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Anger Management Institute

Testimony of a Former Abuser

Insights, Test answers and Review of What’s Good About Anger? anger management course from a student:
Here is a a completed test for the anger management course from a student who had an abusive marriage. He has summarized portions of the book, provided a description of his personal struggle with anger, some great insights and demonstrates how he has successfully applied some of the coping skills to his life!

“1. Please identify some of the causes of anger from the book/course:

People for whom getting or being angry is a problem have turned a perfectly good emotion into a lifestyle of continually being and getting angry. In many ways, Anger is a “cover-emotion” since it is rarely a case of simple righteous indignation, but rather a reaction to rejection, attack or a perceived threat. Negative self-talk, poor self esteem, a desire to control one’s surroundings, frustration at not getting one’s way are all possible triggers to an angry outburst. Couple these external stimuli with faulty thinking about the external world (i.e. unrealistic expectations about control, or people doing what you want, people ought to let me have my way, etc.) and one is quite quickly angry. After a period of learning these new chemical pathways, the brain will become very efficient at “getting it’s fix”

2. Describe 3 situations in which you have become angry and your response?  Please be specific such as: I have yelled at my wife or kids, hit someone, destroyed property, harmed someone, etc.

  1. While we were married, my wife an often exchanged angry and hurtful words. Very often, I would pound things (desk, kick a chair) because I so desperately wanted to avoid hitting her. All of that changed when she hit me. At first I was stunned, but then, very predictably, I became angry and I shoved her back against the wall. From that point on there were many instances when I acted violently or aggressively toward her. I never hit her with my hand, just pushed her around. I was so ashamed of my behavior (after sanity returned) but it was so hard to avoid it. I tried timeouts, but she would not respect them and it became progressively worse.  
  2. My anger always stayed in check at work. One day I was tested beyond imagining by a co-worker who was trying to pick a fight over who was right regarding some technical issue. This was many years ago, but it has never left me. I allowed someone of inferior intellect to gain control over me by losing my temper and yelling (in the middle of the laboratory.a very academic and disciplined environment). The ironic point is that my faulty thinking said anger=control, and by getting angry I gave up that one thing in my mind that was worth fighting for: control.
  3. More recently, I was assembling a rack for my wine cellar. My girlfriend (as I am now divorced) was helping me and became distracted doing something else. She inadvertently allowed the part I was working on to fall from its resting place. This crushed my finger (not terribly, mind you, but it still hurt!!). For the first time ever, I yelled at her. I was really pissed-off. Immediately I saw the hurt in her eyes. I started weeping and ran to hold her. I was so sorry that she had to see a side of me that I mistakenly believed was gone. I now realize even though I have taken steps (with other classes) to control and manage my anger, that I will always battle it and I will always need to be vigilant for trigger situations.

3. How does the book/course describe the harmfulness of an angry response?

Anger is most harmful to the person getting angry. Even before an outburst is visible to those in the fall-out zone, the BP and HR have been steadily climbing; the whole fight-flight mechanism has stoked the body’s fires preparing for confrontation. That’s stressful from a physiological point of view. It makes your parts wear out faster and predisposes you to a wide variety of stress related disorders (i.e. heart attacks or ulcers). In addition, the emotional consequences from hurting those around you can be very hard (and expensive) to endure. Anger is harmful if too frequent, too intense, too long, leads to aggression, or when it disturbs relationships with others (home, work, school, social).

4. How has anger personally harmed your relationships or personal life?

My marriage, while mutually abusive, was ruined primarily by the tone I set. I was angry. I harbored resentment against my wife and it showed very clearly in the way I dealt with her. I have hurt people’s feelings; I have said things I later regretted. I have acted like a child who does not get his way.only this child has the ability to express himself in ways much more damaging that merely crying and stamping feet. The biggest cost is the alienation that follows. It isolates me from the very people to whom I want to be close. Instead of control, I gained loneliness.

5. In what ways can anger be helpful as described in the book/course?

God wired us to get angry to warn us of danger. Anger lets us know something is wrong and
it enables us to flee or to fight if need be for our protection. It alerts us to injustice, helps us recognize boundaries, and energizes us for action. The chemical pathways exist for very good reasons, but they are powerful and our brain chemistry will actually change with frequent outbursts. Even Jesus got angry. He was fully God and fully man. When he chased the money changers out of the temple, he was angry.but he committed no sin. This idea that we can be angry and not sin is much harder tightrope to walk for us humans of lesser mettle. It’s really hard to think clearly when all the blood gets pumped to our extremities and adrenaline flows through our body.

6. What are some of the major triggers of anger described in the book/course?

Cognitive triggers and physiological triggers: The first is a thinking problem; the second is one of biology. Our ability to cope with stress is related to how we think and feel.

How we think about what we observe affects the conclusions we reach. If we think people are out to get us and some guy in cuts us off on the freeway, we immediately react as though the act is a personal attack.when in point of fact, he is so self-focused, he doesn’t even know we are there. Biases, irrational beliefs, impulsivity, and skill deficits all contribute to angry outbursts.

Our reserve capacity for dealing with any external influence is also gated by how our body is functioning. Sleep, food, hormonal balance, and mental tension all contribute to our response.

7. What, specifically, triggers your anger?

Mostly whacked thinking that seems perfectly reasonable at the time. For a variety of reasons, small distortions of the truth get included in our filter through which we observe the world. The distortions affect the way we view the world, much like a smudge of grease on a window would obscure one’s view of the outdoors. This sets up responses in our brains which are not crazy, rather they are quite damaging in spite of the fact that they can be quite logical deductions spawned from a not-so-sound premise. My anger is almost always an over reaction to incorrect thinking. For some time now, I have been trying to retrain myself in my new relationships: The other party is not trying to hurt me or deliberately provoke my anger. This is what my ex-wife was doing regularly (by her own tearful admission in post divorce counseling). I have been trying to clean my filter from this residue. It is slow, but I am making progress. Absent this intent, the normal bumps in life seem to be just what they are: Potholes, not unbridgeable chasms.

8. How did you recently control your anger?

I stopped the cycle. If I missed seeing the trigger setup early enough to just avoid the trap, I know what I feel like when I am starting to get angry. When I start to feel even a little like that, I just call for a time out or I pause and remind myself of how important it is to remain in control of myself, not the other person.

Recently, I was having an emotionally charged discussion with my girlfriend. This of course means that we both felt strongly about the topic and had opposing viewpoints. I was able to look ahead and see how the conversation was going to unfold so I stopped talking. I started asking questions to understand her view point. This is much easier to do when I remind myself that she is not trying to hurt me, she really loves me, and she wants the best for both of us. It’s amazing what some corrected thinking can accomplish.

9. How did you change or challenge the triggers which make you angry?

I do not need to be in control of people around me. I can only control me. I can’t control them. Most of the time, they are not even aware of me and are busy worrying about their own set of problems, so chances are it isn’t about me (whatever they might be doing that bugs me). Finally I observed that it is arrogant to think people are doing things “to” me. This implies that they spend a lot of time thinking about me. I’m not THAT important. Life is full of disappointments and failed plans.that’s normal. In the grand scheme, it’s insignificant.not a reason to get angry. Last but not least, as I get healthier, I am realizing I can be frustrated or upset about something without becoming angry. I like to say, “the burner of my soul, once again, has OFF, SIMMER, MED and HI; instead of just OFF and HI.”

10. What new coping skills have you recently used from this book/course to manage your
anger?  Which was most beneficial?

I have started asking myself the question: “Is my anger justified?” Usually the answer is “No.”

Addressing the core issue: “Why am I feeling this way?”

Asking myself, “What is true?”

Allowing more time to process before drawing a conclusion.

Choosing to express my views and thoughts constructively, in stead of being confrontational.

I find that making the thinking-acting cycle take longer is very beneficial. I remain calm and then it is much easier to see the salient issues from the red herrings.

11. In what ways have you discovered that God can help you manage anger?

He reminds me constantly of how patient he is with me. My job is not to help him with his. My job is to become more like him by extending grace to those around me. By giving grace freely, it frees me of the need to correct or punish. This is some nutty thinking, but God is faithful and he is helping me to dig away the distractions to get to the root of these kinds of distortions.

12. What can you do this next week to manage your anger more effectively?

Extend grace and practice responding to external events.not reacting

13. How has this course helped you personally understand and manage anger?

This course has provided more insight, new and different tools for lessening the rate at which these feelings develop, and in some ways preventing the feelings all together as is the case with faulty thinking about external events.

14. Do you have any recommendations about how this course could be improved?

None. Being able to take this material in at my own pace, while traveling, is very helpful. I am not sure why I didn’t think of this before..Thanks.

15. What did you like best about the What’s Good About Anger? course/book?

Ease of study. Not being held hostage to a classroom schedule.”

Used with the permission of an Anonymous student from Hillsboro, Oregon taking a 32 week anger management course


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