looking for solutions. For instance, you wonder if you would be less
irritated if you borrowed just as much from him/her. You wonder why
the music and topics upset you: is it because you think these things
prove he/she is an inconsiderate jerk who should be punished? Is that
a valid conclusion if he/she thinks you like loud music and the topics?
You wonder if you can reduce your anger: Can you tune the
disruptions out or avoid the irritating behavior? Can you imagine the
roommate being much worse and, thus, develop a tolerance for what
he/she is? Can you go beat on the bed and get the anger out? Can you
learn to like the music and topics? You wonder if the situation can be
changed: Can you tell him/her how you feel and ask for changes? You
try to imagine how these various approaches would work out.
Suppose after considering many alternatives you decide to
confront the roommate. You expect tempers to flare but want to keep
your anger under control and you want to get results. Here are some
self-instructions that could replace irrational ideas and add some self-
control at four stages typical of any angry conflict:
First stage--preparing for a conflict
"I know how to handle these kind of situations. I have a
"Remember, other people don't upset me, I upset
myself with my own thoughts."
Second stage--facing the adversary
"Don't get upset, stay in control of my emotions."
"If I start to get angry, I'll try relaxing and checking out
my irrational ideas...I can do it."
"I'm trying to get a solution, rather than get even."
"I'm going to give it a try, right now."
Third stage--handling your anger if it flares
"OK, I'm getting up tight, relax and take a deep breath."
"I can't just demand that other people be the way I
want them to be, I have to show them good reasons for
"If I just understood this person--his/her past, his/her
pain, his/her hopes--I'd realize why he/she is this way."
"Take it slow and easy but firm; he/she will see my
"Express your feelings and preferences clearly; be
Fourth stage--after it's over
"I did well! I avoided getting into a big fight and we
came to a solution."
"I'm proud of myself, I handled that without losing my
Keep in mind that these self-instructions are not nearly all you
would be saying to yourself. They are new additions to handle your
anger and fear of the roommate's reactions during the confrontation.
You still have to explain to the person what behavior you don't like and
the changes you would like to see made (and what rewards and other