Anger and Stress Management Tips for Satisfying Relationships by Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

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Reuben’s angry that he has to hide his anger

A barrage of customer complaints roused Reuben’s anger. It wasn’t his fault that the city was doing sidewalk repairs and making it difficult for people to enter his cafe for lunch. His anger got worse when his regulars didn’t pay attention to the signs he had put up to warn them of this inconvenience. Each customer had a few minutes of frustration , but he had to suffer entire days of it!

Reuben expresses his anger only in his fantasies

After the cafe closed at night Reuben would go over the complaints he had forced himself to sympathize with earlier. He retaliated in his imagination, telling the complainers that they were selfish, whining individuals who couldn’t tolerate anything out of the ordinary. He yelled at them in his fantasy, threw their meals in their faces, and hiked up their bills in an effort to feel powerful and in control. The fantasy could be called up anytime he needed to feel strong.

What family members did once, Reuben continued indefinitely in his psyche

It was a familiar experience, this rehashing and doing it over in his mind, going all the way back to his early childhood. As a child he would imagine hitting and wounding people who didn’t see his side of things. As an adult he had visions of cutting out his father’s tongue, stuffing his wife’s hurtful words down her throat, and muting his brother by taking out his voice box!

Wounding words from family members would repeat like a tape that looped over and over again, punishing him with their stinging insinuations. Each time the words replayed it was as if he were being wounded afresh. What family members did once, Reuben continued indefinitely in his inner world.

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Reuben fears the consequences of his anger and decides to deal with his problem

Reuben’s business became just another place where he had to be prepared to ward off undeserved bullets and poisoned arrows. Fury and resentment prodded Reuben to be short, rude and hostile to staff and customers. When he saw that he hurt people with his angry and impatient demeanor, he became afraid that he would end up alone, hated and penniless. Reuben decided to take notice and he came to psychotherapy. He was about ready to burst anyway and had known for some time that it was becoming impossible to control.

Refocusing the angry lens makes Reuben feel fortunate and grateful

It was hard for Reuben to have a therapeutic comrade with whom he could look at and understand his experiences. He discovered that he expected people to be mean and hurtful and interpreted their communications in line with that view. The breakthrough came one day when he shared his experience of feeling angry and hurt when his father said “ we never see you and your family on Sundays!” What Reuben heard was a criticism and reprimand insinuating that Reuben and his family were not doing their duty and were bad people. In his therapeutic work he was awakened to other interpretations, such as

1.the possibility that his father missed him

2.that his father may be jealous of how self-contained Reuben’s family could be

3.that his father may be giving a compliment about Reuben’s dedication to his café on Sunday’s

4.that his father wanted to have the discipline that Reuben displayed towards work

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Reuben uses his new perspective to build good relationships

Reuben found a whole new more comforting and inviting world when he re focused his lens from ‘hurtful’ intent to ‘benign or positive’ intent.

Reuben used his new perspective to advantage with his complaining customers. He put a big sign up in his window acknowledging and sharing in their frustration. Included in that message was an invitation to look at the benefits of the work being done on the sidewalk. The customers would have a beautiful patio dining area with greenery and fountains to enjoy. There would be areas for children and pets, all at no financial cost to the public or to Reuben. He described the benefits as a gift that would last for ever, if everyone could endure a few weeks of frustration and inconvenience.

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Using anger positively gains Reuben four long term advantages

By refocusing his lens of anger Reuben:

A.Connected with others who were also angry.

Benefit Reuben made himself an equal rather than a victim.

B.Created a unifying purpose for staff and customers.

Benefit everyone’s anger shifted towards an expectation of a positive goal.

C.Promoted a sense of cohesiveness where everyone could express frustration.

Benefit shared experiences detoxify the anger, promoting safety and security during difficult times.

D.Opened up a pathway for others to see and hear him through a joint experience.

Benefit: negative and self-destructive anger was transformed into positive, liberating and connecting emotions which built strong bonds among all concerned.