CLASSIC SELF-HELP FROM A RESPECTED PIONEER OF PSYCHOTHERAPY
Anger. It’s one of our most basic, and often most destructive, human emotions. And in today’s world, it’s a constant, escalating force, from road rage to domestic abuse, from teen violence to acts of terrorism. More than ever we need effective ways to live with it, understand it—and learn to deal with it. This landmark book from world-renowned psychotherapist Dr. Albert Ellis, creator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), shows you how.
Presented in a simple step-by-step program that anyone can master, the proven, time-tested principles of REBT teach you to manage and even eliminate anger, without sacrificing necessary assertiveness. Here you’ll discover:
*What exactly is anger, and must you feel it?
*How you create your own anger*Methods of thinking, feeling, and acting your way out of anger
*Why holding on to anger is sometimes fun—and how to let it go
*How to use REBT to cope with tragic events that are far beyond our control
…and much more, including numerous real-world case studies, plus a comprehensive, critical analysis of the various approaches to this age-old problem. Whether at home or at work, in a personal or political context, this breakthrough approach will enable you to take control of the anger that can stand in the way of success and happiness.
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About the Author
Raymond A. DiGiuseppe, Ph.D. is Director of Professional Education and licensed Staff Psychologist at the Albert Ellis Institute (AEI). After earning a B.S. degree from Villanova University, Dr. DiGiuseppe received his Ph.D. from Hofstra University in 1975. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at AEI in 1977. In 1980 he became the Institute’s Director of Professional Education, a position he has held since then. He has trained hundreds of therapists in Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (RE&CBT) throughout the world. His present scholarship focuses on clinical aspects of anger and RE&CBT, on which he lectures widely.
Read an Excerpt
How to Live With and Without It
By Albert Ellis
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2003 Albert Ellis Institute
All rights reserved.
Must You Feel Angry?
You'd better face the hard reality that situations that frustrate or prevent you from attaining your goals and from enjoying what you want really do exist. But have you no choice but to feel angry at these everyday "horrors"?
Most mental health experts agree that you must feel anger. They see the newborn infant as expressing emotions comparable to anger and rage in the first hours of life. And throughout all ages of development humans confront almost daily their own feelings of anger and those of other people whom they encounter. Most authorities say you need your anger to protect yourself from the onslaughts of a hostile and aggressive world. If you do not always remain on your guard, you will stay vulnerable to others who will dominate and exploit you, jeopardize your freedom and property, and take advantage of your passivity by abusing you for their own personal gain with no regard to your welfare.
What, exactly, is anger? It is a special combination of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, when you are (or think you are) severely frustrated by unfortunate conditions and by people's "unfair" behavior. As Howard Kassinove and his collaborators point out and as Mark Terjesen and Raphael Rose agree, when you feel angry, you have a negative internal feeling state accompanied by thinking and perceptual distortions and deficiencies (especially misappraisals and attributions of other people's injustice). Your angry thoughts and feelings lead you to physiological arousal and tendencies to act against your "aggressors."
Many authorities on anger, including Raymond DiGiuseppe, believe that angry (and depressed) individuals "are unstable in the way they assign blame and have an unstable sense of self." Raymond Chip Tafrate and his research associates found that subjects high on trait anger were more prone to dysfunctional thinking and also experienced a greater number of physical sensations than people who were low on trait anger. Aron Siegman and Selena Snow discovered that the full-blown expression of anger is a form of emotional disturbance while the mere inner experience of anger is not.
At the same time, as I shall show throughout this book, anger is often self-protective, is a very normal human response, and has helped preserve the human race.
Your failing to fight for what you want leaves you the alternative of remaining passive when others take advantage of and prevent you from achieving your goals. Thus, most authorities today generally leave you with one of two alternatives for dealing with anger:
Feel the anger but sit on it, squelch it, deny and repress it.
Feel the anger and freely express it.
Squelching your anger doesn't get you much of anywhere, and unexpressed rage will do you more harm than candidly and freely expressed feelings. Sigmund Freud's hydraulic theory states that anger and other emotions have a tendency to increase in intensity — to expand under pressure like steam in a kettle — so that if you squelch your emotions, if you don't give free vent to them, you run the risk of doing some real harm to yourself. Physical harm such as stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, or other sometimes more severe psychosomatic reactions result. In addition, refraining from giving honest expression to your feelings — keeping these feelings pent up inside you — doesn't help you lose your anger. Quite the contrary. You will, in all probability, feel much worse. For your anger hasn't gone away, but stays right there in your "gut." And now you can easily turn overly critical of yourself for not standing up for your rights with those who have caused the injustice.
Conversely, if you let yourself feel authentically angry and let others know about your feelings, you may encounter problems of quite another nature. For people will receive your free expression of anger in most instances as an outwardly aggressive or hostile action, and will probably close themselves off from you and defensively respond to you with further hostility.
Some therapists in the field have attempted to solve the problem with still another alternative, what they call creative aggression (or constructive anger). This differs from the above free-expression method in that you express yourself more controllably and hope (often against hope!) that others will willingly listen to your point of view.
In the following example I will attempt to illustrate the dynamics of the other theories and then, using the same example throughout the book, will investigate the alternatives and solutions that Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy offers. I am confident that if you pay close attention to these principles, you will see that you can deal with problems relating to anger and other emotions effectively and efficiently by use of the REBT guidelines.
Let us say that I have promised to share an apartment with you as a roommate and to share the rent, provided you fix up and furnish the place. This seems agreeable to you. You go to a good deal of trouble and personal expense to keep your part of the bargain. At the last minute I inform you that I have made other plans and cannot, will not keep my part of the agreement. You feel extremely angry with me; not only have you gone to considerable expense to keep your agreement, but you are distinctly inconvenienced in that you must at the last minute look for another roommate.
You may at first keep your feelings of anger to yourself. But because you have those feelings, unexpressed, your underlying resentment greatly interferes with our friendship. So you see that nothing gets resolved, that your seething interferes with your other activities as well, and that this solution won't work.
You decide to confront me with your feelings, to express them. "Look here," you say, "I won't have you treating me like this! After all, you said you'd share the apartment with me after I had furnished it. I would never have fixed it up had you not agreed to share it with me in the first place. You've clearly done me in, and acted really rottenly. How could you have done a thing like that to a friend? I've never done anything so nasty to you, and I really don't see how you can expect anyone's friendship if you treat people so terribly."
Or instead, given the convenience of my having the capacity and willingness to play it with you, you use creative aggression, express your anger controllably, and "prepare" me for what will come. Receiving my permission to open up about your feelings, you go ahead to express your anger.
Although your perception of my unfairness to you may be correct, your presentation of it (either through the free-expression method or through creative aggression) can do more harm than good. Both approaches focus on my wrong, even if creative aggression allows for a softening of the blow. Through that focus, you can easily set the stage for additional problems with me.
By openly criticizing me for my "outrageous" behavior, you can push me to defend it. Then any steps I might take to treat you more fairly would be halted.
Remember also that I, like most people, may have strong self-downing tendencies. When you point out to me my "error" or my unappealing characteristics, I may carry your implications further than you even intended. Hence, from your critical remarks, no matter how well, how creatively put, I may feel guilt or self-downing, and will frequently try to make you equally self-blaming. We'd better acknowledge these very real problems as inherent in either of the two approaches that recommend expressing your anger. Nonetheless, acknowledging this still does not solve your problem: What do you do with your anger?
So far we have seen holding in your anger brings dubious results. Yet freely expressing it creates many other problems. Creative aggression seems a more workable solution but still shares some of the same difficulties.
Another alternative — that of Christian forgiveness — involves the turning of the other cheek. But in this often hostile world in which we live, this is somewhat impractical. People may feel far less intimidated by you and thus all the more tempted to take advantage of your "good nature." You may behave beautifully, but unfortunately, that does not mean that others will respect you and treat you equally well.
After examining the above alternatives in dealing with your anger, you may see that each approach may work in a given situation, but not in all situations. Further, each one of these approaches has serious and destructive drawbacks. So let us look for a formula that will allow you to deal with difficult situations and get what you want without damaging your own integrity or inciting anger in others.
The following chapters will introduce methods that are free of the drawbacks of the other approaches already discussed. If you read carefully and give your full attention to the techniques presented in this book, if you take the time and trouble to think seriously about, experiment with, and test out these concepts in your own life, and if you energetically and conscientiously practice them over a period of time, I believe that you, too, will see and enjoy the changes that REBT has helped bring about in the anger problems of my clients and readers.CHAPTER 2
How You Create Your Own Anger: The ABCs of REBT
The ABCs of REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) can give you what I call an elegant approach to the problem of dealing with your anger. Not a magical formula — quite the contrary, since REBT concerns itself with seeking solutions and dealing with your problems in a realistic manner. It prefers to stick with hardheaded facts of reality — not with airy theories.
How exactly did the theory of REBT evolve? What does it have that makes it different from and often more effective than other forms of psychotherapy?
The basic principles of REBT have evolved from my own extensive clinical research and experience, further supported by numerous experiments done in this area. During my career as a psychotherapist I have had occasion to use many different techniques in treating my many clients. These years have shown me and my trainees that most of the psychoanalytic approaches are ineffective, inefficient, and fail to meet the problems of most people who seek therapy. I say this from my own personal experience. Although the field of psychotherapy includes many techniques and approaches to helping people, most of its methods are too expensive and time consuming for both clients and therapists. Naturally, emotional problems themselves have enormous costs, and if long drawn-out types of therapy show positive and lasting results, the investment seems well worth it. But alas, such therapies, according to my own observations, do not appear to work out.
I have drawn many of the important principles of REBT from the wisdom of philosophy as well as from the most modern psychological advances. Since my youth I have made the in-depth study of philosophy a hobby; and by incorporating some of its principles into my therapeutic approach, I discovered that my clients could achieve more effective results in far less time than when I used other approaches. I found that by my presenting a philosophical as well as a psychological analysis, the client could enjoy the fruits of two sciences and benefit considerably from our efforts.
Although I'd naturally advise you to consult a competent rational therapist when you have a serious problem, you can use REBT to efficiently "therapize" yourself with little outside help. In this book I will explain how you create your own anger philosophically — by consciously or unconsciously subscribing to absolutistic, demand-oriented thinking. If you understand exactly how to control and operate your thinking, you will enable yourself, with the guidance of this book, to undercut and change the counterproductive and destructive aspects of your anger. REBT has designed methods in which you can dissolve your rage no matter what unjust events happen to you.
Perhaps the most distressing fault that I realized while using the usual techniques of psychotherapy was this: Upon termination of many years of therapy, clients still could not confront life's difficult situations on their own without the continued help of their therapist. I felt that after spending all that time and money my clients certainly deserved better results. Rather than continue with these methods, I began to experiment with some ideas of my own. By combining philosophy with various approaches used in therapy, I devised the fundamental principles of REBT. The results were rewarding: Instead of depending on me to give them useless interpretations, my clients now had a realistic perspective with which to think and behave. In a relatively short time they began to show more rapid and lasting progress than from previous methods.
With most of my clients, I use realistic examples to help them work through their problems. Here, for the sake of clarity, I shall mainly stick to one consistent example throughout the book; so we shall continue with the illustration already introduced in chapter 1. I have promised to share an apartment with you if you go ahead and fix it up and furnish it. We have agreed that from then on we will share the expenses. You have so far lived up to your half of the agreement, but at the last minute, without ample notice or explanation, I withdraw from my portion of the agreement. You become enraged with me.
How, by using REBT methods, can you overcome your hostility?
We begin by locating C — the Emotional (or Behavioral) Consequence: your anger.
Next we look for A — your Adversity or Activating Event. I failed to uphold my portion of an important agreement between us.
As we look at A and C, it may appear that A causes C. REBT theory assumes, however, that although your Adversity or Activating Event directly contributes to your Emotional Consequence, it does not really cause it. We do not always easily see the dynamics of cause and effect. Yet if we look closely at this relationship between A and C — as we will throughout this book — we will find other factors involved and find that although my withdrawing from our agreement may have inconvenienced and disappointed you greatly, my "unjust" action alone does not necessarily make you feel angry with me.
If we conclude that C directly results from A, then we would have to assume that whenever we encountered any one particular A, we would always expect a particular C. For instance, we know that water boils at one temperature and freezes at another, and we find this true for all situations involving water and temperature. Yet when people and various situations interact together, such laws of causality do not hold true. Most of us know occurrences in which we were surprised by a person's reaction to a given situation. For instance, we have often heard of victims of brutal crimes who, instead of cooperating with the police and courts to bring their assailant to justice, have done just the opposite. They have gone so far as to actually help their assailant avoid prosecution. If we examine one hundred people, all victims of the same crime, we would surely find a large variation of responses among these people. Some would act in the above manner, others would obsess themselves with the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrator, and yet others would respond at various points between these two extremes. An Emotional and Behavioral Consequence, although affected by an Activating Event or Adversity, does not directly and exclusively result from it.
Another important point to keep in mind: We do, in fact, have choices and control over our responses to every situation, and our feelings and responses often remain much more within our control than we realize. The more aware we are of our existing alternatives, the more likely our ability to consider the situation in its proper perspective before we take action. The intermediate thought process that we carry on between A and C is an evaluation in which we make a decision that will determine our response. The more aware we make ourselves of this intermediate phase, the better chance we have of making a choice that makes us likely to achieve our goals. Through such choices we minimize the possibility of interfering with our progress by impulsive behavior.
The sciences of linguistics, philosophy, and psychology have each attempted some explanation of the dynamics of thought and cognition as they affect our Emotional Consequences. We rarely give much consideration to cognition, or how we think, and therefore we seldom are aware of the influence it has upon our actions and reactions.
You, like every other person, have developed a Belief System that you rely upon to assist you in making judgments and evaluating situations, ideas, people, and events. Although you have your own personal belief or value system, you also have many beliefs consistent with others in your given society or culture. Yet in some important ways the Belief Systems of different cultures significantly differ. We continually discover that customs and behavioral patterns that we judge barbaric and crude exist in civilized cultures. We also know that an individual may hold a number of different Belief Systems at once, that cultural norms change during an individual's lifetime, and that individuals can change, sometimes radically, their feelings and opinions about many things in order to remain happy and productive in an ever-changing world.
Excerpted from Anger by Albert Ellis. Copyright © 2003 Albert Ellis Institute. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsAlso by Dr. Albert Ellis,
1 - Must You Feel Angry?,
2 - How You Create Your Own Anger: The ABCs of REBT,
3 - The Insanity of Anger,
4 - Looking for Self-Angering Philosophies,
5 - Understanding Your Self-Angering Philosophies,
6 - Disputing Your Self-Angering Philosophies,
7 - Some Methods of Thinking Your Way out of Anger,
8 - Some Methods of Feeling Your Way out of Anger,
9 - Some Methods of Acting Your Way out of Anger,
10 - More Rethinking About Your Anger,
11 - Ripping Up Your Rationalizations for Remaining Angry,
12 - More Ways of Overcoming Anger,
13 - Accepting Yourself With Your Anger,
14 - Postscript: How to Deal With International Terrorism,
Appendix: Techniques for Disputing Irrational Beliefs (DIBS),
About the Authors,