Psychological Self-Help

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Self-punish aggression. Like any other unwanted behavior, you can
punish your own angry behavior. Also, you can atone or over-correct or make
up for your inconsiderate behavior. But make sure this latter approach, the
"let's make up; I'm very sorry" stage, isn't a con or manipulation. Many
abusive persons apologize, promise it won't ever happen again, and become
very loving afterwards for a while...until they get mad and abusive the next
time. The idea in this method is not for you to be forgiven but to be self-
punished--to make your angry aggression unprofitable and unpleasant to you
as the aggressor so you won't do it again. 
Level II: Methods for reducing or controlling anger
Use stress-inoculation. The cognitive-behavioral therapists have
developed an elaborate method, called stress-inoculation, for coping with
anger. It involves self-awareness of the irrational ideas we tell ourselves
which increase anger, learning better self-statements to encourage and guide
ourselves, and rehearsing over and over how to be more calm and controlled
in specific situations. See method #7 in chapter 12 for details. This is
probably the best researched method, showing this technique allays anger but
does not increase assertiveness. 
Use desensitization. This method was originally designed to break the
connection between non-dangerous situations and fear. But presumably the
method would work just as well to disconnect anger from overly frustrating
situations. Usually there are specific people, behaviors, or situations that
prompt your aggression. These could be used in a hierarchy for
desensitization; indeed, that is essentially what is happening in the rehearsal
stage of the last method, stress-inoculation. A recently married woman was
extremely resentful and jealous when her handsome husband talked with any
other woman, even if she knew they had some business to discuss. By using
desensitization, she was able to reduce these resentments and fears. (Yes,
you're right, if you are wondering if her self-confidence or his fidelity might
not also be problems.) See method #6 in chapter 12. 
Evaluations of desensitization have only found moderate effectiveness
with anger (Warren & McLellarn, 1982). It has not worked with some people
with violent tempers. Leventhal (1984) speculates that physiological arousal
(which is what desensitization reduces) is not a critical part of becoming
angry (e.g. people who are almost totally paralyzed get mad). Emotions are
partly mental. Relaxation may not counter anger as well as it does fear. Still it
has some effect. 
Consider frustration tolerance training. Just as one can learn to avoid
hot fudge sundaes, one can learn to control his/her fists and tongue and even
gut responses to some extent. The procedure is to expose yourself to the
irritation over and over until you can handle it. This can be done in fantasy
(basically desensitization) or in role-play (a friend could play your pushy boss
or critical father) or in reality (the jealous woman above seeks out the
experience rather than trying to stop it--which becomes paradoxical intention-
-see method #12 in chapter 11). 
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