Psychological Self-Help

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powerlessness, and increases health risks. Other theorists point to a
phenomenon called "laughter in church," i.e. holding back the expression of
an emotion--a laugh--may strengthen the feeling. Watch for these problems if
you are holding back your feelings. If you have suppressed the emotional
outburst but the anger still rages inside, you may need to vent the anger
privately (#14). 
He/she who can suppress a moment's anger may prevent a day of sorrow.
Stop using your temper to get your way, i.e. extinguish your
aggression (see method #20 in chapter 11). Several years ago, Gerald
Patterson suggested that the aggressor and the victim could both be
reinforced by the other. If the aggressor gets what he/she wants by making
demands, threatening, yelling, calling people names, being nasty, etc., this
hostile behavior is positively reinforced. But the victim who submits or gives
in to these demands is also reinforced! He/she escapes the stress and stops
the aggression (negative reinforcement) by letting the aggressor have his/her
way. In this way, perhaps dominant-submissive or abusive relationships are
maintained for long periods. 
As the payoffs for your angry feelings and behavior become clear to you,
try to eliminate the rewards. Example: if your anger intimidates someone into
giving you your way, enter an agreement with them that they will no longer
make concessions following your hostile responses. If you feel stronger,
"more of a man (or stronger woman)" after being nasty, tell yourself that
such a reaction is foolish, that anger is a sign of weakness not of strength,
that being understanding shows more intelligence and is admired by others
more than aggressiveness. Most importantly, ask the other person to help
you avoid aggression by refusing to reinforce it; instead, you should be
rewarded for having more pleasant interactions with them. 
Record and reward better control over your temper. Considerable
research with children has shown that the consistent reward of constructive,
pleasant, non-aggressive behavior (while ignoring aggressive behavior)
reduces aggression and prepares the child to accept future frustrations much
better. If kindergartners can learn this, why can't we as adults? Review your
notes about anger at the end of each week; note how the events seem trivial
later and how your emotions seem excessive. See if you don't find your pre-
anger thoughts to be rather amusing. Start rewarding yourself for avoiding
frustrating situations, for curtailing your anger responses, and for substituting
more controlled, constructive responses, like empathy responses. For
instance, if you dislike a relative, say a brother or a father-in-law, reward
yourself whenever you increase the pleasant, interesting interactions with
that person. This may counteract the conditioned negative reactions you
have. See methods #3, #8 and #16 in chapter 11. Novaco's (1975)
techniques also involve self-rewards (see #10, stress inoculation, below). 
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