We have all experienced moments when we feel angry. Now whether it is a heated argument with a spouse or our children pressing all our buttons, it could be an employee who just simply doesn’t follow any instructions, or when someone cuts us off on the highway. And these emotions are all very natural; anger is a natural human emotion. And it actually is a useful emotion because it tells us that there is something wrong. It gives us extra strength, if we need to protect our loved ones or we need to protect ourselves or our possessions, and it also makes us take action. When we are angry, it makes us take action. But when it gets out of control and it is destructive, it can cause major problems, problems in the workplace, problems at home, and it can destroy your quality of life, and it can make you feel as though you are at the mercy of a very uncontrollable emotion.
Anger varies in intensity, it varies in intensity and it is accompanied by physiological biological changes. Basically what happens when you’re happy is that your heart rate increases, your blood pressure goes up, there is a release of more hormones, so you have a lot going on in your body when you’re angry. And it is a very explosive emotion that can cause colossal damage, colossal damage to yourself and to other people. So we are going to discuss how does it harm you! When you are angry, you start releasing a lot of poison into your body. Now this poison starts taking a toll on your health. They did actually a psychological study that when someone is at the peak of their anger and if you take their blood, and inject it into a rabbit, the rabbit dies. So this is the kind of toxins we are releasing into our body every time we get angry.
It can also cause you to lose your job because if a person doesn’t have control of their emotions, and they overreact with the smallest problems, they may tell people off and get into fights, this would cost them their jobs. So this could have a huge impact on their life. It can also cause health issues, a person could have high blood pressure, it could cause them to have heart attacks, and eventually it could cause them to die. They could cause death because all of this stress, added stress on a person’s health; it will have a huge impact on them. It could also be harmful to others. The way it is harmful is that, when you are angry, you are at a state where you could really hurt other people. You could hurt them emotionally; you could say things that you could never take back. Actually, there was a very nice example done in my son’s character education program, where they say said that squeeze out a tube of toothpaste, squeeze it up and then they told to try to stick it back in, and they saw that they can’t! they can’t put it back in. and the analogy is trying to explain that once you say something, once you utter words, you can never take it back. No matter how many times you apologize, no matter what you try to do to make up, it’s out there. So we have to be very cautious and careful about what we say to others. So the way you harm others is that you’re hurting their emotions, you can also destroy relationships. Many times in marital situations, you find that when people start arguing, they say things that lead to divorce, they could really hurt the other person and it could end their marriage.
Domestic violence is an issue all over the world, and you find that individuals who do not have control over their emotions and they can’t take control of it, what happens is that they lash out. They lash out on the people closest to them, on the people that they love most. And there are many many cases of domestic violence, and this is a person who may love his wife, who may care deeply for him, but because they don’t know how to control their emotion their emotion, they lash out. So this is very harmful.
Another potential problem is child abuse that many times parents, if they are not able to take control of their emotions, they don’t know how to deal with the anger, if their children start aggravating them and frustrating them, they lash out at their children. And there are so many cases of child abuse. Children actually getting their arms broken, having major issues because of their parents lack of ability of controlling their anger. And sometimes it unfortunately even leads to death! When someone is in a rage and you’ve heard of road rage, when someone is just so angry and they just pull out the gun and they shoot the other person, or they may go out and get revenge. So this is an emotion that we really need to learn how to manage it!
So I’d like to ask you, how do you react when things don’t go your way and how do you express your frustrations? Are you in control of your emotions, or are your emotions controlling you? I am going to discuss with you the different ways that anger is expressed. Number one is the explosive anger. Explosive anger is when someone is completely aggressive. They are shouting, they are breaking things, they are hitting other people, and this is of course totally destructive. And you’d seen them, so all of you have seen individuals who behave like this and you see that they look like they are completely out of control. And no one listens to them, they are actually seen as just, you know, a person who is having a major issue.
Another way of expressing anger is actually expressing your anger. And this is assertiveness, not aggression. So it’s being assertive, meaning that you know how to ask for what you want. You are respectful of yourself and you are respectful of other people. And this is actually the best way to express your anger where you are being assertive, you are getting your things addressed without harming anyone, without being rude, without being mean, and so I think it is very critical to learn how to have certain assertive skills. How to express your opinions without being too harsh, and without being too submissive. There is like a very fine balance between these two, and we need to learn how to have the hikmah, the wisdom to share what it is that we need without being explosive.
Another way of expressing the anger is actually suppressing the anger. Suppressing the anger means you are holding in your anger, you are trying your best not to show it and this is actually very destructive. This can harm you as a person, it can affect your health because all of this holding in… holding in… bottling it… bottling it… and can have a very bad effect on your health, and it also causes to be very cynical because you can take it up to a point, and then you start being passive aggressive. And passive aggressive means you are really angry, you are upset, you are mad at the person, but because you are trying to hold it in, you start acting in a way that is a little bit mean. Or you are being a little bit aloof, or you are being a little bit aggressive but in a very passive way. You don’t outright come out and tell the person off, but maybe you are consistently doing things to annoy them. So this is not a healthy situation to be in, and it also causes people to be very cynical, cynical being very negative about life because they have bottled up so much anger, from years and years and years, and so they end up being… have a very negative outlook. And these people are very poisonous to have around. So we need to look in and see if we are suppressing our anger, we need to learn how to start expressing it and another thing is calming the anger. Calming the anger is a way of controlling your outward behavior and internal responses. So you are lowering your heart rate, you are calming yourself and you are letting go. And this very healthy and this very good to do, and I am going to reiterate and express the different ways that we express our anger.
So the last one is calming the anger, which is a way of controlling your outward behavior and calming yourself down. And it is a great way to prevent yourself from acting out, and we are going to get into details about exactly how you can do this. Just as a recap, I wanted to tell you the different ways that people express their anger. We talked about explosive, which is definitely destructive, it is when someone just loses it and reacts, and they are very impulsive. The second one is expressing anger, which I said is the healthiest. It’s basically being assertive without being aggressive. And this is healthy, it is healthy for you because you are getting your needs met, and you are not hurting anyone in the process. Then third is suppressing the anger, and that is when you are holding the anger in and it just bottles up, and this is not healthy! And then the fourth is just calming the anger, it’s learning how to change your state. So you are going from the state of anger, and then you learn how to calm yourself down. And we are going to get into that later.
The goal of anger management is basically to do two things. It is to reduce your emotional feelings, and to reduce the physiological arousal that anger causes because you cannot get rid of the people who cause you anger, you can’t avoid them because usually they are the people closest to you. So you can’t avoid them, you cannot get rid of them, and you cannot change them. So the only thing that you can do is change your reaction to them, and once you learn to do that, then your problem is solved!
We need to look at the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) as our example in life, and we need to emulate him in every area of our life, especially in how he dealt with anger. He was called so many things, he was verbally abusive, physically abused, and he basically dealt with all this. All the while they called him a madman, they called him a magician, a liar, they boycotted him, there were persecutions and he went through so many difficult tests and yet he never lashed out in anger. He never expressed his anger towards anyone, even the people who expressed him the most. At the time when he was in control, and he had the power, he forgave all of the people who had boycotted him, who had persecuted him, and he was in the complete forgiveness of them. And so this is what we need to learn, that regardless of how people are reacting to us, that we don’t lash out and we don’t act out because we want to emulate the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam). And the Prophet said, (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) that a strong person is not the one who can get his adversary on the floor and wrestle him down. The person who is strong, who is able to control his anger, so if you want to be strong, you want to be a strong person then learn how to control your anger.
Stay tuned when we come back after these messages, I will give you more examples of how the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) controlled his anger in the most difficult situations.
Now I am going to give you some examples of how the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) controlled his anger in the most difficult situations. There is an example of a bedouin once came into the masjid at the time of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam), and he basically relieved himself, he urinated in the masjid. And the Sahabah were very furious, they thought how could he do this, this is a place of worship and needs to remain clean, and the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) said don’t rush him. He wanted him to have his peace and afterwards he went, he cleaned and he taught him in a very peaceful diplomatic and loving way. So this is the example that we need to follow, and these days you see people who are sometimes in the mosque who designate themselves as the “mosque police” right? They go and they want to correct every single person that they see, that your hijab is too thin, or your hair is showing, this is too long, that is too long, and they are not, they want to follow the sunnah of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) with certain actions but not in the action of how he controlled his anger. And the fact that there is not even a need to be angry, when someone doesn’t know, when someone doesn’t know we basically have to just teach them, and teach them with gentleness and with loving ways.
There are many examples of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) giving advice to the people with such hikmah, with wisdom and gentleness, and this is why everyone felt so comfortable with him. They were never threatened by him; they were never in fear of him because he always used gentleness and lots of love when giving his advice. There is also an incident when the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) went to Ta’if, when he went there; it was a place where he was trying to give da’wah. Imagine going and you’re trying to save people, you are trying to teach them and what did they do? It’s that they started stoning him, they started hitting him with rocks to the point that he was bleeding, and he even chipped his tooth, and he was bleeding and he was hurt. What did he do? Instead of being angry, instead of retaliating, getting revenge, what did he do? He asked for forgiveness for them and he prayed for them, he prayed! He said maybe if they are not guided, maybe the next generation will be guided, and he prayed for their guidance. And you see this as such a huge example in our life. I mean if we had the opportunity, if someone was really coming after us, and really giving us a hard time, and we had the opportunity to get revenge, how many of us would take action! But if we have the the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) as our role model, then we would learn to forgive and not to act out on our anger. We need to be balanced with our emotions, we have to be balanced. So not to love excessively, and not to hate excessively, and basically if you love someone, love them to a point because one way, they may end up as your enemy, and if you are, if you dislike someone, don’t be excessive in hating them, or disliking them because one day they may become your friends. And I am sure all of you have experienced this where one day a person is your closest friend, you share all your secrets, tell him everything, and the next day they are not in your life anymore. And so we have to be doing everything in moderation, even in our emotions, if we are able to love in moderation and dislike in moderation, we just become a much more balanced individual. And in the Quran, Allah says walkathimeenaalghaytha, that those who control their anger, he is praising the people who are able to control their anger because this causes, like I said a lot of problems for the person and for others. So if someone is able to control that, this is like a, it’s like a wrestling match actually! The way I look at it with your nafs, imagine yourself being in a wrestling match, and you have to just tackle your nafs to the ground. That your nafs want to scream, it wants to tell a person off, it may want to whack your jaws, and it may want to do all sorts of things. But if you wrestle your nafs to the ground, then you can act in the way that is of the standard and in a very dignified manner. And so Allah says, walkathimeenaalghaytha, that these are the people, Allah is praising those who do not get angry. walAAafeena AAani, that they forgive others. And wallahu yuhibbu almuhsineen, that Allah loves those who are good. So look at the relationship in your life, look at all the people that you come in contact with on a daily basis. Do you follow these things? Do you follow it with your spouse? Are you controlling your anger with your spouse? Are you controlling your anger with your children, or your co-workers or your employees, and what about the forgiveness issue? Are you able to let go of the past or are you still holding onto it? because Allah is saying, if you do these two things, as far as controlling your anger and being able to forgive, then he loves you. And wouldn’t we all want to achieve that? To live up to the standard, to the highest of standards!
Look at everything that causes you to be angry as a test. It is a test that people in your life that make you angry, maybe the business deals that go wrong and everything is a test. And Allah says in the Quran, in Surat Al-Mulk, “Allathee khalaqa almawta walhayataliyabluwakum ayyukum ahsanu AAamalan wahuwa alAAazeezualghafoor”. Allah has created death and life as a way to test people. And everything in our life is basically a test to see who is the best! Who is the best, it is kind of like when you are in a classroom studying and the teacher gives you like a pop-quiz to see, Ok, who is studying, and who is prepared to pass the test! And you will distinguish by the way that the students perform that who is the best student. Those who had been ready studied and performed well, they will be the outstanding students. And those who just didn’t prepare for it, they will fail. And so these things in our life, let’s say the individuals who cause us to be angry is a test! And we have to focus on how do we pass the test. Passing the test means controlling your anger! So you have that, maybe that impulse to scream, you have that impulse to say something very hurtful or lash out, or do something, but you hold it back and you control yourself. And that is the way you pass your test. So hopefully we are aware of our actions and as we face different challenges and different tests, we are able to handle it in an appropriate way because you know it takes maturity to be able to control your anger. When you see a little 2 year old child, they have a tantrum and they just lose it, because they are childish, right? And many times adults have tantrums; many times they have a tantrum and affects*, and because they don’t know how to control their emotions. So we need to learn to be more mature and to be a responsible individual, and really learn to, how to react, how to control our reactions.
Now I am going to discuss with you some of the techniques that you can use to control your anger because we all have it, like I said it is a very natural human emotion and it will happen. Now it just the matter of how do you channel this anger, and what do you do with the anger.
The first step is relaxation technique, you have to learn how to relax and it has a lot to do with the way you breathe. You have to breathe deeply from the diaphragm, ok? So you have to take a nice deep breath and hold it, and then exhale. This kind of breathing will really send signals to your body that you are relaxed, and you do this maybe five times, up to ten times in order to get yourself at a different state. And you have to look at your lungs as a balloon, OK? So when you take in, when you are inhaling, the balloon fills up with air and when you exhale, the balloon deflates. OK so you have to really fill your lungs up feel the effect and you have to say calming words to yourself. You have to start saying, just relax! Everything is going to be fine, nothing to worry about! And you keep saying this to yourself as you’re doing the breathing and you start seeing that your body actually relaxes.
I mentioned deep breathing and also saying calming words, and another thing you can do is a progressive muscle relaxation. And it’s basically a two-step process where you tense and relax your muscles. And you start from your tippy-toes, OK? You tighten them and you let go. You’ll do your calf muscles, so ever major muscles, you’ll do your thighs, and then you’ll do your stomach, and then you, let’s say your hands. You tighten it; hold it for 5 seconds, and then you release. And then your biceps, you hold it for 5 seconds, and then you release it. and when you do this to your whole body, you’ll find yourself being so much more relaxed. And so it is called the progressive muscle relaxation, and at the same time, you could use your imagination and visualization. You can imagine yourself being in a very peaceful environment, either someplace that you have been and a place where you love going, or just something that you create in your mind, and this will be kind of like a mini-vacation for yourself. Even for those of you who are at work and you can’t get away, a good way to refresh yourself, and it only takes maybe 5-10 minutes, you do the deep breathing, you start calming yourself, and then you do the muscle relaxation. And you imagine yourself being in a very beautiful scenic place, and this way you have just refreshed yourself, and you feel rejuvenated, and you calm yourself from the anger. When you are feeling angry, you need to change your position, so if you are standing, you need to get seated. If you are sitting, lay down. And this is basically a way to calm yourself down. Because when we are angry, we have a tendency to stand up and to act very excitedly. So we need to just calm ourselves by taking these steps.
I discussed with you the problems that occur when you have an uncontrolled anger; it can cause problems to your health, to yourself and to your loved ones. And some other techniques that I discussed as far as gaining control of your anger is the deep breathing, the calming words and also doing the muscle relaxation. Now if you’ll join me next time, I will discuss with you how to change the way you are thinking, your self-talk, how to problem-solve, how to use humor as a way of dealing with anger, and also how to better communicate with those around you.
So join me next time, As-salamu alaykum!
As-salamu alaykum! Last time I spoke to you about anger and how if it’s not channeled properly, it could be very destructive to yourself and to the people around you. I talked to you about following the example of the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) and how he always controlled his anger in the most difficult situations and also some relaxation techniques. Basically taking deep breaths, saying calming words and also doing the progressive muscle relaxation. This time I am going to continue with the topic of how to manage your anger.
Now I will tell you about cognitive restructuring which means basically changing the way you think, and the way you change the way you think is by changing yourself talk, we are always having an internal dialogue with ourselves, and so we need to become aware of this dialogue and as we change it, then that will affect our behavior in the way we feel. I am a cognitive behavioral therapist. I have been one for the past 15 years and basically what I work on is, whoever comes in as a client, whether they are depressed, whether they have marital problems, they have anxiety or they have self-esteem issues, whatever it is, it all blows down to the fact that they want to change their behavior. That’s the bottom line, changing the behavior! And what I do is in order to change their behavior, I have to first work on their cognition, their way of thinking because it’s all about digging in and finding out the root of the issue. And the root of the issue is usually the way a person thinks about issues.
If someone has, for instance an internal bleeding, you cannot put a Band-Aid on it, because it is not going to do anything. So a lot of times, people try to change their behavior without digging within and finding out what is it that’s causing them to act the way that they are. So for instance, many times people who diet, they are dieting, and they can’t be consistent in it because they haven’t dug deep down inside to see what is their relationship with food, what is it? and until they understand that, they won’t ever be able to be consistent with it. Now the same thing goes with managing our anger. We have to look within, reflect and see what are these things that cause us to be angry, and once we figure that out, we can pinpoint it, change the way we think about things, change the way we have a self-dialogue, and therefore we can have a changed behavior. Many times, people do not like to reflect, they like to have the music on, or the TV on, they are texting, they have a lot of things going on, but what we need to do is turn all these things off and just have some time to reflect, to look within and see what is causing us to act the way that we do. so if you have an issue with anger, if there are times that you just lose it, and you are reacting, overreacting, you need to get to the bottom of this and see what is it that is the trigger point, what is causing you this anger. And once you figure that out, then you need to start working on the way you perceive it. And once you know those trigger points, you can better prepare yourself. So for instance, someone maybe very irritable, when someone is disrespecting them or someone raises their voice or if a person is ignoring them, and if you know that you are about to be in a situation where you are going to face these issues, you can mentally prepare yourself, so that you don’t have the angry reaction. So that’s what I mean about, knowing what the trigger point is and preparing yourself to react, but react in a more dignified way.
Try your best not to curse and use exaggerated language because the language that we use really affects our emotional state. If someone says that, you know, everything is ruined, and my God, I am devastated! These things have a tremendous impact on our emotions. Worst* is saying, I am a little setback or I have run into some challenges and I need to overcome them. And even calling a problem, instead of calling it a problem, call it a challenge because when you think of something as a problem, it suddenly becomes magnanimous in your mind. So try to use words that will have a positive impact on you and make you have a more stable emotional experience. It is very important not to use the words never and always. When you tell yourself, sometimes when people mess up, they will say things that, Oh I always mess up! Or I can never do anything right! And this is really inaccurate, it’s inaccurate assessment of yourself because there are many times that you do things right, or there are many things that you do without making a mistake, and you are not giving yourself enough credit. And there are many times that people are very harsh on themselves, so they just get down and they start beating themselves up, and this has no positive results. So the best thing to do is, to speak in a way that will be constructive.
As a mother of three, I have an eleven-year old, an eight-year old and a six-year old; I understand very well what getting angry is all about. They are wonderful and precious, and I adore them. It’s very natural that there will be times that they will push my buttons, and it is very easy to get angry in these situations, when if they are not getting ready in time and if they are running late for school, or not being as attentive in doing their work and so I understand the challenges that moms feel. And what we have to do is really learn how to control our emotions, especially our anger as a mother because what happens is that when mothers are lashing out at their children that each time their things are not met, their expectations are not met, and they are feeling disappointed or frustrated or angry, they lash out at their kids by either hitting them or cursing, or saying really terrible things to them. This is going to have a very negative impact on the children, it is going to affect their self-esteem, it is going to affect the way they view you or feel towards you, and it will also affect the way that they deal with people in life because ultimately as a mother, or as a father, we have to model the appropriate behavior. Modelling is all about doing the right things, so as a parent you need to show what is the right way to react to a situation. If you get angry, how would you like your kids to react when they are angry, many times I have mothers who complain about their children, who just go and they are hitting everyone in the playground, and they are getting in trouble at school, and they are cursing, and they are doing all these terrible things, and when I ask them about their punishment techniques, they very well tell me that they hit him on a regular basis, on a daily basis they are getting spanked and so this is teaching the kids that when you’re angry, lash out. Ok so if you don’t want them to behave this way, and then model the correct behavior. When you are angry, you can sit down calmly, talk to them and discuss and try to find a solution, and then they will start doing the same thing because children are really our mirror. They do whatever they see and so as this generation, as our generation is growing up, they need to have examples in their families, at schools, in the community to show them, how do we handle our anger. when something doesn’t go our way, what is our reaction? Are we supposed to just get angry, and furious, and let someone have it, and this… if the child doesn’t learn this, they will grow up, become an adult and learn that whatever is in your heart, or whatever anger you have, you just lash out, and devastating things happen when a person has been brought up this way?
So I encourage all the parents out there to really look within and try to control this really explosive emotion because not only does it affect the children, their self-esteem, and I can tell you something about self-esteem. It is like the way a person feels about themselves and this is one, having low self-esteem can lead to so many different problems. It could lead children in going into drugs and alcohol, it can make them have… if they have so much low self-esteem, they will follow anything that their friends say just to be accepted.
Now, on the other hand, if someone has a lot of self-confidence, and they have high self-esteem, then they won’t be the ones being affected. They will be influencing other people. So we need to look and see what do we want our kids to, how do we want them to turn out, if we want them to be confident individuals who are not going to succumb to all their desires, then it is important for us, as parents to build their self-esteem. So another issue with having low self-esteem is that people will feel so bad about themselves, that they won’t reach their full potential. Many times when people come in for therapy, the bottom line or the reason that they are in therapy is because of a self-esteem issue, and this is prevalent, and it’s so common, and I think it is more common amongst women than it is in men. And I think that it is really the job of the parents and the educators to really build our children, build them and make them feel strong, make them feel confident, so if every time, we as parents and educators get angry, and we just humiliate the kids by saying horrible things, and sometimes you hear parents say horrible things, calling them donkeys and calling them like, you’re stupid idiot and you’re saying things like this and this kind of words will impact the child and they will internalize it. so each time if a parent or guardian or someone is doing this, then it is going to really damage the child’s self-esteem.
What we need to focus on is not what just feels good because many times when we’re angry, it may feel good to lash out, it may feel good to yell or whack someone, but it is not about what feels good, but what is right. What is the right thing to do, and what would get results. And if you noticed, those individuals who just lose it, who get angry, and yell and scream, they don’t get the results that they want. A lot of times people are tuning them out, a lot of times if parents are doing this, the kids are just, you know, tuning them out completely and you are not getting the desired results that you want. So basically I think it is very important to ask yourself, right at the stage when you are angry, ask yourself, “what is the result? What do I want?” and many times it’s about, I want this person to respect me! I want this person to listen to me! And by yelling and screaming, you are not earning the respect, and they are not going to want to listen, because you sound horrible. So basically, we have to look and see what is the desired behavior we want, let’s say to get maybe our way, or we want someone to listen or show respect. So we need to act in a way that will get our desired outcome, and I think that is the missing link. A lot of times, when people go into angry mode, they are not thinking about the desired effect, they just want their way and again, I say it is kind of like a child having a tantrum. A 2-year old who falls to the ground, kicking and screaming, and so the parent listens to them. Well, it doesn’t with a child, and it’s not going to work with an adult. So we need to, again be a very responsible, mature adult and learn how to deal with our emotions. So if you are feeling angry, just accept that and learn how to defuse it, and also how to use it. Defuse and use so that you can get the desired results that you want.
Another thing I’d like to add is that, many times when you get angry at a person, it’s not about that person; it is about you and how they are making you feel. And it’s something many times about your past, so you have to look within also and see what is it, and I think when you realize this, when you know that this person is getting me angry, and it probably has to do with someway like, maybe a way you were treated as a child, maybe a specific experience that you had, this way it takes off the heat from the person. You are less angry at the person and realize that this is just something that is coming up and it is causing you to be more angry because what it reminds you of.
Now in summary, when we want to change the way we think, we have to become aware of our self talk. We need to dig in and see what is at the root, the root of our feelings, so this angry feeling that you have, what is at the root. Is it because you are being disrespected, is it because something from your childhood, learn that and learn what your trigger points are. What is it specifically that causes you to get angry, and when you know your trigger points, then you can plan, anticipate and handle it much better. And also it is important to be rational, be rational in the way you think about the situation. Be a good role model for the children and also ask yourself, what will get the desired results. Ask yourself how do you need to react in order for people to listen to you and to be more receptive.
Now we will go to a break, and when we come back, I will discuss with you better communication, how to use humor to diffuse anger and problem solving techniques.
Welcome back! I just finished talking about how to change the way you think in dealing with anger and now I am going to discuss with you better communication because many times, communication is the trunk of the problem like in marriages, at the workplace, with your children. I think it is very important to learn how to communicate effectively.
One of the first things to keep in mind is to make I-statements. I-statements that you make a statement starting with yourself, I! that I feel angry when you do not return my calls, or I feel fat and neglected when you don’t spend time with me. You make statements starting with yourself, because when you make you-statements, you is an attack. So if someone comes up to you and they throw a punch, the natural thing that you’ll do is that you’ll defend yourself, right? So you need to stop throwing punches, you need to stop attacking the person, because if you start telling the person, you never do this… and you never do that, they will feel attacked and they will definitely be defensive. So when you’re making these I-statements, sharing your feelings, they will be much more receptive, and it is talking about you rather than attacking them. And be very careful about using the words always and never. This is like a rule of communication not to do this because many times when husband and wives are discussing or arguing, and if someone uses the never-word, ok that it is like, you never take me anywhere! And the husband may think back and say, oh well; 10 years ago I took you somewhere! Or you never buy me any presents, and he’s like, well I remember, you know in 1995 I did get you that one thing. And even if it was one thing that this person did, then they will just not see what is a credible* person. Or if you say you always do so… and so… It is not an effective way because you lose credibility because it is not accurate.
Another thing that is very important in communicating is that you remain calm and lower your voice because when someone starts yelling, then people immediately tune out, ok? I mean this is just the natural defence mechanism, no one wants to listen to that so if you want to be hurt, I mean ask yourself, do you want to be hurt, do you want the person to get the message that you’re trying to get across, then lower your voice and be able to talk in a manner that is respectful because with most people, they regard raising the voice as being very very disrespectful, and so as soon as the person starts doing that, the other person is just shut off. So I think if you have like, let’s say rules of communication with your spouse, or with your children that you say, this is absolutely unacceptable that we always communicate with each other with respect. Even in couples therapy, when I am working with couples, I set up rules of communication within the therapy to learn what is the best way to communicate, and that is one of the rules that I set up in the therapy session that not to raise… not for them to raise their voices because this is really something that just angers the other person and it is very very disrespectful.
Yelling is a big turnoff for men and women because men love to be respected, and if they are yelled at, they feel totally disrespected. And women love to be loved and nurtured, and so when they are being yelled at, they definitely don’t feel loved and nurtured so it’s really a big turnoff for both males and females.
I think it’s really important to listen very carefully to what the person is saying, and seek to understand first before being understood. OK I am going to repeat this because it is a very very critical point: seek to understand first, and then be understood. Most people are just out to be understood, listen to what I have to say! This is my point, get me! And it’s just all about me… me… me… and my point and my way, and this is not effective, OK? So if you seek to understand, you listen and say, you know what, I want to try to understand where you are coming from. I want to try to see your perspective. And you try to do that; you will see that it will change the dynamics of your relationship. And it is very critical to listen to the other person and listening is really an art that most people don’t have. Most people don’t have listening skills, and you will see, actually there is a joke about it where a person tells someone, you know, Hi! How are you doing? And the person will say, Oh I am dying of cancer! And they are like, oh great! See you later! They are like not even listening to the content of what the person is saying so I think it is very critical that you’re communicating, really focus on what the other person is saying. What happens usually is when people are in this argumentative state, what they do is that they are just preparing, when the other person is talking, they are just preparing what they’re going to say. It’s like yeah… yeah… I am going to tell this point, I am going to say that point, I am going to get them here, I am going to get them there, and this is really ineffective. Because you’re not hearing them and they are not hearing you, so what happens is like you just miss the boat completely. But when you start listening and that’s when your messages will be heard.
So I was saying that listening is an art, and I remember taking a course in grad-school that was all about getting therapeutic skills, and one of the skills that we were taught was how to listen, because most people are not taught. And so what you need to do is basically listen to the other person and reiterate. And that was like the training that I got as a therapist is, to listen to a client take in what they say, and rephrase it just to make sure that I understood correctly because many times the problems occur, there’s like a miss-communication right? I say something, you understand something differently and it causes a big fight. So we need to make sure that we’re on the same page and so when you reiterate, like repeat what the other person is saying, then this is the time where you can check and see if you understood them correctly. And it’s the chance for the other person to correct you. So what happens, many times you say something and even you see that the word choice, that they will correct the word choice because you might say, Oh it sounds like… or I hear you say that you are a little bit upset, and they may say, no, I am not a little upset. I am furious about this! So it clarifies to you where their emotional state is, and so I want you to get into the habit of repeating what your spouse, or what your friend, or a co-worker, or whoever it is, repeat what they are saying and this is a good opportunity, like I said to check your assumptions. Checking your assumptions meaning that you many assume something about a person, but you may be totally off. So you repeat it and make sure that you understood what has just been said.
It’s also very critical to slow down when you’re in angry state, don’t just say the first thing that pops into your head. Take your time, think it through, and evaluate because many times once you say something, it’s out there, and you can’t take it back. So be very careful and choose your words wisely when you are in that state because we could say a lot of hurtful things when we are angry.
Also if you are being criticized, try your best not to be defensive. Look at it as a way of improving yourself. So if someone is telling you, you know, you have a tendency to be too arrogant, or you have a tendency to be too rude, or you have… whatever it is that they are criticizing, instead of completely dismissing it and thinking, oh there’s no truth to it, they don’t know what they’re talking about! Maybe look within, reflect and look at it as an opportunity to improve yourself.
Another tool in handling your anger is problem-solving. If you have effective problem-solving skills, then you will be able to manage your anger much better. It’s really important to setup family meetings, or corporate meetings, whatever your situation or your environment is, it is critical to meet on a regular basis and discuss a plan. You need to have a plan because many corporations have their business plan. Can you imagine a corporation, like a multi-billion dollar corporation not having a plan, or not having goals? It would be absurd, and yet our family which is the building block of society, many times our families don’t have a plan. So we need to sit together on a regular basis and set up a plan for our family, and have for instance, specifics on what to do when these plans are not met. When you know, for instance, one of the rules in our house is, if you don’t do your homework, you don’t get the TV, alright? And TV and PlayStation is off-limits throughout the week, but on the weekend, if they haven’t done their homework, then they don’t get to have those privileges. And I think once that’s in place, then there’s no need to get angry when your expectations are not met. You just simply remove the reinforce; you just simply take away the privileges. But what happens a lot of times is that the parent does not have a plan. The child is not listening, and then there is no set plan, and then that’s where the anxiety and anger sets in. it’s very critical to have good timing. When you want to address a problem, and you want to resolve it, you need to gauge the other person, where are they at emotionally. If they are excessively tired, if they’ve had a really bad day, if they have a headache, if… many things are happening in their lives, they are not going to be open and receptive to what you’re saying. So basically if you want to be heard, if you want the other person to be receptive to you, then choose the right time. I’ve had individuals tell me that their spouse may approach them 1am in the morning and say, let’s talk about a ten-year plan for the kids. And that may not be the ideal time for the spouse, so they may not be as in tune or if their friends and family are around, it would not be an ideal time to discuss problems. So it is very important to see when is the best time for the other person so that they will be more receptive.
Also you could try changing your environment, if you are in, let’s say in a dispute and its getting heated, you could take just 5 minutes, maybe step outside, maybe take a break, have a little me-time and express to them that this is what you’re doing. Say you know, I am getting a little bit anger here, and I don’t want to say anything that I will regret, so just allow me 5 minutes to gather myself and then we can continue. If you do that, you just kind of break the cycle, and you prevent things from escalating. Also, you could find alternatives. Find alternatives, so for instance if traffic is the thing that gets you really stressed down and you get really angry, so try to find another route or try to plan your day in a way where you are not stuck in traffic and one of the things that I used to do when I was commuting, I used to have a 3 hour commute in graduate school, I was listening to very useful, like Islamic tapes, I would listen to them, our CD’s and that way your time is being beneficial. Even though you are on the road and you might be stressful, but at least you are making it a beneficial time. So you are less likely to get angry.
Another useful skill in manager your anger is using humor, and this is something that not many people use. Humor, being able to laugh at yourself, laugh at the circumstances, it is really really important and it can diffuse the anger. when you use humor correctly, it can really lower the intensity and the tension. Now, they have done studies and they have seen that laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, boosts the immune system and it even releases endorphins, that feel good hormone, the endorphins are being released so if you try to laugh a little bit more and take life a little less seriously, and take yourself a little less seriously, there would be a lot less tension. There is a psychologist named John Gottman, who has the 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, and he discussed this that how humor is so critical, that he could look at a couple and the way that they start an argument, he could tell within like, 3 minutes whether they are going to stay together or get divorced. And it has a lot to do with how they use humor. Those individuals who are able to diffuse their spouse’s anger, you find that they tend to stay together and not have the anger escalate.
Two cautions in using humor. First, don’t laugh off your problems, don’t just take it lightly and not care because issues that come up are important and you don’t want to just ignore them, so use it to help your problems constructively. So you are not just laughing it up, but you are using it as an effective way of dealing with it. and second, don’t give in to harsh sarcastic humor. Don’t be sarcastic in the way you use humor and because that’s a very unhealthy way of expressing your anger.
If we use the tools that I have mentioned as far as relaxation techniques, using the Prophet (Sallallahu ‘Alaihi Wasallam) as an example, being able to reconstruct our way of thinking and also the problem-solving techniques, and using humor when you’re angry, then you’ll be much better prepared and less likely to succumb to your anger, you’ll just be much more in control. So I hope you’ll join me next time, As-salamu alaykum!
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