Anger Management Secret #4: It's not about you -- whatever is pushing your buttons right now is not personal.

It's Not Personal

The guy who just cut in front of you on the freeway is not trying to kill you -- he's late to work, or taking his wife to the hospital, or perhaps just preoccupied. In truth, you've probably done the same thing. The receptionist or clerk or petty bureaucrat at the DMV who is rude to you is probably having a bad day. Just like you are. Even the person who is calling you abusive names is most likely having his own mind-numbing rage attack that makes him do stupid things. Your spouse, who theoretically loves you, may be being hurtful primarily because she or he is hurting.

Even though this is Secret #4, it's an advanced technique that's not always easy to put into action. There may be only a millisecond or two between the thing that pissed you off, and your full-blown rage response. So you have to be ready to remind yourself that the other person is having a bad day and act fast before your cerebral cortex temporarily shuts down.

Calm People See Other's Actions as Separate from Themselves

But this suggestion comes now, because it points to an important difference between "calm" people and people with anger problems. Calm people know that other people's actions are rarely direct responses to them. Most people are just trying to get through their days, and sometimes make mistakes or do stupid things -- that's all. People with anger problems are vulnerable to miscalculating what other people are intending with their actions. Why? When you are emotionally vulnerable and feel in risk of hurt, you are already highly mobilized and vigilant to guard against perceived threats. So you tend to overestimate the risk or potential damage to yourself and react as if you are fighting for your life. Subsequent Secrets help you to know how to feel less threatened and vulnerable.

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