The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitudes.
– Victor Frankl
A. The Four Agreements.
According to Don Miguel Ruiz, author, The Four Agreements: “Everything we do is based on agreements we have made – agreements with ourselves, with other people, with God, with life. But the most important agreements are the ones we make with ourselves. In these agreements we tell ourselves who we are, how to behave, what is possible, what is impossible. One single agreement is not such a problem, but we have many agreements that come from fear, deplete our energy, and diminish our self-worth.”
The Four Agreements exposes self-limiting beliefs and shows how to strengthen emotional intelligence:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
I. Be Impeccable with Your Word
“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
“Impeccable” literally means “faultless.” Honesty is the first interpretation of this agreement. Being honest with yourself is a necessary component of self-awareness. Being honest with others is a necessary component of relationship management. But impeccability goes beyond simple honesty.
Impeccability Expanded. How we use our words to communicate with others was covered previously in the lessons on communication. Being impeccable with our word also means using our self-talk in a healthy way. “Self-talk” refers to the inner monologue/dialogue we have with ourselves all the time, frequently without noticing.
Self-Talk. Often, self-talk is negative and hurtful:
“Oh, I’m such an idiot to have done that again!”
Self-talk may be aimed at others and lead to anger:
“What a jerk he is! Is he too stupid to use his turn signal?!”
Being impeccable with our word is learning to reframe self-talk.
Positive Self-Talk. His positive self-talk broke the cycle and led the way towards higher self-esteem. Positive self-talk is honest, but non-judgmental. It is being impeccable with your word. Frequently it is a challenge to develop positive self-talk.
Can you think of some positive self-talk you can give yourself right now?
More Positive Self-Talk. Did you notice the courage and perseverance you have shown to get this far in an anger management course that asks you to look carefully at yourself and your behavior? Having the courage to examine yourself, including your self-talk, is something you can always remind yourself of. The process of noticing and reframing your self talk is an aspect of self-awareness and self control – both crucial to emotional intelligence.
It is clear the future holds opportunities – it also holds pitfalls. The trick will be to seize the opportunities, avoid the pitfalls, and get back home by 6:00.
– Woody Allen
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
When we look at the situations that trigger our anger, we often blame others for our anger. What really makes us angry is thinking angrily about things that happen to us! Basically, we are not upset by things, but by our thinking about the situation. When somebody treats you poorly or acts aggressively toward you, don’t take it personally. Their behavior came from their upset thoughts, it is not about you, but about them.
When Somebody Else is Angry. When somebody else is angry, don’t let emotional contagion trigger your anger:
• Take a cleansing breath.
• Stay calm and focused.
• Use self-talk to reinforce that you will be OK
• Use active listening (Lesson 6) or assertive communications (Lesson 7)
• Take a time-out.
Don’t Be Your Own Victim. Remember, you don’t want to suffer the health effects of anger. You are responsible for your own mental state. Don’t give away that responsibility or your power to an angry person! It will only cause you unhappiness. When somebody is angry, they are suffering. Draw on your empathy to understand. Do not try to control the other person’s emotions, focus on your own thoughts and feelings. Keep yourself safe.
The paradox of our anger is, in our attempt to overcome feelings of vulnerability through the explosion of the strong feelings of anger, we become our own victim and diminish our humanity in the eyes’ of others as well as in ourselves!
3. Don’t Make Assumptions.
“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”
To “assume” makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me.” An assumption is a judgment without the benefit of the facts. Frequently, assumptions can lead to angry thoughts and feelings. Use communication skills to gather more information about the situation. Stay open to others’ points of view and practice empathy.
4. Always Do your Best.
“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”
Most of us have grown up with terrible examples of anger management and little guidance in emotional intelligence. We live in an angry society full of vengeful images; a society that frequently claims that anger leads to power. Doing your best means accepting the process of learning to manage anger better. It does not mean becoming instantly “perfect.”
Tom Wentz, Ph.D., C.A.M.F.
Anderson and Anderson Faculty Member