Psychological Self-Help

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17
I believe that one of your highest priorities should be keeping your vindictive anger,
your self-serving (or others-be-damned) ambitions, and your resentment under
control. The consequences of anger, such as being inconsiderate, mean, or violent,
are behaviors; therefore, you need to have a thorough knowledge of how to avoid
the pitfalls of anger and control your excessive aggression and other unwanted
behaviors. (See Chapter 4). 
To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to 
act in accordance with your thinking. 
– Johann von Goethe, 1749-1832, German Poet, Dramatist, Novelist
Most of us feel a little tense when we get angry. We know there are risks involved;
we might lose control and others might retaliate. We certainly get anxious when
someone gets angry at us. When we feel put down, we may become aggressive to
boost our ego. When we become stressed, our self-control weakens; we are at risk
of acting on impulse, neglecting commitments, or becoming irritated. Yet, anger can
be a great motivator that helps us get over our fears. To do right we often need a
strong determined intolerance of injustice and to be most effective we may need to
keep our stress under control (see Chapter 5). Both anxiety and depression are
stressful and interfere with self-control (Oaten & Cheng, 2005). Acting out of anger
may also bring on guilt or shame as well as anxiety, so the emotions get complex
and confused. Chapters 5, 6 and 7 should help you deal with these major emotions
but these intermeshed feelings are exerting pressures in different directions on your
values and your behavior. You may need to read parts of several chapters. To
complicate matters even more, keep in mind that therapists often believe that one
emotion may be used (unconsciously sometimes) to conceal another feeling. For
example, a person may start a fight with a parent, spouse, or friend to change the
topic, to get attention, or to avoid expressing positive feelings or closeness. Another
example: it has been my experience that when many women look depressed and
cry, they are often (about 75% of the time) feeling anger under their sadness. Does
that seem likely to you?
It is well supported by careful research that stress, depression, and anger are bad
for your physical health, especially your heart. Gradually even medicine is
recognizing this and, since depression fairly often doesn’t respond to
antidepressants, it is becoming more common for medical researchers to recommend
trying psychotherapy if antidepressants do not work within a couple of months…and
the reverse…if psychotherapy doesn’t reduce depression, then switch to medication
for a while (Medical Staff, Stanford University School of Medicine, in Archives of
General Psychiatry,2005, 62, 513-520).
Famous theories also suggest that there are strong connections between depression
(Chapter 6) and anger (Chapter 7). The things we do while angry are a prime
source of guilt and shame (see next section). Anger turned inward on the self is a
classical dynamic that is supposed to cause depression. Some psychologists, e.g. Dr.
“depressed people are angry people who won’t admit it.” These therapists
recommend reducing depression by teaching patients to assertively express their
frustration and anger. By getting their angry feelings out into the open and by
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