Change Your Language-Reduce Your Anger. Part 3

Posted on: June 3, 2007

Change Your Language-Reduce Your Anger. Part 3

In part three of this series of articles I will examine the ADA model. ADA stands for awareness-dialogue-action. It is the assertion of this author that mastering anger awareness and emotional literacy is key to anger management. One must be aware of the things that cause emotional reactions in us. For example, the busy dad or mom who some days could not care less if the kids’ toys are scattered all over the living room floor and then on other days has a parental temper tantrum at the presence of these toys. Why does the same situation cause different reactions? It is likely that on the days where a meltdown occurs, the parent may be experiencing other stressors which are exacerbated by the sight of scattered toys. Therefore, to chide the child(ren) is a displacement of responsibility because the problem lies not in what they did but in the parent’s lack of awareness of their own stressors. They may also lack the words to name their feelings otherwise known as an emotional vocabulary. Consequently, they cannot dialogue with themselves about why they are having these feelings and take responsibility for them—at least enough to manage themselves. Let me give a more detailed example.



A busy mom, whom we will call Kathy, had a series of appointments that went wrong. At the last minute, the sitter called to tell her that she (the sitter) needed to leave the home early. This meant that the mom now had to miss two other very important appointments and travel home in rush hour traffic. Awareness will allow Kathy to know that she is feeling increasingly irritable, disappointed, disorganized, exhausted, like a failure, resentful and alone. On her drive home, these emotions may even cause physical changes–stress symptoms which may include headaches and neck pain.



Kathy, however, is a recent graduate of a new anger management class that not only focused on basic anger management but also stress management, communication skills and emotional intelligence. This program paid close attention to the development of Kathy’s emotional intelligence and emotional vocabulary; therefore, Kathy was quickly aware of what she was feeling and viewed them as signals–not a call to an anger outburst. She dialogued with herself recognizing that she was having a very bad day and all these emotions were the mind’s way of expressing itself. She also took personal responsibility by acknowledging that her feelings are the result of her own perception of the situation. She remembers the stress management techniques she learned in anger management class. She repeatedly says to herself, “Yes! I have all these emotions but what can I do to ensure that I don’t allow my emotions to lead to explosive anger?”



As Kathy gets closer to home she decided to park the car down the street from her house and practice a technique called systematic relaxation. Simultaneously, she named her emotions and chose her plan of action. For example, as she looked at feeling like a failure she began to envision what she can do next time to improve her chances of success. She also decided that she will use her assertive communication skills to have an open discussion with the sitter. Kathy mentally solidifies her actions and then drives home.



On arriving home, the house is in chaos. The sitter is in a rush to leave and the kids are clamoring for attention. Mom again is fully aware that her rush of emotions are her own, she seeks to remain calm by scheduling a time to have a “sit down” with the baby sitter. She proceeds to play with her kids in the full awareness of her own emotions and action plan to avoid an anger meltdown.

The situation described is the ideal and will take some practice to realize; however, it can happen. I have seen many people of all education and economic backgrounds make this technique work. The challenge I have found is that our emotional vocabulary has to be strengthened so that when emotional turmoil is felt one does not experience it as noise but clearly differentiated emotions that one is aware of, can dialogue with and take specific actions to reduce the possibility of an anger outburst. Next article, I will discuss the idea of “undifferentiated emotions” (this is my wife’s term) or noise, as I like to call it.


Carlos Todd, LPC, NCC, CAMF

President of the American Association of Anger Management Providers

Carlos Todd is the owner of Todd’s Anger Management Solutions in Charlotte, NC




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