How Non-Sexual Intimacy Can Make Or Break A Relationship

Let me begin this post by saying I actually have no idea how many men will read it. I say that because my experience online has been that the likes and comments I get typically come much more from females than males. But I figured what the heck, I’m going to post this anyway.

So, my question for you men out there is: how much does non-sexual intimacy matter to you in your relationship with your special woman? If your answer is anything less than “a lot” (or at least something like “ I know it should mean more, but I’m not sure how to get there”), then I encourage you to hear me out.

In the process, you will end up with a chance to take less time than it took me personally to really “get” how terrific non-sexual intimacy really is with the right partner. Oh, and BTW: in case it isn’t obvious, non-sexual intimacy can be either physical or verbal. Examples of physical non-sexual intimacy include warm hugs, holding hands, and massages. Verbal forms of non-sexual intimacy include expressions of appreciation, respect, gratitude, and specialness, either spoken directly out loud, or expressed through a card or something else you write by hand.

Now if you ask me fellow men out there, there are three great reasons to cultivate more non-sexual intimacy with your special woman:

🔶Number one: maybe you already know this (and if you don’t, give yourself a chance to find out), but moments of physical non-sexual intimacy can be great for stress management (for both you AND her).

🔶Number two: chances are–not guaranteed, but chances are—you will end up with more regular sexual relations (which may or may not become more frequent, but perhaps at least likely more consistent). But here’s the best reason of all:

🔶Number three: non-sexual intimacy can over time heighten the bond between the two of you above and beyond the realm of sexual intimacy, into what can become FOUNDATIONAL relationship intimacy! And that’s the best thing of all for you and your special woman to share!

What do you think? In my opinion, this is a really important subject to explore. Why does most therapy seem to cater to the female demographic only? Why aren’t more men sharing their feelings and being emotionally available (and proud of it)?

I think we have a ways to go as a society to accept that all genders are emotional creatures and erase the stigma of being a “manly man” or not. Men, like women, should be multi-faceted. I explore this idea more in my previous post about what makes a real man; check that out here.

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Overcoming Emotional Trauma: A Menu For Healing The Hurt That Holds You Back

Growing up, I was emotionally hurt a lot.  Although I was an only child, my parents were so caught up in their own troubles and struggles that I managed to end up not fitting the stereotypes of an only child.  Meaning not only was I not spoiled and catered to, on the contrary: I was outright neglected.  Plus, my parents fought like cats and dogs (on a slightly lighter note, I would describe them as the understudies for the Costanzas on Seinfeld — except in real life, it was anything but funny to regularly witness, as I figure you can imagine).

All that arguing inevitably left me with plenty of core anxiety and insecurity—no surprise there, right? So, that was the essence of my emotional hurt growing up: a mix of deep feelings of neglect (accompanied by feelings of being unlovable), plus significant amounts of insecurity and anxiety; hurt that left me vulnerable to what I came to think of as my inner bully’s “double whammy” of potential self-sabotage.  Meaning: on the one hand, I am aware of my having an emotional core of hypersensitivity and over-reactivity to feeling betrayed and/or rejected. Yet on the other hand, I am equally aware I have a piece inside of me—a piece I learned from watching my parents argue so much—to pseudo-compensate for feeling hurt by all too quickly going to anger.

I tell you all of this for two reasons. First, so I can now follow it up by sharing with you how I know firsthand what the incredible benefits are that you can get from being in the right therapy with the right therapist (it took me quite a while, but I eventually found him, thankfully).  Am I no longer hypersensitive and over-reactive? Certainly these self-sabotaging tendencies are not gone entirely by any means, but I’m clear as daylight that I have come a long way in controlling them—especially, and most importantly, in the face of situational triggers.

Am I no longer prone to outbursts of anger?  I can’t say they never occur, but I can unequivocally and unhesitatingly say they occur a lot less, and manifest much more often than not in an increasingly controlled manner.

So, what’s my “secret” here, to use this overused term?  It’s called HEALING. No, my painful emotional wounds certainly are not 100% healed; some scars do for sure remain. But my confidence in my ability to comfort myself and be resilient in the face of feeling betrayed or rejected, as well as in my ability to keep my anger in check have never been stronger.  And to what do I attribute my healing?  Here’s my “menu” for success.

First, again, being with the right therapy/therapist. Then, add all of the following items: having the incredible good fortune to still love my work, learning self-comfort tools, turning to my robust network of great friends for support (while making sure to give it back to them as needed, too), performing acts of kindness and courage, allowing displays of  vulnerability at the right time to the right people, getting a good laugh a day (and a good cry when needed), and, last but not least, staying as active, healthy, and playful as I have the luxury and ability to be.

So: care to share where YOU are on the healing front?

Learn more about my journey to overcoming my Inner Bully and tackling Self-Sabotage by checking out my two published books, browsing my recent blog posts, and connecting with me on my Instagram and Facebook pages. Oh, and I encourage you to download a FREE chapter from my book: you can find the link to download that here!

Learn to Love Yourself: The Four Components of Self-Love

“Learn to love yourself!” Wonderful and inspiring words, but certainly can sometimes be a challenge to do, right? Well, the way I have come to see it in recent years, if you want to feel more self-love, It can really help if you feel positively about yourself in the following four areas:

  • Self-liking;
  • Self-respect;
  • Self-enjoyment; and
  • Self-comfort.

Let’s dive deeper into each one of those components.

Self-Liking

Self-liking describes the positive, likable personality traits and qualities you see yourself as having.  These could be anything from intelligent, to outgoing, ambitious, kind, a good listener, devoted, energetic, or funny. Self-liking expresses the things you are good at and the good that others may see in you as well.

Self-Respect

Self-respect describes anything you feel you are accomplishing in your life—most certainly including the “little things” you do each day that are worthy of giving yourself a little bit of credit or acknowledgment for.  These can include: making the effort, self control over a self-defeating habit, an act of kindness, something that took some creativity, meeting a goal you had set, and—last but not least—an act of courage.

Self-Enjoyment

Self-enjoyment describes anything you do that allows you to entertain and enjoy yourself.  It could be through watching a funny show, writing something creative, making people laugh or telling an entertaining story, or being out in nature.

Self-Comfort

Self-comfort encompasses anything you do to compassionately comfort and soothe yourself when you are emotionally (or physically) hurting.  This can include things like taking a warm bath, listening to peaceful music or a meditation recording, reading something comforting or reassuring, making a list of what you like and respect about yourself, or—certainly not for everyone, but in my view so worth trying at least once —taking some kind of a furry stuffed animal or person (or even a pillow), holding it in your arms, imagining that it is you, and saying the kind of comforting and reassuring things you would say to a real live person you know who is hurting. 

In other words, in a nutshell, the clearer you can become that there are things you like about yourself, you respect about yourself, you enjoy doing in your own company, and you do to effectively comfort yourself, the more you will know your self-love is where you want it to be. But if you feel you fall short in any of these four areas, at least this can help you identify what you want to work on to get your self-love to that loving place. And if I may just add, a place I am grateful for and is a better place than it ever has been.

Feel like sharing where YOU are on the self-love front?  Leave a comment, or visit my Instagram or Facebook page for more on this subject!

inner bully

How To Shift Your Self-Judgement: A Technique To Overcome Your Inner Bully

I’d like to share with you something I’ve been practicing lately. Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), as some of you may know, teaches us that we can practice challenging our negative thinking—including negative self-judgments—by pointing out to ourselves the irrationalities, over-generalizations, and incorrect assumptions in our minds that are creating and perpetuating the toxic negative thinking. Sometimes that approach works just fine. But in enough instances, I find it doesn’t work so well. For example, suppose you are mired in self-critical judgments like “I’m pretty stupid!” or “I’m fat and ugly!” or “I’m so undeserving of being loved!” These, what I call “inner bully,” harsh self-judgments can be pretty darn impenetrable to internal cognitive challenging, like what is practiced in CBT.


So, let me suggest an alternative strategy to getting control over negative self-judgments like these. The strategy involves switching the focus in your mind off of the distressing negative self-judgment you are caught up in, and onto what you are FEELING at that moment. I think it’s safe to say there are certain feelings that almost always create highly self-critical judgment—feelings like: sadness, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, hurt, or irritation.

The point is: what I’ve been preaching—and practicing—is mindfully shifting a negative self-judgment into one of those honest feelings. For example, suppose your inner bully has you saying to yourself something like “Jeez, you really are pretty stupid sometimes!” What you practice doing at those moments is switching immediately to telling yourself what you are really feeling, e.g., “I’m feeling sad right now” or “I’m feeling disappointed right now”—or anxious, or hurt, or pissed off, or jealous, or whatever. By doing this, you are replacing toxic negative self-judgment with a totally NON-judgmental, totally human feeling, one that exists in your emotional core because it belongs there at the moment.

Try it—and just see if like me, you feel like you are giving yourself a golden opportunity to bypass going cognitive with your negative self-judging; and instead, to cut right to non-judgmental honest feeling!

The Self-Worth Equation: Why The Little Things Make All The Difference

When I think of a way to describe the meaning of the term “emotional self-worth,” I go with the following equation: self-worth equals self-esteem plus self-respect. Let me take each of those two separately. On the self-esteem front , I look at self-esteem as having two parts: the “outer” (how you feel about how you look on the outside) and the “inner” (what you like about you personally on the inside).

As a little aside to that distinction, I truly wish that for true self-esteem, we could all make the “inner” part count a lot more than the “outer” part! But socialization and conditioning in our society being what they are, it makes it tough for that to happen, right? Oh well, and now to self-respect, which I’ll define here as anything you feel you’re accomplishing in your life, especially the “little things.”

Examples of “little things”— which as you’ll see in a moment really aren’t the least bit little at all—are things like pushing yourself and making the effort, exercising self-control over self-defeating habits, doing an act of kindness, taking care of your body and your health, reaching some goal you set, being creative and/or doing something really fun, and— last but certainly not least— engaging in act of courage.

These are the kinds of “little things” that we all could do ourselves a big favor by acknowledging even one of them that we may have done that day before we go to sleep at night! These days I’m thankfully feeling pretty good about myself on all three fronts (I assure you a lot of personal work has gone into making that happen)!

So next time you are judging yourself or worried about your value, remember the equation: Self-worth = Self-esteem + Self-respect!

inner bully

Feel Like You Are Never Good Enough? Learn My Secrets To Challenging Your Inner Bully [Because I’ve Done It, Too]


Are you challenged by the belief that you are “never good enough?” Well, my friends, I guarantee you: been there, done that myself, for enough decades of my life!

Only in maybe the past 5 years have I become clear that my—I call it, and wrote a book on it—“inner bully” had kept me puffing away on a “never good enough” emotional treadmill. Meanwhile, in the process of trying so hard to see myself as “good enough”—better yet, good, much less very good—I was very successfully disregarding my actual successes in my life, be they, e.g., professionally, academically, or inter-personally.

Photo by Inzmam Khan on Pexels.com

Ever wonder how the “never good enough” (NGE) bully takes control of your thinking? Or in other words, are you clear where this bully get its strength from? Maybe this is obvious, but just in case it isn’t: it gets its strength mainly from two things: 1) being negatively compared a lot to, e.g., your siblings or your friends; and 2) getting either lots of “yes/but” pseudo-compliments (e.g., “Yes you did well, BUT if you had worked harder you could’ve done better!”) or almost no compliments or praise at all. And as a little P.S. here, all it takes to feel NGE is to have had one parent be like this, even if the other parent did exactly the opposite, and gave you steady doses of praise, compliments, and encouragement!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So what do I recommend you practice doing to stand up to your NGE bully? First, in case you get caught up in this a lot (like I so often did), you need to stop comparing yourself to other people! Then (as I have posted previously) do something I make myself do and encourage my clients to do: just before bedtime, take a couple of moments to list at least one thing you did that day that falls in any of the following categories:

🔸an act of kindness;

🔸a goal met;

🔸worked hard at something important;

🔸something creative and/or fun;

🔸an act of courage.

Because as long as you are doing these kinds of things in your life, you are always better than “good enough”. In fact, you are actually a quite GOOD person, even a VERY good person. Time to stand up to your inner bully and start believing that, once and for all!

For more on standing up to your Inner Bully, join me for a FREE Expert Panel Discussion on March 12th at 2 pm; simply click below to register a spot and be a part of the conversation!

Post-Traumatic Stress Injury: Why You Should Be Using PTSI To Describe Your Trauma (instead of PTSD)!

Most people are familiar with the psychological condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As you may be aware from anything you have read or heard—or more unfortunately, from what you may personally suffer from—PTSD can be a quite debilitating psychological condition.  The main symptoms of PTSD typically include severe anxiety or panic attacks, flashbacks, depression, somatic symptoms (e.g., loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, or headaches), and loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.  Problems with addiction are also not uncommon when PTSD has taken hold. All of these symptoms ongoingly create and perpetuate marked distress in the person suffering from PTSD, and can continue to be present for many years or more, if not much of a lifetime.

When someone is formally diagnosed with PTSD, it is understood that by definition, the trauma triggering the PTSD involved a life or death event. War, a plane or car crash, or a natural disaster are all prime examples of life and death events that can of course traumatize someone involved in any of these events.  I should add that the formal diagnosis of PTSD can also include directly witnessing a life or death event, of the types just listed, without being a direct victim of it.

There is however another category of trauma that may not involve formally diagnosable events, but can trigger psychological trauma anyway. I’m referring here to psychological events which while not life and death, nevertheless in the extreme certainly can be traumatizing by themselves.  These especially include painful rejection, severe abuse, or a blind-siding major betrayal (e.g., an unsuspected infidelity). All of these psychologically devastating events have the potential to create most if not all of the same clinical symptoms listed above for traumas involving life and death events. Plus, need I add: unlike the first category of trauma which thankfully most people will never experience, chances are most people will go through their life experiencing at least one situation involving the second category of trauma.  

Now it’s time to tell you about Dr. Peter Levine’s work related to PTSD.  First we have his absolutely marvelous book, entitled In An Unspoken Voice: How The Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness (2010). Then we have the incredibly valuable conference of his I attended several years ago on the subject of his book and related writings.  Dr. Levine is clearly a brilliant man. But better yet, he is also a deeply compassionate man—especially when it comes to people plagued by the debilitating symptoms of PTSD.

Let me tell you what I mainly mean by that statement of compassion—by quoting something from his book.  On page 34, Dr. Levine writes:


 “Recently, a young Iraq veteran took issue with calling his combat anguish PTSD.  Instead, he poignantly referred to his pain and suffering as PTSI. With the “I” designating “injury.”  What he wisely discerned is that trauma is an injury, and not a disorder like diabetes, which can be managed but not healed.  In contrast, post-traumatic stress INJURY is an emotional wound, amenable to healing attention and transformation.”


In An Unspoken Voice: How The Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness
Peter A. Levine
North Atlantic Books, 2010

To say I am indebted to Dr. Levine for introducing the term “injury” into the mix is putting it mildly.  That’s because virtually all of my current and past patients whom I have treated have found the term post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) a term that strips the stigmatizing judgment out of the diagnosis of a disorder or mental illness.  Knowing that in this framework someone who has been traumatized will instead be seen as having a painful deep-seated injury can provide a badly needed sense of “normalcy” for that traumatized person. After all, who doesn’t sooner or later have to contend with a painful PHYSICAL injury, which can—as with a painful psychological injury—last a long time, take quite a while to treat, and quite possibly never fully go away?  No one in good conscience could possibly think of suffering from a painful physical injury as having anything but normalcy to it under the circumstances, right?

So to me the overall moral of the story is this.  If you are an individual who suffers from PTSD, strongly consider from now on calling it PTSI (and leave the PTSD thing to, say, professional diagnosing for insurance purposes).  Same recommendation I want to give to psychotherapists, counselors, coaches, and healers working with people diagnosed with PTSD: tell your patients/clients you will be using the term PTSI for their condition.  Then, as so sensitively encouraged by Dr. Levine, let’s help these suffering souls attempt to heal from their deep, complicated injury. And let’s make sure they get plenty of doses of healing-oriented kindness and compassion along the way—from people around them and of course from us—and not just in-office, diagnosis-based treatment options.

PTSI rather than PTSD—thank you Dr. Levine!


Want to learn more about this subject? Subscribe below to get an exclusive invitation to my upcoming webinar on Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.

Care-Givers Versus Care-Takers

The other day, I was thinking about the distinction between being a care-giver vs. a care-taker. So I went to the “God of Google” for some non-cosmic insight on the matter. In several places that came up, the distinction made between the two essentially boiled down to this: care-GIVING involves giving in a deeply caring and personal way to a loved one, while care-TAKING refers more to a paid position, involving a person or situation as the object of the care-taking.

This distinction didn’t work very well for me I decided. So I went ahead and created a personally-preferred distinction. I’m sticking with care-giving as the personal giving of care to a loved one. But I’m switching care-TAKING to: the personal act of RECEIVING care from someone, be it a loved one, friend, or otherwise. I went with this distinction because I think it’s important to recognize that wonderfully care-giving people by nature can struggle with being on the receiving end—i.e., the taking in—of care-giving. Irrational guilt often is the underlying culprit here: essentially, feeling they don’t really deserve or have the right to receive care-giving—even when it’s clearly needed. So in enough instances, a care-giver by nature who at least temporarily needs care-giving given to them needs to be assured and reassured that it is perfectly ok to receive it, as it is a HUMAN NEED at times for everyone!

One more piece though. Care-givers do not always do a very good job of taking care of—or should I say giving care to—THEMSELVES. So to all you care-givers out there, I say: give yourself permission to receive care when you need it—but also make sure to take care of yourself too. After all, how can you really sustain being the best care-giver you expect yourself to be if you don’t balance it out at least some with taking or giving the best care you can to you?!

-Dr. Sid

On Grief and Loss

GRIEF AND LOSS

What do all of the following share in common: 1) the death of a loved; 2) a relationship breakup; 3) a job layoff or termination; 4) a home being destroyed by fire or tornado; and 5) significant physical limitations resulting from a serious illness or injury?  Maybe it’s obvious, but they all involve a major personal loss, any one of which can be psychologically and emotionally painful.  The loss does not have to be a total one to be difficult to cope with.  What matters most is when the loss, whatever it may be, leaves you often feeling a mix of very sad and anxious, total loss or not.  The sadness connects with grief; the anxiety connects with fear of loss of security and/or self-confidence.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying,” postulated 5 stages of grief connected specifically to the coping with the loss of a loved one via death.  Kubler-Ross named these stages denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  However, in my over 30 years as a practicing psychologist, it has been my professional experience that in enough instances, the grieving process is not as etched in stone regarding these stages as Kubler-Ross postulated.  In addition, so-called stages of grieving can occur every bit as much with the other four types of significant losses spelled out above as with the death of a loved one.

NON-DEATH VARIATIONS ON THE TYPES AND STAGES OF GRIEVING

Take 58 year old David.  David was recently was laid off from his job of 27 years.  For several months, David and several of his co-workers had seen the writing on the wall of an impending “unavoidable” layoff.  So there was no room for denial here, nor for bargaining, over this job loss.  In addition, the layoff did not outright depress David, nor could he accept it.  But one thing the layoff sure did make him feel was: angry!  Anger centering mainly on the fact that David had been a loyal, hard-working, productive company employee for more than 2-plus decades.  As a result, no matter how much he knew the company was justifying the layoffs as “unavoidable,” David felt convinced in his heart that he in no way DESERVED to be laid off.  So anger reigned supreme for David as a result of this loss; as did anxiety I might add, given the likely challenge now facing him of finding another job at his age.

Now take Jennifer.  Married for 7 years, she was by nature a trusting soul, and very much in love with her husband Ira.  Yet in the past year, Jennifer had been dealing with certain behaviors on Ira’s part that were increasingly causing her more and more angst.  These especially involved Ira claiming he was now required to work late a couple of nights a week (something he had never done before), and excessive unexplained phone texting.  Jennifer was upset by these behaviors yes, but she refused to believe what her mother and best friend were telling her: that they suspected Ira was having an affair.  Alas, one night Jennifer decided uncharacteristically to “snoop” into Ira’s computer.  And there in the trash she found an ongoing exchange of deleted emails between Ira and another woman, lurid and loving in detailed nature.

No longer able to remain in denial of the obvious truth, Jennifer did not go into anger mode, as her sadness simply overwhelmed her.  When she finally confronted Ira, he not only acknowledged the truth of his affair, but even more devastatingly to Jennifer, he informed her of his intent to divorce her.  Begging (bargaining) for even some marital counseling got her nowhere.  And then for many years after the actual divorce, Jennifer remained so sad and anxious at the core that acceptance of her marital loss remained extremely difficult for her to do.

The moral of the story regarding these two significant personal, non-death losses is that they are examples of how Kubler-Ross’ five postulated stages of grief by no means universally occur, nor do they necessarily occur in the chronological order she elucidated.  What does consistently occur though in the case of significant personal loss is any of a range of painful emotions, some of which go beyond those presented by Kubler-Ross.  These can include for example guilt, jealousy, abandonment, embarrassment, and as noted above anxiety/fear.  Keep in mind too that any of these emotions can realistically and humanly have no “statute of limitations” regarding the duration of their intensity and presence, consciously or subconsciously.

CLINICAL SYMPTOMS OF GRIEF AND LOSS

Moving to the clinical aspect of grief and loss, there are a variety of possible psychological problems that intense grief can trigger, in the short run and possibly in the long run.  These include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, addiction, and eating disorders.  As with the  loss-triggered emotions listed above, there is no statue of limitations on the potential duration or intensity of any of these symptoms.

HEALING FROM GRIEF AND LOSS

Safe to say we all grew up hearing the expression “time heals all wounds.”  Well, now that most of us are grown up, I will at least speak for myself when I say I have learned that the idea that time heals all wounds–especially grief/loss wounds–is far from guaranteed.  Some important losses can leave us with long-lasting if not permanent feelings of any one or more of the powerful emotions listed above, from sadness, to guilt, to loneliness, to anger, to fear.  So to help yourself heal from these emotional wounds of grief and loss, you will need to DO some things over time to increase your healing potential.  Options here especially include becoming involved in a grief/loss support group, disregarding anyone who tells you to “move on!” or “get over it already!”, staying as busy and distracted as possible, tapping into religious or personally spiritual pursuit, or–if the clinical symptom piece does not subside–seeking professional counseling and/or psychiatric medication.

In closing, I encourage you to keep in mind that any significant loss–again, be it the death of a loved one, a relationship breakup, a change or loss of a job/school/residence, or suffering a physically debilitating injury or illness–can trigger a range of painful emotions, which can vary per person in intensity, duration, and chronological order.  Therefore, let me underscore, any of these emotions is called HUMAN, and not what too many people judge them as being: “weak!”

On Anger Management

Almost everyone has heard the term anger management. Some of you may have even seen the comical version of the term anger management, i.e., the movie by that name, starring Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler. For the very most part though, need I say there isn’t much room in real life for thinking about it in humorous terms.

In addressing the subject of anger management, let me first focus on the word anger, or a little more specifically, “angry.” The key here is that for many people, hearing someone sound and look angry implies that that person is being judged as being out of control (i.e., “flying off the handle” or “flipping out”). Yet for other people, the word angry may NOT imply being out of control. Instead, it may imply being frustrated or irritated–feelings which even if strong are usually perceived as the person still being in control of themselves. There also are many instances in which a person is perceived by others as being out of control–i.e., angry–yet NOT out of control in the eyes of the “angry” person himself/herself. And when this becomes a pattern of behavior, others may perceive that person as having an “anger management” problem, but the person himself/herself may not.

One postscript here. I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to someone having a pattern of launching into full-blown RAGE episodes, even that person will have to acknowledge that that clearly reflects a major problem they have controlling their anger!

Psychological Factors Surrounding An Anger Management Problem

People with an anger management problem are likely to have that problem for a variety of possible psychological reasons. Let me break these reasons down into 4 main categories: 1) feelings of betrayal, injustice, and entitlement; 2) parental role-modeling; 3) “masking” of vulnerability; and 4) feeling empowered.

1) Feelings of betrayal, injustice, and entitlement–The definition of betrayal that I use in my work (as well as in my personal life) is: any significant feeling of letdown, by someone important to you, based on what you believed you had the right to believe they would never do to you. Connecting this to problems with getting a handle on anger, it’s safe to say that the more someone feels either one huge betrayal or a series of betrayals that add up to a huge one, the more that person is likely to develop a storehouse of anger. This especially applies, I will add, to the feeling of betrayal being triggered by severe abuse, severe neglect, or outright abandonment. The sense of injustice that typically accompanies deep feelings of betrayal, combined with a strong sense of entitlement that the injustice be undone or eliminated only adds to the size–not to mention persistence – of that storehouse.

2) Parental role-modeling–Simply stated, a person is much more to develop an anger management problem if they had at least one parent who presented with this problem themselves.

3) “Masking” of vulnerability–While I see this issue as generally applying to men more than women, there certainly are exceptions on both sides of the gender coin. The basic point here is: suppose someone is having difficulty dealing with strong vulnerable feelings like, e.g., fear or anxiety, guilt, hurt, or sadness. The more that person judges themselves as “weak” for having much less showing these feelings, the more automatically if not reflexively he/she may display strong anger. This display of anger then “masks” those weak–i.e, vulnerable–feelings.

4) Feeling empowered–Many people who have an anger management problem, whether they acknowledge it or not, experience a surge of feeling powerful when they are angry. This surge can behaviorally manifest in what could be seen or felt stereotypically as “macho” behavior or “attack mode.” In contrast, and going back to the “masking” concept, when someone is feeling any of the vulnerable feelings listed above to a strong if not overwhelming degree, accompanying that negative self-judgment of “weakness” can be the opposite of feeling powerful, i.e., feeling powerLESS (consciously or subconsciously).

Brain Physiology And The “Highjacking” Phenomenon

To help you gain a further understanding of why impaired anger management is such a complicated syndrome, we must also look inside the brain. To keep this as understandable as possible, there are two main structures in the brain that have a great deal of bearing on anger management. The first structure is called the AMYGDALA (a-mig-duh-luh). This is the part of our brain that is centrally involved in the universal “fight/flight” response, where “flight” refers to fear or anxiety and “fight” refers to anger and aggression. In brief, when someone is stressed and resultingly develops a good deal of agitation inside, the amygdala actively fires away. If the intensity of the agitation quickly becomes intense, the amygdala can quickly become not just reactive but, more problematically, HYPERreactive. If the stressor triggering hyperactivity in the amygdala is fear-related, the person will likely develop a very high level of fear or anxiety. If on the other hand the trigger is anger-related, then the person is likely to become intensely angry.

The other key structure in the brain involved in anger management is known as the PREFRONTAL CORTEX (PFC). This is the crucial structure in the brain that is the seat of rational and logical thinking, including good decision-making, concentration and attention, and impulse control. Connecting this to anger (as well as fear too), the brain-based physiological general rule of thumb here is: the more the person’s PFC is functioning at a normal–i.e., non-stressed/agitated–level, the more controlled and better managed will that person’s anger be in general.

Now let’s tie these two structures of the brain together as it relates to anger management problems. In a nutshell, when some stressful/agitating situation triggers significant hyperactivity in the amygdala, the process known as “high-jacking” occurs. Specifically, the amygdala essentially overtakes–i.e., high-jacks–the PFC, resulting in significant impairment in the person’s ability to think clearly, concentrate adequately, and control their self-defeating impulses. In anger management terms, this means that when the amygdala is triggered to become very hyperactive, and the PFC’s functioning is therefore limited, anger takes control of the person. Which in the extreme–such as in a state of pure rage–creates the proverbial “zero to 60” effect. The overall moral of the story here being: this high-jacking process in the brain does not excuse a person with an anger management problem, but it most certainly helps EXPLAIN the problem.

Strategies For Anger Management

Given all that’s spelled out above on the psychology and brain-based physiology of anger management, I hope you are clear–maybe clearer than you’ve ever been–just how much easier said than done it is to achieve. And yet: whether you’ve ever really looked at it this way or not, in the end there are two extremely important reasons to work on anger management. The first reason is an individual one: self-respect. Simply stated–and feelings of empowerment and masked vulnerability notwithstanding– if you let intense anger take control of you, you cannot possibly respect yourself for your pattern of “flipping out” and “flying off the handle.” But just like with addiction, and to put it bluntly, who the heck ever thinks about self-respect when you’re in the middle of being very angry or indulging in an addictive substance! Yet the psychological fact of life is: a pattern of a significant loss of self-control guarantees an accompanying loss of self-respect. And that’s, let me reiterate, whether you ever consciously think about that or not.

The second reason to work on anger management has to do with being challenged or confronted by significant others about their feeling that your problem controlling anger is in there eyes sabotaging your relationship with them. If that is their experience and perception, and your relationship with them truly matters to you, then I’d say it’s advisable you get to work on your problem for this reason too!

On that note, presented below is a “menu” of strategies I recommend for working on anger management. Like a real menu, you can choose the same item each time, or change around if you feel trying a different item would be better for you. Let me preface this menu though by saying that no matter which items on the menu you choose to try to help yourself manage your anger better, it is absolutely essential that you practice them as often as possible. Otherwise, you must face the music as they say: if you don’t practice them, there is virtually no chance that you will make any progress on this troubling–and trouble-MAKING–front.

The menu I recommend for anger management includes the following:

–mindful meditation (especially focusing on breathing, tension in the body, and visual imagery; more spiritual pursuit of some type can also be a meditative option )

–“get physical” (e.g., walking or more strenuous exercise, gardening, or something cathartic like pillow-pounding)

–“get vocal” (e.g., call a friend, or: go in the car, don’t drive anywhere, and yell your heart out)

–“get your journal” (emotional venting in written form)

–“get musical” (listen to whatever type of music you believe can help you reduce your agitation)

–“get perspective” (basically, force yourself to remember that you are allowing your anger to control you in a way that can be sabotaging to your self-respect and also potentially to the relationship with someone important to you; that perspective can leave you still feeling angry yes, but able to express it in a more reasonable and controlled manner)

–“get de-stressed” (do the best you can to cut down on the overall stress in your life)

Last but not least, given the complexity of the problem of agitation management and the big challenge it therefore presents, I highly encourage you to give yourself a big pat on the back each and every time you do something to keep your anger to a manageable and controlled level!