(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: Terri, you’re dealing with some anger management issues?
Dr. Kenner: Tell me what’s going on?
Terri: I just lately have been finding myself really angry lately. I just want to find a way to resolve it because I don’t want it to get any further than it already is.
Dr. Kenner: Good for you. So the first thing, do you know what the emotion of anger signifies?
Terri: I kind of have an idea of it. In my family, tempers tend to flair up and it’s always been like this and we have such a big family, so we don’t all get along. I have had anger management issues when I was younger, but it was never really anything where I needed to seek help for it, because it was just an emotion to me. But as I grew older and I moved away from my family for six years and that’s when everything was perfect and fine. Now that I’m back in Massachusetts living here and I’m around here, I just lately find myself so angry and my skin is so weak. Everything I hear, I just get angry, the things they say to me. I just can’t handle it and I want to find a way where I’m not being so sensitive to things they say to me.
Dr. Kenner: That is fabulous. You know the source, and you know it runs deep. It’s from your family of origin. You know, you’ve also had the experience of being pretty much free of that intense anger, because you lived away from them for a while. You don’t want to make it part of your identity, that you’re an angry person. Instead, you want to know that the emotion of anger is basically an alarm going off within your own mind saying, “It’s not fair!” That is what the emotion of anger says. It’s your injustice detector. It’s not fair. It’s an injustice. So the question is, what are they doing that your mind is picking up, your emotional barometer is picking up and saying, “It’s not fair!” So what is not fair? One or two things.
Terri: The way my family treats me, the ones I even talk to.
Dr. Kenner: Give me one simple example of how they treat you. What would I observe?
Terri: I just feel like I’m never rude or never say anything that I shouldn’t say to anyone, and I know this because I don’t like the things that are said to me, so I feel like I don’t treat anybody the way I don’t want to be treated.
Dr. Kenner: Wonderful.
Terri: And I kind of feel like my family sometimes, my sister likes to say brutally honest, and I don’t care if she’s honest or not, but there’s a limit. Sometimes you say hurtful things and I kind of ball them up inside of me and I tend to explode and that’s not good.
Dr. Kenner: So it’s the pattern. I have three points that I want to make on your one wonderfully simple example. One is that you want to first sit back and really, really love yourself. The fact that you have a choice to retort, to respond like your family does, with maybe sarcasm, put downs or getting in the face or finger pointing, “You did this,” and all that “you” language, the fact that you choose to be self-respecting to people is such a tribute to you and it builds good character. You want to know that about yourself. That’s number one. Number two, when people say they want to be brutally honest, I love it when my husband is brutally honest. But the word “brutal” is wrong. My husband is gently honest. He is supportively honest. He is lovingly honest. So if I ask him, “How does the steak taste?” that I just cooked - can you hear in my voice? What kind of an answer do I want? “Honey, how does the steak taste?”
Terri: You just want an honest answer.
Dr. Kenner: I kind of want him to say it’s delicious, don’t I?
Dr. Kenner: And if he says, “It’s pretty rubbery,” did he attack me?
Dr. Kenner: What’s he talking about? Me or the steak?
Terri: The steak.
Dr. Kenner: I’m not rubbery. It’s rubbery. And then I have to ask myself, is the steak rubbery in reality or not? Yes it is because I happen to like my steaks very burned, dried out. And he doesn’t. And so I have to deal with that and not once did he attack me. He didn’t say, “You’re a lousy cook,” or whatnot. If I attack myself, guess whose problem that is? It’s mine, not his. So when your sister says, it’s not a virtue to be brutally honest, it’s a virtue to be exquisitely honest with wonderful communication skills. And you can learn communication skills. That will help you express your anger, when it’s appropriate, so that you don’t do the third thing I’m going to say.
The first thing was valuing yourself, because you made a choice to make yourself into a respectful person. The second point is you want to be exquisitely honest or gently honest. And that doesn’t mean you can’t express anger. The third point is don’t bottle up. You’re going to look like a bomb about to explode.
Terri: And then I go crazy.
Dr. Kenner: Some people are not worth talking to. If they’re irrational, you just need to have a good therapist or a good friend that you can talk to, or a journal that they will never see, and you just kind of keep your distance from them. They don’t have to be in your close, intimate circle. But you don’t want to bottle up. You want to at least be able to express it right now like you’re doing with me to somebody so you get some visibility for yourself. If you learn assertiveness skills, not, “You idiot. You’re stupid. You’re doing the same thing you’ve always done,” that’s character. You’re now attacking your sister’s character. If you say to her, “You know, I’ve been hurt a lot and I’m feeling hurt right now. I think I want to keep my distance a bit,” that’s much more self-respecting. You’re using what’s called “I language.” You’re using the pronoun I. I feel hurt. I expect you not to call me names anymore. I would like this. I am seeing that you’re taking money out of my purse. I’m really angry right now. That is all okay to say. So look up books on assertiveness skills. You can even go to my website, DrKenner.com, and look up books there and that should help a lot. Once you learn assertiveness skills, the world opens up to you and you can express anger without being brutal. Thank you so much for the call.