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Irrational Beliefs That Cause Anger

Learn about the irrational beliefs people hold that cause anger from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.


I'm Ryan Fuller. I'm a clinical psychologist and I work with a lot of clients in New York City but a lot of the clients I deal with have anger management issues. So we've talked a little bit about irrational beliefs and how certain irrational beliefs can cause anger problems. One particular irrational belief is the demand. Oftentimes you can be signaled to know or identify that it's a demand. If you hear words like this should be occurring; it must occur; it has to be happening or I have to be able to do this, or this ought to go this way. Those very specific demands do a couple of things that are important. One, it might cause anger just in and of themselves just because I'm actually struggling with the reality of what's happening. This should not be occurring even though it is.

The second piece though, is it prevents us from having realistic expectations. If I think other people have to be respectful of me in public, then I'm not really going to be prepared for someone insulting me or being discourteous when I'm on a subway. Instead, I'm going to be shocked and surprised. And there's already negative valance because they're violating my standard. So we take something that could be mild annoyance, where I'm thinking "they're doing something I don't want, I don't like it, this is unpleasant and I'm annoyed." And that makes a lot of sense. But if I add to that total surprise, what we know about surprise or shock is that those are emotions of high levels of arousal. So it's almost like I have a small fire or a match lit with the annoyance. It's negative, it's warm, it's uncomfortable but okay. And then the shock and surprise comes in and it just adds fuel to the flame.

One key important anger management strategy is to begin to develop realistic expectations and so I use a very silly acronym that I created. PREP. Which is prime realistic expectations prior. So, one thing that happens is we're caught off guard many times by triggers that we cannot possibly predict. And those things are going to happen and are going to make us angry. But try to think about those particular situations whether it's your daily commute, whether it's coming home from work and being around a roommate or spouse or your kids, where you frequently become angry. Where you in fact can predict most likely there’s going to be a trigger. And see if you can, before you walk in, just prime what is a realistic expectation before you go through the door, before you start the commute. You're not endorsing it. You're not saying it's okay. But you simply want to be more realistic about the probability that it's going to happen. Not so you won't be annoyed. Not so you won't assertively tell the person you'd like them to change their behavior. But so you won't add that arousal to the already negative emotion of annoyance or irritation.

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