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How can I manage my anger more effectively?

Much more about male anger, anger in families and how to cope, including when and how to report abuse and what to expect post-reporting.

Hey Leo,

I need to release my anger without hitting anyone or breaking things. Any Ideas? My parents **** me off constantly and it makes me yell at them and than i end up fighting in school and breaking anything i see.

Biblitz replies:

Forget beating up pillows or anything else. Cut instead to the heart of the matter - who/what is making you so dangerously angry and frustrated. It takes a bit of practice, but practice makes perfect. Here's the plan: Next time something sets you off, try taking a deep breath in and saying something like this:

'Oy! Mom/Dad! It makes me angry when you do/say ... (and be very specific here). It's frustrating to me because, from my perspective, ... (again, be specific).' Now take another breath and try to relax while you listen carefully to the reply. (Notice here the importance of refraining from labelling/name-calling , i.e. 'Don't be stupid.' That stuff is just insulting and goes nowhere toward resolving the issue.

Once you've listened to the reply, again, take a deep breath and say quietly, 'OK, let me see if I've got this right. You're saying, '(paraphrase what you think you've heard).' Then ask, 'Have I got that right?' Now listen again to see if anything has changed/been clarified.

If you make it this far, you're well on your way to effective problem-solving. It's never too early to start!

Two crucial pts:

1. When others shout, speak especially softly, which forces them to calm down and listen.

2. When others stand and make threatening gestures and so on, sit quietly in a relaxed position and wait for a break to say something like, 'Wow, I see that you're very upset/angry.' Then wait for the person to tell you what's upset them so much. Once you acknowledge another's feelings no matter how difficult, they will almost invariably stop DEMONSTRATING them. When that happens, you've achieved a calmer place from which honest and open negotiations may begin.

You'd be amazed at how peaceful it is once you're able to speak freely and effectively about your angry feelings. The important first step is connecting the feelings to the specific actions or words of another. By taking responsibility for these feelings, you'll finally own/control them and be able to go the next leg to repair whatever it is that's gone wrong.
Good luck with this, and wouldn't it be helpful if they would teach this stuff in school?

A word about the teenage brain. First, a boy's:

The Male Brain

By Louann Brizendine, M.D.

... By the time a boy is 16 or 17, he will desperately seek autonomy from his parents. Every cell in his brain seems to cry, "Leave me alone and let me live my own life!"

... Scientists believe that adolescent bravery has contributed mightily to the success of the human species and that the curious, incautious, and flexible nature of the teen brain makes teens society's purveyors of new ideas in every generation. Jake's brain was primed for exploration and programmed to break new ground, even if it meant compromising his personal safety - and his mother's sanity.

... when teen boys are in a group, their brains experience excitement and emotional euphoria that makes them more willing to do risky things. That's probably why researchers find that when boys are with peers, they have more car wrecks and generally suffer more negative consequences of unsafe, impulsive choices. ... In a study of teen drivers, the presence of peers more than doubled the number of risks teenage boys took in a video driving game. They concluded that from the teen years through the early 20s, simply being with friends increases risky decision making. ...

... As I explained to Jake's parents, teens have two distinct systems running their brains.

The activating system - led by the amygdala - develops first. It is impulsive and gets double the stimulation when he's with his peers. It's like a gas pedal. It accelerates. The second system, the inhibiting system - the prefrontal cortex (PFC) - is like a brake. It carefully thinks things through, weighs the risks, and when working smoothly, it stops us from doing things that are dangerous or stupid. Jay Giedd and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health found that the inhibiting system was still under construction, so his brain was operating with a gas pedal but faulty brakes. Bottom line: parental controls required.
(From The Teen Boy Brain, pgs. 46-49)

Now, a girl's:

The Female Brain

By Louann Brizendine, M.D.

Although 80 percent of women are only mildly affected by these monthly hormone changes, about 10 percent say they get extremely edgy and easily upset. ... Those women with the least estrogen and progesterone are more sensitive to stress and have fewer serotonin brain cells. For these most stress-sensitive individuals, the final days before their periods start can be hell on earth. Hostility, hopeless feelings of depression, plans for suicide, panic attacks, fear, and uncontrollable bouts of crying and rage can plague them. Hormone and serotonin changes can result in a malfunction in the brain's seat of judgment (the prefrontal cortex), and dramatic, uncontrolled emotions can push through more easily from the primitive parts of the brain.

Shana was in this category. During the week or two before her period, she was constantly in trouble for talking out of turn and being disruptive in class. She was obnoxious and aggressive one minute, bursting into tears the next. Pretty soon, her moods turned wild, and she began to intimidate her parents, peers, and teachers. Repeated meetings with the principal and school counselor did nothing to curb her outbursts, and when her parents finally sent her to a pediatrician, he too was baffled by her extreme behavior. ...

These adolescent girls and women have regular, dramatic shifts in their moods and behavior because, in fact, the very structure of their brains is changing, from day to day and from week to week. The medical name for an extreme emotional reaction during the weeks before the period, triggered by an ovarian estrogen and progesterone hormones, is premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Women who have committed crimes while suffering from PMDD have successfully used it as a defense in France and England by establishing temporary insanity. ...

Instead of removing Shana's ovaries, I gave her a hormone to take every day - the continuous brith control pill - to keep her estrogen and progesterone at moderately high but constant levels and prevent her ovaries from sending out the big fluctuations of hormones that were upsetting her brain. With her estrogen adn progesterone at constant levels, her brain was kept calmer and her serotonin levels stabilized. For some girls, I add a medication such as Zoloft - a so-called SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) - which can further stabilize and improve the brain's sertonin level, in other words, improve one's mood and sense of well-being. The following month her teacher called me to report that Shana was back to her good old self again - cheerful and getting good grades. (From Teen Girl Brain, pgs. 47-47)


First Ladies of the Poster

The Gold Collection

By Laura Gold

... She (Parisian song stylist Eugenie Buffet) originally used this portrait (by Lucien Metivet) as an announcement of her appearance at the Cigale. ... Buffet was quite popular in the intimate cabaret, preferring to forsake glamor and elaborate stage effects in favor of singing about common people and ordinary subjects in a down-to-earth "realistic" style. (From First Ladies of the Poster by Laura Gold, p. 120) Biblitz roundly endorses the Buffet's views on the matter!

My twin sister has usurped my position as the brainy one! What's the correct response?

Hey Biblitz,

Well yeah I was always fussing about my marks, I was always caring about school, what I did in school, if I had a test I'd be studying every second for it.. And then she was the slacker, she didn't care about school, she did homework at the last minute (procrastinating) and she also crammed the night before for tests.. So I was the nerd, she was the slacker. Then the next grade came. My sister, when she hit that grade, she was a nerd. She cared about school and she made notes and everything nerdy etc. (No offence) So yeah. I was the slacker at the beginning of the year. Then, one month into school, my best friend beat me on 2 tests: 1. My score: 7/10, Her score: 10/10. 2. My score: 7/10, her score: 10/10. So they were the same but she still beat me. So I decided I would study harder and become the nerd I once was because last year, I used to beat her in EVERYTHING. It was no surprise. It was a surprise to me since she beat me. Now my sister, now the nerd, was not happy to see me become the nerd again. I guess she wanted to be the one and only nerd in my family. So she got really jealous and started to say things about 'Remember, you shouldn't copy me.' and everything like that. I want to suceed. I don't want to make my sister mad. What should I do? This is a very small problem, but it's big to me.

Biblitz replies:

You can have fun with a son but you gotta' be a father to a girl.

This is a Hollywood problem unfortunately quite typical of female siblings. It's a girl thing. Parents no doubt play into this, too, and the results can be devastating. The error is in promoting the fantasy that a girl is but a stock character, barely human and incapable of more than one dimension. Often in these family set-ups, only one sibling can be The Beauty; only one can be The Brain.

Happily, reality suggests that unlike Hollywood movie interpretations of the female, real life women are changeable humans as likely as men to be at once attractive, charming, brainy, witty, scheming, ambitious, athletic, creative and so on.

Sounds like both of you are allowing yourselves to become stuck in the ancient sexist stinkin' thinkin' that invariably seeks to reduce women to roles and, not surprisingly, roles that promote a patriarchal view. Rebel! Be the fascinating culmination of skills and talents each of you acquires on the way to becoming whoever it is you become.
Most important - Don't use your sibling or allow yourself to be used by sibling as anything other than a cherished family member/cheerleader. Your job is to support one another loyally, wholeheartedly throughout the challenge of becoming whoever it is you become. You are not the other's 'competition,' whatever sick thing that might mean in your family.

Un Air de Famille, dysfunctional family classic for victims of bullying parents. Disturbingly accurate.