by the mess, in this
case the ever-growing pile of shoes. What about the shoes works
its way into your psyche? It might be your training with your own
shoes as a child, like when Dad would tell all your friends about
how big your feet were. How did Dad know this? Because he kept
tripping over your shoes, which were obviously huge!
-Dr. Griggs

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