Using Self Talk to Manage Your Anger
Using Self Talk to Manage Your Anger
by Dr. Lyle Becourtney,
"Pins and needles, needles and pins; it's a happy man that
grins." These classic words were made famous by Jackie
Gleason in his role as Ralph Kramden in the 1950s TV
sitcom, The Honeymooners.
So why in the world was America's favorite bus driver so intent on repeating this phrase whenever he was on the verge of losing his temper? Quite simply, by changing his self-talk or inner
conversation with himself, Kramden was using a popular
anger management strategy that continues to be widely
The general idea behind using self talk as an anger management
technique is that our inner thoughts (or what we silently
say to ourselves) can have a great impact on how we feel
and how we respond. If our self talk is negative and/or
antagonistic (e.g., "I'm not going to let her talk to me that
way" or "One more word out of him and I am going to
explode"), the likelihood is that our anger will intensify. On
the other hand, if we can change our self-talk to something
more soothing or calming (e.g., "Take a deep breath, stay
calm, I can get through this"), the likelihood is that we will
experience less anger and feel less compelled to respond
in a hostile manner.
To help illustrate the power of using self talk, let's
first examine the impact that other people's words have on
us when we are angry.
Have you ever been real ticked off and then further egged on by the words of a friend or family member?
On the other hand, can you think of a time when your friend's words actually helped you to keep your cool?
An example might be after you were insulted by
a stranger. At such a point, as in most incidents in which
one feels provoked or unfairly treated, you probably found
yourself at a fork in the road in which you had some
choices. You could take the "low road" and retaliate in an
aggressive or hostile manner or take the "high road" and
use your anger management skills to stay calm and
address things in a more appropriate fashion.
When at such a fork in the road, the words of your friend
or family member may have been just enough to sway you
in one direction or the other.
For instance, at the time that you were insulted by a stranger, had your friend chimed in, "Don't take that. I've got your back," there is an increased likelihood that you would have taken the "low road" and reacted in an aggressive fashion. On the other hand, had your friend put his arm around you and said in a soft voice, "Stay calm. This is not worth it," the outcome may have been very different.
Recognizing and understanding the influence of your
friends' words comes with both good news and bad news.
First the bad news is that the positive people in your life
may not always be by your side when you need their words
of encouragement. The good news, however, is that you
need not rely on other people's words. You can do for
yourself exactly what those calming influences have done
for you in the past by using self talk. The key is to just pay more attention to
your internal dialogue and start replacing your negative
thoughts with more positive ones.
While Kramden's "Pins and Needles" may not be the
mantra that works best for using self talk, perhaps you can develop your own to use when agitated or provoked. It can be
something as simple as, "Relax. Take it easy. I can handle
By modifying your self-talk during moments of anger
or frustration, you will be more inclined to take the "high
road" and avoid conflicts and negative consequences.
Although changing your inner conversation with yourself
may feel unnatural at first, it eventually will become second
nature. So practice, practice, practice! All the while, keep
in mind that your words can be extremely powerful and may
ultimately hold the key to managing your anger.
Using Self Talk to Manage Your Anger by
Dr. Lyle Becourtney, a New York State Licensed
Psychologist and Certified Anger Management
Professional, has a private office in Blauvelt, NY in
Rockland County. His anger management programs
provide an excellent opportunity for teens and adults to
learn new anger management techniques.
In addition to weekly anger management classes and
individual and couples therapy, Dr. Becourtney trains other
mental health professionals and parents on how to
implement a positive parenting program.
Whether you are trying to save your marriage or trying to
save your relationship with someone you care about,
the skills taught by Dr. Becourtney can be life-changing.
If you live too far away to see Dr. Becourtney in person,
the online anger management class is a terrific option.
You can purchase the anger management books that
are used by Dr. Becourtney's private clients. There are
also numerous anger management articles and
parenting articles that can be accessed for free.
Copyright © 2008 Dr. Lyle Becourtney,
All Rights Reserved. Permission granted to reprint this
article on your website without alteration if you include this
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