“A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves you a hundred moments of regret.” – Unknown
Anger is a natural and normal emotion that everyone experiences from time to time.
However, when anger becomes uncontrollable or chronic, it can have serious consequences for your mental and physical health, as well as your relationships.
The good news is that anger is not an uncontrollable force that happens to you. Rather, it is often created by subtle cognitive distortions in the way you perceive and think about events and situations in your life.
In this article, we will explore three of these distorted thinking patterns that can lead to anger and provide strategies for how to overcome them.
In the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, Dr. David Burns explains how there are 3 common distorted thinking patterns that create your own anger.
You Create Your Anger
Ultimately, it’s your thoughts and perceptions about negative events, not the events themselves, that trigger your emotional response.
Your anger can often be traced back to subtle cognitive distortions – when your perceptions are twisted, one-sided, or simply inaccurate.
These distortions fuel your anger and can lead to irrational thoughts and behaviors.
By identifying and replacing these distorted thoughts with more realistic ones, you can gain greater self-awareness and self-control, leading to less irritability and a more peaceful state of mind.
See Who is Making You Angry? You Are.
Stop Creating Your Anger
This might sound like an impossible goal, but many people have already figured this out, as part of mastering their emotional intelligence.
The traditional model of anger presented two options: turn it “inward” or turn it “outward.” However, the former was seen as the “sick” option and the latter, although considered “healthy,” is not so beneficial as it creates a cycle of more anger.
There is a third option:
Stop creating your anger altogether.
This cognitive solution goes beyond turning anger inward or outward, as it involves not creating anger at all.
By developing better control over your emotions and improving your cognitive skills, you can gradually reduce feelings of anger or frustration.
If you’ve never seen this before, it might help to watch this once, so whenever you feel you can’t stop creating your anger, you might flash back to this skit.
“Stop It” is a comedy sketch where Bob Newhart plays a therapist who is treating a patient with various phobias and anxieties.
The patient, played by actress Marsha Mason, describes her fears and worries to Newhart, and he responds by simply telling her to “Stop it!” regardless of what she is saying.
The skit humorously satirizes the simplicity and perceived lack of depth in some forms of therapy, and has become a popular cultural reference.
3 Main Distorted Thinking Patterns that Create Anger
According to Dr. Burns, there are 3 main distortion patterns that lead to anger:
- Mind Reading
Let’s step into each one…
Labeling is a cognitive distortion where you give someone a negative label based on their behavior or a single action. This is a problem because it leads to overgeneralization and the belief that this negative label is the person’s permanent identity.
When you label someone as a “jerk” or a “bad person”, you create an internal narrative that fuels your anger and resentment towards them.
You become less likely to see their positive qualities and more likely to focus on their negative ones, which only increases your feelings of anger and frustration.
Labeling is essentially creating your own anger because you are choosing to see the other person in a negative light, which perpetuates negative feelings and ultimately causes harm to your own well-being.
How To Practice Reducing Labeling
One way to practice avoiding the distorted thinking pattern of labeling is to start paying attention to the labels you use when describing people or situations. When you catch yourself labeling, try to rephrase the statement in a more neutral and objective way.
For example, instead of saying “He’s such a jerk for cutting me off in traffic,” you could say “He cut me off in traffic.” This helps to remove the negative connotation and judgment that comes with labeling.
It’s also helpful to try to understand the person or situation from a different perspective, and consider alternative explanations for their behavior. This can help to reduce the tendency to label and jump to conclusions based on limited information. Finally, practicing empathy and compassion towards others can also help to reduce the need to label and create anger.
#2. Mind Reading
Mind reading is a distortion pattern in which you assume you know what someone else is thinking or feeling without any evidence to support your assumptions.
This can lead to creating your own anger because your assumptions may be negative or inaccurate, and you react emotionally based on those assumptions rather than objective reality. For example, you may assume someone is purposely ignoring you and feel angry, when in reality they simply did not see you.
This distorted thinking can also lead to communication breakdowns and further conflict.
By recognizing and challenging your mind-reading tendencies, you can reduce the likelihood of creating your own anger and improve your communication and relationships with others.
How To Practice Reducing Mind Reading
To practice avoiding the distorted thinking pattern of mind reading, you can try the following:
- Be aware of your assumptions: Recognize that you are making assumptions about what someone else is thinking or feeling, and be aware that those assumptions may not be accurate.
- Ask questions: Instead of assuming what someone else is thinking or feeling, ask them. This can help you avoid making false assumptions and can also improve communication.
- Consider alternative explanations: Instead of assuming that someone’s behavior is a result of a negative thought or feeling about you, consider alternative explanations for their behavior. Maybe they are having a bad day or dealing with a personal issue.
- Practice empathy: Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see the situation from their perspective. This can help you better understand their behavior and avoid making assumptions.
By practicing these strategies, you can develop a more accurate and empathetic understanding of others, which can help you avoid the negative emotions that come with mind reading.
Magnification is a cognitive distortion pattern in which a person focuses only on the negative aspects of a situation or event and exaggerates them. This can cause the person to perceive the situation as much worse than it actually is, leading to heightened feelings of anger, frustration, or anxiety.
For example, a person who experiences a minor setback at work may magnify the situation and think that they are going to get fired or that their entire career is ruined. This can cause them to become excessively angry or anxious, leading to a cycle of negative emotions and distorted thinking.
Magnification can also cause a person to focus on small flaws or mistakes in others, leading to negative labeling and judgments that can further fuel feelings of anger or frustration.
By learning to recognize and challenge this cognitive distortion, individuals can learn to reframe their thoughts in a more balanced and positive way, reducing their feelings of anger and stress.
How To Practice Reducing Magnification
To practice avoiding magnification as a distorted thinking pattern that leads to creating anger, you can try the following techniques:
- Reframe the situation: Try to see the situation from a different perspective, and look for any positive aspects or opportunities to learn from it.
- Challenge your thoughts: Ask yourself if your thoughts are rational or if you are blowing the situation out of proportion. Look for evidence that supports or contradicts your thoughts.
- Practice relaxation techniques: When you feel yourself getting upset, take a few deep breaths and try to relax your body. This can help you think more clearly and avoid magnifying the situation.
- Use positive self-talk: Remind yourself that you can handle the situation, and that you are capable of finding a solution. Use positive affirmations to counteract negative thoughts.
- Seek support: Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your feelings, or consider seeking professional help if your anger is impacting your daily life.
Take Control of Your Anger by Changing Your Thinking Patterns
learning to identify and challenge distorted thinking patterns can greatly reduce the amount of anger and frustration we experience in our daily lives. It takes effort and practice to change these patterns, but the benefits are well worth it.
Remember, anger is created by our own cognitions, and we have the power to change our thoughts and reactions.
By taking responsibility for our emotions and choosing to respond to situations in a more constructive way, we can improve our relationships, our health, and our overall well-being.
So, let’s stop creating our anger and start creating a more positive, fulfilling life.
Get the Book
In the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, Dr. David Burns recommends cognitive therapy techniques to help individuals change their negative thoughts and beliefs that lead to negative emotions like anger and depression. He teaches readers to identify their negative thoughts and to challenge them by examining evidence that supports or refutes those thoughts.
Dr. Burns also recommends using behavioral techniques such as relaxation and exercise to reduce stress and negative emotions. Additionally, he suggests developing social skills to help individuals interact with others in a more effective and satisfying way, thus reducing interpersonal conflicts that can lead to anger and other negative emotions.
Overall, the book focuses on helping individuals take control of their emotions by changing their thoughts and behaviors, rather than relying on external factors or circumstances to improve their mood.
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