Tag Archives: Angry

Anger and Irrational Expectations

Flip Wilson – 1969

Sometimes our expectations create difficulties when others let us down or our goals are not achieved.  In our anger and disappointment there are several ways to react at those times.  Sometimes our expectations are rational and reasonable.  At other times, when we closely examine them, our expectations have been irrational and need to be adjusted to fit reality.

The comedian Flip Wilson’s character, Geraldine, from the 1970’s and 1980’s used to decry that “The devil made me do it” to explain why she made certain choices.  Part of what made the character so funny was that, at one time or another, we all use projection and blame to explain why we feel certain ways, to justify our behavior or to absolve ourselves from responsibility.

This approach to seeing the world is fraught with difficulties that can seriously impact relationships.  When we believe people ‘should’ act in certain ways we betray our own perspectives about how things should be without giving adequate attention to reality; i.e., the way things are.  This can create problems when people do not act or say things the way you or I think that they should act or say them.

Albert Ellis, the father or Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, was influenced by the tradition of ancient Stoicism.  In this philosophy reason and logic are the governing principles that guide the thoughts and feelings of the person who would be wise.  The first-century philosopher Epictetus is one example of Stoicism that reaffirms many of the concepts that underlie this approach to problem solving.  I love his tongue-in-cheek approach to this topic.

IRRATIONAL IDEA NO. 1: “I must do well and win the approval of others for my performances or else I will rate as a rotton person” (p. 39).  This philosophy goes a long way to perfecting the art of perfectionism!

IRRATIONAL IDEA NO. 2: “Others must treat me considerately and kindly and in precisely the way I want them to treat me.  If they don’t, society and the universe should severely blame, damn and punish them for their inconsideration” (p. 41).

IRRATIONAL IDEA NO. 3: “The world (and the people in it) must arrange conditions under which I live so that I get everything that I want when I want it.  And further, conditions must exist so that I don’t get what I don’t want. Moreover, I usually must get what I want quickly and easily” (p. 42).

The sub-points of each of these “Irrational Ideas” step on a few nerves in Ellis’ book, Anger: How to Live With and Without It but if you keep wondering why others make you angry or why you are not able to get things done because of the actions of others, this could be a helpful read.

Albert Ellis (1913-2007)

Children & Family Therapy

Family Therapy for children recognizes problem behaviors in families from a family systems perspective.  What that means is that the Marriage and Family Therapist recognizes that family members who are having difficulties can be the problem while, at the same time, they can be the symptom.  For example, in a dynamic often seen, when mom and dad focus upon a child who is misbehaving it helps divert attention from the interpersonal conflict they are having with each other.

At the same time, a child’s misbehavior can be more than a symptom of the family’s relational challenges; it can also be due to a number of other factors that need to be addressed first.  For example, children with obsessive-compulsive behaviors or chronic depression may be dealing with chemical imbalances that need immediate attention.  Nonetheless, the family is still a factor as they have developed patterns that may perpetuate the problem or, even, unintentionally make it worse.

Helping children deal with  intense, negative feelings in constructive ways can be challenging, especially when those feelings are already being expressed in ways that are extreme or inappropriate.  A part of helping children deal with intense emotions is to help them learn to identify feelings with words that describe those feelings.

Always looking for new ways to help kids communicate this link to a mother’s attempt to help her child identify feelings and to act appropriately is interesting.  Many children play these video games starring Angry Birds.  Perhaps one way to clarify feelings is to give your child some expressive faces, verbal associations and some idea of consequences associated with good and bad behaviors and words.

It usually takes a great deal of energy for a parent to finally pick up the telephone or send an email asking to schedule an appointment for counseling.  One of the first questions a therapist will ask is “What event or situation led you to set up a time to meet?”  The answer to that question begins the process of identifying the problem which immediately lends itself to specifying the goal of therapy.  In solution-focused, brief marriage and family therapy the therapist will want to know how the problem started, how the family addressed the problem and what factors may be going into maintaining the problem.

By the second or third session the therapist begins the process of formulating a strategy to help the family tap its own resources to address the challenges in new and different ways.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Rather, the wonder of the family systems approach is that healing often involves a rich mixture of behavioral changes, re-alignment of perceptions and assumptions and a creative channeling of the family’s focus and energy to promote healing and stronger relationships.