Angry Thoughts

You need to look carefully at your angry thoughts and try to see if you are making errors in the way your interpret situations. It can help to examine long held beliefs about anger and challenge those, which are unhelpful. Distorted thinking involves angry thoughts that flash into your mind and make you feel worse.

People tend to have reoccurring thoughts that arise again and again when angry, for example:

1. Taking things personally

People who are angry often take things personally and feel hurt by it. They look for and expect criticism from other people. If someone doesn’t speak to you in a shop, you may think that person dislikes you, when in fact it may be that he or she is just shy or worried. If someone looks over at you, you may think “he thinks I’m stupid”, when in fact the person is just glancing over without any such thought. Sometimes things are just “not about you.” If someone is cranky and snappy with you, he/she may be having a bad day and not handling his/her anger well. It may have nothing to do with you.

2. Ignoring the positive

People who get angry tend to focus their thinking on negative or bad events and ignore positive or good events. One might receive many compliments, but focus on the single piece of negative feedback.

3. Perfectionism

People who become angry often expect too much from themselves or those around them. If these standards are not met, then they feel disappointed and hurt. This hurt quickly turn into anger. For example, Mark has a friend who had agreed to go to a concert with him but let him down at the last minute. Mark felt the friend had failed him and decided that he did not want to see him ever again. This was despite the fact that the friend was supportive to hum on many other occasions.

4. Fairness

The concept of “fair” is also a form of distorted thinking. You have probably heard the saying, “life is not fair.” The fallacy of fairness is the idea that there is some absolute standard of right and wrong. It presumes there is a fair behavior for all people, and all people will live up to those standards. What is fair for one person may not be fair for another. What is fair is a totally subjective judgment depending on what each person wants, needs, or expects in a situation. Being “fair” then would be satisfying each person’s own needs, whether they are the same or different from your own.

5. Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

This tendency to draw negative conclusions about life from isolated events and then see the world through those conclusions. These are pessimistic, cynical, and defeatist conclusions. For example, a waiter gets three lousy tips in a row and thinks, “All my customers tonight are bad tippers.” Even three bad tippers in a row is not statistically significant enough to pass judgment all customers, but the waiter’s brain sees a pattern and then makes a conclusion. He over-generalizes it to all the people he serves and is completely convinced he will have a night of bad tips. So what does he do? He gives up the fight. He becomes pessimistic, defeated, cynical, at least for the rest of the night. He doesn’t try to give good service because it doesn’t matter. He’s going to get a lousy tip no matter what he does. Why try? And sure enough, people are not at all impressed with his half-hearted service and tip him badly. His own negative conclusion has become a reality, brought into being by his thinking that a few bad apples will spoil the bunch.

6. Black and white thinking

Thinking in black and white, all or nothing terms is common in people who get very angry. This is particularly a problem when it comes to knowing how firm to be with people. For example, John has a friend Paul who had borrowed money from him. John was quite happy to offer this loan and thought, “Paul is a good buddy; I know I can trust him”. Paul has not offered to repay it after two weeks and John, who didn’t like to mention it, has begun to think, “He is taking advantage of me, he thinks I’m a sucker, but I’m no idiot”. John becomes angry and the next time he sees Paul he begins to shout and make threats about what he will do if the money is not repaid, immediately. He thinks: “If I don’t show him, he’ll think I’m a wimp”. It might have been better for both, if John had taken a middle approach and firmly asked Paul to repay the money earlier, rather than saying nothing or becoming very angry in response to the thought “He’s betraying me”.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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