Not one considered "trying to reason with the other person" or "having an
open discussion of both peoples' feelings" or "exchanging information or
views" or "trying to find a satisfactory compromise" or any other solution.
Perhaps it isn't surprising, since these students think fighting and swallowing
their anger are the only solutions. Actually, over 50% think fights are
constructive. These 13-year-olds say that without fights you would never find
out who you are and what you want out of life, that you learn about people
and how they react by fighting, that fights sometimes build a relationship,
that fights settle arguments, and that fights can be fun.
Opotow says these kids consider nothing but "their gut reaction" when
they are mad. They are spewers or swallowers; almost never smart copers.
Surely a wise society could teach them other possible ways of resolving
conflict. Indeed, given a supportive environment and a little encouragement
to ponder, I'll bet the seventh graders could devise their own effective, non-
violent ways of handling these situations. The point is: we have to think
things out ahead of time and practice responding in better ways than with our
furious fists or combative mouths. The cognitive approach has a lot to offer
(for a good general discussion see Hankins, 1993).
Williams (1989) and Williams & Williams (1993), advocates of reducing
your level of anger for health reasons (heart disease and immune
deficiencies), give this advice about expressing or suppressing your anger.
When angry, ask yourself three questions: (a) Is this worthy of my attention?
(b) Am I justified? (c) Can I do anything about it (without anyone getting
hurt)? If you can answer all three "yes," perhaps you should express your
feelings and try to do something. If any answer is "no," better control your
emotions by thought stopping, attending to something else, meditation,
Challenge your irrational ideas. Anger-generating irrational ideas or
beliefs come in various forms: your own impossible, perfectionistic standards
make it impossible for anyone to please you; you feel a person is despicable
when he/she lies about you or deceives you; you believe that others make
you mad but really you are responsible for what you feel; it may seem
perfectly clear to you that some peoples' behavior is immoral and disgusting;
you feel sure that certain kinds of people or groups are causing serious
trouble for all the good people in the community and these people should be
severely punished. All these ideas may generate anger; look for the "shoulds"
and the "ain't it awfuls" in your thinking. They are your ideas causing your
Another viewpoint is that you can get a just and reasonable resolution of a
conflict without hating, hurting, or humiliating anyone. Cognitive and
Rational-Emotive therapy provide a way to change these anger-producing
beliefs into more rational ideas and solutions. See method #3 in chapter 14.
Two good books present the RET approach to handling your own anger (Ellis
& Lange, 1994; Dryden, 1990).
Take a deterministic view of the world. The beauty of determinism is
that it provides a way of experiencing life--all of it--as an understandable,
"lawful," astonishingly beautiful, marvelously complex, and ever changing