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Archive for the ‘Anger Management’ Category

What Makes a GOOD Apology?

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Apologies and forgiveness are two terms we (humans) tend to throw around quite a bit. What makes a good apology? Most of us know how it feels when we receive a sincere one, but it can be tough to explain to another person (especially if they have offended us) what a good apology is. Luckily, like most things I write about, there are three steps to understanding what makes a good apology:

  1. Divide the scene into ‘actor,’ and ‘receiver;’
  2. Validate your own feelings
  3. Ask/Act.

An offense usually involves an ‘actor’ and a ‘receiver.’

  • A car swerved on the freeway and your car received a dent.
  • Your wife had sex with your best friend and your marriage received a dent.
  • Your sister took a swing and your bicep received a dent.

Even if we know the driver was on the way to a hospital emergency, your wife was lonely, or your sister was mad because you called her ugly, we can still identify the person who ‘acted’ (did the thing), and the person who ‘received’ (was impacted by the thing). Dividing the scene not only allows us to identify the ‘actor’ and the ‘receiver,’ it allows us to have empathy with the actor without excusing his or her actions. For example, we can all empathize with a father who is driving erratically because his son is in the hospital, the wife who is lonely, or the sister who is angry. This empathy won’t pay for a damaged fender, repair a marriage, or heal an arm though. Furthermore, hospital emergencies don’t cause dents; loneliness doesn’t cause cheating; and teasing your sister doesn’t cause assault. Rule number one, filed under “things I was supposed to learn in Kindergarten,” is I am responsible for my own actions. This means we can have empathy for the actor AND expect her to exhibit self-control.

Validate your own feelings.

Empathy will help you forgive the actor in time, but for now we’ll put it aside so you can focus on how you feel. This can be tricky because so many of us get locked into the role of empathizer. We can all empathize with a parent who is out of sorts because he just found out his child had an accident. We’ve all been lonely in a relationship. We even know teasing is verbal abuse and recognize our sister’s anger when she pulls her fist back to hit us in the arm. Feelings don’t predict actions (for example, just because I feel hungry doesn’t mean I will go rob a bank to get the money to buy food). Rather, feelings help us tune in to what we need. When we feel hungry, we eat. When we feel the need to go to the bathroom, we excuse ourselves and try to locate the facilities. It’s vitally important as the ‘receiver’ that, for a time, you put aside empathy and recognize any feelings you have in this moment. You may feel scared after a car accident, betrayed after an affair is discovered, or shocked after getting hit in the arm. Take a moment and validate those feelings. Think about what you need, and decide what you might ask the actor to do or say in order to repair the relationship.

Act/Ask

First and foremost, you may ask the actor to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Then, you may ask the actor to take responsibility for his or her actions without blaming, justifying, or minimizing the behavior. Finally, you may ask the actor to make a special effort to repair the relationship (often referred to as rebuilding or making amends). Put all of those together and voila! You have the makings of a great apology.

Let’s look at an example.

I live in a part of the country where the freeways are enormous and overcrowded. When there is a lull in traffic, lots of empty space, or the traffic is free to move, it is not uncommon for me to speed. Yes, I will put the pedal to the metal and push my little Jeep over the posted speed limit. I don’t feel like I am being dangerous, I only do it once in a while, and usually it is because even though I planned ahead, there is a wreck so I am running late. But yes, I speed. And I am sorry.

Is this a good apology or a bad apology? After all, I admitted my actions, (I broke the law) and I said, ‘I’m sorry.’

It was terrible!

  • I justified my actions by explaining, “I’m not dangerous”
  • I blamed a wreck for my actions
  • I minimized my actions by saying, “I only do it once in a while” (justifying, minimizing, and blaming are relationship killers by the way).

I could have made it even worse by saying things like, “I said I was sorry. Can’t you just drop it?” or, “Why can’t you trust me? I’m not speeding right now!”

On the other hand, a Rebuilder/Amends-Maker:

  • Is quiet. She apologizes and stops talking. She won’t justify, minimize, or blame and she will leave lots of empty conversation space.
  • Is busy. She is willing to go to therapy (or in my example, defensive driving), meet with healthy peers, read books, and generally work on herself, without pressure from the receiver.
  • Is humble. She won’t fight for her rights in an argument and she allows the receiver to feel (be sad or angry) after her actions.

If you find that the person who ‘acted’ is not able to make a good apology and rebuild, then you may need to act. If it’s a relationship you don’t care to maintain, then you may need to just walk away. If it’s a relationship that is important to you, then you may need a mediator to help you work on what’s going on. Don’t be surprised if you need to make some apologies and amends too, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Divide the scene and validate your feelings. Your important relationships will thrive from this model because old wounds will finally have a chance to heal.

 

What is a Boundary Anyway?

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

 

 

 

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Good boundaries are a part of any good relationship. In fact, a relationship without boundaries will almost always have other symptoms: violence, emotional arguments, infidelity, addiction, emotional cutoffs, or debilitating enabling. The problem with boundaries? They can be hard on a relationship. The boundary-setter finds it hard because he dreads retaliation from the boundary-receiver. The boundary-receiver finds it hard because, well, no one really LIKES to receive a boundary. Here are three things everyone in a relationship needs to know about boundaries:

  1. Boundaries are designed to protect the boundary-setter, not the boundary receiver. Let’s say you love your neighbor, you love your neighbor’s cows, and you love your yard. You do not, however, love your neighbor’s cows IN your yard. In fact, you are starting to lose your serenity because of it. Since you value your yard and your serenity, you decide to build a fence. The cows are a little miffed because they can’t get to your grass and your neighbor is a little miffed because his view is now marred by your fence. You, on the other hand, feel pretty good because you have your serenity and your yard. Maybe your neighbor will realize your serenity helps the relationship and grow to appreciate your fence. Maybe he will harbor hurt feelings over your fence and never speak to you again.

Lesson: You built a fence because you started valuing your peace more than your neighbor’s peace. There is a possibility the relationship with your neighbor will suffer because of this shift. There is also a possibility the relationship will become better than ever.

  1. Boundaries are not the same as telling someone what to do. Let’s say you have the same neighbor, the same cows, the same yard, and the same budding resentment. You realize that a fence might hurt your neighbor’s feelings so you are going to try some things that are ‘less offending’ than a fence. Here’s what you try:
    1. You try to talk to your neighbor and tell him that if he cared about you he’d keep his cows on his own side.
    2. You tell your neighbor that it’s just common sense to keep his cows under control and if had any common sense, he would do that.
    3. You repeat 1. and 2. at all social gatherings, barbecues, and kids’ birthday parties until eventually he goes the other way when he sees you coming.
    4. You file a restraining order against your neighbor and his cows.
    5. You shoot the cows when they come in your yard.

Lesson: Nagging, guilt trips, threats, and acts of violence are attempts to change or control another person. Unlike boundaries they rarely protect your yard or your serenity and they always damage relationships.

  1. Boundaries will always require a change in your behavior, not your neighbor’s. Did the neighbor have a right to graze his cows on your grass? No. Did you have a right to be angry? Sure. Is it fair that you had to spend money and time and energy to build the fence when his cows are the problem? Yes. After all, you care more about your serenity (and your yard) than your neighbor does. Lesson: If you value it, then it’s up to you to protect it.

So the next time you are considering action because of a partner (or a neighbor) remember the difference between boundary setting and controlling. Boundaries are uncomfortable, sometimes costly, strategies designed to protect you. Controlling strategies are designed to change someone else’s behavior so you are more comfortable. Boundaries have the added benefit of improving a relationship. Controlling almost always results in relationship damage.

Kate Walker Ph.D., LPC, LMFT

Identifying Causes of Anger, Coping with Anger, and Managing Anger

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Anger is a normal human emotion we all experience at times. It can be motivational, help us move towards positive change, and assist us in meeting short and long-term goals. Anger can also be destructive and devastating, destroying relationships, careers, and lives. Individuals must take responsibility. Being aware of the causes of anger, learning effective skills for coping with anger, and all times managing anger is important to ensure it is constructive rather than destructive.

Becoming aware of the causes of anger may seem easy because it is one of the easiest emotions to express. Because destructive anger tends to progress so rapidly, however, individuals must be intentional and practice in order achieve awareness before damage is done. Awareness starts by paying attention to physical changes. Anger causes an increase in heart rate; tightness in areas of the body such as the chest, jaw, and neck; color changes to the skin especially on the face; and feeling as if the temperature has gotten hotter.

Once an individual recognizes her own physical responses to anger-provoking situations, she can be taught techniques that are effective for coping with anger. Relaxation techniques can assist in deescalating the anger and the situation.  For example, slowing and deepening breathing allows the body to re-oxygenate and diffuse the ‘fight or flight’ response. Once the body has returned to a ‘low-stress’ state, the mind is able to identify external and internal triggers and formulate alternative responses.

When anger is experienced too frequently, is too intense, or is expressed inappropriately, it becomes a problem. Effectively managing anger requires one to become aware of body changes before anger escalates. Employing strategies to mitigate the fight or flight response can help individuals identify and diffuse internal and external triggers. Sometimes these strategies alone, however, are not enough. If that is the case, a licensed professional counselor can walk individuals through the steps of mitigating their anger, and modifying their angry behavior.

Tia Parsley is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor in Texas and Arkansas. She has over ten years of counseling individuals and families, improving relationships, working with parents, and helping individuals with emotional issues such as anger management and bereavement.

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