When someone takes away your power it is natural to get mad. The justified anger of childhood comes from having to give up primitive wants and desires in favor of socially acceptable behavior. The firm, controlled voice of adult anger can replace the strident outbursts of youth when three things happen:

1.           Societyís rules become your own.

2.           You can trust yourself to find both support and freedom.

3.           You acquire enough self-esteem that it cannot be taken away by an off comment or a minor mishap.

Once these developmental tasks are accomplished, people can look through othersí eyes to see the whole picture and decide when they need to take action to correct a true loss of power. If you have many mad moments, it may be because beliefs instilled during early life experiences make it difficult to empathize with others and consider your options.

Directions: Mark any of the thoughts below that youíve had in your ďmad moments.Ē Then, mark the beliefs you would like to have to pick your battles and take constructive action.

†††††††††††††††††† Turn Provocative Thoughts into††††††††††† . . . †††††††††††††††††††††††††† Beliefs That Ease Anger

Underlying painful thoughts

††† †† Iím unimportant if I donít get my way.

††† †† Iím weak or a loser If I donít defend myself.

††† †† Iím stupid or foolish if Iím deceived.

††† †† Iím defective or guilty if Iím corrected.

††† †† Iím a failure if I donít make things go right.

Thoughts of entitlement

††† †† People should accept me as I am.

††† †† I should get what I want.

††† †† I shouldnít have to . . . .

††† †† I should be able to release all my anger.

††† †† Others cause my anger.

††† †† Others are too sensitive.

Generalizations and distortions

††† †† People are evil, greedy, out to get me.

††† †† All men (women) are . . . .

††† †† I cannot trust anyone.

††† †† I know what others feel without asking.

††† †† The worst will happen.

Perfectionist, rigid thoughts

††† †† Iím better than others.

††† †† My way is the best.

††† †† Things are either right or wrong.

††† †† People should be appreciative, courteous. hardworking, fair, good drivers, etc.

Underlying healing beliefs

††† †† I still count even when I donít get my way.

††† †† My power comes from understanding others.

††† †† Deception is caused by othersí dishonesty.

††† †† I have the right to cry and be illogical.

††† †† Iím responsible only for my part.

Accepting, responsible beliefs

††† †† People can love me without liking all of me.

††† †† I can ask for what I want and negotiate.

††† †† I can take care of myself, do my part, and say ďNo.Ē

††† †† I can turn my anger into effective action.

††† †† Iím responsible for how I handle my anger.

††† †† Understanding others gives me choices.

Observant, curious beliefs

††† †† There are reasons for the worst behavior.

††† †† I can see differences in people.

††† †† I can learn whom and find people to trust.

††† †† Assuming without asking is asinine.

††† †† Most of my ďcatastrophesĒ donít happen.

Realistic, flexible beliefs

††† †† Iím as good as others and theyíre as good as I.

††† †† There are many good ways of doing things.

††† †† I can respond when I donít like othersí actions.

††† †† Others donít have to live by my rules and can experience the consequences of their mistakes.

For more ideas, see Feeling Good by David Burns (Avon Books, 1980); and EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy by Francine Shapiro (Basic Books, 1997).


When you are not upset, the beliefs that prevent (unnecessary) anger may seem completely true. It will be harder to maintain them during conflicts of interest, when you feel controlled or unsupported or when things arenít going ďright.Ē To begin to change thinking patterns, start keeping a journal of your mad moments. Use the questions below and the previous table to identify the provocative thoughts that each incident triggers. Write a calming belief that you would like to have instead and affirm it regularly.

     When others disturb me, what does that mean about me?

     How do othersí actions make me feel about myself?

     When did I first have this disturbing thought about myself?

Journal of Mad Moments

†Upsetting Incident

Provocative Thought

Preventive Belief

Someone cuts you off while youíre driving.

Your boss blames you for a mishap you didnít cause.

A sales clerk keeps following you, even though youíve said you are just looking.

I have to do something or Iím weak.

I must be defective. I have to make her understand.

No one respects my wishesónot even salespeople.

If I can report him, I will. Otherwise, heíll eventually get caught.

I can understand her reasoning and then decide what to do.

Sheís just doing her job. I can be kind and firm in my wishes.


You can bolster beliefs that reduce the frequency of mad moments by acting on them. Donít wait until you feel good enough to change your behavior. Acting as though the beliefs you want are true is the fastest way to make them work for you. You will find yourself going from fury to frustration, anger to annoyance, and ballistic to bothered without even realizing it. Check the strategies you most need to adopt:

††† † Practice seeing the whole picture. Look for good intentions in othersí behavior and positive possibilities in negative situations.

††† † Do not hide from hate. Admit what you are feeling and examine the incident that caused it. Identify the choices you now have. Take action to reclaim any power you lost. It is your responsibility to recover from past hurts.

††† † Check out your assumptions and generalizations with at least two people who do not have problems with anger.

††† † Burn your bridges. Let significant others know how you use anger for power, to look tough, or to distance.

††† † Act as if healing beliefs are trueóďI am good (enough), Iím loveable, I belong.Ē Hold your head high, quit apologizing, take praise, and be more open. Donít turn your lack of self-esteem on others.


For more strategies, see Letting Go of Anger by Ron and Pat Potter-Efron (New Harbinger, 1995).