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How To Tell Whether You Have Really Changed
the Way That You Experience and Express
Your Anger

by Dave Decker M.A.

One of the critical aspects of truly changing what you do with your anger involves having some specific criteria that you and others can use to determine whether you are actually making progress and transforming this part of yourself. Below are some very concrete and pragmatic ways that you can use to measure what you are doing with the anger you experience. See if you can think of others as well that will be important to you in your own healing and recovery process.

  1. You realize that your disrespectful anger; your negative, cynical and hostile attitudes; and your hurtful and punishing behaviors arise from within you and have to do with a vision of the world that you have and your own inner feelings of self-doubt and insecurity you have developed through your childhood and life experiences.
  2. You become more aware of your shame and the negative self-talk that it generates and you work actively to decrease and intervene in these before they contribute to your becoming controlling, disrespectful and punishing with others. You also begin to notice that your negative, victimized, cynical and hostile thoughts are less frequent and less intense.
  3. You can talk about and admit openly and honestly to all your punishing, disrespectfus, controlling and abusive behavior in the past with your partner and others.
  4. You acknowledge clearly and unconditionally that disrespectful and punishing behavior was wrong and is not how you want to treat the important people in your life.
  5. You recognize and acknowledge your feelings in the moment and handle them in a respectful way with your partner, your children and others in a consistent and ongoing manner, which includes taking respectful time-outs when necessary.
  6. You acknowledge that how you express your anger is a clear choice and that you were in the past, and are in the present, at no point "out of control."
  7. You accept fully and competely the consequences of your hurtful, punishing, and disrespectful actions toward others.
  8. You recognize and acknowledge the destructive impact your controlling, hurtful and disrespectful behavior has had on your partner and others, and show empathy and compassion for the people you have hurt by your attitudes and actions.
  9. You make clear and concrete amends for the damage you have caused by what you have done in the past and for mistakes that you have made in how you have treated others.
  10. When you make mistakes in how you express your anger in the present (as you surely will), you see them clearly within a reasonable period of time, take full responsibility for what you have said or done, apoligize and make amends and work actively to learn from the mistake you have made.
  11. You learn to recognize and monitor your anger triggers and cues and your personal pattern of excalation in your daily life.
  12. You develop positive and respectful attitudes and behaviors toward other people to replace the desrespectful and hurtful ones you are working to decrease.
  13. You are willing to accept full and complete responsibility for your past, present and future actions. This means that you recognize your tendency to blame your partner and others for your feelings and actions at times and intervene in this tendency whenever necessary.
  14. You are willing to listen to your partner and others and are able to recognize and intervene in your tendencies to interrupt and to become defensive and reactive. You show a genuine interest in your partner by asking questions of him or her and then truly wanting to hear and working to be open to what5 they have to say to you.
  15. You make a clear and genuine commitment to working an ongoing anger management (aka "life management") program so that you will not repeat the desrespectful and punishing behaviors you have done in the past. Then you actually follow through with this commitment you have made in your day-to-day living. This means continuing to learn about yourself from a variety of sources and sharing these insights with your partner and the other important people in your life.
  16. You think about and notice the impact you are having on other people when you are angry and take that into account when eciding how to share your anger and other feelings with them.
  17. You realize that anger and conflict are natural parts of an important relationship and you are willing to listen to your partner, even when she or he is critical of you, and you work hard to effectively move through conflict even when your partner is angry or sees things differently from the way that you do. You start to understand that your partner is, in fact, a different and separate person and has a right to his or her perspective and identity.
  18. You demonstrate in an ongoing and consistent way, over an extended period of time, that you are truly changing this part of your self by responding to your partner, even when you are angry, with respoct, caring, support, affirmation, empathy and love.
  19. You clearly realize and accept that intervening in your punishing and desrespectful behavior takes daily focus and effort and is a lifelong process and you continue to be aware of and work at this in an ongoing way.
  20. You clearly understand that "anger management" is really "life management" and identify and follow through with a variety of ways to take good care of yourself in the broadest possible context of living your life.

© 1987 David J. Decker, MA, LP
Phone: 612-725-8402 or 651-646-4325 -




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