4 Tips for Controlling Anger & Anxiety

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Many people struggle with emotion control. This is evidenced by confusion of the person during intense emotional bouts. “Why do I feel this way, I don’t know what to do, and “I can’t help myself” are all expressions uttered by people whose emotions of anxiety, fear or anger seem to override their rational thought pattern to act in a productive manner. Whether the person experiences anxiety she knows is out of line with reality or is simply known around the office as having a “short fuse” control of these emotions can be mastered.

 We often look to our emotions as a gauge for morality. People will express that they feel that what they are doing is right. This happens a lot in religion when people base their worship and life practices on their feelings. However, Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” So, as we look to what we should do religiously, good leadership would base its practices on scripture, not the feelings of its people. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah I’m sure felt good about their actions too even though they were dreadfully wrong. So, as we progress through our daily lives, what should we do?

Certainly our feelings are important but what would happen if we always listened to them? There would be a lot more physical fights and verbal altercations since no one would stop themselves and choose a more appropriate plan of action. We must listen to our intellect and not allow our emotions to rule our lives. Think of the Incredible Hulk. He would fly into a rage every time he felt scared or angry. Thankfully Bruce Banner learns to control the monstrous beast inside of him and uses it as a tool for good. We must do the same.

First, think of anger as a fog. It clouds your head, leaving the solution just beyond our grasp and you with few resources to consider an appropriate next move. We must recognize when we are getting angry or even anxious/nervous can apply here too. When we see that our emotions are entering a state wherein our ability to think rationally is greatly diminished, we must do less, not more. Depending on the severity of your emotional spike, you must calm down. You will not find the answer to whatever is angering you because your head is clouded with emotion. Breathe deeply and calm down.

Next, search for the answer. Just because your head is clouded, it does not mean that what you need to do is completely out of reach. Talk to someone you trust or leave the situation completely until you have the answer and are confident with your decision.

Third, problem-solve. Your anger (fight) or anxiety (flee) is not the response you want to have in most situations. I say most because even Jesus went berserk on some people in the temple (Matthew 21). We lose control of our emotions because we want something to be different than it is. Think about what it is you want and focus on that. Yelling, screaming or crying are not good problem solving methods.

Finally, work to strengthen the skill of cognitive restructuring. In other words, consider how you think about anger and anxiety because nothing “makes” you angry. You choose how you react in almost every situation. Simply considering that in stressful moments can keep you from “losing it.” To practice this, awaken a negative emotion inside of you. Do this at a neutral time when you can concentrate. Then, begin searching through the “fog” for the answer you intellectually know you should pursue. When you find it, hang on to it and allow it to grow until you feel better. There are two wolves inside each of us. One represents anger and the other represents wisdom. Which will win? The one you feed.

Our emotions can run away from us sometimes, but we don’t need to let them rule us. “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ . . . .” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Take your thoughts captive. Don’t let them rule you.

Disney’s Frozen & Emotion Control??

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Can you believe the hype over Disney’s latest masterpiece, Frozen? People are waiting for five hours to see Anna & Elsa at Disney World. It is a great movie and it can teach us a lot about emotion control. Often referred to as EQ (emotional quotient) we have the ability to be in tune with our emotions in order to make the most of what we are as humans. Emotions aren’t bad but they can be misleading and can be expressed inappropriately.

If you’ve not seen it, there are no spoilers here so don’t worry. In the movie, Elsa has the power to freeze things, and I don’t mean just freeze a small glass of water, she started the winter season in her kingdom. She had a lot of power. Her abilities were discovered when she was a young girl and in order to keep her and her sister safe, her parents told her to “conceal, don’t feel.” You can hear this line in the song by the way.

The idea was that if she suppressed her powers, which were greatly tied to her emotions, then she would be able to control them. Well, by the time she was an adult, she had almost no control over her freezing ability. All the years of suppression couldn’t hold back what was naturally there. She didn’t know what to do.

We often tell our children, and sometimes ourselves, to stop feeling a certain way. This has its place as we sometimes over react and know in our heads that crying over spilled milk all the time is no way to live. So, a proper reaction both intellectually and emotionally is necessary. Help your child construct a healthy EQ by processing the negative event. Don’t just tell your teen to “get over it.” She doesn’t know how to do that.

We sometimes believe that strong emotions are a bad thing, particularly men. However, if we are to be strong, we must conquer our feelings. We must master them because there’s nothing more manly than self-awareness. Otherwise, our emotions will rule us. If a person feels a certain way, he should express that and then think about whether or not the emotion makes sense. Suppression only serves to add the emotion up, and like a soda that’s been shaken, it will eventually explode.

 It is the expression of our emotions that often gets us in trouble. If your teenage son is angry, let him feel that. Let him experience it, but help him talk it out and get a good hold of why he feels the way he does and what he should do about it. Exploding in a rage only helps the person learn to lose control, not master his/her demons.

Like the song says, let it go.

4 Tips to Save Your Dying Marriage

Never too far gone

Sometimes couples get into such a state that they are extremely divided, but because of one spouse’s level of commitment, he or she refuses to quit on the relationship. Certainly, there may be a time to quit, but at this time, one of the spouses has resolved to save the marriage. It can be done. As I’ve said before, you’re never too far-gone in your marriage if you’re willing to make the journey back. So, what should a spouse do if he/she wants to save the marriage?

First, is it worth saving? If your partner is on his/her 20th affair, should you keep going? Only you can answer that. Anybody can change at any time and Jesus teaches us in Matthew 18 to have no limit on our forgiveness, but there should be a limit to the degree we are going to endure poor marital behavior. How much is that for you? Decide and then move forward.

Second, if it is worth saving, what are you saving it for? There must be a motivator and in a chaotic state, any will do. Children come to mind first. They are better off in a home where mom and dad learn to love one another than in a home void of this love. So, if you are doing it for your children, make sure you do it right. You might also consider the material investments you’ve made in the marriage. Remember, any motivator will do and starting over on what you’ve gone so far to earn is pretty scary.

Third, you must work to change the narrative in the home. For weeks or months your relationship has been built on the negative. “We wouldn’t be in this mess if you hadn’t . . .” is what you might say. What is wrong in the marriage must be discussed but do it during controlled times that you agree upon. Also, if you learn how to communicate about difficult topics, the discussions can be just that, discussions rather than arguments which only make the problem worse. Localize the negative, deal with it, and make the rest of your home life positive and encouraging.

Finally, you must now change the behavior in the marriage. If you are not the offending spouse, this means acting out of love (not obligation) for your lover. If you are the offending spouse, this means going overboard on showing your spouse that you have nothing to hide. In either case, changing behavior to look like a happy marriage results in being a happy marriage. It became unhappy because you were doing all the wrong things. Now, you must act differently. This “fake it til you make it” method can work and eventually be sincere. This is not a replacement for discussing the issues that brought you to such a lowly state.

Marriages are worth saving and if yours is one of these, I hope you’ll consider these tips as a new beginning for a lifelong relationship.

Speaking at the TLPCA Conference

I am excited to be speaking at the 8th Annual Tennessee Licensed Professional Counselor Association Conference. This year’s theme is “Building Counselor Awareness.” I am happy to be speaking on building counselor awareness on becoming a published author. The following is a synopsis of my session.

Counselors, particularly those in private practice, must diversify and one BIG way to do this is by getting a book published. However, getting a publisher to pick up your manuscript is nearly impossible, and getting an agent is even harder. Many counselors know about blogging and have websites but few know about the world that e-book publishing has opened for them. In this session I will instruct the attendees on how to get their book published on the Kindle market and even get a paperback copy of that same book available to their customers around the world.

The conference is taking place at Trevecca Community Church, 335 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville, TN, 37210. My particular session is from 3:30-4 on Friday, April 11. I hope to see you there.

Visit www.tlpca.net for more information and to register.

BOOK REVIEW: The Social Animal by David Brooks, The Hidden Sources of Love, Character & Achievement

This is a uniquely written book in that it speaks densely about psychological phenomenon in a fictional/narrative format. Brooks covers our unconscious mind and describes with great clarity the meaning behind all the little behaviors that add up to become our everyday functioning. This keeps it from going very deeply into any one topic but if you are interested in the behavioral sciences this is a fun book to read.

Brooks starts with the meeting of two couples, their relationship and then the children they have. These two children subsequently meet and Brooks takes them through all of their struggles as a couple, right up to their elderly years. During this journey he reflects on their behaviors but also the behaviors of their extended families, coworkers and scores of others they interact with along the way.

From Publishers Weekly

New York Times columnist Brooks (Bobos in Paradise) raids Malcolm Gladwell’s pop psychology turf in a wobbly treatise on brain science, human nature, and public policy. Essentially a satirical novel interleaved with disquisitions on mirror neurons and behavioral economics, the narrative chronicles the life cycle of a fictional couple—Harold, a historian working at a think tank, and Erica, a Chinese-Chicana cable-TV executive—as a case study of the nonrational roots of social behaviors, from mating and shopping to voting. Their story lets Brooks mock the affluent and trendy while advancing soft neoconservative themes: that genetically ingrained emotions and biases trump reason; that social problems require cultural remedies (charter schools, not welfare payments); that the class divide is about intelligence, deportment, and taste, not money or power. Brooks is an engaging guide to the “cognitive revolution” in psychology, but what he shows us amounts mainly to restating platitudes. (Women like men with money, we learn, while men like women with breasts.) His attempt to inflate recent research on neural mechanisms into a grand worldview yields little except buzz concepts—”society is a layering of networks”—no more persuasive than the rationalist dogmas he derides. (Mar.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Stop Doing Love Wrong

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“I love you but I’m not IN love with you.”

This phrase has come into my office on more than one occasion in the past month which caused me to put some thought into its meaning. I hadn’t thought about it much but the spouses who had heard it know its weight all too well.

It is often the closing bell on a relationship as a cheating spouse comes clean. Or it is an indicator that the spark that was once there is now gone. The problem is that we often equate love with feeling and when the feeling is gone then the love must be gone. Unfortunately, this is a short-sighted vision of the love that a man and woman are to have for one another.

In his book, The Social Animal, author David Brooks says that love is a collection of behaviors that lead to feelings. The apostle Paul said it well also when in 1 Corinthians 13 he lists all the things that love DOES. It is patient, kind, loves truth, protects, hope, trusts and perseveres.

Paul also writes that there are things love does NOT do. It does not envy boast, act proud, dishonor or seek its own interests. It is not easily angered, does not delight in evil, and keeps no record of wrong.

In watching what little TV I do, there’s plenty of what people say is love but is not. On one home makeover, all the wife could talk about was her apartment, her house and what she wanted to do. She had her husband actually sharing a closet with the dog. All she wanted to do was seek her desires and wore this like she was some sort of suffragette. His needs were second and possibly third after the dog’s.

I also see spouses who continually bring up the past, lose their temper and continually dishonor the person they are supposed to love. Not in love anymore? I wonder why. You’re doing love wrong.

Love has a positive polarity in the things it DOES and it has a negative polarity in the things it DOES NOT do. What do the negative and positive sides of a magnet do? They attract. Maximize the positives and keep away from the negatives and your feelings of love will return. Wait for the feelings to come without doing anything and you’ll be stranded with no one to love.

Love must be tended to and grown like the living thing that it is. When people say, “I love you but I’m not in love with you” what they mean is that they desire to have the feelings of love but the passion is missing. It may be missing because they’re doing love wrong as I discussed above, or it may be missing because they have traded the pursuits of this life for the holy matrimony they promised on their wedding day. The departure from a happy vivacious couple is so slow and so gradual that neither spouse sees it coming until they wake up one morning in an empty shell of a relationship.

Your marriage cannot survive on the notion that you live together and that’s enough. You must enjoy one another’s company, have mutual dreams and meet each other’s needs. Start today.