We all get frustrated and annoyed at times but John* was known in work and by his friends as “Angry John”. Never far off shouting or losing his temper,it was affecting every area of his life – his marriage, his friendships, and his work. Even the way he walked into the room to discuss hypnotherapy for anger issues, with his hands stuffed into his bomber jacket, looked angry.
He’d come to see me to learn how to calm down. “I still think though” he told me “I’m better off letting off steam than bottling it up”. In fact “letting off steam” excites the region of your brain associated with pleasure, and as people carry on they have to be angrier and angrier to get the same effect. Instead of helping John let go of his anger his habit was trapping him in a downward spiral.
The way that John was looking at his problem was either to “bottle it up” or “let it out” when in fact he had another option – not to be angry in the first place. Like a lot of angry people John had very high standards, and got frustrated when he or other people didn’t live up to them. And like a lot of angry people he didn’t explain his expectations to other people, or really understand why they acted like they did.
Instead of hypnotherapy for anger issues we spent most of our time getting John to imagine himself in the other person’s position – thinking about why they might have acted the way they did, and how he might have come across to them. Getting him to do this made him realise that a lot of the times that he was getting angry were because of him jumping to conclusions, or just not discussing things with other people.
We did some work on helping John to calm down when he felt riled – not to “bottle things up” but to give him time to stop and think about the other person and his reactions. He saw things changing for the better as he became less angry, and came back to see me to practice seeing things from the other person’s point of view. Now he’s teasingly called “Grumpy John” but better still, he doesn’t get annoyed about it.
*John’s real identity has been protected, and he is happy to share his story about using hypnotherapy for anger issues.