In this previous post, I discussed how we use cognitive rules which lead to us being upset, while in this post I am going to discuss how to transition getting past being upset to a more rational mindset. There are three ways we upset ourselves, the first is only accepting ourselves conditionally, having irrational rules of engagement with others and being resistant to disappointment.
Unconditional Self Acceptance.
One of the most common ways people upset themselves is only accepting themselves conditionally. Without realizing it, if we set up certain conditions for our happiness, such has having a certain type of wealth, a certain type of profession or being involved with a certain type of person, we have set up ourselves to become upset if any of these conditions to our happiness are not met. Being upset in this instance should not be confused with disappointment, this is because disappointment is an acknowledgement and acceptance of things not going your way, while being upset is an acknowledgement of things not going your way, but a refusal to accept things not going your way. One way of learning to get past being upset is to practice unconditional self acceptance. Seeing yourself as a worthwhile human being simply because you exist, and not based on your accomplishments or your relationships.
Preferential Treatment from Others.
We love to be accepted by others, our drive to be accepted by others is so powerful that we even want others who we do not accept, to accept us. Yes, at our primal level we are irrational beings, which lends some explanation to our irrational expectations to be liked and accepted by others. One of the best methods of getting past our tendency to become upset in response to rejection from others, real or perceived is to change our rules of engagement with others. This means that expectations of acceptance from others become preferences. To preference your expectations for favorable treatment from others, you simply have to recognize that people like yourself have personal power. This means that you to come to place of acceptance that people have a choice as to whether or not they are going to accept you and that you are powerless to their opinions. We can’t force those who reject us to accept us, but we can certainly come to a place of peace regarding our powerlessness over the choices of others.
Things aren’t supposed to go our way all of the time, if they did life would cease to have meaning. Challenges in life are what give us a sense of meaning and purpose, which makes the idea that things should mostly go our way an unhealthy one. It is easy to see why people become easily upset when things don’t go their way, given that difficulty in coping with disappointment comes from placing one’s sense of happiness on one hopeful outcome.
Happiness in life comes from from our ability to see ourselves as worthwhile people and our positive interpretations of our life experiences. This best way to overcome being upset over disappointment is to see the disappointment as a part of your process and journey towards a desired outcome.
In summary,while being upset is a normal human phenomenon, it certainly isn’t a state of mind that’s healthy for anyone to be in for a prolonged period of time.
Periodically I get calls from prospective clients who are inquiring about anger management therapy, and some of them would actually tell me that they have no idea why they are angry. One guy told me about how he had threatened the life of a fellow motorist, and how appalled he was with himself after the incident. Yet he couldn’t understand why he was so angry for this was one of a series of incidents that he had been involved in during the past month.
For those who do book an appointment with me, the reasons for their anger becomes painfully obvious, but the question remains why couldn’t they understand the triggers for their anger in the first place? The answer is quite straight forward- distraction.
Beer, food, video games, sex, sports, parties, etc.. These are all types of activities that if done in excess lead to a distraction of the mind. These are also activities that reduce the experience of negative feelings and increase the production of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter the brain produces when we feel joy. Another neurotransmitter the brain produces in response to pleasurable feelings is serotonin.
The problem with entertaining activities which we use to distract ourselves is that they are short lived. This means after a period of time, we find ourselves consuming more entertainment in order to produce the feel good neurotransmitters. This then leads to the point of diminishing return, where regardless of the amount of entertainment we consume, we find our difficult feelings inescapable.
The answer to understanding why we get angry lies in our ability to recognize our difficult feelings without overreacting. The thing with anger is that it is an emotion of illusion. When we get angry, it is simply because our expectations have not been met. No matter how you slice it, at the end of the day the best attitude to adopt for better health is an attitude of humility, regardless of how much wrong you have experienced due to someone else’s actions.
When people who have been experiencing episodes of anger share with me that they do not understand why they are angry, the truth is quickly revealed once I get them to exercise calm and I begin to ask them some personal questions. What is often revealed is a deep sense of disappointment with some facets, if not all facets of their lives. They have usually spent so many years distracting themselves that even when their methods of distraction have stopped working, they still are unable to recognize their difficult feelings.
The most effective method for understanding the source of your anger is to stop distracting yourself. Entertainment is not a bad thing but if done in excess it becomes mind numbing. Practice going one week without any source of entertainment, this includes, video games, movies, alcohol and and any pleasurable non productive activity you frequently engage in.
The second step is to familiarize yourself with a list of feelings like this one, as you go through the week without your typical distractions. Your difficult feelings are going to be quite intense that your knee jerk reaction is to mistake these feelings for anger. Once you have familiarized yourself, with a list of feeling words, get into the habit of documenting your daily experiences with difficult feelings which will crop up in your daily interactions with others.
The third step is to commit to not react to your difficult feelings, regardless of how badly you feel. If you find yourself unable to honor this third step, it is strongly advised you see a therapist who can guide you through the process of understanding why you are angry.
Often you will find that your skill in being able to distract from your difficult feelings was honed during your childhood years.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
So I recently watched an episode of the The Young Turks on YouTube, where they gave a commentary on Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s run in with a foul mouthed hooligan. Although, as the story unfolds, Kanye West proved to be more hooligan that the man who disrespected his wife, or wife to be.
The story is not what fascinates me, what inspired this post was the commentary by The Young Turks (TYT), where there seemed to be some consensus that Kanye was well in his right to pummel someone for verbally disrespecting his wife. This is the same channel that has a video regarding the ridiculousness of how a series of text messages led to a shoot out at a public venue.
To be specific I have two issues with the commentary, the first is the kid gloves members of the media often seem to use to addressing people of color, specifically Black people.
“Oh… You knocked that guy out for cursing you out? What was that? He used racial slurs? We understand, he had it coming.” It truly is a dangerous message for young people to digest, the idea that you get a free pass for losing your composure, simply because someone hurts your feelings.
In my opinion, this is a set up to get caught up in the American legal system. No, I am not advocating for blind obedience due to fear of authority, or obedience for the sake of fitting in, instead I am advocating for the practice of empathy, a by product that comes from adherence to the non aggression principle.
What is the non aggression principle? Fundamentally the non aggression principle is the commitment to not resort to violence or the threat of violence to resolve disputes. An obvious exception would be when your life is truly in danger and you have exhausted all options in keeping yourself safe. In the story, Kim Kardashian gets racists insults directed at her from a man, she calls Kanye, and Kanye shows up, tracks the man down and beats him up.
The second issue I have with the TYT commentary on the Kanye West story, was the passive promotion of machismo. The idea that it is okay to seek retaliation is antiquated thinking. Violence only begets more violence. Take for example, the man has now pressed charges against Kanye West, with the help of the State. So Kanye now finds himself at the mercy of the State as the evidence and eyewitness testimony is overwhelmingly against Kanye. So now at the request of this man,the State now has the option of visiting violence against Kanye West by taking away his freedom, or a significant portion of his money or both. Just like when a parent, spanks one of his children for hitting a sibling.
One thing I learned from my military experience, is that the attitude of machismo is not practical, and therefore not rational. Machismo is impractical because there is always someone stronger than and more willing to resort to greater degrees of violence that you are.
It’s nice to think that you can go about beating up on anyone who hurls insults at you, but what happens when you encounter someone who’s better at violence than you are? Then what?
Violence is overrated and bad for the brain, please give peace a chance. Furthermore if you are a black person reading this, and you take offense to what I said about the media and violence. Please understand that my pride for my heritage, comes from a place of love and not from a place of unrealistic expectations regarding how others should regard me.
The Young Turks Video
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
Perceived lack of power is the most dangerous state any human being can find themselves in. Particularly when it comes to adults. We all have power, power to influence change in our lives, as evidenced by the decisions we make everyday in our lives, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear. Our ability to think and do is what makes us powerful.
Lack of power in our world is an illusion, this illusion is bought into when people come to believe that their path to happiness lies to doing one specific thing, or taking one specific route in their lives. This leads to a bottle neck phenomenon where most people end up following a specific path in the pursuit of happiness with only a handful of them achieving any success. Not to get off track, but we live in a multidimensional universe, as explained in this previous post, this means that our choices are more abundant than we realize.
For most people who have bought into the message that they do not have the ability to influence their reality, chances are that they too have become caught up in the bottle neck phenomenon, which creates for them a consistency of lack of power in their world.
In the beginning of this post, I stated that for a human being to not recognize their power in this world is a dangerous state, the reason is because, a person who does not recognize his or her power, is most likely to overreact in an effort to gain some control in his or her world. Often times such an overreaction can be devastating. Just because a person does not recognize his power in the world, does not mean that his power is non existent.
Specific examples of people over reacting to their perceived lack of power would be, physical assault, verbal abuse, making false accusations against others and bringing about hurt and pain in someone’s life through some other miscellaneous actions. I have personally seen people set out to harm people out of anger, and also for a quest to regain a sense of control over their lives they thought they had lost. They ended up over reacting, and causing such damage, that most of the shock registered on their faces came from not realizing that they had the ability to influence so much change in the world around them, albeit a negative change. Unfortunately it was a bit too late, as the powers that be would always retaliate in kind, sometimes leading to a self fulfilling prophecy, were they would indeed lose a great deal of power they never realized that they had.
When I work with my anger management clients, I always inform them that they have power in this world, power which comes from within them. Once they come to believe this, they do what any normal person who recognizes their power would do, they use their powers to create their happiness.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
Why are disappointments so difficult to bear for some people? One reason could be because some people place all their stock for being happy in one basket. Specifically in regards to setting goals and expectations for the future. I often see this with people who struggle with mild depression, and procrastination. If you ask them what they want to accomplish, they are quick to inform you about their dreams, but some where along the way they lost motivation once the going got tough. When this phenomenon occurs it is because there seems to be an expectation that happiness can only be achieved once certain desires, goals and expectations are met. For clarification, my definition of happiness in this post refers to feelings of prolonged content and acceptance , versus joy which is shorter lived.
Where does happiness begin and where does it end? If you read or listen between the lines, sometimes when people are discussing something they want to accomplish, it appears that their beliefs about happiness stem from hidden statements such as, “I can only be happy if..” or “I can only be happy when..”
Ambitions, desires, goals and accomplishments are all part of the wonderful attributes of the human experience, specifically they bring a sense of meaning and purposefulness to the experience of life. However, what happens when your narrative changes? What happens when a goal you set out to achieve with all your heart is not realized due to circumstances beyond your control?
Postponing your happiness today based your hopes and dreams for tomorrow is a recipe for a case for acute and prolonged depression. I have worked with people who were so caught off guard by a sudden and unexpected change in their fortunate situation that they spent more years depressed compared to the years when they were thriving. What If you could begin experiencing happiness today, inspite of what your current circumstances are? What would that look like?
From my perspective what happiness today would look like would be living your life from a place of gratitude. Recognizing what you have going on for you and seeing any challenge in your life as an adventure and an exciting part of your journey. So even if you are confronted with disappointment from not having realized a goal, it would be easier for you to grieve and transition with your experiences into your pursuit of another goal.
So instead of the hidden statements such as, “I can only be happy if…” or “I can only be happy when…” replace them with “I can experience happiness regardless of my circumstances.” This type of thinking leads you towards regarding your goals and ambitions with a different attitude. An attitude that leads you towards focusing on the process, rather than the outcome.
So when the going gets tough, you can always draw energy from your feelings of consent and happiness, because you understand that challenges are a natural and occurring phenomenon in our lives.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
- Recognizing our need as human beings to be validated
- Being prepared to receive a discount accept critical feedback
- Not coming from an emotionally wounded place, when arguing.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
Few people speak about Nelson Mandela and the ANC’s armed war against the apartheid regime. Some would call it terrorism, but then again all war is terrorism and so is oppression. Mandela was a prominent leader of the militant wing of the ANC, known as Umkhonto we Size or MK. MK was established approximately a year after the government had violently crushed a peaceful protest against its regime, among other incidences. During the nineteen sixties and seventies MK would habitually bomb public areas, particularly those that were designated for Whites only.
The ANC only started to gain traction in their quest for liberation after Mandela, still as a prominent (and incarcerated) leader resumed advocating and practicing non aggression principles.
To date the non aggression principle is the most effective, paradoxical approach towards responding to aggression. If you are looking for some proof in the pudding, just look up Ghandi, and Martin Luther King.
Taking a non aggressive approach prevents you from being stuck in your reptilian brain during aggressive and stressful encounters. It also allows direct access to the critical thinking region of your brain, your prefrontal cortex, which affords you insights into dignified alternatives to end the conflict.
I understand that some people would read this post and dismiss it as rubbish, or perhaps a promotion of weakness, but nothing could be farther from the truth as well as contradictory. It takes courage to seek and exercise peace, this is because all impulsive and reactionary behavior is motivated by fear, with little regard for consequences.
The fight or flight analogy needs to be improved, because whether you are fighting or fleeing, you are reacting to fear. To react to fear is the equivalent of fleeing (from pain and suffering) and when you are running from something, you are certainly not giving a lot of thought to where you are headed.
Sure, if you were to lose your temper in the heat of the moment it is easy to convince yourself about your lack of care for potential consequences, that is, until the the time comes for you to face the consequences of your actions.
Violence begets violence, and regardless of how you may view yourself, all human beings are equal, primarily because we are equally vulnerable and we live at the mercies of each other.
I was putting together some information about workplace bullying and effective strategies for how to respond to bullying in the workplace. Right now it’s looking like it’s going to be a two part post. Regardless, the post will be up Monday morning, Arizona time.
If it turns out to be a two part post, the second post will discuss effective cognitive behavioral strategies for dealing with and putting an end to workplace bullying and mobbing.
Rest in Peace Mr. Mandela.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
A college student I worked with was experiencing difficulty in school, in regards to completing and turning in her class assignments. One day she mentioned to me that perhaps she suffered from attention deficit disorder . I responded by reminding her about how we had rescheduled our agreed upon appointment two weeks prior because she had to take an examination, which was three hours long. I further reminded her that during our most recent meeting, she had informed me that she had passed the examination.
“People with attention deficit disorder struggle to pull that off,” I added. As it turns out, her lack of motivation was caused by her not knowing what she wanted to study and that she was only pursuing the major of study she was enrolled in to impress her parents. This revelation came out after she came to realize that she was able to concentrate for hours at at time as evidenced by how well she had done on the three hour exam. The difference was that over the years she hadn’t been doing it on her own terms.
From time to time, I encounter people who become upset with me because I tell them they can get better, when they believe they can not. There is another story of a client who used the analogy of a blind man, he informed me that telling him that he could get past his depression was like telling a blind man that he could see again. I then informed him that while blind people certainly couldn’t see, they could still get around and function on par with their sighted fellow humans.
The human mind is neuroplastic, it has a remarkable ability of reorganizing itself to help us address our everyday issues in life and thrive, regardless of the trauma experienced and survived. What remains is for us to believe in our ability to adapt and change.
Consider this study, involving hospitalized depressed men for the effectiveness of fluoxetine in treating depression. The men were divided into two groups, one group which received the actual treatment and the second group which received a placebo treatment. Both groups showed dramatic and significant improvement in their depressive symptoms, as evidenced by self reports and scanned images of changes in their brains’ glucose metabolism using positron emission tomography (PET). This is one of many studies that shows that power of simply believing, through the effects of placebo.
The truth is that we are able to accomplish any feat we set our minds unto. So if you are experiencing difficulty in consistently accomplishing a task, or following through with agreed upon expectations, perhaps it has nothing to do with your ability but your willingness, influenced by other factors.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
If negativity is to water, then positivity is to the boat that keeps you afloat and takes you across.
The best way to explain this analogy is to substitute negativity as challenges and positivity as the courage to practice change in overcoming certain challenges.
From addictions to maladaptive behaviors, the key to emancipation from habits that weigh us down is practicing the courage to take risks. Imagine if you can, the look of disbelief when I tell a client who struggles with depression that he needs to go thirty days without using marijuana, or the look of horror registered on the face of the shy young adult who is given an assignment to ask someone out on a date.
These two examples have something in common and the commonality is people being asked to take the risk to practice change. For example, the client who uses marijuana, by quitting will be taking the risk of experiencing the inner turmoil and discomfort he has been using the drug to hide from. In his head, facing his fears is the worst thing that could ever happen to him even though it’s the best thing that could happen to him. The exact same thing could be said for the shy young man, afraid to approach females he finds attractive.
There are a number of research studies like this one on risk taking that seem to suggest that people are more willing to take risks when they feel happier or more optimistic. However, what if it works both ways? What if it is true that while happier people take more risks, that miserable people who practice risk taking also experience more happiness? More specifically, what if it turns out that people who are unhappy can experience more optimism if they take risks even when the outcome of their risk taking doesn’t yield success?
For example, what if a young man who is shy finally exercises the courage to begin approaching and making small conversations with women he finds attractive. What if he finally asks someone out and she says no? In my practice what I have witnessed is that even when turned down, young men who struggle with self confidence report feeling more optimistic, because being turned down wasn’t as horrible and as unbearable an ordeal as they had imagined.
Furthermore, risk is a term that’s often used to describe irrational decisions instead of everyday life in which it should be used. For example, driving your car is risky for obvious reasons, but gambling in a casino is irrational, as the odds are always in the favor of the house, which makes the probability of you winning any substantial amount of money slim to none.
People become adverse to the idea of risk taking when their definition of risk involves taking steps to improve their situation with a high likelihood of failure. This certainty of failure becomes so big in their minds that they become fearful of taking any steps to improve their situations. It is when I explain to clients how they take risks everyday in theirs lives that they become more willing to take the necessary steps to do things differently to improve their situations. When people start doing things more differently to improve their circumstances, they become more optimistic regardless of the outcome. They also begin taking about more opportunities that have come up for them as a result of practicing get the courage to change.
Happiness like any other feeling is feedback from the brain that tells you that you are either getting your needs met or in the process of getting your needs met. It is not something that occurs before the event or an action is initiated. For example, it would be equivalent to feeling wet outside on a dry day shortly before rain pours from the sky. We take risks everyday with no guarantees that things would go our way, and happiness is becoming more aware of this phenomenon and being at peace with it.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
My anger management book, titled, “Anger Management 101-Taming the Beast Within”,
is a bitter pill to swallow for some people, and I understand. Some people have been led to believe that the best way to respond to force is with force. The problem with this is that force is negative, and negative added to another negative will only yield negative.
The idea of responding to with a positive towards a negative, is an old idea that works, but is ironically foreign to some people.
So what does this have to do with the title of this post? Everything. Take for example, you are addressed by an insult from someone, what do you do? You can respond in a number of ways, but the best way to respond to an insult is to not respond back with an insult of your own.
When people insult me, I choose not to insult them back, and I will respond in one of two other ways. I will either ignore them entirely, or if this is someone that I can’t entirely ignore or dismiss due to circumstances beyond my control, I inform them that their remark was unacceptable and declare my boundaries for how I prefer to be communicated with.
Twenty to ten years ago, I used to suffer from the disease of chronic anger. I would periodically resort to explosive temper tantrums that severed relationships with others who mattered and brought sick people closer to my circle. This kept me in a constant state of resentment, as the people I kept close always gave me good reason to be resentful.
This of course was all before I realized something about people who enjoy delivering insults to others, there is a lack of recognition in their ability to bring anything positive and useful into any relationship, to include with themselves.
An insult is a rejection, and a rejection is an illusion. The illusion of being better than the person who is being rejected. It’s reverse psychology in action, kind of like when a high end department store decides to not sell to certain members of the population. The message is this, we are the best thing to happen since sliced bread and you are not good enough to purchase our merchandise, our merchandise is only reserved for a select few.
The reality is that this store offers nothing you need at all, and their rejection of most people creates an appeal to a minority with the disposal income to purchase overpriced things they don’t need. This is because very few people will have access to the product, and from a hierarchical mindset, uniqueness is important . The important thing to remember here is that the store has nothing you need.
So the next time you find yourself upset with someone who has just insulted you, ask yourself one question, what type of a friend would that person have made?
When we come to realize that there was nothing lost upon being rejected by another person, we stop being bothered by the insult.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and a life coach.