Buck Black offers psychotherapy for anger issues through his practice in the Lafayette Indiana area (www.BuckBlack.com) via phone, email, and office visits. He
There are a variety of reasons a person may become angry. In previous articles, I have discussed the primary feelings that result in anger and the high expectations one may have, which result in disappointment and subsequent anger. I now want to introduce how a person’s belief system can cause a great deal of anger, which is based on the work of Albert Ellis.
What are your beliefs? Which ones do you hold dear? Which beliefs do you have that do not serve you anymore—or even cause you harm? A belief is something that you hold to be true. You can think of it as a value system or a list of “shoulds and should nots.” For example, you could have a belief that everyone should be kind to one another, you should always get your way, or being a nice person will get you far in life and people will never take advantage of you.
Many of these beliefs are formed when you are a child. They often are instilled by a parent, teacher, or other person you saw as an authority figure or mentor. Often, these teachings, (which frequently turn into beliefs) are a fantastic asset. However, we all develop beliefs that cause problems later down the road. For example, the people who believe they should always get their way are likely to be substantially angrier compared to those who do have more rational beliefs, such as knowing that you cannot win every time.
The next time you get upset, take a look at what belief you have that is making you angry. Then, ask yourself “is my belief rational?” Many times, that belief is not practical or rational. Once you recognize the problem with this belief, then you can make an adjustment as needed. For example, you may realize that a certain belief you have is so irrational that there is no way you can remain calm while continuing with this belief. Once you find those beliefs that are more irrational or absurd, you are so much more likely to be able to control your anger.
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Another adjustment may be to add some understanding to your belief. For example, if you believe you should always be treated fairly, it may be helpful to tell yourself that you deserve to be treated fairly, but you know that there will be times that people try to take advantage of you—that’s life! In my experience, I get many people in my office who are able to significantly reduce their anger when they find ways to roll with it, instead of taking it head-on.
You might be thinking, “What if my belief IS rational?” Testing your beliefs may help you to learn when you have justified anger. Remember, anger is helpful when used appropriately. Just think of the people who use anger to appropriately stand up for themselves when they are being taken advantage of. If it were not for justified anger, there would be fewer civil rights, women would not be voting, and there would be so many more injustices in the world. When anger is justified, remember to use that energy in a positive manner, instead of being violent, verbally abusive, or doing something else that will end up hurting yourself or others.
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