You have a self-help blog where you give free advice as a marketing strategy to gain new clients. You’re writing a self-help book.
You’ve had some training in coaching, counseling, and learning theory.
You’ve learned plenty from your experience with clients—what works and what does not work. You have a theory for human growth and development. Evaluations from clients are positive: almost all of them say you’ve helped and they got their money’s worth.
You’ve learned a lot about yourself as your coaching has evolved, and you feel pretty self-aware.
A warrior shows up
Your new client stands out immediately: he is interesting, clear, and powerful.
He identifies himself as a warrior—a man or woman, he explains, who is at war with his or her weaknesses.
He is joyful, funny, self-aware. He appears to be fearless, and you find him attractive, but a bit intimidating. You’re on full alert.
He has enlisted you, he says, to get to the bottom of his worst weakness—anger.
His goal: to be completely free of anger, irritation, and resentment.
He says that he has reduced his anger intentionally over the years, but he still feels and expresses irritation, resentment, and anger pretty regularly—even though he knows that these emotions are self-defeating. The people close to him are put off by his anger-related emotions, he says. He heads up his own successful company, but his employees are careful with him, not trusting his emotional responses and fearing his temper even though most of the time he is cordial, supportive, and loving. His marriage is tested every time he responds to his wife with irritation or anger, he reports, and he’s worried that he could blow it with his wife, whom he loves and values. He’s blown other marriages and wants this one to succeed.
He says that he has made commitments to stop being angry and even peruses the most popular self-help blogs to get some insights.
He has brought with him a copy of the latest advice he read from a giant self-help site, a post entitled “40 Ways to Let Go of Anger.” He’s brought you a copy too, so you can examine the strategies together. (Author’s note: this is a real post).
He says that he wants to make sure that I don’t give him any of the shallow advice about anger that is abundant in the internet coaching world, like this example.
You read together:
1. “Look at your rulebook. Explain your rules to the person who angered you. Maybe their rules are different. In other words, if that person understands you better maybe he/she will avoid pushing your buttons.”
This is crap, the warrior says. Am I supposed to tell everyone in my life about my “rules”? I want to get rid of my anger. This idea won’t do it.
2. “Use aromatherapy to create a calm environment.”
You both laugh. This sniffing strategy won’t touch the fundamental cause of anger.
6. “Let your anger fizzle out with a bath bomb.” Relax in a warm bath and watch your anger fizzle away.
and #30. “Take a soothing shower.”
You both laugh again, and imagine examples of how this might work, like you’re leading a tense meeting at work, you get angry, then excuse yourself saying to colleagues, “I have to go home to take a bath bomb (or shower) right now. Be right back.”
14. “Paint an angry mouth on an hourglass egg timer. Now paint a happy mouth on the other half. Turn your angry mouth upside down and watch the happy mouth fill.”
Your warrior client laughs again and acknowledges that this trick will help him keep track of the time he spends each month being angry.
17. “Blow up a dozen balloons. Write an angry thought on each one and step on them until they pop, leaving only the shredded remnants of your deflated anger.”
The warrior chuckles and asks, “Who’s going to clean up the mess every day?”
22. “Use a mirror for self-reflection. Look in the mirror and let your anger out…The more you deny your feelings, the more they grow.”
The warrior observes , “Most of the advice about anger in the self-help blogosphere is worthless because it assumes that you can never eliminate your anger, irritation, and resentment completely. These advisers don’t know how to stop being angry, but only help you manage your neuroses.”
He goes on to say, “I know that some people achieve a life without anger, so how do they do it? I don’t need a bunch of therapy. If there’s a way, I’ll do it. I’m wide open and ready. Give me the warrior version.”
How to end anger, irritation, and resentment
You lay out the strategy that works. It takes you only five minutes.
“The cause of anger, irritation, and resentment is self-pity. Self-pity lurks beneath its cover of self-importance.
Most people never get over self-pity, and it distorts their lives from beginning to end.
Feeling sorry for themselves when something doesn’t go their way, people create a victim story to explain their painful emotion.
The victim story always blames someone else—it might be the government; it might be a spouse; it could be parents and a hard childhood; it might even be god.
They cling to their victim story, obsessing and hoping for revenge.
They seek allies for support, telling others how they are victims of unfair, uncaring, cruel, or stupid actions by others.
Their explanation for their anger is a bad explanation.
The good explanation is that they feel sorry for themselves and can’t or won’t take responsibility for the life they are creating.
You get angry because you feel sorry for yourself. You don’t want to admit that, because you’re not humble. You can’t sustain your poise when life presents certain challenges, but instead react like a spoiled child.
The good news is that once you erase your self-pity and take full responsibility for the life you’re creating—including how you feel and how you think—you will never feel angry, irritated, or resentful again in your life. If you do, you’ll see what’s happening in a second, and you’ll laugh and move on.
Here’s how to do it:
Declare a personal emergency. Your anger is dangerous and could wreck your life: it has to go. Declaring a personal emergency will make this effort your top priority and provide the focus and energy you need to address it. You can’t really be an impeccable warrior until you have eliminated your victimhood. Until then, you are just a leaf at the mercy of the wind. Looking for your self-pity is now your most important and full time work.
Watch yourself and get ready to observe your anger every time it rears its ugly, self-important, self-pitying, weak, and stupid head. When it shows up, see the self-pity in operation and see through its bad explanations for what is happening at the moment. You must acknowledge it and admit it, even though you won’t want to at at first.
Enlist your wife as your learning partner. She will be relieved and skeptical—relieved because she sees a change in you, and skeptical because you’ve promised change before. Ask her to address your anger anytime it occurs. Ask her to remind you that your anger, irritation, or resentment are bad explanations for what is going on. Ask her and your colleagues to nail you every time your indulge yourself with anger, irritation, or resentment. You’ll have to apologize every time you slip up, which you will do at first. Tell them you’re just feeling sorry for yourself.
By now you must be realizing why almost nobody works to get rid of their self-pity. This work takes the heart of a lion.”
“How long will this take for me to eliminate my self-pity?”
“If a warrior gives this effort his or her full attention, it won’t take long. Getting rid of your self-pity is what wants to emerge in your life right now. That’s why you’re here.
Here’s a quote I like: tape it to your computer screen:
The question of self pity….We understand the aversion most of us have to “dwelling on it.”….The very language we use when we think about self pity betrays the deep abhorrence in which we hold it: self pity is feeling sorry for yourself, self pity is thumb sucking, self pity is boo hoo poor me, self pity is the condition in which those feeling sorry for themselves indulge, or even wallow. Self-pity remains both the most common and the most universally reviled of our character defects, its pestilential destructiveness accepted as given. “Our worst enemy,” Helen Keller called it.
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
I’ll send my bill. Good luck.”