Names, and details of people and organisations have been changed to maintain their privacy. The case studies below will will go into details of how these transformations occurred.
Tim (not client’s real name) was an unusual client in that from the very first contact anger was the issue. Typically clients have a few sessions with me before the start opening up on the topic.
Tim was having serious trouble with their staff, (they’re all incompetent) lots of customer complaints commerce they had to repeatedly find new suppliers for their business, their romantic relationship was struggling, and family members seem to avoid them. Clearly if somebody’s got to the point where they realise themselves that anger is an issue we know there’s a lot more going on.
Tim had previously tried the obvious, more relaxation, letting it all out and so on. Clearly with no benefit.
When I worked with Tim there were collection of issues that needed dealing with, I’ve outlined below. However even after the very first session together changes were noted. For practical reasons Tim was only able to come and see me every four or six weeks so we made the most of our sessions. Now after working together for a while I cannot say that he is an icon of peace and calm. However, staff suddenly seem to be more competent and just getting on with the job, no more customer complaints, they’ve not had to find a new supplier, home life is less stressful. We’ve yet to see the impact on relatives is like many Tim only rarely gets to family get-togethers.
In addition to these changes Tim reports they have a lot more energy for their business and for their life. This is often reported when people start dealing with their inner anger.
We all have such events are stored in our brains. There is a mechanism for doing this, and our brain will routinely remember them if it believes we are approaching a similar situation to that that cause distress previously. With Tim though, there were rather a lot of them where Tim had been in some way violated, ripped off or whatever. Large collection of them which was being brought to mind multiple times a day.
What we know about such memories as you can talk about them forever however very little changes in our brains. Fortunately today we have mechanisms to update these memories to take the emotional charge of them so they are far less invasive, and when they do invade they are just an ordinary memory rather than a huge outburst of anger as it was with Tim.
My tool of choice for this work is Havening. A breakthrough in the understanding of how this type of memory can be updated by our brains.
In addition Havening has an advantage over some of the other approaches, which are loosely called memory re-consolidation, in that Tim could take a self-help tool with him.
So whenever Tim felt the anger arising even if the specific memory did not come to mind, they could use the self-Havening to calm the breakdown. Often enough to stop Tim being triggered into an outburst. Either an outburst of anger or as often happens being passive-aggressive.
Tim had to practice the self-Havening many times before it became the first choice for them.
Although the word mindfulness is bandied around in this context I’m referring to a person’s ability to be aware of what is happening to them in their thoughts, feelings and sensations in real time no matter what it is. Being aware in such a manner that they can make informed choices what to do next rather than act in a default manner. And with the case of Tim previously this was either outburst of anger or passive-aggressive.
Tim and I practised some techniques whilst we together and then Tim put in some additional home experimentation with the techniques. Like anything that requires a fundamental change in how the brain works Tim had to put in some effort so that they could become aware of what was happening whilst it was happening rather than reflecting back feeling guilty and shame for their behaviour.
With Tim mindfulness was used as a way to put them back into control of their behaviour. We had previously explored ways they could behave in a variety of situations that will be more productive and useful, so becoming aware when they were stumbling into the old anger patterns, they could choose one of the new patterns we had developed together.
It would be great if we could take on a new habit immediately. That’s not how our brains work. Perhaps this is a good thing, if advertisers could find a way of instantly reprogramming their audience where would we be?
Habits require a lot of repetition to become established.
With Tim what we had to do was establish a collection of new micro-habits. Very simple things, such as what they could say to somebody when the interrupted them. We developed a collection that was relevant to his life. I got Tim then to practice saying these short sentences to themselves. Well looking into a mirror looking into their own eyes and saying it out loud. A bit weird however this is a much faster way of burning it into a brain.
Because it was only coming infrequently this gave plenty of opportunity for them to develop new habits of thinking, behaving and speaking.
The old habits of passive aggressive outbursts was still in there somewhere however because they could take just a moment before they reacted they were able to choose one of the new habits which had started to become established. This made it easier for the staff, clients, and suppliers loved ones and family.
We don’t get angry about something that is not important to us. It’s as simple as that.
We all have beliefs, values, standards that we believe the right way of doing things. They just our views, they are not absolute truths. Think of going down the pub and talking about politics, religion, football and the list goes on and you will always find somebody with a radically different view to yours.
What Tim and I did together was help Tim identify these buttons that would be impressed. As we identified a particular trigger, such as how Tim thought people should behave in a certain situation, we could put together some strategies that were helpful for him.
After we had done this over a few sessions Tim but the idea was able to create their own strategies for the future. They could spot their own triggers, and put in place new ways of thinking and behaving. Sure there was a twinge of anger coming up however that anger never led to tea being pushed around.
Tim had inherited the business. He had to take on roles that are different to their strengths.
The very process of running the business, the analysing, thinking rationalising and planning.
They also had to take on the role of marketing by creating appropriate content frequently.
I equipped Tim with some basic understanding of how human brains work and we put some simple plans together to put it into action.
All human brains work differently at different times of day.
Typically between two and four hours after we wake our brains are more equipped for analytical and rational thinking. Typically we have a window of about two hours for this. If we can focus primarily on that style of thinking then we will achieve much more.
We have a second window of heightened brain potential, this time more creative. Typically mid to late afternoon. Even though sometimes we can be feeling a little dopey and sleepy it turns out the creative part of the brain can be more active.
Equipped with this understanding Tim and I put together a plan. We needed to minimise distractions so they can maximise their effectiveness on these tasks. And only work a limited time on these tasks so they could get on with the parts of the business they really enjoyed doing.
For both of these productive times Tim relocated to a nearby coffee shop. They could be reached by email or phone but it was not practical the people just walk into their office.
Tim also made sure they stopped working after about two hours. Even though there was always more to be done. (If you run a business you understand there’s always more that can be done!) Then deliberately Tim would put themselves back in the business engaging with people, which they loved, doing aspects of the business that fed them.
Tim is a very bright capable person. They’ve achieved a lot in their life. However it would be unreasonable to expect Tim to understand everything about the own brain and mind and do the work themselves. I was brought in to help them quickly cut through the chaos as they saw it, give them just the items to focus on so they could get on with their life.
It is fair to say that it is the combination of all these different aspects that gave Tim the freedom from their anger. It is unlikely that any one area would have been enough for them.