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Anger Busting 101: The New ABCs for Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them

Anger Busting 101: The New ABCs for Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them

by Newton Hightower

The award winning Anger Busting 101 is the first book to use the acclaimed Recovery approach to solve anger problems. It gives you dozens of quick tops you can use every day to diffuse anger early on. Author Newton Hightower expertly combines personal stories with scientific research and solid clinical data to give angry men and their families the hope and the help


The award winning Anger Busting 101 is the first book to use the acclaimed Recovery approach to solve anger problems. It gives you dozens of quick tops you can use every day to diffuse anger early on. Author Newton Hightower expertly combines personal stories with scientific research and solid clinical data to give angry men and their families the hope and the help they need. You learn simple ways to end the destructiveness, heal the wounds, and start living the life you really want for yourself and your family.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Both of these titles address the destructive potential of men's anger and present step-by-step methods to effect positive behavioral changes. In Dealing with Your Anger (first published in Australia but edited for an American audience), Donovan, a psychotherapist and director of the Anger Clinic in Melbourne, offers a self-help resource that is also designed for practitioners in one-on-one or group therapy sessions. Using his many years of clinical experience with angry men and his own personal struggle with anger and a potential for violence, Donovan shares sensible procedures for understanding, reducing, and eliminating anger. He covers anger's definition, anger sources, emotional strategies for healing anger, practical ways of controlling anger, and positive uses for anger. Also included are Assistive Guidelines for Practitioners and an extensive notes section. Hightower, a licensed psychotherapist and director of the Center for Anger Resolution, Inc., in Houston, presents a highly practical and easy-to-follow guide for managing anger problems. Anger Busting 101 uses the author's Recovery Approach, which gives pointers for diffusing anger before it gets to the boiling point. This method debunks the psychological myth that stifling anger will hurt you. Hightower combines his personal experience, his clients' personal stories, and scientific research to support his methods for handling anger. His ABCs are Abstain from certain behavior and phrases; Believe in the principles for peace, happiness, and permanent change; and Communicate with new phrases. Donovan's guide is more complicated to follow without a therapist's guidance, while Hightower's is more straightforward and simpler to use on one's own. Both are well documented and are recommended for self-help collections in academic and large public libraries and for mental health practitioners. Elizabeth Goeters, Georgia Perimeter Coll., Dunwoody Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Bayou Publishing TX
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
A = Abstain
Abstain From These Behaviors
"We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it."
-Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Alcoholics Anonymous
The first question to ask yourself is, "Why am I reading this book?" The fact that you even have this book means that either you realize you have a problem, your wife is leaving you, the children aren't talking to you, you have been fired or are on the verge of being fired, or you are in trouble with the law. Or you may just feel guilty at how your anger is affecting your family and your life. Apart from the damage your anger is doing to your marriage, we know that conflict between parents is traumatic for children. Seligman and Seligman followed the lives of 400 children for five years, focusing on those children whose parents fight and those children whose parents do not fight. They found that children of fighting families are more depressed than children from nonfighting families. Seligman and Seligman noted:
Once children's parents start fighting, these children become unbridled pessimists. They see bad events as permanent and pervasive. Their workflow has changed from the rosy optimism of childhood to the grim pessimism of a depressed adult. I believe that many children react to their parents' fighting by developing a loss of security so shattering that it marks the beginning of a lifetime of depression.8
"What can I do to never blow up at my wife or family again?"
To fully recover, we rageaholics must abstain from certain behaviors. We must stop saying, "I'm not going to just sit there and let her talk to me that way" or "She is the one who needs to shut up for once." You may have made resolutions such as:
"I will never do that again."
"I will never scream like that again."
"I will never put my hands on her again."
Making resolutions like "I will never rage again" doesn't work. If it did, you would not be reading this book.
While our intentions are often good, we rageaholics just can't make our resolutions work. Simple self-talk and global affirmations about our "inherent goodness" don't work. Although we should be aware of our internal voices, we must also learn to develop new voices to replace the "soldier talk" and the heroic rescue fantasies discussed in this chapter. More than anything else, we must have a plan of action. What follows is an effective action plan for what we can do to abstain from expressing anger.
When Angry-Stop the Following 15 Behaviors:
1. Stop speaking.

Stop telling yourself:
"I'm not going to just sit here and let her talk to me that way."
"She's the one who needs to shut up for once."
The all-time, fail-proof, safest action when we feel rage well up inside is silence. We must abstain from speaking, keep the lid on our pressure cooker, keep the valve shut and turn off the fire by stopping the thoughts that build up the steam. We either have to change our internal dialogue or learn to shut it off. One example of silence is illustrated by the following dialogue:
One Saturday morning Joe's wife asked him to accompany her on errands, something he hated doing. It was raining, the traffic was bumper to bumper and the one hour of errands had turned into four hours. Debbie, who had been in a car accident only a few months before, was panicking, criticizing and directing Joe's driving. Although Joe was getting angry, he decided to follow the principle of silence on the topic.

Debbie: "Why aren't you talking to me?"
Joe: "Sweetheart, I'm concentrating on driving."
Debbie: "Are you mad at me?"
Joe: "Not in the least."
Debbie: "Are you sure?"
Joe: "I've never been more in love with you in my life."
Silence is the number one behavior to learn. Being silent doesn't mean that we have stopped listening. Instead, it means that we are in control of our anger.
Silence and Anger Abstinence. When working at the Administration Hospital drug abuse unit, I met a new patient in the hallway. He said, "I understand you help people with their rage problems. I really want to go through this program, but I've never gone for more than three days without blowing up. What should I do?"
Without speaking, I motioned for him to follow me to my office, then to wait at the door. I got a 3x5 card out of the drawer and wrote on it, "WHEN ANGRY, DON'T SPEAK."
Puzzled, he looked at me. "I'm not sure what you mean? When somebody says something that makes me angry, I'm just supposed to say nothing?"
I gestured for him to hand the card back and in parentheses I wrote, "SHUT UP." and then waved good-bye.
The next day the patient came up to me and complained, "I can't take it. I just can't be quiet when someone curses me. I've never been able to take it and I can't imagine I ever will."
"Let me ask you something," I said. "If you were walking down the street one night and someone jumped out from behind a building and stuck a pistol to the side of your head and said, 'If you utter one sound, I'm going to blow your brains out,' do you think you could restrain yourself from speaking in that situation?"
"Well, yeah."
"Do you think you could restrain yourself even if he cursed you and said bad things about your mother and insulted you in all kinds of ways?"
"Yeah, sure."
Then, I explained, "I think it is possible to restrain ourselves. It's just that our motivation has not often been strong enough. Instead of saying things like, 'I can't stand it,' you can say things that will turn the fire off like, 'I can take it.' If your motivation is strong enough, you can practice not speaking. It can be done. I have seen many men do it when their marriages were at stake."
2. Stop staying.

Stop telling yourself:
"But she hates it when I walk out on her."
"It's my house; I'm not going anywhere."
What does "stop staying" mean? It means leave the scene quickly and quietly. Imagine an anger scale of 0 to 10. Zero equals no anger and ten equals rage. Once you have gone to 5 or higher, get out. It's probably too late if you wait until you get to 8 or above. In fact, once you get that angry, you won't be able to restrain yourself from speaking and you probably won't be able to leave. When you feel your anger start to go up the scale or if it just jumps up to 5, don't stay. Leave quietly.
How do you know when you've reached a five on the anger scale? Well, you should begin to monitor your anger signs to become aware of your internal states. Each person has different physical responses when he gets angry. Some people will sweat profusely; others will feel their muscles tightening. Some will get clammy hands, and still others will feel their blood pressure rising. Learn your anger signs.
Several years ago I ran an anger management course for domestic violence offenders. The men were required by the probation department to attend the course. To bring the points home, I used role-playing, with one man playing the wife and the other the husband:
Husband: (enters the room) "Hi, honey, what's for dinner?"
Wife: (exploding into profanity at full volume while standing inches from his face) "You don't deserve for me to cook, you #.$%&.*$%. If you want to eat, cook it yourself. I'm tired of cooking for you."
Husband: "I'm taking a time-out and I'll be back in an hour." (This is a real-life time-out, not the mutually agreed upon one described in most self-help books.)
Wife: (screams) "I won't be here when you get back."
Husband: (He goes out the door and closes it quietly. He returns in one hour-about 30 seconds in the role-play-and tests the waters.) Changing the subject, he says: "Nice weather we're having. How was your day?"
Wife: "Fine until I saw your %.&@$#*# face. What are you doing back here? I told you to stay away."
Husband: At this point, the husband decides to take a Motel 6 time-out and says, "I'll talk to you in the morning."
I explained to the group that the key point here is to stay away until your wife calms down. If she hits and you defend yourself, you can be arrested again.
Take as long and as many time-outs as needed for your wife to calm down. On the other hand, spouses don't like to be left, even during an argument. They will often say something like, "You chicken, come back here and talk to me like a man." (This comment pushed the buttons on most men in the group.) Or, "You're always running out when I want to talk to you."

3. Stop staring.
Stop telling yourself:
"I was just looking at her."
"I'm not staring. She wants me to look at her when she talks, so I was looking."
Couples who stare intensely at each other when they are angry are actually glaring. Looking someone in the eye in a hostile way is taunting and provocative. On the streets this kind of behavior has led to more than a few severe beatings and even deaths. Glaring is a primitive fight or flight response and is often a precursor to physical violence. Many ragers use staring and the "evil eye" to intimidate those around them.
Richard, Luanda and the kids were sitting around the dinner table discussing the upcoming weekend. The youngest child asked what they were going to do.
Luanda: "Nothing. There's no money this weekend. Your father bought season tickets for the basketball game and we're broke."
Richard: "I've been saving for those season tickets and the money didn't come out of the household budget."
Luanda: "Richard, all of our money is part of the household budget."
Richard stares angrily at Luanda.
Luanda: "Richard, don't give me that 'evil eye.' I'm not afraid of you."
Luanda stares back and Richard becomes angrier. Composing himself, Richard backs off and stares at the floor.
Richard: "Listen, honey, let's have a nice dinner and talk about the money problems later."
Luanda also backs off and Richard's anger outburst is defused. The family continues to have a pleasant dinner.

4. Stop interrupting.
Stop telling yourself:
"I have to interrupt because what she is saying is wrong."
"What do you mean don't interrupt her? She was the one who interrupted me."
It is sometimes impossible to tell who is interrupting whom when anger begins to rise. It is important not to interrupt and to allow others to interrupt you, but this is the one thing that most of us ragers feel we can't stand.
Why is it that we ragers always think we are on the verge of making some profound and interesting point when someone interrupts us? We say, "Wait a minute. That's the one thing I can't stand. I'm just about to get to the point here." We need to train ourselves not to interrupt others. If someone interrupts us, we must allow it. If interrupted, we need to go back to number one: Abstain from speaking. If we are getting madder, then we shouldn't stay. Our wives will notice the silence and they will notice us leaving quietly. They will also notice that we are allowing them to interrupt us without interrupting them.
I once had a session with a trial lawyer and his wife. Every time I started talking the attorney would talk over me.
Therapist: "Excuse me, I'm interrupting you."
Lawyer: "But I'm not finished."
Therapist: "You're never finished, which is part of your problem."
Lawyer: (angrily) "Listen, I'm paying you to listen to me and I'm going to finish."
Therapist: (laughing) "No, you don't understand. You are paying me to interrupt you because you want to stay married. This behavior is one of the reasons your wife is throwing you out."
Lawyer: "Okay, go ahead, but I don't like it."
If you have successfully followed the first four behaviors, you are on your way to controlling your addiction to rage and are now ready for the next stage.

5. Stop cursing.
Stop telling yourself:
"Hey, you don't know where I work. Over there, everybody curses all the time."
"You mean I'm supposed to say 'ouch' instead of *&.%@#$+ when I stub my toe?"
One of the most important behaviors to abstain from immediately is profanity. The reason is not from a moral or religious point of view, but from a psychological and behavioral perspective. If we don't curse, we don't inflame our rage. If we abstain from all profanity, no matter what, it will immediately reduce the amount of anger we must manage. In other words, cursing adds steam to our pressure cooker and inflames our anger.
A few years ago I saw a patient who had recently been arrested on a domestic violence charge. Ralph had gotten into a fight with his 19-year-old stepson, and when his wife tried to break it up, he pushed her. The stepson's girlfriend called the police and Ralph was arrested. His wife filed for divorce and got a restraining order. In the office Ralph sobbed that he would do anything to get his wife back. He wanted to know what he could do today so that she would know he was changing. My answer was, "There's something you can do, but it's difficult."
"I'll do anything," he said.
I replied, "Stop all profanity. Everywhere and all the time."
"You don't understand. I've worked for the railroad for 20 years. How can I stop cursing?" he pleaded.
I asserted, "If you want to get your wife back, you'll be the only railroad employee who doesn't curse."
"I'll do it," he sobbed.
In the next session Ralph reported that he wasn't arguing with his wife over the telephone as intensely as before. He thought it was because he had stopped cursing. In the third session Ralph reported a romantic interlude. He felt things were finally going to work out and he would call if he needed any more therapy.
If you were to have a temper tantrum without profanity, where you stomp your foot and say, "Gee whiz, I'm really upset by that. Golly gee, that really frustrated me," then took a blood sample, there would likely not be any biochemical change. If you were to pretend having a temper tantrum with profanity, even though you were not angry, then took a blood sample, you would find a biochemical change. These changes would occur because the use of profanity for rageaholics starts the adrenaline flowing.
So, if we abstain from profanity, we will have less anger and people will be less angry at us. Some people can do this quickly; for other people, it takes a while to get a handle on it. Some men in anger groups have worked on stopping profanity for an entire year before they went through a full day without cursing. Other men have been able to do it almost instantly.

6. Stop name-calling.
Stop telling yourself:
"But she was calling me names. She's the one with the problem."
"I didn't mean it when I called her those names. She understands that I was just angry."
Name-calling is another way to produce steam. It is also a behavior that we rageaholics need to abstain from immediately. We need to stop using not only the vile, crude names, but also names like "stupid" and "crazy." Using those names inflames an argument. When we name-call, even in jest, our significant other doesn't know we are "just kidding" and doesn't think it is funny. Name-calling hurts others and it raises our anger level.
Name-calling is a destructive element in a relationship. If you call your wife a bad name, there's no going back. It could take months for her to recover. You may think, "I'm over my anger. Why can't she let it go?" Ragers don't understand the level of destruction caused when they call their partner a name. It's like former President Truman saying to the emperor of Japan, "It was just a couple of bombs. What's the big deal?"
A typical name-calling scenario might go like this. John is relaxing and watching television. Mary, his wife, has taken work home and is busily typing a report on her computer. Suddenly her monitor goes blank. Mary walks into the living room and nicely asks John to look at her computer. After working with computers all day, John is in no mood to troubleshoot computer problems at home. Mary keeps on asking him to see what's wrong with her computer.
Mary: "John, please look at my computer and tell me what's wrong with it."
John: "I'm not in the mood. I'll do it tomorrow."
Mary: "But, John, I need to get this report done for work by tomorrow morning."
John: "It'll have to wait. The NBA playoffs are on."
Mary: "I need it now. It will take only a minute."
John: "Okay, fine. Will you leave me alone then?" (John looks at the computer and finds that the monitor cable has become dislodged from its socket. He puts it back in and the computer works. Irritated at being interrupted, John blurts out, "You know, you're really stupid. Couldn't you figure this out by yourself?")
Mary is silent. Six months later
John: "Mary, would you help me figure out how to use this new food processor?"
Mary: "I can't help you. Remember, I'm stupid."
John: "Where did that come from?"
Mary: "Don't you remember telling me how stupid I am?"

7. Stop threatening.
Stop telling yourself:
"Sometimes I just want to warn her she's about to go too far."
"You are not going to talk to me that way. No one is going to talk to me that way. I don't take that kind of talk from anyone."
Those are threats that imply, "I will leave you or hurt you." Even subtle threats wreak havoc in terms of your partner's fear of abandonment. A typical dialogue that avoids threats might look something like this:
Justin returns home late after working at the refinery plant. Before coming home he stops at the tavern for a couple of beers. Heather, his girlfriend, is upset because he didn't phone.
Justin: "Hi, Honey, I'm home."
Heather: "Where have you been?"
Justin: "I was working late and then stopped off for a few beers."
Heather: "Right, you were working late and stopped for beers. Are you seeing her again?"
Justin: "Who?"
Heather: "Your girlfriend."
Justin: "What girlfriend? I don't have a girlfriend. I'm not seeing anybody but you. I've never dated anyone since we got together."
Heather: "I don't believe you."
Justin: "Honey, I really love you and I am sorry you don't trust me. I know it must be hard for you to have these suspicions. What can I do to help?"
Some women may find Justin's last statement patronizing and be suspicious of whether Justin means it. I would say to Justin, "Say it and mean it." If she doubts you, then convince her. This is no time for sarcasm.
The object is to make Heather feel more secure through the use of reassurance rather than argument, accusations or threats, which would only increase her anger and fear of abandonment.
Justin is thinking: "I can't take the accusations and suspicions anymore. It's driving me nuts. I need to get out of this relationship. If she doesn't trust me, I'll leave. Maybe then I'll find someone who will trust me." Instead of using threats, Justin remembers the behaviors for controlling his anger.
Justin: "Honey, I love you a lot and I'm sorry you don't trust me. I know it must be hard for you to have these suspicions. I will never see another woman and will never leave you, no matter what."
Heather feels more secure and calms down. Had Justin used threats, Heather's insecurity, anger and fear of abandonment would have been increased.

8. Stop pointing.
Furthermore, stop telling yourself:
"I was just trying to get her attention."
"I am not aware of my pointing-it's a natural thing to do."
Pointing a finger at someone is frequently an unconscious behavior. We ragers might need to ask our spouse and friends to tell us when we are doing this. In my therapy groups, members make each other aware of finger-pointing. Instead of pointing, you need to look at yourself rather than point at the other person. (It is physically true that when you point a finger, one finger is pointing out while three other fingers are pointing back at you.)

9. Stop yelling, raising your voice, or talking in a mean tone.
Stop telling yourself:
"Yelling is the only way to get her attention and let her know I'm serious."
"I'm not yelling. She's not listening. If she would just listen, I wouldn't have to yell."
Like other self-destructive behaviors, raising our voices and yelling only fuels our anger. Like finger-pointing, we are sometimes unaware of how loud we are talking. First, we must gain some awareness of these behaviors. On a scale of 0-10 (0 equals silence), when you raise your voice to a 2 or 3, it needs to be brought to your attention. (How do you know if it's a 2 or a 3? Ask other people to let you know.) It is important for spouses, family members, friends and therapists to intervene early when we begin to raise our voices. They can say something like, "You are beginning to raise your voice. Please lower it." As a rager, our appropriate response should be, "You are right. Thanks for pointing it out." Having others point out to us when we are raising our voice and yelling will help us monitor our behavior.
Phil and Nancy are sitting around the kitchen table discussing how to pay their bills. Phil is becoming increasingly upset as it becomes clearer that they will not be able to pay their bills this month without borrowing money. The conversation goes like this:
Phil: "I'm worried. I don't know how we can pay the bills this month."
Nancy: "We'll manage somehow."
Phil: "What do you mean we'll manage somehow? We don't have the money. If you didn't waste so much money on clothes, we'd be doing fine."
Nancy: "Stop yelling at me."
Phil: "If you'd just listen, I wouldn't have to yell."
Phil: (composing himself) "You're right. Thanks for pointing out that I was yelling."

Furthermore, stop telling yourself:
"Hey, what is she talking about? I wasn't yelling, cursing or anything."
"This is how I normally talk. If she wanted some mushy-mouth guy, she should have married one. That ain't me."
The "mean tone" is an important but hard issue for rageaholics to understand. I often tell angry men that when they come for therapy, they think they've signed up for a quarter-mile race. They run the quarter mile, sprint the last few feet, and throw up their arms in victory, only to be told by the referee that this is a mile race. They have three more laps to run. What am I talking about?
Many men work very hard for several months to contain their yelling and cursing, yet their wives will say something like, "You're no better than you ever were." I warn men about this when they start. By itself, stopping angry behaviors is not enough. It's necessary, but not sufficient, to have a happy marriage. And it's definitely not sufficient if your wife is teetering on the edge of divorce. After a few months the wife will come into a therapy session to talk about how things are going:
Wife: "He's no better than he was."
Husband: "Sweetheart, I've gone three months without profanity, without name-calling, without blowing up and without raising my voice. I haven't thrown things. I haven't touched you in anger. I haven't slammed the door. What are you talking about?"
Therapist: "I will give you credit. I acknowledge you for these things because I am your therapist and I know you have changed and I know this has been hard work, but there are still things that your wife feels very hurt about that may be very difficult for you to understand."
Wife: "He still talks to me in a mean tone and that hurts me so much."
Husband: "A mean tone, a mean voice? I don't know what you're talking about."
Wives can point out to us when they hear a mean tone. Even though we are abstaining from the more obvious behaviors of rage like touching or slamming doors, our wives may feel that we despise or hate them, just by the tone of our voice. Although this is a difficult concept for rageful men to understand, it is very important. It starts what I call the other three laps to a happy marriage. I will examine the opposite of "mean tones" when we discuss communication later in this book. At this point, it is important that we become aware of any time we use a mean tone, a stern tone or a harsh tone.

10. Stop being sarcastic. Stop mocking.
Stop telling yourself:
"She doesn't understand that I'm just joking."
"She has no sense of humor. That's the real problem."
Sarcastic one-liners are fine for television sitcoms, but they don't work for maintaining a real-life marriage or a happy family life. When the actors leave the stage after delivering their sarcastic remark, they go back to their dressing rooms. After we drop a sarcastic one-liner, we have to stick around for the consequences. Often ragers don't realize how much pain and hurt our sarcastic remarks cause. We misjudge the impact of our sarcasm. We need to stop making wisecracks about our wife and family members.
While visiting her parents, Janet (a compulsive spender) received a gift from her grandmother. It was a beautiful necklace that had been owned by her great-grandmother. To show her appreciation, Janet called her grandmother to thank her.
In the past, Janet had taken gifts of jewelry and pawned them to help pay her bills. As the whole family sat around admiring the necklace, her father commented, "I bet as soon as you finish this dinner, you'll be burnin' rubber to get to the nearest pawn shop." Everyone at the table laughed, including Janet's husband and mother.
Angrily, Janet rose from the table and left her father's house. In fact, she was so angry she didn't return for a year.

In addition, stop telling yourself:
"I was just trying to show her what it sounds like when she snivels about work all the time."
"That's just the way I let her know when she's nagging me too much."
Having a long-standing problem with anger, Robert was overly jealous of his wife. He constantly fantasized that she was flirting with almost every man she saw. Robert was particularly upset when he thought Rachel was flirting with men over the telephone. Before going home from work, he called to talk to Rachel. The line was busy and Rachel didn't answer call waiting. Robert grew more angry and jealous as he drove back home.
Robert: "I'm home."
Rachel: "Hi, honey. How was your day?"
Robert: "Who were you talking to on the phone?"
Rachel: "Just a friend."
Robert: "Why didn't you pick up when you heard the call waiting? Were you screening calls?"
Rachel: (laughing) "Why? Are you jealous? I was only talking to Mindy."
Robert: (mocking Rachel's laugh) "Tee hee hee, I was only talking to Mindeee."
Robert's mocking made Rachel feel humiliated, put down and ashamed.

11. Stop throwing things, slamming doors, or banging walls.
Stop telling yourself:
"It's just a way to let off steam. Besides, I'm not hurting anyone."
"At least I don't break things like I used to. Now I usually just throw pillows."
We need to stop throwing things like pillows, keys and other objects. All objects including shirts, jackets and underwear should also not be thrown. Throwing is an aggressive act that is perceived as threatening and intimidating by those around us. Throwing things-regardless of how harmless the objects are-fuels our anger.

Also stop telling yourself:
"Slamming doors is just my way of letting her know I really want to be left alone."
"I don't see who or what it hurts to release my anger a little."
Slamming a door shut is the ultimate "last word." We ragers were trained in the "two slam exit method." First, we curse out whomever is in the room, then slam the door. We wait a few seconds, then open the door again, say a few more vile things, and slam it shut. This action results in several things. First, it fuels our anger. Secondly, it is a provocative act that reeks of intimidation. Thirdly, it says that we won't stick around to work things out. Slamming doors is also a good way to infuriate our partner or family member.
Jason had a long-standing anger problem and learned early the "value" of slamming doors. A recent fight with his wife, Marlene, over who was responsible for washing the dishes that night resulted in a fiery outburst.
Jason: "I'm not doing the dishes tonight."
Marlene: "Yes, you are. It's your turn."
Jason: "I'm not doing them. Period."
Marlene: "Then you won't be eating supper here tomorrow night."
Jason: (heading for the door) "You know, Marlene, you are acting like a real baby. I've had it with your stupid childish behavior." Jason walks out and slams the door. A few seconds later he walks back into the room and yells, "You are the ultimate self-centered princess just like your mother." He walks out again, slamming the door behind him.
Marlene: Finding his behavior too much to bear, she follows Jason into the driveway yelling, "Don't come back, you lazy, no-good jerk." Marlene's timing is perfect as the neighbors are milling around just in time to hear her yelling.
Jason: At the next counseling session Jason says, "I don't know what's wrong with Marlene. She followed me into the driveway yelling and embarrassed me in front of our neighbors. Marlene is really the one with the anger problem."

12. Stop all non-affectionate touching.
Stop telling yourself:
"She was out of control. I was just holding her on the bed so she could get control of herself."
"I was just defending myself when she tried to slap me."
It's unacceptable to touch in anger, including any kind of aggressive touching like pushing or holding. It's also a bad idea. If the police are called and your spouse or girlfriend has bruises, that is domestic violence. In that instance, you can be arrested and jailed.
Ed and Carol got into a fight when she found out he was having an affair with a co-worker. During the screaming and yelling match, Carol became overwrought with emotion and hit Ed. According to Ed, he held her down on the bed to help her regain control. When the neighbors called the police, the following dialogue ensued:
Police officer: "What's going on here?"
Carol: "He attacked me."
Ed: "That's not true. I held her down on the bed so that she could regain her composure. I was just trying to help her."
Carol: "Look at how he bruised me. Look at my black and blue arms. Is this helping me?"
After looking at the bruises on Carol's arm, the police officer arrested Ed on charges of domestic violence. He was not moved by Ed's attempt to "help" Carol. Ed broke the law by physically restraining his wife.

13. Stop telling "hero stories."
Stop telling yourself:
"I just wanted you to understand what really happened."
"I did pretty good considering I was provoked."
"Hero stories" are stories we tell about how we lost our temper or made a sarcastic remark. When we retell the story, it makes us look like a hero for standing up against someone. Seldom do we tell these stories with shame; mostly we tell them with pride. It's as if we are waiting for our audience to say, "What a man" or "Yeah, you really told her off." Often we find ourselves using profanity when telling and retelling the story. Telling hero stories is like getting two rushes for the price of one. We lose our temper and get a rush of adrenaline, then we call and tell a friend our hero story and get another rush.
I was running an anger group at the Veterans Administration hospital when a patient came in on Monday after a weekend pass. Larry started screaming and cursing about how he was going to kill his wife. As it turned out, his wife had left him for another man. He began describing to the group what he had told her on the phone he would do to them.
It was a hero story about how bad he was, how tough he was and how afraid of him they were. I told Larry to put his elbows on his knees, drop his gaze and talk about how he really felt. After a brief silence, Larry broke down and started sobbing about how hurt he was and how he was dying inside. Behind the hero story was not a warrior, but a man in great pain and anguish over the loss of a loved one.
Hero stories only fuel our anger by making us look bigger than we really are. They often hide pain, anguish and fear.

14. Stop sighing, clucking, or rolling your eyes.
Stop telling yourself:
"Well, it's discouraging to hear her complain all the time."
"My sighs just mean I'm tired. It wasn't directed at her. She's too touchy."
Another behavior to abstain from is using various kinds of sighs. These sounds are often a way to express anger, disgust or disapproval. The sighs can also heat up an argument, especially if people are overly sensitive to each other's moods.
Missy: "Let's go to a movie tonight. I really need to get out of the house."
Carl: (sighing) "What do you want to see?"
Missy: "You never want to go anywhere. All you want to do is sit at home and watch television."
Carl: "I said I would go to the movies. What's the problem?"
Missy: "Your sigh tells me that you don't really want to go. You are just doing this to appease me. I don't want to drag you anywhere. I'll just go by myself."
Carl: "I'm not sighing because I don't want to go to the movies but because I'm tired."
Missy: "Yeah, right."

If you have teenagers in your home, you are familiar with clucking and "tssking." (Clucking and "tssking" are special nonverbal techniques that teenagers use to drive their parents over the edge.) A typical conversation might go like this:
Parent: "Will you please take out the trash?"
Teenager: "Tssk."
Parent: "What did you say?"
Teenager: "Nothing."
Parent: "Don't make those sounds to me."
Teenager: "What sounds? Why are you getting so upset? I didn't say anything."
These nonverbal explosive responses generate a lot of hostility in marriages. More and more researchers are finding that couples express most of the hostility to each other in nonverbal ways, so the how is as important as the what that we say.

Rolling your eyes can intensify or even start an argument. For example, David and Leah invited a couple to their home for a dinner party. During the dinner conversation Leah talked in detail about their last trip to France, forgetting that she had talked to the couple about it before. Fearing that the guests would be bored, David rolled his eyes when she announced that she would get the photo album. When the guests left, David asked Leah if she had a good time.
Leah: "No. I was miserable."
David: "Why?"
Leah: "You embarrassed and humiliated me."
David: "How?"
Leah: "You don't know? You don't remember rolling your eyes when I said I'd get the photo album?"
David: "Honey, I was only kidding."
Leah: "Kid with someone else. Don't joke at my expense. Don't ever again humiliate and embarrass me like that in front of people."

15. Stop criticizing and stop lecturing.
Stop telling yourself:
"If I don't criticize her, how will she know when she does something wrong?"
"You mean I can't express any of my feelings?"
It is essential that we abstain from criticism. A lot of men with rage problems think our job is to help our wives improve by pointing out their shortcomings. Stopping this behavior in ourselves calls for a dramatic shift in values, something we will discuss later in this book.
Jack and Suzanne have been married for 10 years and have experienced marital conflict for most of that time. Suzanne is fed up with the marriage and has demanded that Jack join her in marital therapy. During the third session, the dialogue went like this:
Suzanne: "I'm tired of Jack criticizing me."
Therapist: "What do you mean? Give me an example."
Suzanne: "Last night I was cutting up cabbage for dinner. Jack walked to the kitchen counter and criticized the way I was doing it. He told me I should be cutting it differently."
Therapist: "Jack, would you give up criticizing her cabbage cutting in order to save the marriage?"
Jack: "I was just trying to help her. Isn't it my job to help her become a better cook?"
Therapist: "It's not your job to help her with anything she doesn't specifically ask for help with. If Suzanne wanted your help to become a better cook, she'd ask for it. Jack, I know you think criticism expresses your love and concern, but Suzanne doesn't see it as concern, only criticism."

This chapter has focused on controlling our anger in family relationships, but what we do in our family lives and what we do in the outside world are interconnected. Because of this, we must abstain from anger in our everyday lives as well. This includes activities like driving, where road rage is a reflection of our anger. It means practicing recovery driving.
Once I ran a course for men on probation for domestic violence. At the first meeting I announced, "I have the secret that will keep you out of jail for domestic violence while this course is going on."
"What?" they asked.
"Change the way you drive."
In unison they responded, "What?" "No way." "That's crazy." "Whaddya mean?"
"You can't expect to abstain from expressing anger when you get home if you drive all the way there with one hand on the horn and the other out the window with your middle finger up," I stated matter-of-factly.
I have often heard men in my office say that they will do anything to stop the divorce and get back into the house. When they ask what they can do today, my answer is, "Change the way you drive back to the office. That can be the first tangible evidence that you can change."
What are the guidelines for recovery driving?
1. Drive within 5 m.p.h. of the speed limit.
2. If you drive more than 5 m.p.h. over the speed limit, then drive under the speed limit for the next 10 minutes.
3. No honking of the horn in anger.
4. Once the other driver sees you, stop honking.
5. Stop on yellow lights.
6. If someone wants to get in front of you, let him or her in and smile. Avoid eye contact when another driver is angry at you.
7. Make no critical comments about anyone else's driving.
In Summary
Following the simple abstinence techniques described in this chapter is difficult and often painful at first. When men come for therapy, I tell them that depressed women often find therapy very relieving. For angry men, however, abstaining from anger during the first few months is difficult and painful. However, the simple technique of abstinence is effective in stopping anger and rage outbursts. It will also reduce the amount of anger you feel. The rewards that will come in your relationships and in your work life will make it worth the effort.

Meet the Author

Newton Hightower is Founder and Director of the Center for Anger Resolution, Inc. In Houston, Texas. A licensed psychotherapist for more than 25 years, he is a popular speaker at national and regional professional associations and is a frequent guest on both radio and TV talk shows.

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