How do we get angry and can we manage the situation differently?

angryHow do we get angry and can we manage the situation differently?

In the previous article we have been talking about Racket anger and discussed what kind of feelings might be hidden behind it. Here I am going to talk about how do we get angry.
When we get angry, we might express our anger there and then, or we might choose to store it away for use later. In this case, in Transactional Analysis terminology, we are said to be saving a stamp.

For example: you come home late from work and find your partner already there. You ask him to help with dinner, but he is reluctant to do so as usually it is your task. You express your disappointment and maybe even have an argument, but at least your partner now knows where you stand and you feel that you have made your point. Or you can choose to say nothing, get on with making dinner and save a stamp for later.

At weekend, you ask your partner to take your daughter to her ballet lessons, because you are going to a work conference. He forgets and you come home to a disappointed child. You can choose to confront your partner and discuss the way you would like to share the childcare in the future. In that case you will explain your point of view and also allow your partner to do the same, coming to some sort of an agreement. Or you can choose to say nothing and just get on with your chores. You have saved another stamp.

A month later you are about to go to London for a night out with your friends. It was planned months ahead and your partner agreed to babysit. On Friday morning he announces that he has a work commitment and has to be in the office all day Saturday. If you have already saved several stamps, you are likely to explode and tell him to pack his bags, that you can’t live in this kind of relationship any longer and you have had enough.

Some people prefer to cash their stamps frequently, for a small argument, whilst other people prefer to save lots of stamps and finally cash them in for a really big prize – a hart attack or a violent fight.

Next time you are about to save a stamp, you might choose to stop and think. Resolving a small disagreement straightaway might prevent a massive problem arising at a later stage.

How to prevent a panic attack?

panicattackHow to prevent a panic attack?

So you suffer from high levels of anxiety and have experienced panic attacks before? You can talk to your GP about the variety of treatments available – medication, counseling, CBT etc. Choice of treatment will probably depend on the severity of the attacks you experience.
But whilst you are waiting for the treatment to work (both with medication and with psychotherapy it might take a while), could you do something to help yourself? How do you pre-empt the panic attack?

Here are four simple steps you can go through if you feel that you might be about to experience a panic attack. Each step offers a different strategy and if one does not work, you should move to the next step.

Be aware of the here and now

We feel anxious because we are thinking about either the past or the future events. Being aware of the here and now will help you feel grounded. You could use mindfulness technique, by telling yourself what you are feeling right now, focusing on your breathing and, if your thoughts wander – bring them back into the present.

Remind yourself of your positive qualities

When we are feeling anxious it is all too easy to blame ourselves, which, in turn, makes us feel even more anxious. If you can turn on a positive internal voice you might feel more confident and relaxed as a result.

Remind yourself that a panic attack is not inevitable

You might be associating a panic attack with a certain feeling. This feeling might become fixed in your consciousness and appear immoveable. The reality is that we can choose how we feel, think and behave in different situations. It could be very helpful to realize that you can choose not to have a panic attack.

Think of the best scenario
If a certain situation is making you anxious, it may be helpful to visualize it developing in a positive way and then memorizing this visualization. Research demonstrates that our brain makes no distinction between a situation that really happened and the one that we imagined. By imagining ourselves being confident, for example, we can train our brain to always feel that way.

Who is talking in your head?

talking in yourheadMy clients are often surprised to hear that most of us have some sort of internal dialogue going on. “Hearing voices in your head” does not necessarily mean you are going mad – it just means that you have become aware of your internal dialogue.

Transactional Analysis regards this dialogue as an internal communication between ego-states. An ego-state is the set of related behaviors, thoughts and feelings. It is a way we manifest a part of our personality at a given time.

If I am behaving, thinking and feeling in response to what is going on around me here and now, using my resources as a grown-up person, I am said to be in my Adult Ego-state.

At times, I may behave, think and feel in ways which are a copy of one of my parents or parent figures. On this occasion, I am said to be in my Parent Ego-state.

Sometimes, I may return to ways of behaving, thinking and feeling which I used when I was a child. It might indicate that I am in my Child Ego-state.

The internal dialogue between ego-states might be experienced as thoughts; for example, self-critical thoughts might come from Parent to a Child ( «You could have managed this situation better!» «You ought to have apologized first»). Although if the criticism is valid and relevant to the situation the message might be coming from Adult.
Child may then comply and accept the criticism («Yes, I should have managed it better. I am no good.») or rebel against it («I have done my best!») Self-pitying thoughts can be directed from Child to Parent(«Nobody likes me») to which Parent may respond in a supportive («Don’t worry, there is nothing wrong with you») or in a punishing manner («You brought it upon yourself!»)

Sometimes you can hear your actual parent’s voice talking in your head or it can be a voice you don’t know or can’t remember.

Learning about the content and quality of your inner dialogue allows you to bring confusing thoughts and feelings into your Adult awareness. Once unraveled, your inner voices will loose their power and will stop interfering into your daily life.

How to stop OCD behaviour?

panicattackSo what should you do if you find yourself engaging in obsessive-compulsive behavior?
If you think that obsessive thoughts, compulsive tidying or keeping things in order is interfering with your daily functioning, you should definitely talk to a qualified counsellor.
However, there are some things you can think of even before your first session.
First, think about when do you behave in an obsessive-compulsive way? Are you stressed, upset or tired? What is going on for you at that moment? Obsessive-compulsive behavior is often used as a defense against unwanted thoughts or feelings. Thinking about what these feelings are and dealing with them will help you stop your OCD behavior.
Secondly, think about being in control. What does it mean for you? Do you have a feeling that you have to control everything in your life and that letting go off control will result in some kind of catastrophe? Keeping constantly busy, completing repetitive tasks, planning etc. are different ways of keeping control of our lives. If you will reflect on your need to control things and how relevant it really is, you might find different ways of being in charge yet allowing yourself more freedom.
Another important aspect to think about is perfectionism. How important it is for you to be perfect in everything you do? What would it feel like not to be perfect? Is it possible to measure perfection? Often perfectionism is a pattern we learned in childhood in response to parental demands. It is an admirable quality to always strive to do your best, but it can also become a barrier to your creativity and stop you having fun.
Reflecting on these and other patterns of your behavior might help you gain more insight into the reasons behind your OCD and also help you develop new ways of being.

Is your behaviour Obsessive-Compulsive?

OCDWhen I used to work with mothers suffering with post-natal depression, one of the common features of my clients was an overwhelming drive to be perfect – perfect mother, perfect home maker, perfect wife etc. Such client would be unable to stop and sit down until the house was absolutely tidy, which, considering small children, almost never happened. There was always more ironing to do, more bathrooms to clean, more toys to tidy. One client ended up ironing until 3 o’clock at night when she realized that something is not right and decided to seek help. Compulsive neatness, desire to control everything and to be perfect are common feature of the Obsessive-Compulsive Personality disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder. The ‘Obsessive’ part of OCD is characterized by persistent thoughts that cause the sufferer distress and from which there is little relief. There is usually a feeling that if compulsive behavior (for example tidying) will stop, something really dreadful is going to happen.
These thoughts and feelings then lead to compulsive actions, which have to be performed again and again. These actions or rituals can involve checking, washing, cleaning, (there can be an overwhelming fear of germs and contamination) touching objects a number of times, counting “magic” numbers or performing certain rituals. Even getting out of the house becomes a lengthy ritual, as all the lights have to be checked, things tidied up, shoes lined up together etc etc.
OCD sufferer has an overwhelming desire to control everything around him or her, so endless checks are performed to make sure things are under control.
Someone with OCD often has a compulsive desire to be perfect in everything. I have seen many mums whose children were always perfectly dressed, who baked the best muffins and whose houses were impeccable. Yet they were often too exhausted to play with their children or do something fun together. People in this situation put enormous pressure on their children and their families, but most of all on themselves. The result is usually exhaustion and often depression, when a person can’t be perfect anymore and just gives up.
So what can you do if you find yourself engaging in some OCD behavior? I will talk about it in my next post.

How Are You Talking to Yourself?

We sometimes get upset at how other people treat us – somebody pushed you on a bus, your boss told you off for not finishing this report on time, your partner shouted at you for no reason. All of this can be really upsetting, but have you ever thought about how are you treating yourself?
When you are feeling down, upset or agitated, stop for a moment and listen. What is going on inside your head? How are you talking to yourself right now? What is your tone of voice? What are you saying?
More often than not, you will find that your inner voice is rather critical, sometimes more so, than your boss or your partner can ever be. You will be surprised to discover that you are often more “unfair”, negative and generally harsh with yourself than anyone else can ever be with you.
If we are constantly criticizing ourselves internally, we will usually take any external criticism very personally. On the other hand, if we are used to talk to ourselves in a positive and supportive manner, negative information coming from the outside will not affect us as much.
We can’t change the way other people think, feel or behave. If we don’t like the way someone is treating us, the only secure way to stop it happening is to cut communication completely. What we can change though, is the way we view ourselves. If we will stop criticizing ourselves and instead learn to give ourselves support and encouragement, our confidence levels will increase dramatically and we will be better prepared to deal with any external criticism.
Transactional Analysis understands internal dialogue as a communication between ego-states. I will talk more about it in my next post.

How authentic is your anger?


So you think you are an angry person, but are you really? Try this exercise:

Imagine that tomorrow is the beginning of a holiday period and all the shops are going to be shut for several days.
You have no food left in a house and have just enough time to run to the supermarket and stock up before the shop closes.
You quickly fill up your trolley and go to the tills. There are just a few minutes left before the closing time.
You get to the checkout desk, the person at the till enters your purchases on the cash-till and tells you the total cost.
You reach for your wallet and can’t find it. You search and search and it is not there. You remember now that you left it at home.
As the line is building up behind you, you ask the shop assistant if it would be ok to leave your name and address, take your shopping and bring money after the holidays. The shop assistant replies that it is not possible.
So you can’t take your goods home and there will be several days before the shops will re-open.
As you realize this – How do you feel?

If you will do this exercise in a group, you will notice that different people will report different feelings.
The feeling that you will report is the one you are experiencing quite often in all sorts of situations.
This feeling will also be the one that was “allowed” or encouraged in your family of origin.
The emotion you felt did nothing to help you find a solution to your problem.

These characteristics are typical of what Transactional Analysis calls The Racket Feeling.

The racket feeling is usually a substitute for an authentic feeling. For example, you might get angry when you are really sad. Feelings substitution is happening out of awareness, so you might not even notice what you are really experiencing.

So next time you get angry, you might try to stop and think for a moment – what are you really feeling? Could you find ways of expressing that real feeling (fear, sadness etc.) instead of getting angry? Becoming aware of your real feelings and finding ways of getting your needs met will help you manage your anger and use it in constructive rather than destructive ways.