The Kingston Integrative Healing Group: Helps Couples and Individuals
 
 

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ARTICLES FOR INDIVIDUALS

ANGER MANAGEMENT:
Is there another way to express your angry feelings?

Sometimes, there doesn't seem to be any way to express angry feelings calmly. There doesn't seem to be an option other than yelling or throwing things to let the other person know how upset you are. However, you can express yourself in ways that are assertive but not aggressive. Assertive communication involves expressing your feelings and making requests for change in a way that respects the other person.

In order to communicate assertively, you must learn two types of communication. The first is nonverbal communication or body language. When people become angry, it is often expressed in their body language as well as in their words. Aggressive, angry nonverbal communication can include standing very close to the other person, clenching fists, crossing your arms, or avoiding eye contact. These actions may be interpreted by the other person as intimidating or unreasonable. Assertive nonverbal communication involves maintaining appropriate personal space, making eye contact, and keeping an open posture. An open posture includes keeping your arms uncrossed and at your side, facing the person, and avoiding any threatening gestures. If your nonverbal communication is assertive rather than aggressive, you convey the message that you are standing up for your rights in a calm and mature fashion.

The next step in communicating assertively is to change the way you express yourselfverbally. Aggressive, angry communication can blame the other person, belittle or attack them, and express your opinions in a way that does not allow for compromise. There are several steps involved in communicating assertively rather than aggressively.

1. Evaluate your rights in the situation. Assertive communication expresses your rights in a situation and allows you to get the respect you deserve. You must look at the situation carefully to determine your rights. For example, a student may have a right to challenge a grade given by a professor. Assertive communication expresses the student's right to discuss their grade without aggressively pursuing the grade they may want.

2. Designate a time to discuss what angers you. Often you will be more successful in your requests for change if you set up an appropriate time to discuss your problem. An angry outburst in an inappropriate situation may hurt your chances of getting what you want. Instead, ask the person if they have time to discuss the situation in a place where your conversation can be private, calm, and constructive.

3. Address the issue that angers you in terms of its consequences for you. Help the other person see how the situation is affecting you. A student may tell his roommate that he feels disrespected when he is studying for an exam and the roommate invites friends over for a party in their room. This type of assertive communication helps others understand your perspective in a way that is not threatening.

4. Express your feelings about the situation in a calm and constructive way. This can involve using "I-statements" that focus on the individual's behavior and your reaction to it. For example, a person may say "I feel angry and embarrassed when you make fun of me in front of your friends." This is an assertive statement that expresses this person's feelings without blaming the other person or attacking them. Using the formula " I feel angry when you…." helps you stay calm and maintain a less threatening environment. Avoid judgments or accusations that attack the person rather than their behavior. You want to express yourself in a way that clearly communicates your feelings, but in a way that the other person does not feel attacked and does not become defensive.

5. Make your request for changing the situation. It is important that you have suggestions for improving the situation that are reasonable and that allow for solutions to the problem.

6. Be willing to address the other party's needs and to compromise. If you have expressed yourself in an assertive way, the other party is more likely to feel comfortable expressing their perspective. When everyone's needs have been discussed, appropriate and fair solutions may be reached. You must be willing to compromise to meet both your needs and the needs of the other party.

In order to become comfortable with assertive communication, practice these skills with a friend or family member. Together you can role play situations you may encounter and can work on communicating your needs assertively. Ask your friend or family member for feedback about your words and your body language to make sure you are communicating in an assertive, rather than aggressive,

THE WISDOM OF THE HEART

A dear friend of mine often counsels “Follow your heart” whenever I am unsure about what to do in a particular life situation. I’ve heeded that advice because it made sense that I, a feeling oriented person, could rely on my heart as my guide. Very recently however have I understood the enormous wisdom of that suggestion, “Follow your heart”. Health research now suggests that our thoughts create our feelings and that feelings can affect our health. But only recently have we understood how important a role the heart plays in that process. New biofeedback technology provides a window into the mind and shows how thoughts affect the heart. The heart works best when its own nervous system works rhythmically, especially balancing the sympathetic (speed up) and the parasympathetic (slow down) systems. My clients are continually amazed by the power their thoughts have over their heart. One client wore a biofeedback monitor while describing a troubling situation. Whenever she discussed her discouragement or her anger, her heart rate went into the “red” or danger zone. But even the mere mention of something hopeful brought her heart back into “green” or healthy zone. She exclaimed, “I can’t believe a little thought could affect me so much!”

Mom always said, “be careful what (food) you put into your body” suggesting that nutritious food creates health and energy. She now could say, “be careful what (thoughts) you put into your head” because research indicates that positive thoughts can nourish the head and, mediated by the heart, can cause the body to work efficiently and healthfully. Conversely, negative thoughts can cause an imbalance in the heart’s own nervous system and can lead to several problems.

Use this simple method for creating more harmony in your heart. Breathe in focusing on your heart and breathe out focusing on your solar plexus (which is the area about 4 inches below your heart and your sternum, the place where the left and right sides of your rib cage meet.) As you breathe in, focus on your heart and think about something your appreciate. As you breathe out, focus on your solar plexus and think of another positive emotion. Continue for about thirty seconds and do this five times a day. You will notice positive results. People who do this wearing a biofeedback monitor would see a clear convergence (or working in harmony) of their heart’s nervous system, as indicated by smooth, even, rhythmic waves on the read out.

For more information on this topic, go to www.heartmath.com.

Kristen Harrington MA is a marriage and family therapist who specializes in helping people to create more harmony in their relationships. She is also a biofeedback practitioner.