Anger Management

When Rage Overwhelms: Finding Hope Through Anger Management
Diana Castillo Eddy, LMFT

Anger is no stranger to anyone who has driven in traffic, worked for an unappreciative boss or lovingly raised children.  When going about one’s daily business, this stress-provoking emotion appears in varying degrees depending on the situation.  Anger can range from slight annoyance at the check out when the person behind you rushes to the front of the line at a newly opened register, to frustration when the paper jams in the printer, to irritation when the TV remote is nowhere to be found.  In the case of a parent scolding a teen for arriving home way past curfew, anger can demonstrate devotion and concern.  A reasonably angry reaction to the responsible party signals that behavior or actions were inappropriate and unacceptable.  Getting angry is a part of being human.  It allows the brain to weigh the limits of tolerance.  Anger serves a purpose.

As a species, anger helps us react to and protect ourselves from serious threats.  Anger can spur significant political and social movements, and anger has compelled people to take action against injustice.  When expressed in a healthy, constructive manner, anger is a typical, essential human emotion.  However, there is a limit to how much anger is conducive to a healthy, happy life.  People who cannot manage their anger experience overwhelming and uncontrollable eruptions that can turn abusive, frightening or violent.  Some people feel enslaved by their rage.  Others feel trapped and isolated by their problems with anger.  Some watch helplessly as their loved ones distance themselves out of fear.  Many people with anger issues feel hopeless and ashamed, knowing their behaviors are affecting relationships with friends, family and coworkers. Even when conscious of their behaviors’ harmful results, many feel powerless to change.

The inability to control anger has a deeply negative effect on one’s life, and without help, these emotions persist and worsen, continually feeding on the resulting frustrations.  When rage turns to violence in personal relationships, when heated outbursts on the job jeopardize a career and when anger negatively affects interactions in the community or creates problems with the law, then it is essential to learn how to manage these overwhelming emotions.  Most people with anger issues know their tempers, reactions and actions are problematic, and many wish for a life in which their anger is not controlling them.  However, many are unsure what to do.  If these emotions are too over-powering, then experts from both the Mayo Clinic and the American Psychological Association suggest people seek out specialized help to deal with their anger.  One possible path to addressing this serious issue is through counseling with an anger management program.

Anger management is not about blame, and not about accusing someone of being a bad person.  Anger management is not about teaching someone to become submissive or toss aside opinions and preferences.  Anger management programs are designed to help people learn ways to better handle situations that trigger angry responses in order for them to control the emotions that consume them.  Most individual or group programs help participants find healthy ways to manage and express their anger.  In addition, participants are introduced to strategies that work when they’re faced with situations that trigger their anger responses.  Because it is necessary for people to find ways to make anger management a natural part of their lives, participants also discover how to be assertive in ways that are not aggressive as well as learn how to engage in conflicts in a safe, appropriate manner.  Considering that each person is different, anger management classes help people find the best personal approaches to managing conflicts in effective, healthy ways.  Although the methods may differ, all programs have the same goal of helping people enjoy lives in which their emotions aren’t continually leading to negative consequences.

Many people have gained control over their lives by learning to manage their anger.  As an emotional response, anger is not necessarily bad.  It is when this emotion becomes an overwhelming burden that people need to seek help.  With positive steps, support and commitment, people can learn to manage their anger, find opportunities for personal satisfaction, and begin enjoying lives filled with self-respect and happiness.

Grief & Loss

The Process of Grieving | Diana Castillo Eddy, LMFT

In our lives, we all come to the point where we must face the loss of a loved one, whether the loved one is a family member or a friend. In these times of grief, it is best to remember that there is hope, and that there are stages of mourning such a loss. The speed with which we cope with loss is not important, and what is important is that we remember that each phase will pass with time.

The first stage of mourning a loss is the stage of denial and isolation, where many people experience a sense of disconnect from the loss. Many people feel sense of isolation from their usual social activities and connections. This phase can last from a few moments, to even several weeks or months.

Once we pass the stage of denial, many of us enter the phase of anger.  This phase includes a sensation of anger towards the individual who inflicted the pain on our lives, even if the individual in question is the deceased in question. The anger can also be directed at the world in general or at reality itself for allowing the death to happen. Sometimes, we are even angry at ourselves for allowing the death to occur, even if there was absolutely nothing that we could do to prevent their passing.

While grieving, we turn to bargaining, where we may begin to make bargains with God Himself, trying to say that if we perform a certain way or change certain parts of our lives, we could possibly have the deceased person back in our lives, despite the subconscious knowledge that our bargains will have no effect on the reality.

When this reality sets in, a stage of depression may set in. In this stage, we may feel numb, or have feelings of anger and sadness. This is acceptable and normal in this situation, and is actually the last step to the final way in which we cope with our losses.

Acceptance is the final stage of coping with loss in our lives. When the anger and depression have faded from our conscious, we can grow to accept the reality of the loss for what it is, and continue to live our lives. This does not mean that the person is gone from our thoughts, or from our hearts. In the future, we can think back fondly on those we have lost, and remember the happier times that we had with them.

Photos and online memorials serve as gentle reminders of those loved ones we have lost in our time of grieving through all of the stages of coping with loss, and have been proven to be highly beneficial to remembering our loved ones with fondness.

Relationships

Five Steps to Better Relationships Communication | Diana Castillo Eddy, LMFT

Even the most loving of couples is bound to run into a few bumps along the road to happily ever after. And while the truly relationship minded will sit down and have all of the most important conversations – those pertaining to money, kids, sex, and housing – before taking their commitment to the next level, there’s really no way to avoid the occasional spat. However, recognizing potential communication hurdles ahead of time gives you a much better chance of weathering the storms as they appear.

In fact, the most successful couples are the ones that have learned how to communicate openly with each other – even if that means relying on a little trial and error to discover the methods that work best for you. Here are five ideas for problem-solving strategies to resolve your toughest communication dilemmas.

Watch your Language…

Body language, that is. Keep in mind that a huge part of effective communication is active listening. Let your partner know that what they have to say is important by giving them the attention they deserve during a serious conversation. Crossed arms and furrowed brows give off hostile vibes, so keep your stance relaxed but attentive. Don’t fidget or pick at your nails, and avoid looking at your watch.

Make sure your significant other knows you’re really hearing them by nodding when appropriate, and rephrasing their words if necessary. Try something like “what I hear you saying is that you’d like me to help out more around the house,” and they’ll realize that you were in fact getting their point.

Make Time to Talk

There’s no getting around it: most of us are living in fast forward. But sometimes, all of that information, technology, and drive can take a dent out of our communication skills. You can’t listen or talk effectively while you’re texting, checking email, reading news, playing Angry Birds, or flipping through TV channels.

Instead, set aside time to really talk. Take communicating with each other as seriously as you would a meeting or appointment at work. Put the kids to bed, switch off the television, set your cell on silent and leave all incoming calls to voicemail. Not only will you feel like you’re being taken more seriously, but your partner will appreciate your undivided attention, as well.

Take it Outside

Yelling and screaming is NOT communicating. Raising your voice only leads to hurt feelings – not to mention that no one can shout and listen at the same time. If you find that you and your partner can’t discuss a particular topic without yelling, take your conversation out of the house.

Sitting at a coffee shop or on a park bench, you’ll be too embarrassed to shout, and keeping your voices down might just be what you need to have a real conversation.

Set up Ground Rules

Every couple knows that occasional conflict is unavoidable. Before taking your relationship to a new level (i.e. marriage or moving in together) take a moment to set some rules for when an argument breaks out. No need to create a laundry list of dos and don’ts. Simply banning phrases like “you never” or “you always” is a good start. Another good rule of thumb? Don’t interrupt the other person while they’re talking.

Agree to Disagree

Finally, remember that just because you love someone doesn’t mean that you have to share the same opinion about absolutely everything. Variety is the spice of life, and those differences can often make for the most interesting conversations. So, while you should never ignore things that are truly bothering you, sometimes it’s a good idea to simply agree to disagree.

Family

 Stopping the Cycle of Emotional Abuse in a Family | Diana Castillo Eddy, LMFT

Are you being abused by your romantic partner? Most people who aren’t being physically abused would answer that question in the negative. However, abuse does not have to involve any kind of physical violence. Many people all over the world are being emotionally abused by the person who is supposed to love them most.  So how can you tell if you’re being emotionally abused? What kind of impact does emotional impact have on the victim? If you’re being emotionally abused, how can you put an end to it?

A Brief Overview

Emotional abuse comprises of the abuser using certain actions to dominate or subdue their partner. The abuser may use tactics such as degradation, fear, bullying, oppression and manipulation in order to control their victim. Emotional abusers typically employ measures such as verbal cruelty, constant reproach and disapproval to get what they want.

The Cycle

Emotional abuse has a typical pattern. The cycle always begins with a period during which pressure mounts up. The victim can usually tell what is coming when the tension begins, so they may make an effort to pacify their abuser. The second phase of the cycle is the actual episode of abuse. During this period, the abuser employs certain tactics to subjugate the victim in order to get what they want. During the third phase of the cycle of emotional abuse, the abuser may attempt to placate the victim. They usually do this by offering a half-hearted apology, attempting to minimize the significance of the episode, or blaming the victim for what happened. The fourth phase of the cycle is a period of calm in which both abuser and victim pretend that nothing is wrong. During this phase, the relationship seems healthy. Hence it’s easy for the victim to make the mistake of forgiving their abuser.

The Victim

The impact of emotional abuse on the victim is analogous to water dripping onto a stone over the course of several years. The abuse slowly but surely erodes the victim’s self-esteem. The victim will begin to question her/his own thoughts and opinions. This erosion of self-esteem can lead the victim to think that there is some fundamental flaw in their own character. Hence the victim may believe that they actually deserve the abuse. They may also stay in the relationship because they have such a poor self-image that they believe nobody else could find them attractive. Emotional abuse usually leaves the victim with mental scars that can take a long time to heal.

Warning Signs

So how can you tell if you are the victim in an emotionally abusive relationship?  Well, if you are being emotionally abused there will be definite warning signs.  A victim of emotional abuse may feel that her/his partner seeks to humiliate them, or chip at their self-esteem.  Emotional abuse victims find it hard to discuss any issues they may have with their partner. The victim of emotional abuse may feel that their partner is always critical, or derisive of their opinions.

There are other classic signs of emotional abuse. An emotional abuser often tries to limit the freedom of their victim. They do this by making it difficult for the victim to have access to money or material possessions. Abusers can even destroy or discard their victim’s things. Emotional abusers may also try to ensure that their victim has no relationship with friends or family. Hence the victim often feels that they have nowhere to turn. Victims of emotional abuse may feel forced to have sexual intercourse with their partner in order to avoid discord. It is not unusual for victims of emotional abuse to see no way out of the relationship.  The biggest indicator of emotional abuse is the victim’s profound fear of her/his abuser.

How to End It

If you are being emotionally abused, how can you stop the cycle? Some emotional abuse victims stay in the relationship because their self-esteem has been destroyed. The victim may believe that their abuser will change provided they try harder to make them happy. The truth is that no emotionally abusive person will change unless they actively seek to do so, and get help from a trained therapist.

If you are a victim of emotional abuse, your best course of action is to walk away from the relationship.  There are shelters and refuges for women who have been abused. It is also possible to get an injunction or restraining order against your abuser if you are afraid for your safety. Once you get out of the abusive relationship, you may wish to consider counseling to help you deal with any mental scars resulting from your ordeal. You should also give yourself time to heal before entering into another romantic relationship.  Once you put some distance between you and your abuser, you will begin to regain the self-confidence you’ve lost. Hopefully you’ll then be able to get on with the rest of your life.

Marriage

Nine Signs That You and Your Partner Should See a Relationship Counselor
Diana Castillo Eddy, LMFT

The majority of couples who have attended relationship counseling say that the process has been instrumental in helping them to improve their dynamics (and their lives more generally). Most people struggle to be fair when they come into conflict, and this can result in vicious insults and over-dramatic posturing. However, when a fair and insightful third party is present to moderate the discussion between you and your partner, you are more likely to be both reasonable and clear in your self-expression, and your discussions are prevented from veering off topic. As a result, contentious issues are more quickly and easily resolved. Read on to learn about nine major signs that you and your partner will substantially benefit from seeing a relationship counselor.

1. You want to move past an affair:
If you have had an affair, and have since sincerely apologized and removed the third party from your life, you may be wondering when your punishment will end and life will be allowed to return to normal. If, on the other hand, your partner is the one who had an affair, you will likely feel that they have no right to make any demands regarding how quickly you move on from the heartbreaking betrayal. When your partner betrays your trust but you still feel genuine love towards them, you may experience tumultuous and confusing feelings if you decide to remain in the relationship. Staying with someone who has cheated on you feels like ‘rewarding’ them for terrible behavior, but leaving feels like sacrificing something you are not prepared to give up. A relationship counselor can help you and your partner to work through understanding and changing these conflicting feelings, and will provide you with a place to thoroughly discuss events surrounding the affair until you have no more unanswered questions and are ready to move on (one way or another).

2. You have disputes about future commitments:
If you are undecided about some major future decision, a relationship counselor can help you to logically work through the pros and cons of each option (as well as encouraging you to fully explore your attraction or aversion to each of the options). You might be struggling to come to a consensus about whether you should get married (or when), or perhaps you feel overwhelmed by the question of whether you should have children. For some couples, disputes also arise concerning the issue of moving in together, or when one partner is not sure that an entirely monogamous relationship is right for them. Whatever the unanswered question that is causing tension and uncertainty about the future of the relationship, it will be easier to work towards a solution in the context of relationship counseling.

3. You don’t communicate properly (or don’t communicate at all):
Although most relationships begin with intense, constant communication and a deep feeling of closeness, sometimes people drift apart as the years go on. If this is a problem for you and you want things to improve, this desire in itself constitutes a good first step (as apathy towards the relationship is a serious warning sign that you are no longer even in love). Relationship counselors are experts on the subject of interpersonal communication, so this is an ideal sort of problem to take to counseling. Together, you will work out why your communication has become minimal or extremely poor, and you will learn techniques that foster more honest and frequent communication.

4. You are troubled by some sexual incompatibilities:
Like your emotional relationship, your sexual relationship will change as the years progress. Perhaps you have incompatible sex drives, different preferences, or you have stopped having sex altogether. Many relationship counselors are specially trained to discuss the complexities of human sexuality and can help you to overcome roadblocks that are causing problems with physical intimacy. If you are no longer sleeping together, counseling will get to the heart of why this has occurred and will help you come up with a plan of action (whether that plan is a positive one or involves admitting that your romantic relationship has essentially come to an end).If boredom or waning interest is the problem, you will be taught how to be creative about sex and will discover ways to make sex fun and exciting once again. Happily, learning how to tackle sexual incompatibilities usually leads to an improved emotional connection as well.

5. You have an unproductive pattern of arguing:
Relationships that involve constant fighting or particularly intense arguments can lead to a great deal of unhappiness and anger. Couples often become locked in circular styles of argument that take up all of their time and energy and yet never resolve any of their deeper issues. If this sounds at all familiar to you, relationship counseling could make a huge difference to the dynamic between you and your partner. A relationship counselor will help you to discover and express the real reasons that you are arguing (rather than simply focusing on why you appear to be arguing), and the counselor will also teach you new ways to deal with conflict. You will be able to learn how to listen to each other more effectively, and how to deal with anger or frustration in more productive ways.

6. You are struggling to cope with a new baby:
When you have a child, everything changes. Your priorities shift, your daily life undergoes massive transitions, and your emotions are constantly evolving. Making the transition from being a couple to being a family can be difficult, and some of the things that new parents feel can be quite surprising. In relationship counseling, you can discuss how to be good parents as well as good lovers, how to tackle a suffering sex life, and how to cope with the short tempers and teary moments that inevitably come with having a new baby.

7. You are dealing with grief that influences the relationship:
Sometimes, difficult things that are technically external to the relationship end up having a devastating influence on the dynamic between you and your partner. For example, losing a child (either due to illness or miscarriage) can leave you feeling intense grief. Sometimes, one partner feels this sort of grief more keenly or for a longer amount of time, and this leads to the grieving partner feeling lonely and betrayed while the other party feels useless and confused. Relationship counseling can help you move on from grief, usually by helping you to fully engage with (and understand) the grief. Counseling also provides an ideal environment for coping with grief associated with infertility, failures to conceive, the stresses of repeated IVF cycles, and the difficulties caused by serious physical illness.

8. There are important inequalities in the relationship:
When a relationship is not equal, feelings of sadness or anger can gradually develop in the person whose interests are less often considered to be important. If you have recognized that you have a tendency to prioritize yourself and your needs above those of your partner, going to relationship counseling can help you understand why you do this (as well as how to work towards developing a more balanced and empathetic attitude). If, on the other hand, you are tired of being the subordinate party in the relationship, counseling can provide you with a safe environment in which you will be free to express your grievances.

9. You struggle to balance work with your personal life:

When one partner prioritizes their career and the other partner prioritizes the relationship, this can foster major resentments on both sides. If you are focused on your work, you may feel that your partner is wrong to feel slighted and should be more independent. If you are more focused on the relationship than you are on your career, you may feel that your workaholic partner obviously does not care as much about the relationship as you do. Tell a relationship counselor about the process by which you decide how to prioritize things in your life, and explain any negativity you feel about your partner’s style of prioritizing. With some effort, there is hope that a happy medium can be reached.

Many couples feel uncomfortable or frightened when they think about taking the first step towards setting up an appointment to see a relationship counselor. This is understandable, as making yourself vulnerable in front of a stranger is an extremely daunting prospect. However, a couple of sessions with a counselor will quickly encourage a rapport to develop, and many couples even end up enjoying some aspects of their sessions. Even those who continue to report anxiety and discomfort about the process nonetheless tend to admit that their relationship with their partner is improving. Finally, never forget that you are not ‘trapped’ with one particular counselor if you find that there is a personality clash. If you do not feel that your sessions are productive, move on to a new counselor instead of immediately giving up on the process of relationship counseling itself.

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