When met with an unexpected situation, do you react or respond? And what is the difference? According to Dr. Matt James, while some people use the words interchangeably, there is a world of difference in their meanings. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/focus-forgiveness/201609/react-vs-respond Tony shares a story of showing up late to a recent speaking opportunity where he learned whether or not he was more prone to reaction or response.
Tony shares the results of taking the Implicit Association Test (IAT) https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ and discusses how understanding how we give meaning to certain people and situations contributes to how we react or how we respond. And Tony also references Marshal Rosenberg’s book “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships (Nonviolent Communication Guides)” https://amzn.to/3EjVZkx
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Over the past weekend I was in Arizona and I was going to speak to a large group of single adults from ages 30 and above. And let me just tell you that I've done a lot of speaking in my day and on these types of events, I just make an assumption that the event starts at 7:00pm. So I truly assumed that the presentation was at seven. Now, why? Well, just because, and thankfully the organizer of the event texted me at 4:45 and said, “Hey, I'll see you soon.” Now, let me read you the text that followed. So at 4:46, I responded back “Absolutely. 7:00pm I'm assuming, hoping, guessing haha I realized that as I scrolled through our texts, that I have not seen a time. So I really hope that that's the case. I'm a little over an hour from Casa Grande,” where the presentation was going to be held.
At 4:51, so five minutes later, I text back after not hearing anything, “And if you don't mind just confirming that it is at 7:00pm that would be great.” Then seven minutes later, 4:58pm. “So we're planning on leaving here at 5:30. So I should be there around 6:40”. And then at 5:00pm, the organizer gets back to me and says, “No, you're on at 6:00pm.”
So we're an hour away and we're hanging out with my daughter and son-in-law. We're in sweats. And as I mentioned, we're an hour away. It's five o'clock. The presentation starts at six. I flew to Arizona to do this presentation. And a lot of people are coming. Now here is where I feel like years of mindfulness and meditation and building in that pause just kicked into high gear.
So I said, “Hey, we need to get dressed and we need to be ready.” And my wife and my daughter and my son-in-law were amazing and said, alright, we can do this. We can be out of here in five, maybe 10 minutes, max. And everybody jumped up, got into high gear. And here's the next text that I send,
“Okay. We are getting dressed right now. We will hurry.” And then I texted a couple of minutes later, “I am so grateful you texted, this makes for a far better story.” I am then in the car and I text and say, “We should be there about 10 to 15 minutes after six. So stall, but I promise you I will deliver.” And I threw a couple of thumbs up.
And then another text where I said, “Okay, my son-in-law is driving. And he is very determined as a driver, the GPS shows my arrival at 6:11. I will keep you posted.” And I had not been asked for a bio, which is normally the case. So then I sent a text and said, “Not sure if you want to, but here's my standard bio if you want to read it before I get there.” And then she responded and said, “Sounds good. And I will read very slowly.” So I just said, “That sounds great. And I will keep you posted.” So as we drove and it really did feel like it was almost out in the middle of nowhere. We started making up time. And by the time we got there, it was 6:07, maybe 6:08 max.
So today I want to spend a little bit of time talking about a concept that had me thinking of quite a bit. What is the difference between reacting and responding? And then why on occasion can it be so easy to just react when those reactions that we do come almost impulsively versus really taking the time to respond?
So coming up on today's episode, we're going to spend more time looking into the difference of reaction versus response. And more importantly, how can you in essence slow your roll if you are a reactor and then how do you start to build in more of a time to respond. So that, and so much more coming up on today's episode of the Virtual Couch.
Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 346 of the Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and let's dive right in today. I got a fair amount of business that I want to take care of, and that is because the magnetic marriage podcast is launching very soon.
So if you are still interested in participating, we do have a little bit of a wait list of couples that I'm going to be doing some live anonymous coaching with, but you can still send your information, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. But if you are interested in just hearing these sessions, these coaching calls, and I cannot sell you on this enough, if you are curious to know what a couples coaching or couples therapy session sounds like, if you want to see how that might be of benefit to you, and I'm not even talking about talking with me.
But what can happen when two of you go in and you're pretty open and vulnerable, and you put your issues and problems in front of somebody that does this for a living. Maybe this is what they are passionate about and you see change, you see change pretty quickly and dramatically. And so for the cost of far less than one session with a good therapist, you are going to be able to have access to these sessions, these coaching calls.
So you can stay tuned, or the best thing that you can do is go to Tonyoverbay.com and sign up for my newsletter. And I will make you aware of when the podcast is ready and it looks like it's going to be the first week of December, but there's a good chance that we might run some sort of special over black Friday and let you have access to a whole year's worth of these coaching calls. So go to Tonyoverbay.com. Sign up to find out more. And if you go to Tonyoverbay.com/workshop, there is still a $19 marriage workshop. In essence, it's three big takeaways that you can apply into your marriage right away.
And it's also really, I want to lay out what we don't know that we don't know about relationships and how we pretty much all come into relationships, not equipped, and it's not a judgment statement, but we don't have all of the right tools. And I want nothing more than for you to be equipped, to have the very best magnetic marriage that you possibly can.
And with that said as well, you're going to hear more as the podcast launches about my magnetic marriage course that I have talked about often. And I have run multiple rounds or cohorts or whatever you want to call it of this magnetic marriage course where there's been a coaching component. But what we've decided to do, the co-creator Preston Pugmier, host of Next Level Life podcast, which I cannot recommend enough, but what we decided to do is we are going to put this course up as an evergreen course. So it is going to be available for all. And that is going to be very soon as well.
And so just go sign up at tonyoverbay.com. And you are going to find out more about all of these things and much more.
And let me just also continue to plug that if you turn to any unhealthy coping mechanism, now my path back recovery program is specifically for people who turn to pornography as a coping mechanism, if they don't feel as connected in their marriage or in their parenting or in their faith or their career or their health.
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We have a weekly group call and I am very actively involved in that group call. And it's a good group of people that get together. And we talk about successes. We talk about life. We talk about how to be better people, and it may sound like we're just going to sit there and talk about all the evils of pornography over and over again. No, that's the coping mechanism that people turn to, but I really have confidence in the way that I work with people that are struggling with turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms. And that is let's fill in those gaps or voids in your life. And then you will not have the desire to turn to those unhealthy coping mechanisms on a regular basis and over time, what it feels like to be you is somebody that is feeling pretty good about themselves and becoming a better husband and father, and being more connected with your faith, your faith community, and getting in better shape, having more control of what you do, with regard to your health, your physical welfare, your physical wellbeing, and then also that can even lead to raising your emotional baseline up enough that you start to explore. Is this even the right career for me and all these things come from a place of power, not from a place of a victimhood standpoint.
So, go to pathbackrecovery.com and there you will find out more. But let's get to today's topic, and that is reaction versus response. And what I did was I've done a little bit of just a hidden, Dr. Google. And I found a great article in Psychology Today, which I'll throw a link to in the show notes, and it is by Dr. Matt James. And you can go find out more about Dr. Matt at literally Dr. Matt.com. And Dr. Matt, he's got a PhD. I believe he is a clinical psychologist. And he has an article simply entitled “React versus Respond. And what is the difference?” He has a quote at the end that I think is really interesting. It's by William James and it says, “A great many people think that they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” And I really feel like this is hot off the heels of last week's episode, which I am very, and I literally talked about healthy ego, but I will stand in healthy ego and say, I really would love for you to check out that episode. If you missed last week's episode, I talked about healthy ego. And I talked about a concept called nonviolent communication, which again seemed a little bit of a paradox, an oxymoron, but I have been working that into sessions on a daily basis primarily for one thing.
In last week's episode, I referred to a website called fourminutebooks.com, which is just my speed. And there is a review of Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication, his book called Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life and the review was by Pamela Hobart.
And as a quick reminder, communications expert Marshall Rosenberg says that most people's default manner of speaking to others is what he says, “highly violent”. That is if you consider violence to include attempts at cutting others down to size or coercing them into doing what we want. And I think that's more of what I see in my practice is people coercing others into doing what we want. And we started to explore a little bit in last week's episode that often people want to coerce others into doing what they want simply because it eases that person's anxiety. And one of the main tenets of understanding nonviolent communication is the ability to separate observation from judgment. That is the first step toward reducing needless conflict. And now this is one of those principles where once you see it, it's hard to unsee. And the example that I think I gave last week was if somebody doesn't finish their homework, then let's say you say, my son didn't finish his homework because he's lazy. So the observation is that my son didn't finish his homework, but then the judgment that we quickly throw in there is that he is lazy. Now, why, why do we say that?
Oftentimes, I believe that is just an immediate reaction. And we're going to talk again today about reaction versus response, but those reactions often come just impulsively and they happen in the moment. And I really believe that they are there, our brain conjures this immediate reaction to try to make sense of things or to manage our anxiety. And I feel like in both of those scenarios, I want to just say how adorable that we're trying to make sense. We want this certainty. We crave certainty. But then I really feel like that in addition to trying to calm our own anxiety in a situation and now suddenly we're creating these immediate reactions, instead of taking a pause or time to respond. So in that scenario, we may put that judgment on of he didn't do his homework because he's lazy.
Because what is happening in just very real time is that it must be because he's lazy because if not, what does that say about me? Have I not spent enough time with him in helping him with his homework? Have I not explored whether this is even the right school? Or have I passed along faulty DNA where he is now not a very good student? So we view everything, literally everything. Our first response is through our own lens. Why? Because that is what is happening to us, everything is happening in real time to us, we have a hardwired default setting of what it feels like to be us. And so we immediately are trying to make sense of things that oftentimes don't make sense. Or we're trying to make sense of things when we don't know what another person's experiences and we don't have the full context. I've referred in the past to a book called On Being Certain, which talks about the need that our brain has for certainty. I truly believe that what our brain is looking for at any given moment is this feeling of certainty so that we can make sense of things and move on. And, I really believe that our brain thinks that it can find certainty because it has found certainty in the past. The example is, if I say to you right now, what is two plus two? And your brain says four. Yeah, it feels right. So now we can move on.
So I really believe that our brain craves certainty, desires certainty, wants certainty, so it can move on. So then in these very moments, so many things are happening. So we see we have an observation that our son did not do his homework. And then immediately we crave certainty. We need to understand why, and we need to throw a judgment in there as quickly as we can to try to make sense of that in a way that will ease our own anxiety.
Look how complicated that is. So instead of just observing, he didn't do his homework. Period. Pause. Because now with that pause, now we can respond. Now we can respond and say, hey, champ, noticed you didn't do your homework. Tell me more about that. But if we are still up in our just reactionary brain, then we are immediately trying to make sense of things that maybe don't make sense. And we are throwing judgment on there to ease and calm anxiety. So I really feel like last week's episode got me thinking, it got me thinking a lot. And then this experience that I had in Arizona was pretty cool because there was absolutely a very, very large pause to be able to respond.
Now, my reaction, I did think in the scenario that I laid out at the beginning of this podcast that, hey, this person didn't clearly communicate to me that this speaking assignment happened at seven o'clock, and I scrolled through my texts, but I also know that we had traded an email or two. And so I honestly am not sure. Now I want to say, oh, no, they did not clearly communicate. The reality is, okay, I didn't know that it started at seven and I found out that it started at six. Period, again. What an amazing opportunity then to just respond, not react. Reaction would have come from my, I feel like an emotionally immature person, that would've said, well, I don't even know if I'm gonna be able to make it. I can't believe that you didn't tell me what time it was at, but the reality is we're all just going through life. We're trying, and I was able to get in the car and I was able to go, now I say this, had she not reached out to me and I'm starting to head over there at seven, or if I would've got the text at 5:50 and I was still sitting there, I guess at that scenario, and in that time, we would have been on our way.
Then I'm sure I would have noticed that I am feeling bad. But I'm hoping that I still would have been able to build in that pause and respond and say, oh man, I am so sorry. I didn't realize that it was a six. I thought it was a seven. So we'll be there. And when I got to the event and I really wasn't even that late, which was pretty funny because I had this whole thing where I was going to quote one of my favorite bands, AJR, they have a song called “A Hundred Bad Days.”
And I got up there and quoted any way where they say in the line in the song, “A hundred bad days make a hundred good stories and a hundred good stories make me interesting at parties.” So I really just felt like, hey, this is just another story that I'll be able to tell. And I'm kind of having an aha moment as I'm literally telling it on a podcast that will get downloaded 20-25,000 times in a hundred and something different countries.
So there you go. That story absolutely happened. And I'm grateful that I was able to respond and not react. So let's get back to this article because Dr. Matt just lays this out perfectly. Let's talk about reaction versus response. So, he said that some people use the word synonymously, but he said, “To me, there's a world of difference.” And Dr. Matt, I hear you.
He said, “A reaction is instant,” and I love this. He said “it's driven by the beliefs, the biases, and prejudices of the unconscious mind. So when you say or do something ‘without thinking’, that is the unconscious mind running the show. Our reaction is based in the moment and it doesn't take into consideration long term effects of what you do or say.”
He says, “A reaction is survival oriented and on some level it's a defense mechanism. It might turn out okay. But often a reaction is something you regret later.” And I love the direction he's going there because I, you know, you can tell from where I was going at the beginning of the story, that I really did view this reaction as something that would have just been impulsive or a way to defend my fragile ego, a way to make sense of something that just, it happened. Or it was also a way for me to then throw judgment. I think a lot of times our reactions are coming, like he says, from a place of judgment, of bias, of prejudice, and it's coming from the unconscious mind. So being able to build in a pause and then instead of reacting, being able to respond, becomes a very, very important, I think, point of becoming more emotionally mature. And when we act emotionally immature, when we are working out of this world of reactions, then I believe that we're communicating a little bit violently, according to Marshall Rosenberg. And so if we are throwing this judgment onto every observation that we have, then we are naturally putting the other person in a place of defense, and that is not a way to build connection. If I am continually saying, well, I noticed that you did this and so tell me why you don't like me anymore. You know, I noticed you didn't respond to me, so tell me why it's so hard for you to respond to me. Instead of saying, oh, I noticed you didn't respond, tell me more.
And I know it can sound overly simplistic at times, but the fact could be, my phone's broken. I had a client a couple of weeks ago that had dropped their phone in some water and I texted them and they weren't responding to me, it was because that phone was in a bag of rice. Now, again, a very simplistic explanation.
But I was starting to make meaning out of something that didn't make meaning because I had to make sense of it. If that person wasn't responding to me, then it must be because they didn't value my time and they weren't willing to take the second to respond to me for something that I needed to know.
Instead of just that observation and then watching the judgment that I had about that event. So Dr. Matt says a response. Okay. So he talked about how a reaction is this survival oriented defense mechanism, and that it may turn out alright, but he said that you typically regret it later.
“A response on the other hand usually comes more slowly. It's based on information from both the conscious mind and the unconscious mind.” So he says, “A response will be more ecological, meaning that it will take into consideration the wellbeing of not only you, but those around you in a way is the long-term effects. And it stays in line with your core values.” And I love that he started dipping into core values. So if I have a core value of connection or compassion or empathy, or even curiosity or authenticity, then that will eventually start to build in this pause because I am very curious as to why someone says the things they do or what their experience of why they show up and assume that everyone thinks the way that they do. So he said that a reaction and a response may look exactly alike, but they will feel different.
And I love the concept that they'll feel different because there are often, and there was a question at this event that I spoke at Sunday night. And somebody was talking about, it was a faith-based organization, and they were talking about the concept of the spirit of the holy ghost and that when you feel guided or prompted by God versus when is this just anxiety or fear?
And I love that question because I laid out for over an hour why it's difficult to be happy. Why do we compare ourselves to others? The reasons that we don't show up authentic because of our fear of abandonment or attachment wounds, and once we laid all of that out, I feel like the people there were starting to understand things a little bit differently. And so then as the person was saying, okay, so now I realize that I need to show up and be a better version of myself. But then how do I know at times when something is just fear, anxiety, or if it's a prompting from God that it's something that I need to do? And I said, okay, at this point, that the key is you. The more you understand how you work, the more you understand how impulsively you may react, or the more that you may understand what is happening in your subconscious or why you get defensive. And we'll talk about that here in a little bit, a little bit more, but the more you understand what it feels like to be you, then ultimately you are the judge. You are the ultimate judge to know, is this something that I want to do, but I'm just afraid. Or is this something that I really feel I'm really looking for Heavenly guidance?
I did my undergrad or I did my practicum, this is when you're still in school and grad school. I did my practicum working at a nonprofit that had a spiritual overtones and people would often get in positions where they did feel a lot of anxiety when change was going to occur. And then people would often say, man, I would love to do that, but God or the holy ghost or the holy spirit has told me that that's not a good idea.
And I remember as a new therapist often saying, well, my work is done here. You know, they pulled the holy ghost card out on me. And at this point I am not going to battle God because who am I to question what their belief system is or what that meaning is to them. But over the years, as I started to watch the pattern, people would then pull the holy ghost card, as I like to call it, on the most part when they would become very anxious or scared of change. And then I got to say, man, I hear you. And I don't want to then say, I know better than God, but then in those times I would say, yeah, I do feel like ultimately you're the person that will understand whether or not this is just, it's just something scary.
Is it something I really want to go after, but I'm afraid, or is it something where I really feel this divine intervention? And I would have been surprised at how often people will then immediately be able to say, man, yeah, I really believe this thing is fear. If you are a person of faith, then I think there's an overall belief that we'll be guided to head toward things of good. And that if there is anxiety or fear, that that often just means that is something that is scary. And we don't want to do scary things at times because we don't want to feel uncomfortable. So I loved that this person asked this question because he was saying, how do you know, they might feel different, the reaction or response, but how do you know? And now laying all that out, the simple answer is ultimately you will be the person to make that decision. And if you make a decision that takes you in a way that you then regret later, then guess what? You get to make another decision.
You know, that cliche that is very true when people say that I am so afraid to make a decision that I don't make a decision. And that in turn is the decision, is very true. And in that scenario, people want to, in essence, be acted upon. And so at that point, they often are able to hand over their accountability. Well, you made me do this, or you are the one that ultimately made the decision. And I can understand that, but the people that typically are good at making decisions, it's not that they just were born with this innate ability to make decisions, but over time, what it feels like to be them as somebody that makes a decision because they want to move forward and they know that then if they don't like the decision that they made previously, then they're going to get a chance to make another decision and another decision and another decision.
And there's a subset of this concept around decision-making as well, where people will say, I would rather not make a decision than make the wrong decision. And boy, I understand. And there's no part of me that feels like I know better than that person, because I truly don't know what it feels like to be them.
But from my therapy chair, I can say with some confidence that I worry that again, that goes back to what if we just say there are no wrong decisions, there are just decisions. Decisions are made because that's the very first time that you were in that spot in life. And so we are so craving again, I go back to the beginning of this episode, we want certainty. We want to know, we want to know that I am going to make the right decision or that the decision that I make is not going to harm anyone. But in reality, we are making decisions all the time. And so, I believe that it starts to become more empowering to continue to make these decisions. And then we deal with what happens after we make the decision. We often feel like if we're sitting at point A, I have to know what the end looks like. I have to know what point Z looks like. And I would rather not make a decision, then make the wrong decision. That will take me over on some different path. But in reality, I feel like part of the process of becoming more emotionally mature, or standing in your own confidence, is knowing that I can make a decision at point A and it's going to take me to point B. And then at point B, I'm going to gather all the data and now I'm going to get to make another decision and it's going to be to point C. And that becomes more of an empowering path is to know that what if I look at life as there aren't necessarily these wrong decisions? But I am just responding to the moment because it's the first time that I've been in that moment with all of my talents, abilities, tools, gifts, nature, nurture, birth order, DNA. All of those things that come into that moment that make me who I am, those are then why I think and feel and act and make the decisions that I do. So I need to just accept the fact that, oh, this is what I decided. And now let me take in that data because I get to make more decisions.
And that's one of the most exciting things about being an adult human being. And the more that you make those decisions, the more you do start to recognize that some of them are good. Some of them maybe didn't play out as well, but I've learned something along the way and I've started to feel more empowered.
So I know I went on a little bit of a decision-making tangent there, but if I get back to Dr. Matt's article that when he's talking about a reaction or response may look exactly alike, but they feel different, I really believe that’s what he's alluding to is that feeling is a feeling that comes with some awareness.
So when we aren't even aware of what we're not aware of, we're not able to tap into whatever this feeling is of, okay, this decision maybe does feel a little bit more solid or concrete, and there might be another one that doesn't feel as solid. So then I'm going to make that decision and know that I'm probably going to have an opportunity to make another decision pretty quickly.
So back to the reaction versus response, Dr. Matt says, “For example, say that you are approached by a panhandler on the street and you give that person money.” He said, “It's a reaction if you gave that money out of a fear or embarrassment or guilt.” He said, “It's a response if you gave that money from a solid sense of, I am here to help my fellow man in whatever form.”
Or he says, “Or say you didn't give that person money again, it's a reaction if you didn't give them money out of fear or disgust or anger. It's a response if you didn't give the money because you decided that it's wiser to give your money elsewhere, or maybe you didn't give the money because you didn't have the money.”
So he said, “We all do know inherently the difference, but the point is that the more reacting we do, the less empowered we are. We're operating from underlying assumptions and beliefs that we're not even aware of.”
And according to Dr. Matt, “We know this difference and the more reacting we do, yes, the less empowered we are. But if we're operating from these underlying assumptions or beliefs that we're not even aware of, then eventually the results of operating from this place of reaction,” he said, “the results are typically somewhere between horrendous and less than stellar.”
I love the next line. He said, “Left to its own devices, the unconscious mind creates a whole library of beliefs, prejudices, biases, fears, and limiting decisions because its main goal is your survival. So anything that might threaten survival becomes public enemy number one to the unconscious. So if your conscious goals are in conflict with your unconscious mind's sense of survival, then the unconscious will derail any efforts you try to make toward those goals.” Now why I love this is, one of my favorite things to do whenever I speak, and I talked about this on Sunday night, is laying out Russ Harris's view from acceptance and commitment therapy that ultimately the brain is a don't get killed device.
So the brain is operating off of this false pretense, that it has a finite amount of electrical activity. And if it has a finite amount of electrical activity then it wants to use as little electrical activity as possible. So it will live forever. That's why our brain creates habits. When things have been done habitually like thought processes or tying your shoes, then they eventually go into this habit center of the brain, the basal ganglia, where you use less electrical activity. So your brain is trying to habitualize things, make habits of things so that you'll use less electrical activity. So I love that Dr. Matt is talking about anything that goes against your own unconscious minds, library, beliefs, and prejudices, biases, fears, limiting decisions, it's going to feel like you are now attacking your brain's best interests to survive. So he goes on to say, “the unconscious can be an awesome partner to the conscious mind. It can provide the juice and the energy to accomplish what you want.” And he said, “When it's not freaking out trying to ensure your survival, it has a lot of intuitive wisdom to offer, but to get to that point, you need to spend time working with the unconscious and helping it release these limiting beliefs.” Correcting these negative assumptions or automatic assumptions that we make are these negative emotions that no longer serve you. And so often these fears that are there from birth and they're there out of a place of survival, then become limiting so that I'm afraid to make decisions can become a very limiting belief, but it was there early on because it was there from a place of survival. If you grew up in a household where you didn't have this unconditional love or the secure attachment with your parents or a parent, then there is a very good chance that you're going to continually make the wrong decision because your parents most likely had this hierarchy of right and wrong. One up and one down. And so as a kid, absolutely, for the most part, you're going to be making the wrong decisions because you were in the one down position when it comes to power or authority.
Back in 1998, researchers Anthony Greenwald, Debbie McGee, and Jordan Schwartz introduced something called the implicit association test or the IAT. And the IAT measures, the milliseconds that it takes to connect pairs of ideas. And this test is based on the concept that you will be faster putting together ideas that you already associate with one another. So the example that Dr. Matt gives is that if you automatically associate female with family and male with career, then you'll be very fast at placing nouns that relate to female and family or male and career in these columns of the tests.
But if the columns are titled male is equivalent to family and female is equivalent to career, and those are not the associations of your unconscious mind, then it will take extra milliseconds to sort these nouns properly. And I'm going to put a link in the show notes. It's out of Harvard and it took me only about 10 or 15 minutes, but I went and did one and there are some that talk about everything from race and gender and these really heavy topics. But I took an implicit association test just with, I think it was fitness and good and bad. And it really was a fascinating experience. And I can't even really describe the way that the test worked and it's free. I think it would be really interesting if you took that.
But it was free. And then it would just bring up these words that had negative associations or positive associations with fitness and health, and the first go through everything that seems nice and normal. You're hitting a button of a word that relates to good or fitness. And you're hitting another button on the keyboard if it relates to, I think it was bad or unhealthy. And that just seemed like what's the point, but then the next time that you do it and I can't even describe what this was like, then you would need to hit a particular button if it had to do with exercise and bad or not fitness and good, you hit the other button and it just threw my mind for a tailspin, but then it would do the next round of tests and it would do ones that made more sense to my brain. Again, these positive associations, and you could fly right through it.
So then by the end of the test, it showed me that I have a strong, strong implicit association of fitness and good. And so then that plays out into my reactions that if I see somebody, I'm sure that is talking about their exercise and they're wearing a marathon shirt, then I imply my implicit memory looks at them. And then I'm going to lean in a little bit more with trust. Now, am I saying that's a good thing? No, there's a judgment there. Absolutely. But now that I'm aware of that, now I need to go right back to what we talked about at the beginning of this episode. And my observation is that that person is wearing a St. George marathon shirt. So I happened to have run the St. George marathon 10 times. I wanted to get a t-shirt in the 10 timer club, which is hilarious now because that's a lot of work and time and effort to get a t-shirt that I couldn't even tell you where it hangs in my closet today. But if I see somebody wearing that shirt, then I have an implicit memory or a feeling that, oh, we are kindred souls, but I think, I don't know, 4,500 to 6,000 or more people run that every year.
And it's been going for decades. So what, there's hundreds of thousands of people that might wear that shirt. And now I'm saying we're all the same tribe. So you can see where we create these associations. So that implicit association test is fascinating. And once you're aware of the associations that you make then it gives you some data to be able to really separate observation from judgment. And Dr. Matt talked about this. And I thought this was really interesting. He said Malcolm Gladwell, and I love the author, Malcolm Gladwell, and I love his revisionist history podcast, but he wrote about the implicit association test in his book Blink, and he took one on race, and there was one on there on the Harvard test and I did not take it, but, Dr. Matt says that in Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink that Malcolm Gladwell says that he took the one on race and he was mortified to find out that he had unconscious associations with Caucasian and European as good and his association with African-American was bad, even though Malcolm Gladwell himself is half African-American. So in an interview, Malcolm Gladwell said that his experience taught him to disregard his first impression of people. And to take time to know them before passing any judgment. So I feel like learning what your implicit associations are can be very powerful and being able to separate that observation from judgment. Because again, if we now put all of these pieces together, then your reactions so often come from your implicit associations out of your subconscious of trying to make sense of things that don't make sense to ease your anxiety. So I feel like there, we just put all of those pieces together. So then what Dr. Matt is saying is that when we do, we all have these associations and so many of them are unconscious and the unconscious mind is driving your reaction versus the way that you can show up and respond.
And he said, “You can work with the unconscious to unearth these associations. And then you can start to align them more closely with your own particular values and goals. And now when you do,” Dr. Matt says, “you tap all the power of the unconscious and all the power that it has to offer.”
But he said, “Even before you engage in the unconscious, as a productive partner, you can start living a life that is more responsive and less reactive.” Simply by the time you're done with this podcast of just paying attention and noticing when, what you do or say feels off center.
So pause whenever you feel yourself about to react, take a deep breath, step back, and give yourself an opportunity to respond. And, for the sake of time, I won't go into the entire mindfulness pitch, but a daily mindfulness or meditative practice is absolutely necessary and essential to get to this place of responding much sooner.
Because remember your visceral or gut reaction is happening. Your thoughts or your emotions are happening much faster than logic. Your brain, back to that don't get killed device, is a miraculous thing and that everything that comes through the brain, your first thought is, is this safe? So we lead with our emotions, is this safe, and if it's safe, then it moves on to the part of the brain that says, what can I do with it?
So it is absolutely critical and important that you learn to build in that pause. And one of the quickest ways to do it is to be able to do a daily mindfulness practice because what you are doing is not training your brain to clear thought, but you're training your brain that when you start to get caught up in thought, your brain already says, oh, this guy is going to turn right back around and focus on breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth. And he's going to square up his shoulders and he's going to sit up straight and it's just going to happen. And it's going to lower his heart rate, which is going to reduce the amount of cortisol in his brain.
And before you know it, he's out of his fight or flight response, and he's tapping into his prefrontal cortex where he can now respond rather than react. Okay. I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me your questions or comments. If you follow me on social media, please go check out my Instagram.
I have an amazing group of people now that are starting to take over my Instagram account. And I love the work that they're doing. So that's @virtualcouch. So go check that out and I'm sure there will be a post up about this, and I would love your feedback. I would love your comments. So, taking us out per usual, the wonderful, the talented, now on TikTok, Aurora Florence with her song, “It is wonderful”. We'll see you next time on the Virtual Couch.
We all get angry, but what do you do with that anger? Is it healthy to express your anger? If so, in what way? Should you punch a pillow, or a punching bag? Or should you just hold it in, grit your teeth and smile through it? Tony breaks down the article “7 Myths About Anger (And Why They’re Wrong)” by Amy Morin https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201512/7-myths-about-anger-and-why-theyre-wrong and tells you exactly what you can do with your anger.Head to http://tonyoverbay.com/magnetic and get on the waitlist today to be the first to know when the next Magnetic Marriage Cohort begins!Please subscribe to The Virtual Couch YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/TheVirtualCouchPodcast/ and follow The Virtual Couch on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/virtualcouch/
Tony's FREE parenting course, “Tips For Parenting Positively Even In the Not So Positive Times” is available NOW. Just go to https://www.tonyoverbay.com/courses-2/ and sign up today. This course will help you understand why it can be so difficult to communicate with and understand your children. You’ll learn how to keep your buttons hidden, how to genuinely give praise that will truly build inner wealth in your child, teen, or even in your adult children, and you’ll learn how to move from being “the punisher” to being someone your children will want to go to when they need help.
Tony's new best-selling book "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" is now available on Kindle. https://amzn.to/38mauBo
Tony Overbay, is the co-author of "He's a Porn Addict...Now What? An Expert and a Former Addict Answer Your Questions" now available on Amazon https://amzn.to/33fk0U4. The book debuted in the number 1 spot in the Sexual Health Recovery category and remains there as the time of this record. The book has received numerous positive reviews from professionals in the mental health and recovery fields.
You can learn more about Tony's pornography recovery program The Path Back by visiting http://pathbackrecovery.com And visit http://tonyoverbay.com and sign up to receive updates on upcoming programs, and podcasts.
Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript click here https://descript.com?lmref=v95myQ
----- TRANSCRIPT ------
[00:00:01] So a couple of weeks ago, my wife Wendy and I decided that we wanted to go see a movie and where we live in California was at the time relatively still closed down and just up the hill and across the California state lines that Nevada and Nevada had movie theaters that were open in limited capacity. But more importantly, they had popcorn with movie theater butter. So we looked at the calendar and we set our sights on going to a movie. Didn't matter what movie, but we were going to a movie in Reno, Nevada, and we were just eager to go and do and again, truthfully eat movie theater popcorn. So on the way up the hill, the traffic really wasn't that bad. And at one point we were just talking and and having a fun time. And we watched as this little fast gray sports car just zipped right in front of us. And I am talking right in front of us to the point that our car itself slammed on the brakes because we had some sort of auto cruise control that kept us at a safe distance from the cars ahead of us. And as that car cut in front of us, I said something like, that guy seems like he's in a hurry. And then Wendy and I continued our conversation and then is a bit of adrenaline, ran through my veins because I'm human.
[00:01:09] 20 or 30 seconds later, I change topics of conversation. And I just said to my wife that I felt like situations like those when a car cuts me off in traffic are almost like my mindfulness midterm exams. So I never have suffered true road rage. But I would absolutely be lying if I said that there weren't times where something like that would happen and I would immediately see Red and I probably would have driven fast right behind the car for a while to, I don't know, show him that I was mad. And I have processed so many stories in my office, people who have actually pulled people over or who have gotten into fights or have cut people off or have done a brake check or followed people for miles and miles out of their way as their anger just completely ruled their emotions. So changing your relationship with anger is a process, and it doesn't come easily and it doesn't come without intentional work on recognizing and admitting when and why you react with anger. So story number two, and before I jump into story number two, let me just say that the true irony of story number one, as it as we were heading up the hill to Reno to stay for a night and watch a movie, we received an email that theaters less than five miles from our home.
[00:02:19] We're opening up that very day, but everybody needs a little road trip now and again. So back to story number two, Rusty Eyer and I met each other in what could have been sixth grade, seventh grade. And we played basketball together many, many times and recesses and I think junior jazz leagues or junior alto hockley's. But Rusty was a good friend and he was a really good basketball player. And Rusty grew and grew and grew while I didn't. And then he moved out of our boundaries, our school boundaries, and ended up playing for rival Jordan High, the Jordan Beat Diggers. I was an alcoholic. So during our sophomore year of high school, we played Jordan and admittedly I was kind of cocky and I thought I was pretty tough. And Rusty fouled me at one point. And I remember I jumped up and I ran over and I was just I was mad and I got in his face or truthfully, I probably like his belly button. And I remember Rusty just kind of swatted me away like a little bug. And I went flying across the gym floor and I jumped up and I and I realized at that moment, oh, Rusty could crush me.
[00:03:23] Now, Rusty meant no harm. I had run up to him like I was going to do something with that simple suwat. I honestly vowed right then and there that I needed to get rid of my temper. And I swear to you, it left me and it really never came back for the most part. And I have told that story. So many events, corporate events, youth firesides, with clients in session, talking about making a decision and then never looking back. And I will never forget Rusty. And unfortunately, I learned at a high school reunion, actually my twenty year high school reunion. So that was quite a quite a number of years ago that Rusty had passed away far too soon. And I wrote about him in my twenty year high school reunion recap at that time. And his wife, Nikki, had reached out through an email a few days after that. So again, this would have been almost twelve years ago. And she thanked me for sharing his story then. And I'm happy to share it now that twelve years ago she shared with me that she read my then blog entry on my twenty year reunion to her and Rusty's kids, and she said that through some tears they had a really neat way to spend their night remembering their dad.
[00:04:21] So with that in mind, I really am grateful that Rusty either tossed me across an old gym floor some thirty five years ago. So once again, I hope his family stumbles on this podcast and someday they know that he truly was a great guy. That's done a lot of good for a lot of people, even just in the stories that I'm able to tell.
[00:04:37] But coming up on today's episode of The Virtual Couch, we're going to talk about anger and we're going to cover seven myths about anger and why they're wrong. And this is an important episode today. Anger is something that I talk about, I would say it's fair to say, on a daily basis. And so this article we're going to talk about an article by author and therapist Amy Maurin about seven myths, about anger and why they're wrong. And we're going to talk about the. Add in so much more coming up on today's episode, The Virtual Couch.
[00:05:13] Hey, everybody, welcome to Episode.
[00:05:15] I should have looked. I think it's 253 of the virtual couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified Michael Hamako, Trijicon Alibaba, but creator of The Path Back, an online pornography recovery program that's helping people reclaim their lives from the harmful effects of pornography. If you or anybody that is trying to put that behind you once and for all. I feel like I'm rattled right now. But I am determined not to rerecord this intro. But go to Pathbackrecovery.com. There you'll find the short ebook that describes common mistake that people make when trying to turn away from pornography once and for all. Again, that's Pathbackrecovery.com and my magnetic marriage course with Preston. Buckmeier has finished.
[00:05:53] The first round is complete. We are going to be announcing a new date of when the next round of the magnetic marriage course will be launching at any moment. So if you head over to Tony Overbay, dotcom magnetic there, you can sign up to find out when that next round is going to launch. And it was phenomenal. It was. I will I will have so much more to talk about with that. Interviews with people, testimonials, all kinds of things. So plenty more coming up there. But the first one sold out in a few hours, which was kind of a trip. Now we're going to have a lot more people in this next round. But please go to Tony Overbay, dot com slash magnetic and you will find out more about when it is available and head over to Instagram and find me a virtual couch there. And Tony Overbay, licensed marriage and family therapist on Facebook, and I have started to engage a bit more with the newsletter. So if you even aren't interested in the magnetic marriage course, there is a place where you can sign up on Tony Dotcom to find out about things that are coming up. Exciting things. And I will I will leave it right there. So today's topic is anger, and I love busting pop psychology myths. And so one of the myths that I hear so often and I talk about it on occasion, is this myth that the way to deal with anger is to punch a punching bag or hit a pillow or go scream outside or any of those type of things.
[00:07:13] And while I understand them and I have been doing therapy long enough that even when I started working in the first nonprofit that I did when I was in grad school, I believe maybe my brain has made this or inflated this story more than I really maybe more than it really was. But I feel like every office had one of those Bozo the Clown punching bags. And so I I swear to you that I remember receiving training or maybe it was just passed along by other therapists that the Bozo the Clown punching bags were in there so that if somebody got really mad, then you just had to take it out on Bozo the Clown. And I remember at the time thinking, yeah, makes sense. Or have them scream into a pillow or punch a pillow or any of those kind of things to express their anger. And I remember the more that I got into doing therapy, the more that that just kind of didn't make a lot of sense. And I remember at first, without having any data to back this up, feeling like what you were really teaching your brain, the more I learned about the way the brain works and the brain is, it's a series of habits and patterns. The more that you engage in a pattern or a habit, the more your brain thinks, OK, this is what we do. And so your brain actually then has it's almost like a software program that preloaded.
[00:08:23] So when you are starting to get angry, it wants to skip some steps. And once you get right to the end, you know, when your brain really believes this is what habits are all about. Right. But when your brain really believes that this is what we do, we start to get angry, then we get really angry. Then your brain's like priming the pump to say, all right, this guy is getting angry. He's going eventually hit a pillow or punch Bozo the clown or chase somebody down in traffic or really yell at somebody else so that he can then be finished being angry. So it kind of tries to start to get you there quicker. So it really made sense that wouldn't we want to start to train our brain, that when you start to get angry or your mood starts to get elevated, that you would do far better to start to calm yourself down, in any way that that would work, whether it's a good old mindfulness breathing exercise or whether it's going outside or getting in touch with your feelings, your emotions are trying to hear the sounds around you or the smells or that sort of thing, because then what are you teaching your brain? You're teaching your brain that when we get angry, eventually this guy is going to calm down. So let's go ahead and start calming down. So it seemed to make so much sense.
[00:09:28] And so that's why I wanted to put together an episode really on anger. And I found this article called Seven Myths About Anger and Why They're Wrong by Amy Morrin. She's a licensed clinical social worker and she's author of the book Thirteen Things that Mentally Strong People Don't Do. So let's hit each one of these seven myths and then I want to throw some commentary out. So the first myth that Amy talks about is that anger is a negative emotion. She says it's not bad to feel angry. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. And in fact, a lot of really good things can stem from anger and angry feelings can lead to positive change. Yeah, she talks about many social injustices, have called for people who became angry. What if Martin Luther King Jr. had never felt angry as
[00:10:12] an example, so anger, I want to look at that as a negative emotion, anger is just that. It's an emotion. So I find that a lot of people and this is where I will probably have a recurring theme today when people say, I know I shouldn't get angry. And again, I will say every day of the week that no one likes to be should on, not even our own brain. So when we tell ourselves what's wrong with me or I know I shouldn't be angry, I like to reframe it. I'm doing it right now as I'm holding my hand up in the air as if I am holding some something to show someone else. And that is your your thought or your feeling. So instead of saying I, I know I shouldn't feel this way, I love reframing things to say, check it out. I'm feeling angry, because when you look at feelings that way or emotions that way, when it's more of a oh, check it out, I'm getting I'm getting charged right now or man, check out the sadness I'm feeling, then you can kind of step back and take a look at that emotion and really take a look at it from all angles. And you can see. All right, what's leading to this emotion, what's leading to this anger? And it has taken me however many minutes this is into this episode to reference my very favorite therapeutic modality, acceptance and commitment therapy, which we will again refer to from this moment forward in this podcast as ACT and Act talks about you have those feelings and emotions because you are a human being and because you are the only version of you that has ever walked the face of the earth.
[00:11:32] So if you are angry in a situation, it's not that anything is wrong with you. There's no I know I shouldn't feel angry or what's wrong with me for feeling angry. It's a I'm a human. I've experienced life up to this point in a certain way that no one else has. So check out this anger. I'm feeling angry. I'm noticing that I'm feeling angry, and an act there's some really neat techniques to be able to take a step back. So instead of I'm angry, it's I'm feeling angry. I notice I'm feeling angry. I notice I'm feeling angry because I'm feeling what a lack of control in this situation or I'm feeling unheard or I'm feeling like this is the only way that anyone will listen to me. So when you really look at that, anger is not a negative emotion, but anger is an emotion, then it's a little bit easier to kind of step back and say, check out this anger.
[00:12:19] So that's one of the first myths that I think I would that I love that we're debunking. Or one of the first myths about anger that we're discussing is that anger is not a negative emotion. Anger is an emotion. And so it's not bad to feel angry, but it is the first step in trying to realize why am I feeling angry right now? You know, let's let's kind of look at all the data. And that's one of the first steps to being able to learn to change your relationship with anger or have a different reaction when something that has previously caused you to feel anger happens like take the example I give at the beginning of this episode, a person cutting me off in traffic. I used to feel very, very angry. Now I realize, OK, the person cut me off in traffic. It's not that they think that I am a horrible person. It's not that they purposely saw our car and said, I know what I'll do, I'll cut that person off. And that what really ticked them off because I don't like that person. There was none of that. I mean, I can only imagine or they could only dream if I was that special that I had that kind of control over the universe.
[00:13:18] But I don't I'm driving. They cut me off. That's interesting. Was it scary? Yeah, my my body thought it was because the adrenaline came rushing in about 30 seconds after I noticed the event because I'm human. And would it have benefited me to go chase that person down and give them the what for teach them a good lesson? I don't believe so. But being able to change my relationship with that anger and being able to be fully present, we were able to work through that within seconds. There wasn't really anything to work through. It was more of a noticing things. And when you really look at the concept of emotions in general, we have them all the time. We have several tons of emotions even in every given minute. So at that moment, I chose to not engage in that emotion. And this is one of those fun things I love where I know I've done episodes where I kind of take on a little bit of that, hey, just choose to be happy in the morning and you will I feel like that is a great start, that I'm going to make the choice to be happy. I'm going to focus on happy things. I'm going to set myself up with with some good old happiness, confirmation bias.
[00:14:21] I'm going to look for the things that would bring me joy instead of looking for the negative aspects of life. But in the same breath, I can choose to be happy. And then when negative things happen throughout the day, when I do find myself losing my patience or my temper or control or someone does something external that affects me, and instead of if I realize that I'm not happy in that moment feeling like, well, what's wrong with me? I chose to be happy. It's another example of why we had emotions throughout all all throughout the day so we can be hanging on to this this happiness throughout a day and then something can happen that will cause us to not feel happy. And instead of saying, well, there goes the day, it's fascinating to be able to step back and say, OK, now I'm noticing anger or now I'm noticing fear or now I'm noticing hope. And so that's a. I feel like that's one of the best ways that you can realize that I have a lot of emotions, so I'm not going to I'm not going to chase after this one. I'm not going to chase after anger right now because I don't find it very productive.
[00:15:24] Ok, myth number two is that anger is the same thing as aggression. And a lot of people confuse angry feelings, aggressive behaviors, and combine them as if they're one in the same. So while feeling angry can be a healthy expression, a healthy behavior, aggressive behavior isn't, aggressive behavior is again, a control issue. It's not something that is going to keep a conversation going. It's not going to be necessarily helpful or productive because there are a lot of ways to deal with anger without resorting to threats or violence or aggressive behavior. And this this causes me to think of primary and secondary emotions. And I know that I've had a couple of episodes where I will reference primary and secondary emotions. And as a quick reminder, a primary emotion there. They're fairly simple to understand. They are your immediate reaction to events. So there's going to be some precipitating event and that's going to cause you to experience an emotion. The example I love giving is when my kids went through this phase where they loved scaring me when I was young father, they were younger kids. You would come around, you would come around a corner, and all of a sudden a kid would jump out at you and scare you and you would immediately react. You would. And then you would say, OK, come on, guys, knock it off. That that's not funny. And so the primary emotion was actually surprise or the primary emotion was embarrassment of reacting the way that I did to my kid.
[00:16:48] And then a secondary emotion is then and this is why it gets turn's emotions into these complex reactions. So the secondary emotion increases the intensity of your reaction. So the secondary emotion is when you feel something about the feeling itself. So all of a sudden I'm feeling anger about being embarrassed. And so differentiating between primary and secondary emotions is a pretty powerful coping skill. So if you view anger as, again, an emotion and you can separate that primary or secondary emotion, maybe I'm angry because I feel injustice, or maybe I'm angry because I feel like something is unfair. I'm angry because I was embarrassed. Or so if you look at anger again as a secondary emotion, a lot of times separating that secondary and primary emotion allows one to avoid aggression. Let's go to myth number three is that anger management doesn't work. And I hear this one often have said on occasion that when you are a beginning therapist, a lot of times you're given some pretty interesting gigs. I think I was about to say bad gigs, but I don't want anyone to think that if they are going to anger management class or if they've been even mandated by a court or their some condition where they have to go to a 52 week anger management course, because that's that's what a lot of them are. They last an entire year and they're weekly.
[00:18:10] But anger management does work. So anger management not working is a myth. So when people lack skills to manage their anger, Amy Martin talks about their emotions, can cause problems and all kinds of areas of their life. And that's where I feel like when you look at anger as a control issue, a lot of people and I'll go gender stereotype, a lot of men really struggle with anger because they don't necessarily have the ability to use their words. Being a little facetious when we're talking about talking to kids, "hey use your words, buddy. Don't don't throw a tantrum. Don't pout". those the lack of being able to express oneself can result in the secondary emotion of anger. And at times that anger can just lead the person's every interaction. So what anger management does is it allows people to recognize better ways to cope. So, again, a lot of the relationship troubles or career issues or legal problems result from an unhealthy expression of anger. And so these anger management classes are going to a therapist or learn in mindfulness tools or all of the above can help individuals reduce aggressive outbursts. Myth number four that she talks about with anger is that anger is all in your head and anger involves a lot more than just your mind. And if you think about the last time that you felt really angry, she points out that it's likely that your heart rate had increased to your face, most likely grew flushed and your hands maybe shook.
[00:19:35] And that's because anger evokes a physiological response. And it's that response that often fuels the angry thoughts or aggressive behaviors. So learning how to relax your body or relax your mind becomes a key to reducing aggressive outburst. And here's where you might want to have your finger ready on that advance button on your podcast player. But I had someone literally yesterday in Sessions who I've worked with for quite a while, and I'm so grateful when people feel safe enough to ask these kind of questions. But it was the old question again about mindfulness and hearing me talk and talk and talk about mindfulness or talk of abouthe app Headspaces that I use to practice a mindfulness activity and saying, OK, I, I hear you say it all the time, but I really don't understand, is it trying to clear your head of thought? And it is absolutely not trying to clear your head of thought. And the reason I bring it up with this myth number four of anger being in your head is when Amy Mirin talked about a physiological response, is that your emotions are designed to lead your logic. And that's one of these amazing things about the body. And it is such a go to bit for me now to talk about. But it was a very real experience in my office where one morning I opened the door.
[00:20:50] I walk a client out and I look down on the ground. And at first glance I just thought, that's something on the ground. I really didn't know what it was. I now kind of like to give the example of, hey, if it's a shoelace, then my immediate reaction is still going to be to pull back a little bit and then look down and say, oh, it's a shoelace. So in reality, my emotions are leading the way of my logic. My emotional response was there before I could even think of whatever this thing was on the ground. This thing on the ground happened to be a little snake, a little garter snake that had gotten into our building. And when the next client came walking in from the waiting room, we looked down and I said, OK, that's a snake. And I realized I have to I have to be calm and then get the snake out of the office. But the example then is there are a lot of times now that if I glance down on the ground, my first response is a visceral response, a gut response, an emotional response. And then my logic kicks in and says, OK, that's not a snake, that's a stick or that's a twig on the ground. Or when I walk out the back door of my office to get to my car, there is this little sponge that's been on the ground for I can't tell you how long in the first two or three times I look down, it seems so out of place that I have this visceral or emotional response automatically before I realize it's just the sponge.
[00:22:02] I don't know what I thought it was, but I have this physiological response. So when your emotions leave, your logic, your emotions are what already get, your heart rate increased and when your heart rate starts to elevate, then your fight or flight response is beginning to kick in. Your body is starting to do what it's designed to do, because if your heart rate elevates your cortisol, starts flowing through your body, the cortisol, it it says, hey, amygdala, hey, you know, fight or flight response, Neanderthal brain, caveman brain, reptilian brain, wake up because there might be danger that might be a snake on the ground. And then once you look and your heart rate's already getting elevated and you see that it's just a stick, then we can kind of calm your jets, we can cool down. And when your amygdala is firing up, when the stress hormone cortisol is firing up there, the part of your brain that is more logical, this prefrontal cortex, frontal lobe, it is it is shutting down. If you had yourself a nice functional brain scan going, you would watch as if light switches were turning off all the parts of your brain that are there to process and make sense of things.
[00:23:05] And so this physiological response that anger provides is there inherently for a good reason for that fight or flight response if you're about to get attacked by a wooly mammoth or a saber tooth tiger. The problem is when people go to that anger response on a regular basis, that actually becomes the the brain's path of least resistance that kind of defaults to this this visceral or angry response. So anger is all in your head again is a myth, but you need to practice mindfulness, in other words, on a daily basis. If you are practicing breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your thoughts run, letting your thoughts go, and then when you recognize that your thoughts have run or they have gone, then not beating yourself up about about, OK, man, I'm not even focused on my breathing anymore. But then coming back to focusing on your breath, I've thought often about doing a meditation episode where I do a nice guided meditation and I think I need to do that at some point. I was literally going to do it for episode 200 long ago. Now we're episode 253 and I, I still and pulled the trigger on that. But while I love an app like Headspace to do a daily mindfulness activity, there's also ones called 10 percent happier. There's a lot of them out there. One of the simplest ways to practice mindfulness, I literally do this just about every night as I go to bed and I do this when I just have even 30 seconds or if I pause a lot of times, if I'm somewhere like at a church or in a line or something, and there's just a pause while you're waiting for some something to happen, you breathe in through your nose and on the breath you count one and then breathe out through your mouth and on the out breath you count two.
[00:24:40] So then on the in breath, you would count three, the outbreath you account for and just try to get to ten. It sounds easy. It sounds simplistic, but it's fascinating to watch on a lot of days I'm, you know, one, two, three, four. And then I'm thinking about lunch. And then when you recognize, OK, I'm no longer counting, then don't don't beat yourself up. Just kind of be aware that I'm no longer doing the mindfulness activity. And then I start over at one and two, you know, in and out. And every now and again I'll find myself at 15 or 16. So I even blew right past ten. But what You're doing as you are practicing this almost catch and release of thought, so your thoughts start to wonder and Rove and go, and then when you are aware of your thought, then you come back to the breathing or come back to the breath.
[00:25:24] And when you are doing that in through the nose, out through the mouth breath, you are literally lowering your lowering your heart rate and calming that fight or flight response down. So anger not all in your head. And there are things that you can do to practice learning how to bring yourself back to the present before your brain goes all Neandertal or goes all fight or flight. But here is myth number five is honestly one of the reasons why I wanted to do this episode. Myth number five, that venting your anger releases it. Punching a pillow, trashing the room or screaming to your heart's content doesn't actually release your pent up rage. In fact, research suggests that venting your anger in this way actually has the opposite effect. The more you vent in actuality, the worse you'll feel. And I like to look at it this way. Your brain wants to operate on patterns. Your brain doesn't like ambiguity. And the more that it can develop a pattern, the quicker that it can put that pattern away into this habit center of your brain. And if your brain can pull out of the habit sooner, it's going to use a lot less electrical activity. So your brain is designed to make things habitual, whether it's habitual thoughts or habitual actions. So if you have this this pattern of behavior in your brain where you get angry and then you punch a pillow or you punch a Bozo the Clown doll, or you go out and do a nice primal scream, then what your training your brain to do is when your your heart rate elevates the cortisol releases and you get angry, then you eventually are going to take that anger and then really explode.
[00:26:59] So you're creating this pattern of behavior of that. Instead of when I get angry, then I call myself down. It's when I get angry, I have to just explode to then complete this cycle or this pattern. So what I love encouraging my own clients to do and what I've been practicing myself for ages is when you start getting elevated or you start feeling angry, then you've already been practicing this mindfulness technique. So your emotions are already locked in and saying, OK, when this guy starts to get angry, when his heart rate starts to elevate, we already know that he's going to do his whole breathing thing and bring himself back to the present. So let's go ahead and start him breathing. You know, let's go ahead and start calming that heart rate down. So it says if it's not that I don't ever get angry, but that emotional response or that impulsive response to anger isn't as likely to fire, you know, automatically. So venting the anger, it's a myth that that then releases the anger in reality, learning how to be aware or notice anger. Do a quick check in and see if you can separate that primary and secondary emotion and then being able to turn back to some nice centering or breathing exercise.
[00:28:10] The more you do that, the more you're going to create this new pattern of behavior around anger. And when you feel angry, instead of needing to vent the anger, your brain's already going to go into this Zen mindfulness mode. You're gonna be grabbing your yoga mat and your ponytail and then being able to sit there and be more present, which very quick side note or tangent. I think that that is a funny reference because I'm bald guy. So when I talked about learning mindfulness or going all Zen, I would talk about, you know, you're trying to get to this point where you literally are sitting on the floor, cross legged yoga mat robe, ponytail, and that's my impression or my view of what Zen looks like. And when I had a client at one point where I think we had had a zoom session and so we're talking and I'm talking about this mindfulness and I threw out the ponytail and yoga mat reference. And then I think it was it was a couple of weeks later and this person had reached out to me and threw a message and it said something remind me something about mindfulness. And I went to Amazon and I found a clip on Ponytail and a yoga mat. And I just sent these two links and I thought it was one of the most clever responses known to man.
[00:29:14] And then I didn't hear back from the person. When we met up again, he said, hey, so was I supposed to buy the the clip up ponytail or the yoga mat or. I don't know if that was intended to me. And then I felt really embarrassed because I had not laid out that I that was my attempt at humor, that if I'm sending you the the clip on Ponytail and yoga mat, that means I am encouraging you to go all Zen and mindful. All right. Myth number six, we're almost done. So let's let's get through this one. Ignoring your anger makes it go away. So I feel like that one, you probably can answer this one yourself. So suppressing anger here. We just talked about venting anger and venting your anger releases it. So ignoring your anger, though, doesn't actually make it go away. I know that can sound contradictory, but suppressing anger isn't healthy either. Smiling to cover up your frustration or denying your angry feelings or allowing others to treat you poorly in an effort to keep the peace can then cause you to then actually internalize your. Anger or it's it's causing. It's causing you to turn your anger inward and immigrants, that is suppressed. Anger has been linked to a variety of physical and mental health issues, from hypertension to depression. So what that is saying is that you don't need to just eat or swallow your anger.
[00:30:27] But if we go back to that myth number five of that venting, your anger releases that and that, we're saying that that's false. Then what do you do with your anger? You don't want to suppress it. It's literally being able to be aware of your anger, being able to tap in again. Is this a primary or a secondary emotion of being able to acknowledge my anger, not try to push my anger away, make room for my anger, breathe through my anger? Because if we remember this whole concept of what is called psychological reactance or that instant negative reaction of being told what to do, we do that in our own head. So if I'm telling myself to not get angry, my own brain is going to say, I'll do whatever the heck I want. In fact, I'll get more angry. So being able to recognize that anger, notice that anger. And it's so funny as I'm sitting here and I didn't record video on this one today, but my hand I'm holding my hand up in front of me because I'm so I want you to reframe instead of that, I'm angry. What's wrong with me? It's a man. Check this anger out and I'm holding it up in my hand in front of me, because if we can separate that, I'm a nice person, but I may get angry and we externalize that problem.
[00:31:30] Then we start to look at will win. When does this anger come upon me? You know, this anger, if we externalize it, look at it as if it's a black cloud. And when I am feeling we'll go with the traditional hault, hungry, angry, lonely, tired, that acronym that maybe when I'm feeling one of those emotions or one of those things is happening in my life that then here comes anger. It descends upon me. I'm still a nice person, but look at this. Here's anger, so I can't ignore it either. So acknowledging it, there you are. Anger, you know, even thanking my brain for. For what? The purpose that it's trying to is maybe trying to get me to feel angry because I have a primary emotion of feeling unheard or there's injustice or things aren't fair. So my brain's already preloading the the old hey, you get mad about this now, you know, do we need our secondary emotion of anger? And so being aware of anger, make room for anger, don't ignore your anger, but then just venting it or breaking dishes or yelling or screaming isn't a way to deal with it as well. So it really is being able to acknowledge it, make room for it, breathe through it, go back to the present, turn to value based activities, things that mean something to you. And that's the way that we're really going to to work through anger.
[00:32:39] And the seventh myth that Amy shared is that men are angrier than women. And she said that research consistently shows that men and women experience the same amount of anger, but they do express it differently. So while most men are more likely to be aggressive or impulsive in their expressions of anger, the research shows that women are more likely to use an indirect approach, like maybe cutting someone out of their lives or maybe being a little bit more passive aggressive with the comment. So if you feel like you are being picked on as a man, that you're you're not given any breaks or you're it's assumed that you are always the angry one and that the woman in your life never experiences anger. I would say that they they you both experience anger. But again, it's how that anger is expressed. So let me kind of go through a little bit. She gives a little bit of data on healthy ways to deal with anger. And again, this is Amy Mirin, and I really appreciate what she shared in this article. She said, The best way to deal with anger is to really find a healthy way to express it. So turning anger into something constructive, such as creating positive change or responding assertively is the best way to cope with angry emotions. And that before you can express these emotions, then you really do need to understand how you're feeling.
[00:33:47] So it's important to to identify when you're feeling disappointed or when you're feeling frustrated. And again, that can be part of practicing. What's your primary emotion? What's your immediate reaction? And then that secondary emotion is, in essence, reacting to the reaction and pay early pay attention to early warning signs that you're you're feeling angry. Are you becoming angry because you can really start to notice the patterns of behavior. You can start to notice triggers, because if I know that every time my kid, if they come in late from for curfew, that I'm going to be angry because that's a pretty easy one, then then work on calming yourself before you need to have that exchange. If your kid's coming in late from curfew and so that you don't already you haven't already been consumed by anger because of you. It's fascinating, too. If you look at that example in particular, a lot of times that that's a that's a good old attachment wound or an abandonment wound where we may sit there as a parent and feel like I have to get angry or my kid isn't going to hear me. And so while we may have created that pattern of behavior, that doesn't mean you can't change that pattern of behavior. So if you go into a situation like that and you are calm because you're working on your anger, that doesn't mean that your kid isn't going to respond in anger because that's how they maybe feel like they have control of a situation.
[00:35:01] And so all you can really work on is you. And this is one of those things where I feel like being able to model a good behavior is is going to go Incredibly far with your kids, whether it's modeling an apology or modeling, taking ownership or accountability or modeling, that I'm going to go into a situation and not resort to a anger response, because when you're in a calmer state, you know, that's when you can take steps to actively problem solve issues or express yourself in a more productive manner. And Amy, talks about increasing your emotional intelligence can prevent you from saying and doing the things that you might later regret. And I talk often about my emotional baseline concept that self care is not selfish. And so I feel like it's important to fill your tank first or to grab your mask first. Before I was doing the I'm drawing a blank here. But when you're in the airline, when you're when you're flying, you know, the oxygen mask that put your oxygen mask on first before helping others or get to higher ground before you can lift someone else or all those wonderful cliches, but you do need to have yourself in a really good spot to be able to recognize, deal with and work through anger so that you aren't necessarily just working out of this emotional response. I would encourage you to go listen to an episode I did a couple of weeks ago on self differentiation.
[00:36:16] That one I've gotten. If you didn't listen to it because it sounds boring, that one, I've received an incredible amount of feedback because what a self differentiation means is that is being able to still maintain a connection with someone, but also being able to have your own opinions and thoughts. And one of the biggest keys of self differentiation is being able to separate your emotions from your logic. Because we get so caught up in our feelings, we get so caught up in our emotions that that can hijack us in attempting to have a positive, productive conversation. So I am going to call it good right there. I do have and maybe I was laughing at one point where I was telling someone that I'm really good at saying, here's what you will make this a part one and part two. I'll talk about these other things and then I'll fix the HDD. I don't know what what that would be if impulsivity of putting out a podcast or what's hot that week in my mind. But sometimes I don't get to a part two. But when I initially thought about doing a podcast on anger and I found these seven myths of anger from Amy, which I really appreciated using a basis to have this episode, I also found a book that was talking about 50 psychological.
[00:37:25] I don't know if it said myth's or not, but Methy was it's better to express anger to others than to hold it in. And it but it just goes heavy into the data, which I think is really, really fascinating. But maybe I'll talk about that in a future episode. But in essence, it has the data, the research all the way back from a lot of research done back in the 80s and 90s and then the early 2000s on the fact that, yeah, and expressing yourself with anger is not the healthiest way to deal. You don't have to go punch the punching bag or break the dishes or yell to use a primal scream that it is more productive and healthy to be able to learn to deal with one's anger as far as calming oneself down, because now you're going to start setting this new neural pathway of when I get angry, I am going to eventually breathe and calm down and your brain's going to start preloading that that program and you will find yourself surprisingly calm and even some of the most triggering of situations like when I started this podcast today, having someone completely cut you off right in traffic and realizing that's interesting or having your kid really come in hot or angry because they feel guilty or they they're you know, they don't want to deal with their own primary emotion and having you not react. And it's an amazing, fascinating thing to do.
[00:38:42] It's the end of the episode. And I once again skipped right past the Betterhelp.com/irtual couch ad that I had planned on throwing in earlier. So if you happen to still be listening, I would just love to encourage you to go to Betterhelp.com virtual couch. You'll get 10 percent off your first month services of online therapy. I got a little tag lines here that might as well read them. What are you waiting for? Your you owe it to yourself to at the very least, just check it out. Go ahead. And whether you're dealing with depression, anxiety, some of the frustrations of getting back to some sort of normalcy in your life, Betterhelp.com has a bunch of licensed professionals that you can connect with. And up to 24 to 48 hours, you can communicate with them through text, email, that sort of thing. So go to Betterhelp.com, slash virtual couch for 10 percent off your first month services. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for listening to the podcast. If you're still listening to me, maybe you're doing something where you don't have access to your hands. If you if you feel so inclined, feel free to go hit a rate or review wherever you listen to your podcast that always helps other people find the episode. And if you found something productive today, feel free to share this episode on social media with a friend, that sort of thing.
[00:39:52] So have an amazing day. And taking this out, as per usual, is a wonderful, a talented Florence with my favorite song.