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Jack who became offended at being congratulated for overcoming his past, was actually having following conversation in his head: he is putting me down because I had alcoholic parents; he is saying I am not capable of being successful on my own instead of 'overcoming' something in my past; he is mocking me because of how I grew up.
No wonder he became so upset at Jim’s innocent attempt at a compliment. Like many of us, Jack was responding to his perspective of what was being communicated—not Jim’s.
Changing your self-talk
The next time anger threatens to spoil a family event, try these simple steps:
Step 1: Retreat and think things over. Never respond immediately to a family anger or stress trigger. Give your body and your mind a chance to calm down so you can think rationally. Research shows this may take at least 20 minutes.
Step 2: Examine evidence. The most convincing way of disputing negative self-talk toward a family member is to show yourself it is factually incorrect. Do not lie to yourself, but—like a detective —simply and honestly look at all evidence at hand.
For instance, when calm Tom remembered that his wife was excellent with money and rarely overspent. Jack remembered that Jim never disparaged him and, in fact, had always supported him throughout years of their friendship.
Step 3: Find a more positive and useful way of interpreting behavior of family members. Tom was finally able to see his wife’s buying behavior as a sign of love and caring for him, rather than trying to hurt him or cause stress.
Jack was eventually capable of seeing that Jim was truly trying to compliment him and that he truly saw Jack as someone to be admired because of how far he had come in life.
Dr. Tony Fiore is The Anger Coach. New anger resources are now available Anger Management for the 21st Century: The 8 tools of Anger Control print and ebook,bonuses www.stopyouranger.com. Chëck our Anger in the News blog and comment at: www.angernews.com. 2005 © Dr. Tony Fiore All rights reserved.