What is at the core of our anger? An attitude is at the core of anger. The true source of our anger is within us. It is a rigid attitude about the violation of some “holy” rule. The attitude is "You absolutely should and must treat me as I think I deserve to be treated, want to be treated, and demand to be treated. You must do it my way because I have so many perfectly valid reasons why my way is right, better, civil, or just."
The person who angers themselves does not see the mismatch between their rigid and “right” attitude and what is happening out there in the real world. If your rigid attitude were a law of the universe the offender of your rule would be completely unable to transgress your rule. They would be compelled by some unseen force NOT to act in a way that transgresses your inviolable rule. But alas no such unbreakable rule exists. This is a myth, a fiction that exists only in your mind. Unfortunately, the person full of anger does not see this indisputable fact. Yes, it might be better if things were otherwise. Yes, you might know of a better way people could treat each other. Yes, you may very well be correct in pointing out that an injustice has been done. Yes, you have been shown great disrespect. What you fail to appreciate is that the universe permits fallible humans to commit these transgressions when these transgressions are made. People do not absolutely have to treat you as you want them to treat you. This is the message of REBT. See it and think about the implications of this wisdom. REBT encourages you to attempt to get others to treat you as you want, wish, hope, and desire to be treated. Assert yourself. Persuade and reward good behavior in others and calmly and to the proper extent punish bad behavior. Attempt to influence others but see that you cannot control others. You only can control your attitude towards others and what they do. Accept that all strategies will occasionally not work as intended and you will receive mistreatment from others. And when you do get mistreated ask yourself if your anger serves you well? How is it helping you? How is it defeating you in the short and long run? These are the questions I encourage you to reflect on in a non-defensive manner. If you honest you will see that although your anger feels justified and somewhat good as you vent it, sadly, it does you more harm than good. Therefore, push yourself to immediately choose to relinquish the rigid attitude that lies at the core of your anger. Remind yourself that people do not have to do things as you would like them to be done. People do not have to treat you as you want them to treat you. That would be lovely if they did but REBT reminds us that we live on planet Earth not on planet Utopia. With flexible attitudes towards mistreatment allow yourself to feel healthy feelings of disappointment, annoyance, and displeasure. Strongly and repeatedly remind yourself “Although I very much want others to treat me in the way I want to be treat they do not absolutely have to do so. Tough!” Use this rational attitude to live well with others when they mistreat you and move on emotionally instead of burning yourself and destroying your relationships with anger.
Keep at it. REBT works if you work it.
Note: I am a clinical psychologist with 27 years of experience using REBT and cognitive behavior therapy. I practice psychotherapy and train doctoral students in the practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Behavioral Health Center located within the department of psychiatry of the Perelman School of Medicine. I am an adjunct faculty member of New York University’s Steinhardt School in the department of Applied Psychology, and author of the soon to be released “Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: A Newcomer’s Guide”. I have a private practice in Philadelphia. I am available for psychotherapy, coaching, and professional training and consultation in person or by Skype. Feel free to contact me or join my Intermittent Reinforcement email list and get started learning Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy today.