We have all seen the child or the adult that sees others as the cause of their anger. Someone, or something provokes them, and their anger is the “reasonable response”, from their point of view. Its not their fault if they loss their temper because… This is a way of sidestepping the responsibility for their feelings and reactions and the damage that they may cause.
One of the reasons they take this position is because of feeling out of control over their lives. They may feel like their is very little they can do about a situation and in fact the pain that they are feeling and they are upset at those they they believe caused that pain. They feel like they cannot stop what is happening and so they go into the fight or flight mode – and they choose to fight. This lack of power they are feeling is brought on by not knowing that there may be a solution to the issue. The more they blame others the more they believe it and the more angry they become.
Some of the favorite methods they might use, actually brings more trouble to them and you will probably recognize some of these. They may speak in a sarcastic manner, criticize others, get in your face because of not knowing when to back off, or nag until the other persons patience is gone. Here is what we want to remember though: Even if there is a reason for the reaction and the anger, it does not absolve one of the responsibility. There is a difference from explanation and excuses, but that is hard for a child or an adult to see, especially if they have used these tactics for a period of time.
Even when children or adults continue to find a way of not taking responsibility and blaming others, we must recognize they are still feeling the pain and would very much like to get rid of the pain. One nine year old said, “One part of my brain tells me to stay calm and another part tells me to by angry. I can’t help it if the angry side wins.” What you hear in this is a cry for help, a desire for understanding from others and to feel like they are in control of their feelings. They don’t want to feel powerless.
What can we do to help a child or an adult who feels like this? We must teach them to recognize the causes of the anger and suggest alternative resolutions to the problems. This takes time and patience. My personal example I think is a good one for that. Every year at the beginning of November I became a bear to be around. I was short with everyone and took nothing from nobody. After looking at this deeply I realized that this was the time of the year that my father passed away when I was very young and subconciously I was still reacting to this. I was 32 years old when I figured that out. It takes patience. But please remember that patience is part of the lesson of problem solving.
Like in most things you will not solve problems by using the same thing against the problem. Do not shout, blame or have pointless discussions that the person deserved what they got. It solves nothing. Find a way to suggest that even if someone else is to blame that we need to find a solution to handle this that benefits you. This will be very helpful to the angry child or adult.
There are ten characteristics that create how one views the world and handles adversity. Number two on the list that we will discuss today is when you are angry you are not able to analyze and think logically about the problem at hand. Not thinking clearly comes in three different ways.
First it may show up by not wanting to talk about the problem or the situation. The reason the angry child or adult does not want to have a discussion is that this would mean acknowledging the role they play in the situation. Unwilling to admit to their weaknesses and being uncomfortable with answering questions they would prefer to stick to the blame game. It is easier to blame the other person than talking about it and having to bear some of the responsibility. As they use these avoidance tactics they continue the cycle and never have a chance to learn from their mistakes. In line with our earlier discussion of the 4 steps of anger it goes like this. (a) the angry person cannot solve the problem so their failures and frustrations grow , buildup. (b) the spark can be anything that leads the person to an explosion where they blame anyone or everyone around them. (c) those that are blamed do not like to be around the angry person and so they are pushed away and the angry person feels a victory and justified. (d) if anyone tries to talk about the situation the attempts are rebuffed (e) since there was no resolution the problem serves as the buildup for the next explosion. We can help our children out of this cycle by helping them to see the rewards of discussing problems in a calm and upbeat manner. Trying to do this though with a particular angry event will probably not work, but doing so using other examples will be the stepping stone to better conversations.
Second it may show up with weak thinking or circular thinking. Have you ever found someone who is angry that could only remember in detail what the other person did but very little about how they contributed to the situation? The reason is that they are focused on their defense and attack and are otherwise blind to everything else going on around them. Even if they do remember they will magnify the details in a manner to support their own viewpoint. So when we hear the account from their point of view it does not even sound like we saw the same situation. How do we solve this? We must teach our children problem solving skills. Here are three steps to take with your child or the angry person. (a) gather all the facts (b) show them another point of view (c) and then help them to see how their actions had affect on their actions and or the solutions. Problem solving skills need to be taught though on a daily basis with things that they are not intimately involved with. Using movies or TV shows and asking them to anticipate what is going to happen next and then follow through with the results. Or a board game that you can demonstrate how if you move here or there this will happen. Some children have problems solving problems because their parents do too. So work on it together and use the resources available to you including social workers and psychologists to learn problem solving skills and then you will be able to help your children too.
Third it may show up due to confusing feelings with facts. Emotions have a powerful influence on our thinking. Have you ever noticed that if someone is in love the person they are in love with can do no wrong – but later the same person who could do no wrong can do nothing right if the original party is angry or upset with them. This is the idea of confusing feelings with facts. While this is tough enough for adults this is very difficult for children. There is a difference though between feelings and thinking. You may have a feeling based on a partial truth that could easily lead you to a wrong conclusion. Children need to learn as do all of us that people can fiew the same situation in differnt ways and have different feelings about them and neither person be more right than the other person. Teaching our children about feelings and all the different ways we can feel and how they are different for every person is very important in overcoming this confusion of feelings and facts.
Setting a good example and showing our children how it works is the best way to learn to think things through and not react in strong angry ways.