Excerpt Published In Vibe Magazine
Wish you could press rewind when your anger gets the better of you? Anger management expert Shannon Munford explains how to prevent that inner hulk getting out when you find yourself in a tricky situation.
Every couple has heated arguments, what is the best way to keep your cool when you feel like your emotions and anger are escalating out of control?
Shannon: The first thing that we do when we’re advising couples to avoid arguments is actually to have a plan of disengaging. When you’re in the midst of an argument it’s hard to think and hard to pull away; so we advise couples to sit down when things are good to talk about what you’re going to do if you’re in the argument. So for instance, if we get into an argument and things get out of hand, I may just go for a drive. I’m not going to go to my ex girlfriend’s house, I’m not going to go drinking, I’ll probably just go to the park or something like that. When you’re in the midst of an argument, sometimes they don’t want to release you because they may be fearful of where you’re going to go or what you want to do while you’re in the argument.
The other thing that we advise couples to do is to stay on target. So if you’re discussing an issue don’t talk about what happened ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. Stay on target, talk about that one issue. If you can’t seem to stay on target, set a date where you can come back to the issue and say hey lets talk about this tomorrow, the next day. Let’s sleep on it then we may have a better a train of thought and we can talk about it in a way that we’re not going to hurt each other.
Is it better to use a lot of ‘I’ statements and explain how you feel personally rather than ‘you’ statements, which may seem like an attack?
Yeah, we never want to accuse one another because when I am talking about what you’re doing you go on the defensive, so all your shields go up and actually you’re not hearing anything I say. So when I talk about how I am feeling, the other person who is listening can listen without feeling that they’re being attacked. So you do want to use ‘I’ statements, you want to talk about your feelings and how it affects you. When we’re talking about feelings, we’re not only talking about anger, we’re talking about the feelings underneath the anger. Those feelings that are hard to express; the pain, disappointment, the fact that you feel vulnerable or lonely and sometimes those are feelings that are hard to express, but we need to talk about those feelings instead.
Back in 2009 when there was the domestic abuse incident between Chris Brown and Rihanna, he described blacking out and not realizing what he was doing. Are there signs that it’s getting to that point?
When I think about Chris Brown and Rihanna and him describing that he blacked out; I’m thinking he probably got to the point where the anger had built to a point where he was out of control. There were most likely signs way before that that he was losing control and at that point he should have taken a time out.
One of the things that we talk about in anger management is self-assessment. Even before the incident, they were on their way to the Grammy’s, there’s a lot of stress involved, a lot of pressure. They probably were at a point where the circumstances outside their argument were so intense that that led to how bad it got. We really want to be able to assess ourselves and think well how am I feeling right now? What’s going on around me? Even days and weeks before an event. Now that’s not an excuse for what he did, but you can kind of see the train coming.
Why do you think cyber bullying is becoming such a huge problem for the new generation?
One of the things about social media is you’re able to say things that you wouldn’t say in person. It’s almost as if there’s an invisible barrier there. So people are taking risks and saying things that they wouldn’t say when another individual is standing right in front of them. First off because you feel that person can’t reach out and you don’t feel threatened. Secondly, you’re unable to see what your words are doing to the other person because you can’t see them face-to-face, you don’t see their expression. You don’t see how your words are really affecting them.
Also, do you think it’s a performance thing because they know other people can see it and so they put on a persona?
Well, yeah and that’s what they were bred to do. They were bred to be actors, Shia LaBeouf, all the way from his Disney roles. They were bred to put on an alternate personality, so sometimes they can go into their alter ego and present themselves in a way that they wouldn’t normally present themselves in front of family and friends and when they’re alone.
What rules would you say there should be for when you’re planning on having twitter beef or posting offensive statuses?
The first rule that I would say is have someone proof read what you’re posting, these stars get paid a lot of money. They have publicists, they have lots of people around them, [but] this is not just for celebrities. Always bounce your thoughts, opinions and what you’re going to post with someone else first.
For people that aren’t celebrities, obviously it’s not realistic that they would have someone else proof read their tweets, what would your advice be for them? When you’re feeling that strongly about something you won’t always be that rational.
Exactly, its almost posting while drunk, so you’re posting while angered. You want to be able to take some space and walk away from the situation. Discuss it with somebody else in real time, real life before you’re going to comment online because that lasts forever.
What would you say are the main reasons behind people not being able to articulate themselves verbally and so choose to vent that anger physically?
I think a lot of times people just aren’t aware of what they’re really feeling. So it’s hard to express to somebody else what you feel, when you’re not aware of what you’re feeling. One of the things that we always advise people to do is take time to get to know yourself. A journal is a great way to put your feelings down and find out how do you really feel about a subject matter. When people are expressing themselves in a physical nature it’s because they don’t have the words to say how they’re really feeling.
Is insecurity a big part of it?
Yeah definitely, when you’re insecure you go into defensive mode and you’re trying to defend yourself in a way that’s not necessary. If you’re secure in yourself it doesn’t matter what other people say.
What are your thoughts on Kanye West and all of his rants and run-ins with the paparazzi?
Artists in general, including Kanye, are very sensitive people. So they wear their heart on their sleeve, they’re very passionate about what they do. So I’m not surprised that when he’s accused or when he’s criticized or when his bubble is pierced that he acts out in anger. But one of the things that I said before, you have to have a buffer around you, people who can protect you from yourself. So I think that is one of the things that we see in artists because of what they do, they react in a way that is very emotional and it tends to get violent at times.
When does it cross the line from having reasonable anger to having a problem where people should seek help from anger management facilities?
It crosses the line when your anger affects other people physically, when you start to hurt people emotionally. When it starts to lead into altercations with the police, jail time, arrests and really when it starts to affect your pocketbook. Kanye West, at a period of time his actual sales went down, the same with Chris Brown because of their anger. We can kind of see that trend with Justin Bieber also. So when it starts to affect your work, it’s a problem.
Do you believe that frustration is a healthy part of growing up and that most people have a stage in their lives where they act out to get it out of their system?
I think we all get frustrated and it is a healthy part of our life, but those of us who are mature and actually have good role models and guides learn to navigate that. So we learn to deal with our frustration in a way that is not going to affect us. Often times these individuals, they don’t have anybody telling them the right thing to do, they have people pleasers around them so they really don’t have any guidance and someone who’s strong enough to stand up and say if you don’t change, you’re going to wreck your life.
So a good support system is vital?
For more tips on how to handle conflicts within your relationships take a look at this throwback article:
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