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October 18, 2013

Over the years I have noticed a trend with people who struggle with anger management, they are usually people pleasers. They bend over backwards most of the time to please others,  mostly because they are fearful of conflict. They desire to not ruffle any feathers, they prefer to get along for the sake of getting along with others even though,  getting along with a specific group will cause them anguish.

That is, until the last straw breaks the camels back, then  they explode. They then take on the label as angry people. It is only after they have internalized anger management skills that the passivity that’s to present itself. It then turns out that they suffer from codependency and that they need to learn self advocacy.

Self advocacy is the process where people learn to set healthy boundaries in their relationships. They learn to say no when they need to say no, and they learn to accept that other people are responsible for their own emotions, negative or positive.

Often, people who struggle with passivity, grew up with one or more abusive care givers, where as a child they learned to survive by predicting when a caregiver would become upset and using manipulative techniques to manage the emotions of that caregiver. Unfortunately that attitude carries over into their adult years, where they attempt to please people in their lives, for fear of being ostracized. Given that it is not possible to please anyone, they find themselves experiencing plenty of frustration in their personal relationships, with periodic episodes of restorting to poor anger management.

So how do these people develop self advocacy skills?

With self advocacy, there are two specific habits to practice, and these habits are getting into the habit of accepting when others are in a bad mood and setting healthy boundaries for self. The process of practicing these healthy boundaries involves the same skill set, with the practice of not being reactive to negative feelings.

So when a person who struggles with passivity or co dependency feels the urge to pacify an adult who is angry, they practice becoming mindful of this urge and doing nothing. When this same person is setting a healthy boundary with others, they will practice becoming aware of their fear of being rejected by the other person, leading to the urge to set no boundaries. They will then choose to set their boundaries regardless of their fears.

Being mindful and not being reactive to negative feelings, is something that can be practiced in imagined scenarios. I have found that when clients practice self advocacy in imagined scenarios, they become better prepared to practice self advocacy in unexpected real life scenarios.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

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