In Ireland we always addressed a married female teacher as ‘mam’

The adolescent life stage is a particularly difficult one for the human. That stage stretches from about thirteen to nineteen years, or even later. Early and mid-adolescence bring painful challenges. Teenagers in that stage are dealing with profound physical changes and emotional upheaval. Their emotional responses become more intense, heightened and easily triggered. Parents can be bewildered by the startling changes they see in their children as their brain develops in an extraordinary and complex way. Teenagers themselves may become equally bewildered and troubled at the intensity of their feelings, including their anger.
I have researched several works on teenage anger and I recommend Nick Luxmoore’s book, Working with Anger and Young People. Nick is an English psychotherapist and school counsellor, and he highlights many issues that provoke anger in teens. The most prominent ones are body image problems, feeling left out, being hurt by negative comments from parents, being disrespected, disregarded, run down, criticised, losing a relationship, being bullied, bereaved, suffering loneliness and, above all, experiencing abandonment. Anger can be seen as a defence against all of these, masking the hurt and the fear. The feeling of anger must be allowed and acknowledged and then the pain, hurt and fear explored. That does not mean allowing teenagers to inflict their anger on others, including a parent or teacher.
What is really problematic in dealing with teenagers is trying to help those who are unable to properly express their anger, who have been ‘taught’ at home that anger is not a nice feeling, that good children do not get angry, or, on the contrary, that anger is the only way to communicate. There is also the question of how comfortable a teenager feels in second level school. Some therapists use the word attachment for this and see schools as unconsciously offering a mothering experience. That is a thought that might make teachers, who rightly wish to keep boundaries clear, uncomfortable. It is probably more relevant at primary school level. I recall that as a young child we always addressed a married female teacher as ‘mam’! It is possible to be warm and nurturing and yet keep appropriate boundaries.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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How to deal with an angry child

There are many quick decisions to take when you are faced with an angry child, but basically you should not retaliate inappropriately. Always remain in your adult shoes. It is not uncommon for adults to regress into their childhood shoes when dealing with certain situations, including dealing with an angry child. When this happens we can end up with two angry children in confrontation – the angry child and the angry inner child of the adult. By staying in the adult’s shoes you can remain calm and show the child how to deal with anger. If you show control and calmness in an angry situation they too will learn this behaviour.
It is also beneficial for the child if you reflect and acknowledge the anger that he is showing. Allowing him to express the reasons for the anger helps to allay it. Perhaps you might ask yourself the questions posed by Whitehouse and Pudney – have your children the opportunity to express their anger at home (or in school)? Can they take it for granted that they can express their feelings, or are you as a parent too fearful of anger to allow it to be vented by them? If so why? You may have to look back at your own childhood to find the reason. You could also check if you are more comfortable with giving boys the space to express their anger, but not the girls. Your belief might be that it is more acceptable for boys to express anger than girls, that it is a sign of masculinity, a testosterone fuelled feeling! Overall, therefore, listening to your children is of the utmost importance, and listening means hearing what they have to say, acknowledging it and taking it seriously. That does not mean giving in to a child’s demands, but giving her respect and time, and letting her see that what she has to say is important.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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There are always other feelings masked by the feeling of anger

If you understand the other feelings that lie behind anger of the child, you will be in a much better position to help your children process it. There are numerous other feelings masked by anger. These include hurt, fear, shame, feelings of abandonment and rejection, vulnerability, feeling unloved and unlovable. Very often hurt is the main feeling behind anger, and if you talk to your children about that hurt, you will have a healing effect on them. Sometimes with younger children fear is the feeling that triggers anger. Fear is about survival and being in danger ultimately provokes anger. There are many fears that a child may harbour and hence many reasons for their anger. Anger is very quick to fill a vacuum, and it can readily fill the emptiness in an unloved child. Children who have not experienced love, will not know why they are angry, the parent or parents who are unable to give love will be puzzled and possibly blame the child. How often do we label our children without pausing to consider why they are as they are? Let us not label them as angry children. Let us look at ourselves as parents and take responsibility for forming them this way. Children need unconditional love, and those who get it will thrive and never suffer core anger. Anger will also fill the vacuum in a child who feels a failure, feels powerless, unwanted, is hungry, is in danger of being hurt, is deprived of something essential, is not liked by other children, or is confused.

Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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The anger of children

Anger Management for Children
Many parents complain that their children are angry and disruptive. This is a serious source of worry and anxiety to them, so it is just as important to help children manage and heal anger as it is for adults. The sooner the anger is dealt with in a person’s life the better, because it prevents much distress in adulthood, both on a personal and relationship level. There are some books that might help you as a parent or teacher to deal with such anger. Elaine Whitehouse and Warwick Pudney have written a small worthwhile book, A Volcano in my Tummy. Helping Children to handle Anger, which contains 25 lessons on anger that can be built into the school curriculum. My only concern is that the book deals with children from six to fifteen years of age. Because of brain changes over that span, it is more difficult to eradicate toxic anger from a fifteen year old than the anger of a six year old. With kinder parenting and understanding teachers, the harm done to a younger child can be undone, but the neural wiring that takes place during life stages six and seven (13 to 19 years of age – the life stages will be looked at in the final chapter) is much harder to change. Bearing that in mind, Whitehouse and Pudney’s book sets about creating a framework for helping your children to become aware of the initial feeling of anger and then of making choices about what to do with it. In that way they learn about the differences between the angry feeling and the angry behaviour. When you show your children how to process their anger, you have to be aware of how you as a parents vent yours. Small children learn all the time, and they learn how their parents and others, such as their teachers, express their anger. They need to know that angry feelings are acceptable, but violence towards others is not. As a parent you must allow your children to feel anger. It is very damaging to make them suppress it, and if that happens there is every possibility that they may experience many psychological difficulties, including depression, when they grow into adulthood.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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You can control your anger if you have an awareness of it

Dealing with Immediate Anger
Much of what has been written so far involves a long term and continuous approach to managing anger and relieving distress, and it takes some time before it comes into effect. In the meantime you have to find some means to deal with on the spot anger, when a confrontation is imminent. There are two practical ways you can immediately manage your anger in a conflict, and both work very well. The first is simply to tell the offending person how you feel and why. There is no blame in this method and it will not invite retaliation. In practice it would be something like this – ‘I feel angry because I feel disrespected.’ Do not underestimate the power of this statement. It is more powerful and more effective than shouting at someone or blaming them. You are only saying how you feel. You are entitled to say how you feel. No one can say how you should feel. Yet this is a much more difficult anger management technique than you realise. It is particularly difficult for those with poor boundaries, who are afraid of challenging others, wanting perhaps their approval.
The other technique involves being aware of your anger at a given moment. This only takes a few seconds. You must bear in mind that you only have a very brief opportunity to control your anger. The amygdala, that part of your brain that processes emotion, allows only a quarter of a second to respond to an event that triggers it. While this almost instant response is happening the increased blood flow goes to the frontal lobe of your brain that controls your reasoning and this takes two seconds to react. This brief window allows you to create more time to process the anger. You can become aware of where you feel the anger before it overwhelms you. Most of us are not aware of this because we never thought of it before. The next time you feel anger listen to your body and be aware that your anger is about to proclaim itself. You may feel your fists tighten or your jaws clench. Begin to talk to yourself internally admitting that you are feeling angry and try to master it by your internal conversation rather than letting it take you over. The longer your conversation the better. Finally, if you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes that might help. Understanding another person can ease your anger with them.
I hope that at least some of these techniques help you not only to manage or control your anger, but help you to heal as well. Ultimately, you are not responsible for your angry feelings, but you have a choice about how to process and express your anger. You can choose to hesitate, to give yourself space, not to vent your anger on someone, and not to blame or criticise them. This may be hard, but you have a choice. Even in your worst moments you have a choice. I can never accept it when someone says to me that they are unable to control their anger. Many show admirable self-control in external circumstance, but not so much in their own home. The books on anger in the bibliography are worth reading if you have an anger issue.

Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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COERCIVE CONTROL IS NOW A CRIME WITH UP TO 5 YEARS IN JAIL FOR PERPETRATORS

I have been in hospital for surgery and missed doing my last blog. so it is nice to be back in contact with you and I hope all my readers are keeping well.
As you are aware, my blog on abuse consists of extracts from my book on abuse. Abuse is the main issue that counsellors deal with. This week I am departing from my usual blog on childhood to look at a new law that has come into force in Ireland in the last month or so. It has been law in the UK since 2015, but I am not sure about other countries. It is a law making coercive control, which is EMOTIONAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL – INCLUDED VERBAL AND FINANCIAL ABUSE. illegal. It is a separate section under the Domestic violence act. I welcome this wholeheartedly. I find it very difficult to see good people, both men and women, suffering great distress at the hands of perpetrators whose aim is to torture their partners. They exert control over them at every opportunity, and are always critical. Remember that abuse is about power and control. The new Irish law allows prosecutions of people who create an ongoing threatening atmosphere within a relationship, even in the absence of violence or overt threats of violence. The awful atmosphere created by perpetrators devastates the person who is targetted. The new law is more complex that this and includes new measures on rape of partners and clarification of barring orders even when the person does not live with the abusive person. On a very important level children will be able to make their views known to the court where an order is sought on behalf of or partly relates to the child. I would advise readers to check this law in detail if you find yourself in the awful situation of suffering coercive control.
Anyone who suffers the lash of the tongue will tell you that emotional and verbal abuse leaves a mark on the soul, which, they feel is worse than the scar on the body. It would be helpful to you if you went back and read the blogs on emotional and verbal abuse in my previous blogs.
IF YOU ARE BEING PERSECUTED IN AN COERCIVE ABUSIVE SITUATION IT IS VITAL TO KEEP NOTES OF WHAT HAPPENED. NOTE THE DATE, THE TIME, WHAT HAPPENED (WHAT WAS SAID OR DONE BY THE PERPETRATOR) AND HOW IT AFFECTED YOU. KEEP A CONSTANT DIARY OF HIS OR HER BEHAVIOURS. MAKE SURE YOU HIDE YOUR NOTES BECAUSE ABUSERS ARE INCLINED TO SEARCH YOUR BELONGINGS IN THEIR CONTROLLING BEHAVIOUR.
Finally, remember how to deal with an abusive person on an ongoing basis –
1. Don’t get involved in an argument with them. Power is their driving force and you will never win.
2.Be assertive. Say no. Say you do not agree with their behaviour. KEEP THIS SHORT.
3. Don’t try to placate or please the abuser. It never works and will make him or her worse.

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Road Rage

Road Rage
Road rage is a common feature of today’s life, but can be relatively easily managed. Some writers argue that it is mislabelled as rage, and is anger. That is not always the case, because people are frequently assaulted by a driver in a fit of rage. Any driver can become angry, but if a person has core anger it can quickly and easily degenerate into rage. Research shows that controlling people are more likely to suffer from road rage than others, and that means there are many people subject to it. Narcissistic people think that they own the road. They find it difficult to soothe their rage, but like all others they can become aware and change. Alas! This seldom happens.
To prevent or ease road rage, learn how to stay in the moment, pause to think, and postpone judgement. Perhaps you are in a hurry and a car in front of you is moving slowly and you find your irritation and anger rising by the minute. If you can access your empathy for the driver it will soothe your anger. For example, the driver may be elderly and fearful or over-careful. Self-talk is always good in these situations. You could say to yourself that someday you, too, will be elderly and perhaps fearful, when you would appreciate sympathy and understanding for elderly drivers. Remind yourself that you are no better than others, that they have paid their road tax and are entitled to use the road. More thought and more understanding brings calm and prevents unwarranted anger.
Mike Fisher makes some practical suggestions for avoiding road rage, such as making the interior of your car comfortable and putting on soothing music. Another way of avoiding irritation is to leave early for your destination and drive at a leisurely pace. The AA route finder or Sat Nav. are useful in giving distance, which allows you to manage your time and avoid stress. Putting in the destination on the Sat Nav. the previous night reduces stress also. Practising courtesy on the roads and making allowances for others will give you a good feeling about yourself, and will makes you feel in control. The car is a very obedient companion. If you have cruise control use it. It might save you some penalty points at least, but it will help you avoid competitiveness and anger. Positive self-talk and mindfulness are as helpful in avoiding the stress of road rage as any other type of anger. Be content in the world you have created – a clean car interior, soothing music and adequate time to reach your destination.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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More Techniques for Managing Anger

Abdominal or Diaphragmatic Breathing
Abdominal breathing is one of the best ways to ease the stress of anger. Most people breathe through their chests (probably an evolutionary behaviour to take in more oxygen when the world was more dangerous millennia ago) so they have to learn abdominal breathing. It can take up to three months of daily practice to master this. Ten minutes practice per day is sufficient. This routine should be rigorously followed and it is equally good for anxiety and panic attacks. The usual way is to sit in a chair, put a book on your abdomen and attempt to lift the book with each breath. You breathe in through your nose and your abdomen expands and rises the book, then you breathe out and your abdomen falls. Initially when you are practising you will find that your chest expands and your abdomen stubbornly refuses to rise. Don’t be discouraged, because with constant practice you will master this way of breathing. Gradually only your abdomen will expand and your chest will not move. When you have mastered this, it will become your normal way of breathing and you can easily slip into deep breathing when the occasion demands. Abdominal breathing calms your body and brings your mind and body together. It is a technique that works whether you like it or not. It is a technique I learned over fifty years ago, and I know that you can master it, if you persevere.

The Four Steps and the Golden Rules of Mike Fisher
Mike Fisher outlines four steps and some ‘golden’ rules that are easy to implement, if you accept responsibility for how you vent your anger. The first step is an awareness of the primary source of your anger – perhaps unmet needs. This second step is about taking responsibility for yourself and acquiring key communications skills such as attentive listening, hearing and understanding rather than trying to win an argument. The third step is to become the external observer, seeing the big picture, and recognising what you are responsible for in a particular conflict. The final step is to expect a reaction from others who might wish to see you remain as you are, and to be aware of your own resistance to change. His ‘golden’ rules include having empathy for the other person, looking at the other’s point of view, respecting the opinions of others, having anger buddies and a support network, being aware of internalised shame and lowering your expectations of others. These are valuable suggestions and will certainly work with healthy anger. Only counselling and an exploration of the wounds of childhood will work with core or toxic anger.

Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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Dealing with anger in a practical way

Relaxation Techniques
Since anger is an emotion charged with energy, relaxation techniques can help relieve the stress it causes you. Progressive muscle relaxation is particularly successful as an anger management tool. It is also one of the easiest to practise. It involves the tensing and relaxing of each of the 16 different muscles groups in your body. Tense each muscle hard enough for about ten seconds and then suddenly relax the muscle for fifteen seconds. The whole exercise could take up to half an hour. As you release each muscle imagine the anger or stress seeping away. Begin with your fists, then your biceps (muscles on the upper arm), then your triceps (muscles underneath the arm). Raise your eyebrows to tighten the forehead muscles and tense the muscles at the back of your head, close your eyelids tightly, open your mouth wide and stretch your jaw, then go to the back of your neck, tense your shoulders, push your shoulder blades back, breathe deeply to tighten the stomach muscles, arch your back, clench your buttocks, tighten your thigh muscles, pull up your toes, tighten your calf muscles, curl your toes and tense your feet. If this is done properly it will greatly relax your body and weaken your anger.

How to Vent Anger Successfully
There is a lot of debate about how to discharge anger safely. Some research suggests that venting anger explosively causes more harm than good, while some writers contend that suppressing it is equally harmful. Because anger is full of energy, therapists once believed that an energetic venting (e.g. using a punch bag) was the best, but research now shows that this is detrimental to our health and causes as much damage as an outburst of anger. Current theory also holds that explosively venting anger merely nurtures volatility. Finding gentle ways to process it is recommended, for example, listening to gentle music or water flowing in a stream. When you are taking a shower you can imagine the anger flowing away with the water. These gentle anger management techniques will help you to ease your stress and take better care of yourself. As the stress eases so does the chronic vigilance that keeps the fire of anger smouldering.
The Unsent Letter

The unsent letter, mentioned above, is one of the best ways to vent your anger. In this you can express exactly how you feel, using any type of language you like, while showing in detail the reasons for your anger. You can use the letter to deal with normal or with toxic anger. The letter is for your healing and to give you a voice. If the letter is to heal toxic anger, it is about reclaiming your power, and expressing your anger at being neglected in childhood. When your power is taken as a child you feel fearful as an adult, and a letter to those who sowed that fear can help to release you from its grip. It does not matter if the person, who caused you this distress, is alive or dead. The letter should be worded strongly, using the non-dominant hand to access the feelings of the inner child, and should express not only your anger but any other feeling you have suffered as a result of neglectful parenting. When you have finished you could read it aloud to a therapist or a close friend and then tear it up or burn it. This is a symbol of freedom because you are now having a voice and tearing down the power of the person who hurt you. If you burn the letter you will see their ancient power vanishing in smoke.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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It is always best to be assertive rather than aggressive

Understanding the Difference between Aggression and Assertiveness

Before you learn how to properly communicate anger, it is worthwhile exploring the difference between aggression and assertiveness. Managing anger is about replacing aggression with assertiveness. Assertiveness is very different from aggression, and is part of healthy, protective anger. People who are assertive are normally kind, responsible, good listeners, empathic, and non-violent, unlike aggressive individuals who take out their anger on others. Aggression rides roughshod over the rights of others, while assertiveness recognises the rights of both sides. Assertiveness underlies good self-esteem, while, more often than not, aggressive people have low self-esteem. To put it simply, if we feel worthwhile we will not allow anyone to walk on us and we will not inflict pain on others. It is a matter of respecting boundaries, those essential safeguards which are discussed in several sections of this book. But, apart from working on boundaries, you can also practise assertiveness. It is difficult to do it on your own and the assistance of a professional is advisable. In such cases you will give some examples of where you have been aggressive and the counsellor will help you to find assertive ways of responding. As with boundaries you will have to practise this until it becomes a normal way of responding. What happens in such cases is that the brain creates a new program to facilitate assertive responses.
Problem solving is also an effective way of converting aggression to assertiveness. In problem solving you come up with solutions, where you examine various situations of aggressive behaviour. You can analyse the consequences of this behaviour, and come up with other responses you might have made and the consequences of these. So, for example, if you shouted at your boss and threatened him, the consequences might be suspension or firing, but if you walked away you might be at most reprimanded. If you decided that it would be best to request a meeting at a later stage, the consequences might be a much better outcome because you will then have a voice – an assertive or a rational voice, rather than an aggressive and irrational voice. All of this is a learned behaviour and it can be done with time and patience and making mistakes.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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