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Changing Perception to Reduce Anger
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In the last section, we discussed Six Steps to Responsibility. These included reinforcing others, meeting your own needs, finding support elsewhere, setting limits, negotiating assertively and letting go. In this section, we will discuss Four Fallacies of "Should". These include the entitlement fallacy, the fallacy of fairness, the fallacy of change and the "letting it out" fallacy.
♦ #1 The Entitlement Fallacy
First, let’s discuss the entitlement fallacy regarding your anger management clients. Samantha, age 35, very much wanted a child. Her husband, Harry, didn’t want children just yet, and talking about it often led to arguments between them. Samantha stated to me, "He’s afraid of losing a sense of spontaneity and freedom if we have kids. But if I want something this much, he has no right to say no!" As you likely know, entitlement fallacy confuses desire with obligation. I stated to Samantha, "These painful feelings of need may tempt you to forget the other person’s equally important needs. By equally important, I mean his right to say no and set boundaries." Does your Samantha confuse desire with obligation?
♦ #2 The Fallacy of Fairness
Second, let’s discuss the fallacy of fairness and anger. Renata, 29, was convinced that she had been victimized. She said of Tony, her husband, "I supported him through grad school, and that was his dream! Now I want to buy a house—that’s my dream—and he won’t do it! It isn’t fair!" I stated to Renata, "Fairness is sometimes a useful concept for controlling the behavior of children. For example, ‘Be fair and share with your sister’…etc.), but as an adult, the concept can be a little more dangerous to use. The word ‘fair’ can turn out to be nothing more than a disguise for personal preferences or wants. Saying, ‘That’s not fair,’ can actually communicate, ‘My needs are more legitimate than yours.’" Do you have a client who struggles with the concept of fairness? Would it be beneficial to play this section in your next session?
♦ #3 The Fallacy of Change
Third, in addition to the entitlement fallacy and the fallacy of fairness, let’s discuss the fallacy of change. The fallacy of change is based on the assumption that you really can make people different if you just apply sufficient pressure. As you know, people only change when they are able to and want to. Adrian, 49, was frustrated that he couldn’t discuss politics with his wife. Adrian stated to me, "She never wants to talk about world affairs or social ideas. All she talks about is the psychology of her friends! I criticize her for it, because I want us to have something we can share an interest in, but she just won’t change!" I stated to Adrian, "It’s possible to love someone and still not meet his or her needs. Disappointing others doesn’t make someone uncaring, and caring doesn’t obligate a person never to disappoint. No matter how much someone loves you, that person is still responsible for saying no and setting his or her own boundaries." Does your Adrian try to pressure others to change? You might try the, "Stand in Their Shoes" technique.
♦ Cognitive Behavior Therapy Technique: "Stand in Their Shoes"
I asked Samantha, Renata and Adrian to try the "Stand in Their Shoes" CBT Technique. There are four questions specifically that can help a client explain the behavior he or she doesn’t like from another’s point of view:
1. What needs influence him or her to act in this way?
2. What beliefs or values influence him or her to act in this way?
3. What aspects of his or her history influence this behavior?
4. What limitations influence this behavior?
♦ #4 The "Letting it Out" Fallacy
Fourth, let’s discuss the "letting it out" fallacy. As you are aware, the "letting it out" fallacy rests on the belief that people who hurt you or cause you pain should be punished. Yasser, age 52, was frustrated because his daughter, Nadia, wasn’t doing well in school. Yasser often yelled at Nadia for her low grades. Yasser said to me, "When she gets these poor grades it makes me so depressed that I feel justified in letting her have it. As a result, though, she never wants to be around me." Over several sessions, I stated to Yasser, "Obviously, it feels good to discharge your pain :
-- a. The first problem with this line of reasoning is that you are responsible for your pain. You are the only one who really feels your hurt and your joy.
-- b. The second problem is that anger can destroy relationships. When the object of your anger is to inflict the same degree of hurt you are feeling on someone else, people begin to put up their own psychological barriers to protect themselves.
-- c. The third problem is that anger rarely gets you what you want." Do you have a client who feels he or she has a right to punish those who hurt him or her?
♦ Cognitive behavior Therapy Technique: "Pros and Cons"
I asked Yasser to try the "Pros and Cons" CBT Technique. When Yasser felt tempted to "let it out," he made four columns on a piece of paper. The first two columns were the positive and negative short-term consequences for letting it out. Yasser listed as a short term positive consequence, "I feel better after I get angry." As a negative short-term consequence he wrote, "Nadia got really upset. She even cried." The second two columns were the positive and negative long-term consequences of letting it out. Yasser wrote down the positive and negative long-term consequences of getting angry. For a positive long-term consequence, Yasser wrote, "Nadia knows I have high expectations of her." As a negative long-term consequence, "We barely talk anymore." At the end of the exercise asked himself, "Did anger get me what I wanted?" Yasser thought for a moment and said, "Well, I guess my anger didn’t really achieve anything in the long run. Talking to Nadia is even more difficult now."
In this section, we discussed four fallacies of "should". These include the entitlement fallacy, the fallacy of fairness, the fallacy of change and the "letting it out" fallacy.
In the next section, we will discuss Four Aspects of Blame. These include Awareness, Good-Bad Dichotomizing, Assumed Intent and Magnifying.
- Deffenbacher, J. L. (november 1, 2004). Anger-management programs: Issues and suggestions. Behavioral Health Management, 24(6), 1-3. Retrieved from https://www.xing.com/communities/posts/anger-management-programs-issues-and-suggestions-a-one-size-fits-all-approach-doesnt-work-1003271496.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Ariyabuddhiphongs, V. (2014). Anger concepts and anger reduction method in Theravada Buddhism. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 1(1), 56–66.
Kuin, N. C., Masthoff, E. D. M., Nunnink, V. N., Munafò, M. R., & Penton-Voak, I. S. (2020). Changing perception: A randomized controlled trial of emotion recognition training to reduce anger and aggression in violent offenders. Psychology of Violence, 10(4), 400–410.
Wilkowski, B. M., Robinson, M. D., & Troop-Gordon, W. (2010). How does cognitive control reduce anger and aggression? The role of conflict monitoring and forgiveness processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(5), 830–840.
What are four fallacies of "should"?
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