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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Saving Lives, Managing Anger

Saving Lives, Managing Anger

Several weeks ago a client came to me four days after being released from a lengthy hospital stay due to severe heart problems. Joe came knowing he was close to death.

In our initial consultation Joe noted he had heart problems. He had anger and stress issues as well. Joe’s perception of the world could be summed up in a few words: “there was a bad guy at every turn and that bad guy wasn’t going to get him.” This type of thinking kept Joe at a high state of perceived “fight or flight” stress which consequently was chipping away at his heart.

Joe came to me with little confidence and hope. I began our first session by administering the Conover Assessment with an agreement that if, after this first session he didn’t want to proceed with the process we would not go on.

My ability to interpret the Conover assessment tool made Joe feel “seen” and based on his results I mapped out what our program would look like focusing first on the areas of highest concerns. The primary focus of work was to begin with the chapters on stress from the workbook,Gaining Control of Ourselves.

While change occurred within the first two sessions, they were not enough to prevent another heart scare. When his symptoms did not abate, Joe’s doctors were ready to place him back in the hospital. He was to check himself into the hospital within the next few days.

“Joe, you have to connect the work from your brain to your heart,” I said. “This perceived stress is not all in your head, but that is where it begins.” Then I quoted from Gaining Control of Ourselves,” for one person, an event may be viewed as a perceived challenge, for another, it may be viewed as a severe threat or problem.”

I went on from there in a tone just a little loud and a tad forceful. “You must stop looking at everything as a perceived threat.”

I told Joe his body was idling to high and staying in the “fight, fight and freeze” place 24/7 with nowhere to go was not going to help his mental or physical conditions. Feeling helpless and fearful that Joe’s big heart attack was close at hand, I pulled out his assessment and went over it with him again, I gave him three assignments: to have fun with himself, go out with one other person, and to go to the company cookout scheduled for the next day.

Joe heard me. He heard the contents of the things I quoted from the workbook, and he did his assignments. He took his drums to the company picnic, and to everyone’s amazement he played and played and played with an expertise and skill base that amazed his co-workers.

Today, only eight weeks from beginning at the Anger Management Institute and following the Anderson model and curriculum, Joe has color in his skin, he smiles, makes eye contact when he speaks and told me last week he was happy. He has been to a few more company events at the invitation of his co-workers and he believes in me and my work.

Yacine Bell CAMF; CPCC; Certified Mediator

Director of the Anger Management Institute

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