Introducing a New Blog Series: Type A Personality

At some point in our lives we’ve all encountered aggressive, hard-charging, ambitious people who are driven to professional success at all costs. In most instances, we’ve experienced such individuals as indefatigable with a steely-eyed focus on the task at hand. Often such people are highly successful professionally and are known to do whatever it takes to get the job done or reach the pinnacle of their profession. In some societies, such a personality type is lauded and even upheld as something to be imitated. However, the pattern of behavior associated with such a personality profile takes a … [Read more...]

How to Respond to Conflicts- Choices that Determine our Lives

As unpleasant as conflict is, it seems to be an inevitable part of life.  There are many reasons for this, but such are not the subject of this post.  I would rather like to focus our attention on the three main options available to us in responding to a person who wrongs us, namely: aggression, passivity or assertiveness.  It should be clear from the previous posts on anger that aggression against another is an unchristian and decidedly unhealthy manner in which to respond to conflict.  An aggressive response will likely lead to an escalation of grievances rife with negative consequences that … [Read more...]

Thought Stopping or Saying “Get Thee Behind Me Satan”

Disputing thoughts that make us angry require some reflection and composure that is sometimes hard to find when anger flares. There is another method proposed by the manual authors called “thought stopping,” which incidentally is not the same as thought suppression that is not really possible or even advisable. In a therapy setting, the person would be instructed to think about something that makes him or her angry and then suddenly and unexpectedly, the therapist shouts “STOP.” Eventually, the patient learns to shout “STOP” when engaged in such thoughts and even to shout “STOP” mentally. … [Read more...]

Anger-It’s a Matter of Perspective

The ABCD strategy for dealing with anger suggests that we become a bit more realistic and rational in dealing with life’s frustrations and setbacks by disputing with those thoughts that make us angrier by the minute. The fathers would also suggest being realistic and logical, but with the real being defined first of all by reference to God the source of all being and the logical (λογικό) being defined by the Eternal Logos (λόγος) that is the ultimate reason for all that was, is, and ever will be. So on the one hand, we can accept that life is not fair and get along the best we can. On the … [Read more...]

Irritating Situations or Anger-Provoking Interpretations: It Matters Whom We Blame

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts concerning anger, there is a certain concordance between cognitive therapeutic and patristic approaches to this problem.  This harmony is particularly evident in the observations by ascetic fathers and cognitive theorists about one’s perceptions of an anger-provoking event.  The Anger Management Manual authors employ Albert Ellis’s straightforward A-B-C-D model in order to explain not only the relationship between events, interpretations, and consequences, but also the importance of countering one’s interpretation in order to modify the cycle of anger. … [Read more...]

Anger and Incompatible States: Attending to the Body and Attending to the Spirit

In addition to the time-out, there are other beneficial anger management strategies that cognitive therapists recommend.  One such strategy concerns relaxation through a deep breathing exercise.  The authors of the Anger Management manual correctly note, “An interesting aspect of the nervous system is that everyone has a relaxation response that counteracts the stress response. It is physically impossible to be both agitated and relaxed at the same time. If you can relax successfully, you can counteract the stress or anger response.” The deep breathing technique offered by these therapists is … [Read more...]

A Time-out from Anger, a Time-in for God

In the last blog post on anger, I wrote about seeking out its causes or roots.  In the next several posts I would like to explore the various therapeutic interventions concerning anger from the perspective of the fathers and cognitive therapy. In their Anger Management Manual, the cognitive therapists note, “Theoretically, the more techniques and interventions an individual has on his or her anger control plan, the better equipped he or she will be to manage anger in response to anger-provoking events.” The same could be said from the perspective of the fathers, although they would not seek to … [Read more...]

Getting to the Cause

In my last blog post, I noted the vast difference between the theological/spiritual approach to anger seen in the fathers and the biological/naturalistic approach observed in cognitive therapists. Still as healers and helpers for the suffering, they both home in on an important principle: the necessity of identifying the source of the underlying anger before recommending a specific therapeutic intervention. In a particularly rich passage on the pathology of anger, Saint John Climacus notes that, “As bodily fever is one thing, but the causes of this are not one but many, so also the boiling up … [Read more...]

Be Ye angry, and Sin Not: Let Not the Sun Go Down Upon Your Wrath

Cognitive therapists and the ancient fathers would agree that misdirected anger causes much human misery, destroying relationships, smothering compassion, and bringing about untold suffering in the form of emotional wounds and even physical injuries.  Both classes of healers would also agree that there are therapeutic interventions that can be applied in order to bring relief to the scourge of anger.  However, before I discuss similar therapeutic interventions in future posts, it’s important to note that cognitive therapists and the ancient fathers understand anger in quite different terms. In … [Read more...]

The Sickness of Inactivity/Impulsivity and the Cure of Praxis

Advocates of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy as well as the ancient Christian fathers would find common ground in the sixth and final choice of ACT which I put as follows: “We can choose to fluctuate between inactivity and impulsivity or we can commit ourselves to our values and act accordingly.” Inactivity and impulsivity are unhealthy, disordered states from both a psychological and spiritual perspective, because those who are in such states lack awareness, direction, and purpose. Christianity, however, is not about a lack of anything other than sin. Christianity is a fullness brimming … [Read more...]