A couple of weeks ago I looked at the next module on the Living Life to the Full cCBT course, entitled “Are you strong enough to keep you temper?”. I’ve been meaning to write a blog post summarising my thoughts on the module. Except I haven’t done either yet, basically because I can’t really decide what to make of the module. Hopefully writing this post will help get my ideas together.

Module’s Intro

The introduction explains that it means ‘temper’ in terms of  anger, irritation and losing control

I like to think that I’m not a very angry person. I’m sure it’s true that I’m not the angriest person in the world, though equally true that I do get angry sometimes. Actually right now (or when I started writing this post), my mother’s vacuuming and the noise is driving me crazy and making my skin crawl! Can’t even think and have had to shut myself away in my room with my laptop volume up high to re-listen to this online module.

So far so good. At least I can see that this module might apply to me and be helpful.

According to the module…”Irritability upsets yourself and others. And can make you lose things, like a job.”

I haven’t had the latter occur to me (touch wood). But I can definitely relate to the first bit. I think the upsetting myself is mostly how my anger and irritability manifests itself. To avoid upsetting others and deflect attention away from me, I’ll turn the anger in on myself and be mad at myself for feeling mad. Like now, I know I can’t get mad at my mother for cleaning the house, so I’m mad at myself for not being able to deal with the vacuum noise, and mad at myself for not summoning the energy to vacuum myself and let my mother have a rest.

The module goes on to say, “it’s weak to stay and argue…things get out of control, you end up in trouble”

This is where I get a bit confused. To be honest, I think that doing what I do, of avoiding conflict and instead getting mad at myself, is an unhealthy way of dealing with things (especially when I feel like I’m simmering away and end up scraping at my skin to deal with myself…). But at least I don’t stay and argue, so, according to the module, I must be doing something right.

Having written that, I see that in fact if I am turning the anger in on myself, then even if I don’t show it outwardly, I have still gotten mad. Maybe the contradictory things that were confusing me aren’t contradictory afterall. Perhaps this module is helpful, and I’ll think about the rest of the module in terms of things that will make me mad at myself, rather than just concentrating on things that make me outwardly lose my temper at others.

So, on we go.

3-Step Plan

In order to avoid anger, the module gives a three step plan: ‘1,2,3, Chill!’ … and says it should be sung…oh dear. Through gritted teeth I remind myself to accept the naffness.

  1. Know your buttons
  2. Know early warning system
  3. Use your Escape Hatches
  • Chill!

1. Know your buttons

The online thing gives a few ideas on the sorts of things that might ‘push your buttons’, ie the things that will make me mad or make me upset. Therefore these are the things to avoid in the future. The things that I can think of for me (mostly things I’ve already mentioned on this blog):

  • Not knowing what I’m meant to be doing/what’s expected of me
  • Not being able to ask the right question, not being able to communicate what I want to say/ask
  • Not knowing how to fix something or what to do next when given criticism
  • Being criticized for something I don’t know how to change, or something that is intrinsically me.
  • Thinking that maybe this is me, I’ll always be stressed and on the brink of tears. I’ll always be on the verge of pushing myself over the edge, just to do something normal
  • Being too tired to think clearly, too exhausted to do something
  • Trying to doing something helpful for others and messing it up
  • Not having motivation, especially when I know it is something I should want to do
  • Being fobbed off. Especially when trying to ask for help
  • Being thought of as a cheater. Especially when attempting to ask for help
  • Being thought of as a whiner.
  • Spending unnecessary time just thing about problems and worrying about other things
The module then suggests that these triggers should be avoided, giving examples like:
  • Avoid it/the people/the places
  • Go to different places
  • Talk to different people
  • Drink less
  • Drive more slowly
  • Ignore others’ comments
I’m sure these are well meaning, and it’s hard to argue with the drinking and driving suggestions. However the rest I have more difficulty with, both with how to do them realistically, and with their intentions. I can’t really go about avoiding anything that might upset me, especially when they’re to do with what people say to me: Presumably I need to learn how to ask for constructive criticism, and not take things so personally, not avoid being criticized altogether. Same with asking for help but then fobbed off. I’m sure the answer isn’t really to avoid asking for help for ever more, and I can’t ignore their comment if I’ve specially asked for their advice! Similarly, I can’t avoid talking to my close friends and family, though they’re the ones who, chances are, I will be talking to about these things that upset me. Other things, such as vacuuming, scraping chair noises, and the ice cream van jingle really shouldn’t make me mad, so I need to learn to not be irritated by them, rather than always making sure I’m out of earshot of them for the rest of my life.

Or maybe I’m missing something. Will read/listen further with this module.

2. Know your early warning signs

The online slide for this section says to write down the physical things you feel just before trouble starts, and therefore when to put Step 3 into action.
Mine:
  • eyes prickle
  • welling up feeling in throat
  • stomach clench
In fact these are more to do with crying, I guess the outward sign of me being upset and feeling angry. However, I’ve glanced at my mother’s recent emails where she writes that she feels she has to’tiptoe round’ me in case I ‘erupt’, and my cousin said to me on the phone the other night that I sounded ‘abrupt’. Unfortunately both these things have slightly got to be as I’ve actually been feeling fairly normal in myself, so haven’t felt any ‘early warning signs’. The module suggests asking people close to you what signs they pick up on. I should do this, but talking about how I feel, especially when I’m trying really hard to be normal, is a surefire way to make me upset. Funnily enough I therefore avoid these conversations, as per the suggested solutions of the first step above!

3. Use your escape hatches

The module suggests a range of options to defuse and a situation and give space to sort it out:
  • smile! – enough for others to notice
  • relax shoulders – drop them
  • breath slowly
  • ‘you’re right about that’ (works best when you really disagree! – you don’t need to mean it!)
  • hum a little tune

These sounded vaguely useful things to do. Unlike the the ABTBP (Amazing Bad Thought Busting Plan, described under ‘Little Bit of Good + lots of Naffness, and ‘A Bit of Bad’), which I found virtually impossible for me to do the mental gymnastics required to stop the tears once they are about to flow, these physical actions are a bit more do-able.

However I have already run into a couple of problems when trying to use them: Smiling: been told I’m acting like a five-year-old child being the Cheshire Cat. Likewise with humming a tune.

Chill!

Give yourself respect. Walk away, show you are stronger than the things that try to make you angry.

Summary

I seem to have had some misgivings at each step of this module. I think it’s better if I don’t take every bit of advice literally, and just take the bits that might be useful.

Looking at my list of buttons makes me realise how sensitive I am to other people’s comments and reactions to me. I’ll have to think more about this, Maybe I’ll have a look back at my notes from Celine, who I saw for face-to-face CBT while at uni. I hope I’ll find something useful there.

Shall promise myself to take the advice of step 2, asking others’ opinions of what my warning signs are. Aside from being useful, I think it will help me and my family if I can be a bit more open about my feelings, and will remind me and them (more me in fact!) that in the context that I am still working on helping myself. This should be less confrontational than the current situation, where I am pretending that I’m fine, cured of depression, anxiety, worry etc and totally myself. I think this has led me to unnecessarily feel like like their comments are an attack on my personality that is cast in stone. Which of course is untrue on all counts!

I basically like the ideas it gives for escape hatches, as they don’t require mental agility. I’ll just have to persevere and not worry about people’s comments (ahh, like the module’s suggestion for solutions to having buttons pressed, that I rather poo-pooed earlier).

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