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Page 45 Meeting Life's Challenges

Life is full of challenges—large and small. Everyone, regardless of heredity and family influences, must learn to cope successfully with new situations and new people. For emotional and mental wellness, each of us must continue to grow psychologically, developing new and more sophisticated coping mechanisms to suit our current lives. We must develop an adult identity that enhances our spiritual wellness, self-esteem, and autonomy. We must also learn to communicate honestly, handle anger and loneliness appropriately, and avoid being defensive.


Over 72% of Canadians report their mental health as excellent or very good.

Statistics Canada, 2012

Growing Up Psychologically

Video: Issues of Early Adolescent Processes

Click here to view a transcript of this video

Our responses to life's challenges influence the development of our personality and identity. Psychologist Erik Erikson proposed that development proceeds through a series of eight stages that extend throughout life. Each stage is characterized by a major crisis or turning point—a time of increased vulnerability as well as increased potential for psychological growth (see Table 2.1).

potential for psychological growth (see Table 2.1). Click here for a description of Table 2.1 Erikson's

Source: Erikson, E. 1963. Childhood and Society. New York: Norton.


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The successful mastery of one stage is a basis for mastering the next; early failures can have repercussions in later life. Fortunately, life provides ongoing opportunities for mastering these tasks. For example, although the development of trust begins in infancy, it is refined as we grow older. We learn to trust people outside our immediate family and to limit our trust by identifying people who are untrustworthy.

Developing an Adult Identity

A primary task beginning in adolescence is the development of an adult identity: a unified sense of self,

characterized by attitudes, beliefs, and ways of acting that are genuinely your own. People with adult identities know who they are, what they are capable of, what roles they play, and their place among their peers. They have

a sense of their own uniqueness, but also appreciate what they have in common with others. They view

themselves realistically and can assess their strengths and weaknesses without relying on the opinions of others. Achieving an identity also means being able to form intimate relationships with others while maintaining a strong sense of self.

Our identities evolve as we interact with the world and make choices about what we would like to do and who we would like to model ourselves after. Developing an adult identity is particularly challenging in a heterogeneous, secular, and relatively affluent society like ours, in which many roles are possible, many choices are tolerated, and ample time is allowed for experimenting and making up one's mind.

Early identities are often modelled after parents—or the opposite of parents, in rebellion against what they represent. Over time, peers, rock stars, sports heroes, and religious figures are added to the list of possible models. In high school and university or college, people often join cliques that assert a certain identity, such as the jocks, the brains, or the slackers. Although much of an identity is internal—a way of viewing ourselves and the world—certain aspects of it can be external, such as styles of talking and dressing, ornaments, such as earrings, and hairstyles.

Early identities are rarely permanent. A student who works for good grades and approval one year can turn into

a class-skipping student devoted to wild parties a year later. At some point, however, most of us adopt a more

stable, individual identity that ties together the experiences of childhood and the expectations and aspirations of adulthood. Erikson's theory does not suggest that one day we suddenly assume our final identity and never change after that. Life is more interesting for people who continue evolving into more distinct individuals, rather than being rigidly controlled by their pasts. Identity reflects a lifelong process, and it changes as a person develops new relationships and roles.

Developing an adult identity is an important part of psychological wellness. Without a personal identity, we begin to feel confused about who we are; Erikson called this situation an identity crisis. Until we have found ourselves, we cannot have much self-esteem, because a self is not firmly in place.

How far have you gotten in developing your adult identity? Create a list of characteristics you think a friend who knows you well would use to describe you. Rank them from the most to the least important. Your list might include such elements as gender, socioeconomic status, ethnic and religious identification, choice of

university/college or major, parents' occupations, interests and talents, attitudes toward drugs and alcohol, style

of dress, the kinds of people with whom you typically associate, your expected role in society, and aspects of

your personality. Which elements of your identity do you feel are permanent, and which do you think may change over time? Are there any characteristics missing from your list that you would like to add?

Another aid to developing an adult identity is to identify possible role models. Who do you admire and want to be like? Which characteristics of that person do you want to emulate? How did that person acquire those characteristics, and how could you follow her or his example? Some role models might be willing to be mentors

to you, spending time with you and sharing their wisdom.

Developing Intimacy


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Erikson's developmental stages don't end with establishing an adult identity. Learning to live intimately with others and finding a productive role for yourself in society are other tasks of adulthood—to be able to love and work.

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People with established identities can form intimate relationships and sexual unions characterized by sharing, open communication, long-term commitment, and love. Those who lack a firm sense of self may have difficulty establishing relationships because they feel overwhelmed by closeness and the needs of another person. As a result, they experience only short-term, superficial relationships with others and may remain isolated.

Developing Values and Purpose in Your Life

Erikson assigned his last two stages, generativity versus self-absorption and integrity versus despair, to middle adulthood and older adulthood. But these stages are concerned with values and purpose in life, issues that need to be addressed by young people and reexamined throughout life.

Values are criteria for judging what is good and bad; they underlie our moral decisions and behaviour. The first morality of the young child is to consider good to mean what brings immediate and tangible rewards, and bad, whatever results in punishment. An older child will explain right and wrong in terms of authority figures and rules. But the final stage of moral development, one that not everyone attains, is being able to conceive of right and wrong in more abstract terms, such as justice and virtue.

As adults we need to assess how far we have evolved morally and what values we actually have adopted. Without an awareness of our personal values, our lives may be hurriedly driven forward by immediate desires and the passing demands of others. Living according to values means:

considering your options carefully before making a choice;passing demands of others. Living according to values means: choosing between options without succumbing to outside

choosing between options without succumbing to outside pressures that oppose your values; andconsidering your options carefully before making a choice; making a choice and acting on it rather

making a choice and acting on it rather than doing nothing.succumbing to outside pressures that oppose your values; and Your actions and how you justify them

Your actions and how you justify them proclaim to others what you stand for. A practical exercise for clarifying your values and goals is to write a draft of your obituary for a local newspaper. How would you like to be remembered? What would you like to have achieved? What will you have done to meet those goals? This obituary should not be a glorification, but rather an honest, realistic appraisal. End it by summarizing in a few sentences what was most important about your life. In reading what you have written, ask yourself, “How will I have to change to be the person I want to be?”

For more on discovering your values, see the Assess Yourself box.

Striving for Spiritual Wellness

Spiritual wellness is associated with greater coping skills and higher levels of overall wellness. It is a very personal wellness component, and it can be developed in many ways (see the Mind Body Spirit box). Researchers have linked spiritual wellness to longer life expectancy, reduced risk of disease, faster recovery, and improved emotional health. Although spirituality is difficult to study, and researchers aren't sure how or why spirituality seems to improve health, several explanations have been offered.

Social support: Attending religious services or participating in volunteer organizations helps people feel that they are part Attending religious services or participating in volunteer organizations helps people feel that they are part of a community with similar values and promotes social connectedness and caring.

Healthy habits: Some of the paths to spiritual wellness may encourage healthy behaviours, such as eating a Some of the paths to spiritual wellness may encourage healthy behaviours, such as eating a vegetarian diet or consuming less meat and alcohol, and may discourage harmful habits, such as smoking.


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Positive attitude: Spirituality can give people a sense of meaning and purpose in life, and these qualities Spirituality can give people a sense of meaning and purpose in life, and these qualities create a more positive attitude in people, which in turn helps them cope with life's challenges.

Moments of relaxation: Spiritual practices, such as prayer, meditation, and immersion in artistic activities, can reduce stress by Spiritual practices, such as prayer, meditation, and immersion in artistic activities, can reduce stress by eliciting the relaxation response.

Assess YOURSELF Assessing Your Valuescan reduce stress by eliciting the relaxation response. Find out more about your core values by

Find out more about your core values by answering these questions:

What personality traits or characteristics do you most value—for example, being friendly, patient, successful, outgoing, cooperative, loyal to family and friends? These can be characteristics you see in yourself or in others.more about your core values by answering these questions: What activities or accomplishments do you most

What activities or accomplishments do you most value—for example, making lots of money, getting good grades, spending time with friends, making your own decisions? These can be accomplishments of your own or of others, or goals you have for the future.can be characteristics you see in yourself or in others. What social ideals, customs, and institutions

What social ideals, customs, and institutions do you value—for example, education, equality, freedom of speech, tolerance for diverse opinions?of your own or of others, or goals you have for the future. How well does

How well does your current lifestyle reflect your values? Can you think of some recent incidents in which you acted in accordance with your values or in ways that conflict with your values?equality, freedom of speech, tolerance for diverse opinions? Page 48 Mind Body SPIRIT Paths to Spiritual

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Mind Body SPIRIT Paths to Spiritual Wellness Body SPIRIT Paths to Spiritual Wellness

Page 48 Mind Body SPIRIT Paths to Spiritual Wellness Spiritual wellness means different things to different

Spiritual wellness means different things to different people. For many, it involves developing a set of guiding beliefs, principles, or values that give purpose and meaning to life. It helps people achieve a sense of wholeness within themselves and in their relationships with others. Spiritual wellness influences people on an individual level, as well as on a community level, where it can bond people through compassion, love, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice.

Many paths to spiritual wellness exist. One of the most common in our society is organized religion. The major religions provide paths for transforming the self in ways that can lead to greater happiness and serenity and reduce feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. For example, in Christianity, salvation means turning away from the selfish ego and to God's sovereignty and grace, where a joy is found that frees the believer from anxious self- concern and despair. Islam represents a kind of self-surrender leading to peace with God. Buddhism teaches how to detach the self from selfish desire, leading to compassion for the suffering of others and freedom from fear-


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engendering illusions. Judaism emphasizes the social and ethical redemption members of the Jewish community can experience if they follow the laws of God.

Religions teach specific techniques for achieving these transformations of the self: prayer, both in groups and in private; meditation; the performance of rituals and ceremonies symbolizing religious truths; and good works and service to others. Religious organizations also usually offer social and material support to members who might otherwise be isolated.

Spiritual wellness does not require participation in organized religion. Many people find meaning and purpose in other ways. By spending time in nature or working on environmental issues, people can experience continuity with the natural world. Spiritual wellness can come through helping others in the community or by promoting human rights, peace, and harmony among people, and opportunities for human development on a global level. Other people develop spiritual wellness through art or through their personal relationships.

Spirituality provides an ethical path to personal fulfillment that includes connectedness with the self, others, and

a higher power or larger reality. Spiritual wellness can make you more aware of your personal values and can

help clarify them. Without an awareness of personal values, you might be driven by immediate desires and the

passing demands of others. Living according to values means considering your options carefully before making

a choice, choosing between options without succumbing to outside pressures that oppose your values, and making a choice and acting on it rather than doing nothing.

Achieving Healthy Self-Esteem

Video: Issues of Adolescent Self-Esteem

Click here to view a transcript of this video

Having a healthy level of self-esteem means regarding your self, which includes all aspects of your identity, as good, competent, and worthy of love. It is a critical component of wellness.

Page 49 Developing a Positive Self-Concept

Ideally, a positive self-concept begins in childhood, based on experiences both within the family and outside it. Children need to develop a sense of being loved and being able to give love and to accomplish their goals. If they feel rejected or neglected by their parents, they may fail to develop feelings of self-worth. They may grow

to have a negative concept of themselves.

Another component of self-concept is integration. An integrated self-concept is one that you have made for yourself—not someone else's image of you or a mask that doesn't quite fit. Important building blocks of self- concept are the personality characteristics and mannerisms of parents, which children may adopt without realizing it. Later, they may be surprised to find themselves acting like one of their parents. Eventually, such building blocks should be reshaped and integrated into a new, individual personality.

A further aspect of self-concept is stability. Stability depends on the integration of the self and its freedom from

contradictions. People who have received mixed messages about themselves from parents and friends may have contradictory self-images, which defy integration and make them vulnerable to shifting levels of self-esteem. At times they regard themselves as entirely good, capable, and lovable—an ideal self—and at other times they see themselves as entirely bad, incompetent, and unworthy of love. Neither of these extreme self-concepts allow people to see themselves or others realistically, and their relationships with other people are filled with misunderstandings and ultimately with conflict. The concepts we have about ourselves and others are an important part of our personalities. And all the components of our self-concept profoundly influence our interpersonal relationships.


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9/8/2017 IEB Wireframe A positive self-concept begins in infancy. Knowing that he's loved and valued by

A positive self-concept begins in infancy. Knowing that he's loved and valued by his parents gives this baby a solid basis for lifelong psychological health.

How would you define spiritual wellness and its role in your life? What beliefs and practices do you associate with your sense of spiritual wellness? To achieve overall well-being, it is important to take time out to consider what you can do to help your spiritual side flourish.

Meeting Challenges to Self-Esteem

As an adult, you sometimes run into situations that challenge your self-concept. People you care about may tell you they don't love you or feel loved by you, for example, or your attempts to accomplish a goal may end in failure.

You can react to such challenges in several ways. The best approach is to acknowledge that something has gone wrong and try again, adjusting your goals to your abilities without radically revising your self-concept. Less productive responses are denying that anything went wrong and blaming someone else. These attitudes may preserve your self-concept temporarily, but in the end they keep you from meeting the challenge.

The worst reaction is to develop a lasting negative self-concept in which you feel bad, unloved, and ineffective —in other words, to become demoralized. Instead of coping, the demoralized person gives up, reinforcing the negative self-concept and setting in motion a cycle of bad self-concept and failure. In people who are genetically predisposed to depression, demoralization can progress to additional symptoms, which are discussed later in the chapter.

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NOTICE YOUR PATTERNS OF THINKING One method for fighting demoralization is to recognize and test the negative thoughts and assumptions you may have about yourself and others. Try to note exactly when an unpleasant emotion—feeling worthless, wanting to give up, feeling depressed—occurs or gets worse, to identify the events or daydreams that trigger that emotion, and to observe whatever thoughts come into your head just before or during the emotional experience. It is helpful to keep a daily journal about such events.

AVOID FOCUSING ON THE NEGATIVE Imagine that you are waiting for a friend to meet you for dinner, but he's 30 minutes late. What kinds of thoughts go through your head when something like this happens? You might wonder what has happened to cause the delay: Perhaps he is stuck in traffic, you think, or needs to help a roommate who has the flu. This kind of reaction is healthy for several reasons:

You aren't jumping to a conclusion or blaming your friend for a failure of any kind. After all, he probably hasn't forgotten about you or decided to ditch you. After all, he probably hasn't forgotten about you or decided to ditch you.

You are being reasonable by giving your friend the benefit of the doubt. Things happen. Your friend probably has a good reason for not being there. He deserves Things happen. Your friend probably has a good reason for not being there. He deserves a chance to explain and may even need your help dealing with the situation that made him late.

You avoid personalizing the situation in such a way that you feel hurt or betrayed. Jumping to a negative conclusion (such as “He isn't coming because he doesn't really like Jumping to a negative conclusion (such as “He isn't coming because he doesn't really like me”) can make you feel bad unnecessarily. The same thing happens if you place blame—either on your friend or on yourself—without knowing all the facts.

By contrast, people who are demoralized tend to use all-or-nothing thinking. They overgeneralize from negative events. They overlook the positive and jump to negative conclusions, minimizing their own successes and magnifying the successes of others. They take responsibility for unfortunate situations that are not their fault, and then jump to more negative conclusions and more unfounded overgeneralizations. Patterns of thinking that make events seem worse than they are in reality are called cognitive distortions.

DEVELOP REALISTIC SELF-TALK When you react to a situation, an important piece of that reaction is your self-talk—the statements you make to yourself inside your own mind. To pick up on our earlier example, suppose your friend is late for a dinner date. As you wait for your friend to arrive, your self-talk has a profound effect on your reaction to his lateness. Someone who is demoralized or wrestling with a poor self-concept might immediately react with negative self-talk: “He isn't coming. It's my fault; he probably doesn't like me because I'm boring. I bet he's with someone else.” This type of self-talk assigns blame (not just on your friend, but also on you), is judgmental, and jumps to an unverified conclusion about the meaning of your friend's lateness. In fact, you don't know why he is late or what he is thinking.

More rational thinking and self-talk will not only help get you through the situation without feeling upset, but will also help you avoid damaging your own self-concept. In this case, helpful self-talk is not negative, but neutral: “He's never late for dinner. Something must be holding him up. I'll call him and make sure everything is all right.” This thinking recognizes that a problem may exist, but it does not judge or assign blame.

In your own fight against demoralization, it may be hard to think of a rational response until hours or days after the event that upset you. Responding rationally can be especially hard when you are having an argument with someone else, which is why people often say things they don't mean in the heat of the moment or develop hurt feelings even when the other person had no intention of hurting them.

Once you get used to noticing the way your mind works, however, you may be able to catch yourself thinking negatively and change the process before it goes too far. This approach to controlling your reactions is not the same as positive thinking—which means substituting a positive thought for a negative one. Instead, you simply try to make your thoughts as logical and accurate as possible, based on the facts of the situation as you know them, and not on snap judgments or conclusions that may turn out to be false.

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Demoralized people can be tenacious about their negative beliefs—so tenacious that they make their beliefs come true in a self-fulfilling prophesy. For example, if you conclude that you are so boring that no one will like you anyway, you may decide not to bother socializing. This behaviour could make the negative belief become a reality.

For additional tips on changing distorted, negative ways of thinking, see the Take Charge box.

negative ways of thinking, see the Take Charge box. Take CHARGE Realistic Self-Talk Do your patterns

Take CHARGE Realistic Self-Talk

Do your patterns of thinking make events seem worse than they truly are? Do negative beliefs about yourself become self-fulfilling prophecies? Substituting realistic self-talk for negative self-talk can help you build and maintain self-esteem and cope better with the challenges in your life. Here are some examples of common types of distorted, negative self-talk, along with suggestions for more accurate and rational responses.

with suggestions for more accurate and rational responses. Click here for a description of Table: Take

Page 52 Being Less Defensive

Sometimes our wants come into conflict with people around us or with our conscience, and we become frustrated and anxious. If we cannot resolve the conflict by changing the external situation, we try to resolve the conflict internally by rearranging our thoughts and feelings. Some standard defence mechanisms are listed in


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Table 2.2. The drawback of many of these coping mechanisms is that they succeed temporarily, but make finding permanent solutions much harder.

but make finding permanent solutions much harder. Click here for a description of Table 2.2 Defence

Recognizing your own defence mechanisms can be difficult because they have probably become habits, occurring unconsciously. But we each have some inkling about how our mind operates. By remembering the details of conflict situations you have been in, you may be able to figure out which defence mechanisms you used in successful or unsuccessful attempts to cope. Try to look at yourself as an objective, outside observer would and analyze your thoughts and behaviour in a psychologically stressful situation from the past. Having insight into what strategies you typically use can lead to new, less defensive, and more effective ways of coping in the future.

Being Optimistic

Many psychologists believe that pessimism is not just a symptom of everyday depression, but an important root cause, as well. Pessimists not only expect repeated failure and rejection, but also accept it as deserved. Pessimists do not see themselves as capable of success, and they irrationally dismiss any evidence of their own accomplishments. This negative point of view is learned, typically at a young age, from parents and other authority figures. But as an optimist would tell you, that means it also has the potential to be unlearned.

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About 23% of Canadian children and youth (ages 9–19) were living with a mental illness in 2011.

—Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2013

Psychologist Martin Seligman points out that we are more used to refuting negative statements, such as “The problem is going to last forever and ruin everything, and it's all my fault,” when they come from others rather


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than from our own mind. But refuting such negative self-talk is exactly what a pessimist must learn to do to avoid chronic unhappiness. Pessimists must first recognize and then dispute the false, negative predictions they generate about themselves.

Maintaining Honest Communication

Another important area of psychological functioning is communicating honestly with others. It can be very frustrating for us and for people around us if we cannot express what we want and feel. Others can hardly respond to our needs if they don't know what those needs are. We must recognize what we want to communicate and then express it clearly. For example, how do you feel about going to the party instead of a movie? Do you care if your roommate talks on the phone late into the night?

Some people know what they want others to do but don't state it clearly because they fear denial of the request, which they interpret as personal rejection. Such people might benefit from assertiveness training: learning to insist on their rights and to bargain for what they want. Assertiveness includes being able to say no or yes depending on the situation.

Communicating your feelings appropriately and clearly is important. For example, if you tell people you feel sad, they may have various reactions. If they feel close to you, they may express an intimate thought of their own, or they may feel guilty because they think you're implying they have caused your sadness. They may even be angry because they feel you expect them to cheer you up.

Depending on your intention and your prediction of how a statement will be taken, you may or may not want to make it. For example, if you say, “I feel like staying home tonight,” you may also be implying something different. You could really be saying “Don't bother me,” or opening a negotiation about what you would be willing to do that evening, given the right event or incentive. Although this approach may help you avoid a confrontation (or even a discussion) with someone else, it is unfair because you are not really being clear about what you want.

Good communication means expressing yourself clearly. You don't need any special psychological jargon to communicate effectively. (For tips, see the Take Charge box in Chapter 10.)

Dealing with Loneliness

It can be hard to strike the right balance between being alone and being with others. Some people are motivated to socialize by a fear of being alone—not the best reason to spend time with others. If you discover how to be happy by yourself, you will be better able to cope with periods when you are forced to be alone—for example, when you have just broken off a romantic relationship or when your usual friends are away on vacation.

Unhappiness with being alone may come from interpreting it as a sign of rejection—that others are not interested in spending time with you. Before you reach such a conclusion, be sure that you give others a real chance to get to know you.

Examine your patterns of thinking. You may harbour unrealistic expectations about other people—for example, that everyone you meet must like you and, if they don't, you must be terribly flawed. You might also consider the possibility that you expect too much from new acquaintances and, sensing this, they start to draw back, triggering your feelings of rejection. Not everyone you meet is a suitable and willing person for a close or intimate relationship. Feeling pressure to have such a relationship may lead you to take up with someone whose interests and needs are remote from yours or whose need to be cared for leaves you with little time of your own. You will have traded loneliness for potentially worse problems.

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9/8/2017 IEB Wireframe University or college offers many antidotes to loneliness, in the forms of clubs,

University or college offers many antidotes to loneliness, in the forms of clubs, organized activities, sports, and just hanging out with friends.

Loneliness is a passive feeling state. If you decide that you're not spending enough time with people, take action to change the situation. University or college life provides many opportunities to meet people. If you're shy, you may have to push yourself to join a group. Look for something you have enjoyed in the past or in which you have a genuine interest.

If your loneliness is the result of missing absent friends, remember that communication at a distance is cheaper and easier than ever before. For many people, email and cellphones are immediate and satisfying ways to keep up with people in their lives.

Dealing with Anger

Common wisdom holds that expressing anger is beneficial for psychological and physical health. However, recent studies have questioned this idea by showing that overtly hostile people seem to be at higher risk for heart attacks. Angry words or actions don't contribute to psychological wellness if they damage relationships or produce feelings of guilt or loss of control. Perhaps the best way to resolve this contradiction is to distinguish between a gratuitous expression of anger and a reasonable level of self-assertiveness.

At one extreme are people who never express anger or any opinion that might offend others, even when their own rights and needs are being jeopardized. They may be trapped in unhealthy relationships or chronically deprived of satisfaction at work and at home. If you have trouble expressing your anger, consider training in assertiveness and appropriate expressions of anger to help you learn to express yourself constructively.

At the other extreme are people whose anger is explosive or misdirected—a condition called intermittent explosive disorder (IED). IED is often accompanied by depression or another disorder. Explosive anger or rage, like a child's tantrum, renders individuals temporarily unable to think straight or to act in their own best interest.


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During an IED episode, a person may lash out uncontrollably, hurting someone else or destroying property. Anyone who expresses anger this way should seek professional help.

Managing Your Own Anger

If you feel explosive anger coming on, consider the following two strategies to head it off. First, try to reframe what you're thinking at that moment. You will be less angry at another person if it is possible that his behaviour was not intentionally directed against you. Imagine that another driver suddenly cuts in front of you. You would certainly be angry if you knew the other driver did it on purpose, but you probably would be less angry if you knew he simply didn't see you. You might be even less upset if you consider that other mitigating factors may be present—for example, that the other driver was involved in an urgent situation of his own. If you're angry because you have just been criticized, avoid mentally replaying scenes from the past when you received similar unjust criticisms. Think about what is happening now, and try to act differently than you did in the past—less defensively and more analytically.

Second, until you're able to change your thinking, try to distract yourself. Use the old trick of counting to 10 before you respond, or start concentrating on your breathing. If needed, take a longer cooling-off period by leaving the situation until your anger has subsided. This does not mean that you should permanently avoid the issues and people who make you angry. When you have had a chance to think more clearly about the matter, return to it.

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think more clearly about the matter, return to it. Page 55 QUESTIONS FOR CRITICAL THINKING AND


Think about the last time you were truly angry. What triggered your anger? How did you express it? Do you typically handle your anger in the same manner? How appropriate does your anger-management technique seem?

Dealing with Anger in Other People

Anger can be infectious and disruptive to cooperation and communication. If someone you are with becomes very angry, respond asymmetrically by reacting not with anger, but with calm. Try to validate the other person by acknowledging that she has some reason to be angry. This does not mean apologizing if you don't think you're to blame, or accepting verbal abuse, which is always inappropriate. Try to focus on solving the problem by allowing the person to explain why she is so angry and what can be done to alleviate the situation. Finally, if the person cannot be calmed, it may be best to disengage, at least temporarily. After a time out, a rational problem-solving approach may become more successful.