Tag Archives: anger

Agree? “A Little Too Much Anger Can Destroy More Than You Would Ever Imagine.”

“A little too much anger, too often or at the wrong time, can destroy more than you would ever imagine. Above all, mind what you say.”

— Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

How I love all the novels of Marilynne Robinson. Housekeeping, so brilliant. I just read Lila for the first time, which made me want to re-read Gilead. It is a rare kind of book: a novel told from the perspective of a deeply good person. A beautiful, beautiful book.

Before and After: Use Self-Observation to See What the Triggers Are.

I’m writing my next book, Before and After, about how we make and break habits–an issue  very relevant to happiness. Each week, I’ll post a before-and-after story submitted by a reader, about how he or she successfully changed a habit. We can all learn from each other. If you’d like to share your story, contact me here. To be notified when the book is available for pre-order, sign up here.

This week’s story comes from Kelly Pietrangeli.

I used to have a very bad habit of shouting at my kids. (The irony of shouting at my kids to “stop shouting” was not lost on me.) I knew I needed to stop, but counting to 10 and taking deep breaths never worked for me. I needed to find some kind of strategy that would actually work.

 

I decided the first step was to talk to my kids and tell them I wanted to change this habit. I promised them that if I ever shouted I’d have to apologise. I don’t like to apologise so this was a real biggie for me.

 

Next I went into self-observation mode for a few days to see what my typical triggers were. I noticed I’m short fused when I’m tired first thing in the morning and at end of the day and that being on time for school or activities made me edgy and more prone to outbursts. Knowing that I have more patience at some times than others made me see that often it wasn’t their behaviour that ’caused’ me to lose my rag, but it was my own problem.

 

I don’t tolerate winging, complaining or being uncooperative, but I created a mantra: “My child is not BEING a problem, my child is HAVING a problem.” This helped me to reframe the situation and come at it from a better angle.

 

I then read Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Dr. Laura Markham.

 

Dr. Markham tells us that if we really want to stop yelling, it’s completely possible – no matter how ingrained it is. It’s not rocket science and takes about 3 months once you’ve made the commitment.

 

This is the best book I’ve ever read for helping me understand myself and my children better.

 

Becoming a former Shout-a-holic was not an easy process for me and I slipped up a lot in the beginning, but I chose to persevere. I still have my occasional shouty moments, but they happen rarely now instead of daily. (Hourly!)

 

It really came down to self-awareness and a deep determination to change. I am incredibly proud of the new me!

In Before and After, I call this the Strategy of Foundation. We do a lot better job sticking to our good habits, I believe, when our foundation is strong. That means making sure we get enough sleep, that we’re not too hungry, that we’re not rushed or overwhelmed by dealing with clutter or lost items.

I also write a lot about this kind of issue in Happier at Home: when I’m happier, my family is happier, so I need to take the steps that help me to stay calm, attentive, and tender-hearted.

How about you? Have you worked on your foundation, and found that it helped your habits?

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Try Not To Talk in a Mean Voice. Try Again. And Again.

So much of my Happiness Project is aimed at helping me curb my very strong tendency to “talk in a mean voice” or “make a mean face” (which is how my daughters refer to this behavior). In a flash of irritation or anger, I snarl at my sweet daughters or my good-natured husband.

They don’t like this, and I don’t like this. These outbursts are short, but they really sour the atmosphere of our home. Paradoxically, too, I often behave worse afterwards, instead of better, because my guilt about losing my temper puts me in a bad mood, which makes it even harder to behave myself.

I follow many resolutions meant to keep me from boiling over in this way. I get enough sleep. I get up earlier so I have time to get organized in the morning. I don’t let myself get too hungry. I make more time to read. I manage mild pain and discomfort. I enforce a quitting time on myself. I try to make a joke when things that go wrong.

I’m doing better (I think). But still, many times each week, I act in this way.

Do you struggle to keep your temper with your family? What resolutions work for you? I could really use a few more to add a few more into the mix.

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

5 Mistakes I Continue To Make in My Marriage.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day, or List or Quiz Day.
This Wednesday: 5 mistakes I continue to make in my marriage, and how I try to address them.

One of the main themes of my happiness project is marriage. For me, as with many people, my marriage is one of the most central elements in my life, my home, and my happiness.

When I started my happiness project, and I reflected about the changes I wanted to make, I realized I had five particular problem areas in my marriage. Here they are, along with the strategies I try to use to address them, though they remain challenging:

1. Demanding gold stars. Oh, how I crave appreciation and recognition! I always want that gold star stuck to my homework. But my husband just isn’t very good at handing out gold stars, and that makes me feel angry and unappreciated.

In response, I now think more about doing things for myself. I used to tell myself I was doing nice things for him – “He’ll be so happy to see that I put all the books away,” “He’ll be so pleased that I finally got the trunk packed for camp” etc. – then I’d be mad when he wasn’t appreciative. Now I tell myself that I’m doing these things because I want to do them. “Wow, the kitchen cabinets look great!” “I’m so organized to have bought all the supplies in advance!” Because I do things for myself, I don’t expect him to respond in any particular way.

2. Using a snappish tone. I have a very short fuse and become irritable extremely easily – but my husband really doesn’t like it when I snap at him (big surprise). I’ve done a lot to try to keep my temper in check. I don’t let myself get too hungry or too cold (I fall into these states very easily); I try to keep our apartment in reasonable order, because a mess makes me crabby; when he tries to make a joke out of my temper, I try to laugh along; I try to control my voice to keep it light and cheery instead of accusatory and impatient. Confession: I’ve worked on this issue relentlessly for years, and still have a really tough time with it. For instance, I spoke in a snappish tone just last night.

3. Not showing enough consideration. . Studies show that married people treat each other with less civility than they show to other people — and I do this with my husband, I know. I’m working hard on basic consideration, such as giving him warm greetings and farewells, not reading my emails while talking to him on the phone, etc. Very basic, I know.

4. Score-keeping. I’m a score-keeper, always calculating who has done what. “I cleaned up the kitchen, so you have to run to the store” — that sort of thing. I’ve found two ways to try to deal with this tendency.

First, I remind myself of the phenomenon of unconscious over-claiming; i.e., we unconsciously overestimate our contributions or skills relative to other people’s. This makes sense, because of course we’re far more aware of what we do than what other people do. According to Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis, “when husbands and wives estimate the percentage of housework each does, their estimates total more than 120 percent.” I complain about the time I spend paying bills, but I overlook the time my husband spends dealing with our our car. It’s easy to see that over-claiming leads to resentment and an inflated sense of entitlement. So now when I find myself thinking, “I’m the only one around here who bothers to…” or “Why do I always have to be the one who…?” I remind myself of all the tasks I don’t do.

Second, I remind myself of the words of my spiritual master, St. Therese of Lisieux: “When one loves, one does not calculate.” That precept is the basis for my 11th Personal Commandment: No calculation.

5. Taking my husband for granted. Just as I find it easily to overlook the chores done by my husband (see #4), it’s easy for me to forget to appreciate his many virtues and instead focus on his flaws. For example, although I find it hard to resist using an irritable tone, my husband almost never speaks harshly, and that’s really a wonderful trait. I’m trying to stay alert to all the things I love about him, and let go of my petty annoyances. This is easier said than done.

I’ve found that working to keep my resolution to Kiss more, hug more, touch more is an effective way to help me stay in loving, appreciative frame of mind, with my husband and my daughters, too. KMHMTM is one of my very favorite resolutions! It doesn’t take any extra time, energy, or money, and it makes a real difference in the atmosphere of my home.

What are some mistakes you make in your marriage or long-term relationship? Have you found any useful strategies for addressing them?

* I love the internet! For some reason, I was thinking about the fabulous opening scene from the first Austin Powers movie, and then I thought — I bet I can watch it on YouTube! And there it is. Silly, hilarious. If I had to pick a personal theme song, that music would definitely be a candidate.

Need a good book? TryThe Happiness Project (can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller).
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
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Six Questions To Help You Keep Your Cool — Instead of Losing Your Temper.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Six questions to help you keep your cool.

One of my worst faults is my tendency to “snap” – to react sharply, in a minor but harsh way. This trait clouds my happiness and the happiness of everyone who feels the lash.

The conventional advice for mastering your temper is to “Count to 10” before reacting. My problem is that, in the difficult moment, it never occurs to me to count to ten.

Figuring out ways to control my snappishness has been one of my chief goals for my happiness project. To try to rein it in, I’ve tried everything from getting more sleep to the Week of Extreme Nice to hypnosis.

I also came up with a set of questions that kick into my brain (sometimes) in time to affect my behavior.

When I feel myself losing my temper, if I can muster the mindfulness to be self-reflective, I ask myself these questions:

1. Am I at fault? I hate to be criticized or to be in the wrong. Often, I’m angriest when someone is chiding me about something that I am, indeed, guilty of. When I’m about to hit back, I remind myself to accept criticism politely, if grudgingly.

2. Will this solve anything? I often snap when I feel like I’m confronting the same annoyance over and over. Fact is, people often have irritating habits that aren’t going to change. Failure to meet deadlines, failure to return phone calls, untidiness, etc., etc. I try to remember that snapping isn’t going to make any difference, but will only make me feel bad.

3. Am I improving the situation? This is particularly important with my younger daughter. If I lose my temper with her, the problem just escalates to a whole new horrible level. She dissolves into tears and wails, “You talked to me in a mean voice!” It’s far more effective to stay calm. Also, nicer.

4. Should I be helping you? Often, I lose my temper because I’m actually feeling guilty about my own unhelpfulness. My guilt makes me crabby, but it’s really a sign that I should be taking action.

5. Am I uncomfortable? Discomfort shortens my fuse. I’ve become much more careful to dress warmly (even when people make fun of my long underwear and double sweaters), to snack more often, to turn off the light when I’m sleepy, and to take pain medication as soon as I get a headache. The Duke of Wellington advised, “Always make water when you can,” and I follow that precept, too.

6. Can I make a joke of this? Using humor is extraordinarily effective, but I usually can’t find the inner depths to laugh at an annoying situation. A distant goal for which I’m striving.

It’s tempting to dwell on questions like, “Whose fault is it?” or “Why am I upset?” but in the end, these tend to stoke my temper instead of soothe it. I try to remind myself that no behavior is annoying if I don’t find it annoying. A hackneyed observation, but true.

Have you found any good strategies for keeping your cool?

* My friend Erin Doland is the editor-in-chief of the fabulous site, Unclutterer, and now the excellent Simplifried –“a blog about ending mealtime stress. If your nerves are fried, we’ll be your simple, delicious, and nutritious cooking guide.” The Simplifried Manifesto says it all!

* Sign up for the Moment of Happiness, and each weekday morning, you’ll get a happiness quotation in your email in-box. Sign up here or email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com (don’t forget the “1”). I’m thrilled by the response to this — I started it just a few weeks ago, and almost twelve thousand people have signed up already.