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Anger Management: Looking Into The Anatomy Of Anger with Bernard Golden
I have Bernard Golden as my guest. He is the Founder of Anger Management Education in Chicago and he’s been a practicing psychologist for almost 40 years. He has clinical experience in a variety of settings including community mental health centers, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, private practice groups, and individual practice. He has worked with children, teens, and adults. He was an associate professor at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in Chicago for twelve years until he expanded his practice full-time in 2002. Here he is joining, Heartrepreneur Radio. Welcome.
Thank you for having me.
There’s always synchronicity and timing and it always surprises me with how this happens. I was with a client who said she’s not sure why she has such a short fuse and she feels like lashing out at people and I thought, “That could be very interesting, I’m talking to Bernard Golden.” Let’s talk about how did you get into anger management education? How did that show up for you?
There are two pathways in hindsight. One was my personal life. I, myself, had some anger as a little child and felt I was being a little too impulsive and perhaps even threatening. I threw a shoe on my brother’s head and he ducked so it went through the window in the living room, which was right over the entrance to our building. Fortunately, no one was walking in at the time. I learned to deal with anger in ways that were not presented to me. I just kept it in. Professionally, I worked at psychiatric hospitals and I also worked in the South Bronx for six years as a teacher. I tell people I learned how to control my anger there as well as to help people deal with their anger.
As I look around the world, I was looking at my Facebook page and literally, people are fighting on the page because somebody put up a post about making America great again and somebody else started arguing. There’s this political argument and I’m like, “Why are people walking around, whether it’s politics or life? Maybe it’s just me, but why do people seem angrier than ever before?”
There’s less filter in general. The internet allows people to be anonymous and they see it as less of a need to put a filter on it whereas face-to-face they may not say things and they think it. It reduces the amount of time and we pause to think through what we are saying, “What’s the impact and is this necessary?”
When I was a little kid, my grandmother would always say, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say it,” and that’s what I grew up with. Now it’s like, “Stand up, voice your opinion, say whatever it is.” There was this weird almost fighting and all I said was, “Be respectful,” and then they all turned towards me. What are some tips that you can give us so that we can manage our own anger?If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say it. Click To Tweet
There are a variety of strategies. One, find words or a very short phrase, the shorter the better, that you can attend to on a daily basis several times. For example, I practice what I preach and so I use the phrase, “Constructive or destructive.” I am asking myself and it sets up a green light-red light situation where I can pause before I react. Another strategy is to recognize that many of the expectations we have are just wishes and hopes. We take for granted and hold on rigidly to our expectations of how people should be or how the world should be or how we should be. Many times, this is from what I call the emotional mind, it’s wishing and hoping rather than based on a realistic expectation. For example, people behave in all kinds of ways. Each of us walks around with a blueprint about how we think things should be, but other people are walking around with their blueprint, hopefully, there’s some overlap but many times there isn’t.
What resonated with me a lot was the constructive, destructive. Stop and pause before you say something. I use this expression a lot in coaching my clients. I say, “We should all the time and we ended up shooting on ourselves.” Part of that is we think everybody else was raised the same way and they have the same beliefs, the same feelings, and the same thoughts. We want them to be like us and when they’re not, we don’t know what to do with that and we get upset about that. This learning of behavioral flexibility seems important. I see a lot of younger children, whether it’s my great nieces and nephews or my friends’ children, young preteens as well as teenagers, that are dealing with a lot of anger issues. I had that myself as a child. Do you have any tips for those parents out there?
I remember myself as a child, I was questioning why no one was talking about emotions. They were talking about reading, writing, arithmetic, but I guess I was precautious and had the sign of being a psychologist because I was concerned about feelings. I emphasize with parents, one is teaching children to physically relax their body. I have them engage in a game, lying down on the carpet or the bed and direct them to straighten out their right arm and make it as stiff as a board and then say, “Relax and make it loose like a ragdoll.” Then do that with different body parts so that later on, when you are in a situation where you want them to relax, they know what you mean in terms of a body sense of what that feels like to feel relaxed. The other strategy is children need to have labels for feelings. Even at an early age, you can say, “What are you feeling? Are you feeling antsy? Are you feeling a little down, a little sad?” Having labels for those feelings that prompt this into anger helps reduce anger because anger is always a reaction to and a distraction from some other form of suffering, feeling ignored and feeling threatened in some way.
I have a friend whose son is dealing with a lot of anger and he does say to his son, “Relax,” and I’ve heard his son said back, “I don’t know how to relax.” I’m going to make sure he reads this interview. The other thing that you said that’s resonating with me is labeling feelings. Before I learned coaching skills and became a clinical psychologist, I would always label myself, “I am. I am sad, I am happy.” Then I realized I am feeling sad, I am feeling happy. It doesn’t define who I am. It does help us to label the feelings and to understand that anger is a reaction to something and getting at that makes sense. Anything else you want to say on that?
I think of anger as a reaction and a distraction to some form of suffering because when we’re angry, we’re focusing outward on the person or situation. It’s easier to sit with anger than it is to sit with those negative feelings behind the anger. In a way, I see anger as starting from an attempt at self-compassion. We’re hurting and we want to relieve our hurt. It could be destructive or it could be constructive anger.
What is the one thing that people chat with you about? What is the top anger situation that you hear?
Most frequently in relationships, because they do have different expectations and have difficulty recognizing that relationships involve compromise, relationships involve discussion and talking about your expectations and asking the person, “Is that something you could agree with?” versus expecting that the person will automatically agree. Also it’s maintaining unrealistic expectations in a relationship. I saw a fellow who said his wife was 40 minutes late to every event, whether it’s going on a trip or to a movie. I asked him, “How long has this been going on?” He said, “Fifteen years.” I emphasized that he had an unrealistic expectation based on the history. It’s a nice wish or nice hope but based on the history, it was unrealistic. He just didn’t find the right intervention or response to help her better understand his being upset.
Part of this sounds like it’s talking and conversation that would assist us in better anger management. Is that correct?
Talking but first, looking inward, “What is my anger about? What are the feelings behind it? What conclusion did I have about a particular triggering event? Was it realistic? Was it self-absorbed?” Anger is always about some threat to a key drive, trust, safety, and connection. Behind all of the anger and besides feeling threatened and having negative feelings, some key drivers are feeling threatened.Constructive or destructive, pause before you react. Click To Tweet
I know that you’ve written some books. Tell us a little bit about your books and where to get them?
I wrote Healthy Anger: How to Help Children and Teens Manage their Anger. I finished Overcoming Destructive Anger: Strategies That Work and that’s for adults. I’m glad I waited because I have all kinds of new ideas focusing on emotional intelligence and mindfulness and compassionate skills to help people become self-soothing. The books are available on Amazon and other bookstores.
If people want to connect with you, what’s the best way to get in touch with you? I’m going to suggest to the audience that they take a look inward at themselves and their relationships. I wrote down seven people’s names that I know need to listen to this interview that will really serve them. Some of them are dealing with children. Some of them have their own anger issues and are not very aware of it, and some of them are caregiving their parents and that’s raising a whole other thing that’s coming up. Don’t just think about yourself, think about as a Heartrepreneur, we pass things forward. Who do you know in your circle of friends, family, colleagues that can benefit from reading this interview and perhaps even reading the books that Bernard Golden has written? Bernard, how do we connect with you?
My website is AngerManagementEducation.com.
I’m glad that you wrote both those books because we are dealing with this as adults and then we do need to take a look, whether it’s our children, our grandchildren, whether a teacher, educator, whatever it might be. We’ll all do better living in society, understanding our own inward anger, and when presented with anger, the strategies that work. Thank you so much for coming here and being a guest on Heartrepreneur Radio.
Thank you for having me.
You’re welcome. For the audience, thank you. Do not forget the totally free webinar that will help you in your business. Go over to GetHotPayingClients.com. Second, if you’re not yet a member of our Heartrepreneur community, join us. There are about 2,200 to 2,300 of us that interact, do business together, learn, and share ideas and information. That’s a Facebook group over at Heartrepreneurs with Terri Levine. Ask to join the group and then you can be connected with the other Heartrepreneur family members.
- Anger Management Education
- Healthy Anger: How to Help Children and Teens Manage their Anger
- Overcoming Destructive Anger: Strategies That Work
- Heartrepreneurs with Terri Levine
About Bernard Golden
Bernard Golden, the founder of Anger Management Education in Chicago, has been a practicing psychologist for almost forty years. He has clinical experience in a variety of settings including community mental health centers, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, private practice groups, and individual practice. He has worked with children, teens and adults. Dr. Golden was an Associate Professor at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in Chicago for twelve years prior to expanding his practice to full-time in 2002. He is the author of Overcoming Destructive Anger: Strategies That Work (John Hopkins University Press, 2016) and Healthy Anger: How to help children and teens manage their anger (Oxford University Press; hardcover, 2002, softcover, 2006)
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