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Imagine yourself hiking along a meandering dirt path with a friend on a breezy day, enjoying casual conversation as well as the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the wind upon your skin. In the midst of your serenity, your eyes briefly dart upward and ahead, and (gulp) that’s when you see it: a huge monolith, standing tall and proud, casting a giant shadow across the ground. You feel a chill run down the back of your neck, all the way down your spine, because you realize, “This is the rock I’m going to climb.”

Now, most of you reading this post are most likely not rock climbers, but I’m sure you can imagine how attempting to climb a seemingly insurmountable rock is a lot like attempting to accomplish anything in your life that seems overwhelming, stressful, and even impossible at times. As a climber of some scary rocks myself, I assure you—just about anything in life is possible, even conquerable. The trick is learning how to manage your fears and stress, which are nothing short of illusions.

Since I started rock climbing, I’ve learned 3 major lessons about how to move through stress and fear, lessons which I believe apply to every day life situations, such as: writing an essay, completing a work project, planning a vacation, or decorating your living space.

Lesson #1: Take it one step at a time. I know you’ve heard that before, and it’s become quite cliche, but seriously—literally take your goal and focus on one little itty bitty step at a time. If I kept staring at the top of the rock I was climbing, lamenting how far away I was from the end goal, I would most likely not reach the top very quickly, or not even at all. However, if I decide to only focus on the handholds and footholds right in front of me, no more than 5 feet above my head, then I’m sure to stay present with the task at hand. It is here, in the NOW, that I feel centered, focused, and relaxed, as opposed to fearful and stressed out.

Lesson #2: You can do more than you think you can. Yes, another cliche, but oh so true! When I began climbing at the gym, I would only climb pink and yellow colored routes. Why? Pinks and yellows were considered to be the easy routes, and I believe I could only climb at the easy level. Luckily, fellow climbers would often encourage me to climb a green route, a blue route, and sometimes (dare I say) even an orange! Well, guess what? I was able to climb an orange route, simply because I tried. This victory helped me realize that the seemingly unconquerable tasks are sometimes more conquerable than we think—we just have to be willing to try, even if it means making a fool of ourselves.

Lesson #3: Your biggest falls are your greatest triumphs. How can that be so? Your falls provide the greatest opportunity for learning and growth. In addition, they free you from your fear of falling (and failing). Once you experience falling, you no longer fear it, because you know what it’s like. In my own experience, I attempted to climb a route outside that was slightly beyond my capability at the time. I was scared to climb it, but I did it anyway. I climbed the first three quarters of the rock gracefully, but by the last quarter, I was feeling tired and shaky. I tried to hang on for dear life, but I couldn’t fight the inevitable, so I finally let myself fall (a good 20 feet, mind you). Surprisingly, all I could feel was a sense of exhilaration—I fell, and I didn’t die!! Not only that, but it was actually kind of fun, and I realized that falling wasn’t so bad after all. SO, when you are working toward a goal, and feel the terror of falling creeping in…remind yourself that falling itself can be its own success, as it has the potential to free your from your fear of it.

Stress and fear can be an everyday part of our lives. But, I assure you—when we take these lessons and apply them to the goals we create for ourselves, we can learn to manage our stress and our fears, and become the most empowered, strong, and centered versions of ourselves.

“Anger is a signal, and one worth listening to.”
—Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger

Many of us believe that anger is a bad thing. We’re told various messages about the negative aspects of anger, such as:
“Let go of your anger. Just move on.”
“Your anger will only end up hurting you.
“Anger is detrimental to your health.”

While these messages are generally true, it is not always so easy to simply “let it go.” If it were, we’d all be walking around, as enlightened and as happy as the Buddha!

However, by reframing anger and looking at it in a new way, we can see the hidden benefits of this powerful emotion and the events that trigger our own inner anger.

Let’s start with an example. Imagine you are waiting in line at the grocery store, and someone tries to cut in front of you. Immediately, you may feel that old, familiar feeling of anger rise up inside yourself. Maybe you want to yell at the person and tell him/her to go to the back of the line. Or maybe you want to push that person away. Whatever the reaction, it’s clear and simple: you feel TRIGGERED.

So what’s the benefit of being triggered, you might wonder? How can this possibly be a good thing???

Well, here it is—any time we feel triggered or upset by something that happens outside of ourselves, no matter how small the event may seem, it is simply a spiritual opportunity for us to heal an old wound that has yet to be healed.

What this means is that some time in our past, we developed some misbelief or misunderstanding about life (ex: “People always try to take advantage of me”). This belief has become so ingrained in our consciousness over the years that we actually re-create situations in our lives that reinforce this negative belief. Thus, if our misunderstanding is that people will try to take advantage of us, we will look for evidence of people doing this to us, and when it inevitably happens, we will likely feel angry and upset.

According to spiritual psychological principles, as taught by faculty at The University of Santa Monica, each time we feel triggered, we are actually being given an incredible opportunity to look inside ourselves and heal a part of ourselves that needs to be healed, once and for all. Keep in mind, we must be fully ready and willing to do the inner work necessary to heal the situation; however, once ready and willing to change, we can reframe our outdated belief system, forgive ourselves, and choose behaviors that allow for more love and joy in our lives.

Sometimes, when working with clients who are dealing with co-dependency, low self-esteem, or anger management issues, I have used an illustration that seems to be an effective part of their treatment. I ask the client if they know what schizophrenia is, and if they have ever seen a person suffering from this illness. If the answer is no, I explain a bit about the disorder, but most of the time people have encountered this somewhere along the line. Then I say to the client, “If you saw someone like this on the street, talking to a lamp, rather disheveled, and clearly not in their right mind, and this person came up to you and said, ‘You are a three foot tall green space alien from Mars’, would you all the sudden become extremely alarmed, agitated or concerned that you were in fact a three foot tall green space alien from Mars? Maybe this was the case all along and you just did not realize it?” At this point there is usually a smile that crosses the client’s face, and their answer is “obviously no”. I reply by commenting that this is a rather extreme example, but the main point is to examine the source.

If a person is insulted and they react with anger, depression, anxiety, or some other unhealthy response, they are giving the power to the other person. Whether it is an adolescent who is being picked on at school, a husband being verbally assaulted by his wife, or a gang member being “dissed” by a rival gang member, the point is the same. Just because someone says something, does NOT mean it is true. Why then act as though it IS?

Written By: Michael Hecht, MFT

A few hints which may make it easier for someone to manage their anger because it is often not about anger so much as simply being assertive in one’s relationships. I recently had a client who complained that she had difficulty controlling herself from getting into altercations or heated arguments with people. I discovered that she constantly gave the following messages to herself:
“You don’t stick up for yourself”;
“You don’t say what you mean”;
“You get angry at yourself for allowing so-and-so to do such-and-such”;
“You look for excuses when you explain your reasoning to people”;
“You explain too much to people—more than you have to”;

The person suffers from low self-esteem and uses the above techniques to avoid confrontation. She found, however, that frequently the other person took advantage of her and used her as a “doormat”, which made her angry at the other person, but also at herself. Her solution was to get aggressive and argue and even get physical with the other person to show him/her that she was “tough.” She found, again, that this just opened the door to more controversy and she ended up at our Anger Management 818.

A few cues were helpful to her. They were designed to forestall her being taken advantage of. She first had to admit that the only person she could “fix” was herself—no-one else. Then she realized that she had to look out for herself because no-one else was going to do it. The other person was only out for his/her own advantage. “It’s my space (time) and I have to own it.” This also meant to her that she had to lay down the ground rules of her relationships with people clearly and unequivocally before the other person had an opening to take advantage, for example, putting a return date on something someone borrowed, or not allowing a neighbor to borrow her car anymore because of the consequences should the person be doing something illegal in it.

This led to her developing strategies for “asking for what I want.” She had to deal with others in a non-aggressive way. Inferring the feelings of others she was being assertive with became out of bounds for her. She had to learn to concern herself with her own feelings and desires first. The strategy she used when she felt bad as a result of what someone did or said was that she told them, “When you do (say) such-and-such, I feel (sad, angry, frustrated, frightened, put down, etc). I wish you would consider how I feel and stop that. Will you please help me and do that?”

The upshot was that this person felt encouraged to tell the people who she felt had wronged or taken advantage of her how she felt and what she wanted without reservation, so that they could see that she now cared about herself and so that she would no longer put herself in the position to get angry at herself and/or others due to neglecting her own boundaries.

For the New Year, we here at Anger Management 818 thought it would be great to let all of our current as well as our future fans know what we have accomplished. After all, we do not just sit around and wait for life to happen; we must make it happen! So for those who are interested, here is a compilation of our achievements in the past year:
 If you have known Anger Management 818 for a while, you may have noticed that the look of the website has completely changed. Visit the announcement page for updates. The blog contains helpful information and great tips.
 Anger Management 818 has created online forms to make it easier for interested participants to enroll. Most of the necessary forms are now conveniently located on the website.
 The bimonthly newsletters are available for professional as well as personal use. People can sign to receive the newsletters through our website.
 Anger Management 818 is going green! We have begun the transition from paper to electronic records via Office Ally.
 Another exciting news is that we have all of our classes on a live Google Calendar listed on our home page. Since we offer over 15 classes weekly in 5 locations, this feature makes the schedule available to clients at any time, rather than needing to confirm with facilitators whether class is cancelled.
 Check Anger Management 818’s increased presence in the social media. You can now follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, join us through Meet Up, and give us your feedback on Yelp. As for our colleagues, you can connect with us on LinkedIn.
 We proudly present new material for our very own upcoming workbook. This will be an ongoing project to meet the needs of our clientele.
 Since there is no legislation for anger management in California, some of our counselors helped form an Association along with other anger management agencies. The purpose of the Association is to help set standards for anger management providers in the Greater Los Angeles area.
 Anger Management 818 has brought on a few very talented therapists to the team: Michael Hecht, MFT, Camille Ortanez, LCSW, Michelle Friedman, MFT, and Cristina Mardirossian MFT.
 We have also added two new staff members: Edmon Artinyan and Gayane Aramyan.
 Over the past year, Anger Management 818 attended several exciting fairs including The Sherman Oaks Street Fair, North Hollywood Taco Cookoff, Sherman Oaks Farmer’s Market, and The Glendale Health Fair.
 We became a member of the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce. We had the honor of sponsoring a business luncheon.
 Anger Management 818 implemented weekly clinical and business meetings for its staff and counselors.
 Our Mission Statement was brought to life.
 Adopted the STAXI-2 as the assessment tool for participants.
 One of our most wonderful updates is the addition of offering Free Anger Management Groups for Veterans, on Tuesdays from 12-1 pm at our Sherman Oaks location. This is one of our ways of giving back to the community.
 Several Anger Management 818 counselors made presentations to help increase awareness and provide information about anger management. Some of the venues include Ferrahian Armenian School and the Rotary Club.
 We revised and updated our Policy and Procedures.

On a personal level:
 Molly Lyda is now licensed! She is also president elect for San Fernando Valley Chapter of California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists!
 Anita Avedian became the First Vice President of The San Fernando Valley Chapter of Employee Assistants Professional Association!
 Farnaz Toutouni was accepted into and is currently attending a PhD program!
 Rachel Goukassian has finished her hours and got married!
 Gayane Aramyan graduated high school!

The holidays can be fun, yet very stressful. For many, spending time with the family is a joyous occasion. However, for some it can be very stressful and conflicting.

There are many contributing factors to stress during the holidays. These include: financial stressors, choosing the right gift, familial stressors, increases in alcohol and drug use, being reminded of lost loved ones, overeating and weight gain, being single, overcrowded shopping spaces, and preparation of end of year taxes.

Holidays can be stressful due to these many contributing factors.

Financial Stressors
Money can be tight during the holidays. Parents buy their children gifts even when they cannot afford them so that their children don’t feel left out among friends. Then there’s buying gifts for co-workers, friends, and other family members. Some people even travel to be with family, which adds to the financial stress. As you can imagine, financial stressors can become overwhelming, especially when one does not have the means.

Tip #1: Create a budget ahead of time, and try to follow it!
Tip #2: Suggest to your co-workers to have a White Elephant gift exchange.
-Suggest items from home, so you don’t have to purchase anything (e.g. books, CDs, paintings, etc).
-Suggest a spending limit that is affordable.

Stress Behind Choosing A Gift
Some people worry that the person receiving their gift will not like it. Some may even fear being judged for their choice of gift.

Tip #1: If you are worried that they may not like the gift, get something returnable.
Tip #2: If you are worried about being judged, remember that a good friendship isn’t dependant upon gifts.

Stressful Times With The Family
Though it can be a great experience reconnecting with family members and close friends, sometimes we enter situations where we see people whom we prefer to avoid. The internal conflict we may experience as to how to handle the interaction may be very stressful.

Tip: Know what is helpful for you in those circumstances. For example, you can call the person you prefer to avoid and have a conversation prior to running into them at an event.

When holidays approach, we think of our loved ones that have passed and notice feelings of discomfort that they are no longer here.
Tip #1: Talk to someone you trust about your feelings.
Tip #2: Do some journal writing to process your feelings.

Alcohol and Drug Use
It is very common to drink during gatherings. When under stress, we tend to drink and use substances. There is a high correlation with drinking and aggressive behavior which can negatively impact your relationships resulting in further stress.

Tip: Limit your drinking during the holidays. You know your limit, so abide by it.

Holiday Meals and Overeating
Being invited to one holiday meal after another can contribute to weight gain resulting in more stress. And if it is not a holiday party, it can be eating unhealthy snacks at home for comfort instead of hunger.

Tip #1: Limiting your food intake per meal can decrease the likelihood of weight gain. Even avoiding the dessert may be helpful.
Tip #2: When at home, eat mindfully. Meaning, don’t eat with distractions such as television.

Single During the Holidays
When thinking about the holidays, we not only imagine going to gatherings with loved ones, but also with a significant other. As a single person, one may dwell on the thought of not having a date for the holidays, and anxious about how to respond when asked about their love life.

Tip #1: Have a prepared response that is respectful.
Tip #2: Remember that people are asking as a way of connecting and not as a means to judge.
Tip #3: The most important relationship is the one with yourself.

Crowded Shopping Areas
It can be overwhelming to be bumped into while walking and/or waiting in long lines.

Tip #1: Go shopping at a less busier time such as opening hours.
Tip #2: Do some deep breathing or distracting techniques (such as taking reading material with you) while waiting in line.

End of Year Tax Preparation
For business owners, preparing end of year taxes can be stressful.

Tip: Put aside an hour per weekday for data entry and organizing your tax preparation.

Author: Anita Avedian, MFT
Director of Anger Management 818

Making decisions are challenging. You don’t know whether the decision you make will result in a satisfactory outcome. Or maybe, you are concerned with regretting the decision you make today.

What are some obstacles in decision-making?
A. The grass is greener on the other side: This is an obstacle in the decision making process since you don’t want to result in feeling resentful. Unsure whether you have this viewpoint? If you find yourself frequently thinking that it would have been better to go with another option, then you are likely to have this viewpoint.

B. “You made your bed, now sleep in it.” Of course hearing such messages will impact your confidence of making the “right” or “best” decision. The underlying tone of this obstacle is feeling guilt. Maybe you won’t have the appropriate amount of emotional support from loved ones because they hold you responsible for your misery.

C. The unknown. Not knowing what to expect feeds into feeling anxious. For anxiety sufferers, you may feel a sense of relief once you make a decision. Unfortunately no matter which decision you choose, you may still find yourself worrying.

Some Helpful Strategies to Decision Making

The 4 steps to Decision Making. The 4 steps are used for more simple (non-complex) situations. It includes listing various options and evaluating them.

The 8 steps to Decision Making. The 8 steps are used for more complex situations. In addition to what the 4 steps includes, this strategy incorporates rating the importance of each option, determining the level of influence or control you may have of each disadvantage, along with sorting the level of importance.

Exploratory Questioning
This strategy helps with improving your confidence. It’s the preferred strategy for people who frequently doubt themselves. Some helpful questions include: (1) What would help you feel more confident about your decision? (2) What are your fears around making the decision?

Some Helpful Reminders:

1. No matter what decision I make, I can find reasons to regret that choice. It is up to me to focus on the benefits of my decision.
2. It’s easier looking hindsight and realizing what I could have done differently.
3. I need to trust myself that no matter what decision I make, I will adjust to the outcome.
4. Looking back at all the decisions I made, I have figured a way to manage through the outcome.

Written by: Anita Avedian, MFT
Director of Anger Management 818

For the holiday season, here are some helpful tips to manage your stress:

1. Listen to a relaxation exercise or meditate. Not only will you feel relaxed while doing it, but most people also experience a sense of calm that lasts for hours afterwards.

2. Exercise or yoga are great for reducing stress, even if it is only for 15 minutes a day.

3. Take little breaks throughout the day to recharge your batteries. Five or ten minutes every other hour is all it takes.

4. Remind yourself of what it is you are grateful for and refocus your mind on the positive.

5. Identify what your boundaries are and keep them intact. This will help avoid taking on too much responsibility and experiencing burn out.

6. Listen to music.

7. Utilize time management skills, such as writing a daily list of things to do and delegating tasks, in order to help manage your day.

8. Live within your financial means. Money worries are one of the causes of stress.

9. Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake.

10. Make healthy eating choices. While this may be hard during periods of increased stress (many people overeat as a reaction to stress), keeping a balanced diet helps maintain focus and energy.

11. Read a book or make time to engage in any pleasurable activity or hobby. Do something you enjoy or try a new hobby.

12. Cook or bake something and share it with others. Chocolate-chip cookies can have amazing healing powers!

13. Watch a movie

14. Relax. Take a long, hot shower or pour yourself a bubble bath and light some candles.

15. Give to others. A little giving, even something as simple as holding the door open for someone or letting someone go in front of you in line, will go a long way.

16. Give yourself a pat on the back and recognize your accomplishments for the day. All of us are so good at criticizing ourselves. Try giving yourself a compliment and see if your mood changes.

While these might be good suggestions for you, they will only work if you actually use them. Try one or two per day, and hopefully you will feel more at ease.

Erika Krueger, M.A., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and an Anger Management 818 Facilitator who specializes in addictions and anger management.

“There is no reality—only perception.” Jay McGraw in Life Strategies for Teens

“You don’t react to what happens to you (in this instance, someone saying “hi”), but you react to your interpretation of what happens to you (in this instance, how you interpret what that “hi” means). How you see and interpret certain events is purely a matter of choice. All that there is…is perception.” (p.142)

Let’s see how these things work out in social situations: Family, Peers, (and later, School, and Work). The family is the real “factory” for the product (you) that is turned out into the world. So the ways of dealing with each other in family situations are usually carried forward into life for a person’s entire time on earth. In the beginning, if a baby cries, the caregiver—usually the mother—has to guess what the problem is and solve it so the baby can be comfortable, happy, etc. This has to do with real-life situations—cold, wet, gas, hungry, tired, dirty, itchy, burning sensations of rashes, etc. The solution is executed and the baby returns to peaceful repose.

But as the child gets older and learns words that correspond to the feeling and sensations that he/she has, it gets trickier. The caregivers hear the words and see the child’s actions and sometimes the words and actions do not mesh. This is particularly evident in families where expressing oneself, complaining, etc is discouraged. Sometimes even telling the truth is dangerous due to punishments that are meted out—not for telling the truth, but for telling the truth about something the child did which the parent did not like. So the child starts to hedge, choosing not to talk about what he/she is doing or choosing to make up a version which the parents will approve of.

This further carries over to the child’s dealings with people beyond the family. The child modifies his/her descriptions of personal feelings and desires to suit what will make him/her feel safe. If the child’s self-esteem has been injured in the family situation, he/she might make up stories which exaggerate his/her exploits, or perhaps he/she will start blaming others for personal failings so as to escape the feelings of shame which he felt in the family situation. He/she might start bullying others to feel better about him/herself. Or he/she might become a target of bullies.

The caregiver will not have nearly as much control over the outcomes of problems which become evident in the child’s life and will only be able to guess what they really are. Many times the caregiver/parent is overwhelmed and cannot, due to time allotment, or mood or anxiety concerns, listen to the child or certainly cannot actually help the child with the problem. In this case, in which the child does not get a healthy adult viewpoint about his/her perceived problem, the child starts projecting his/her problem onto others, attributing his/her own motivations to others for similar actions or behaviors as he/she would take in certain circumstances.

At this point, the child’s “perception” is skewed by his/her own history of solving or not solving problems and unless he/she asks others why they took certain actions, he/she will never know their true motivations because he/she will assume that they did them for the same reason as he/she would have. This is analogous to the child not learning empathy or how to feel the pain or pleasure of another individual by reading cues on the person’s face or in their behavior. He/she often is unable to anticipate the effect that his/her own words or actions will have on the other person. This child is stuck in his/her own body and is not able to read motivations or emotions in other people.

The problem with this is that many misunderstandings develop because of the disconnect between people. If I have not had the experience or practice trying to understand motivations or emotions of others, I will often be offended by what another person says or does, construing it in the way that I have learned in the many times my caregiver or similar person of importance to me may have meant it in a punitive way, which may not be what the other intended at all.

This results in a feeling of disrespect, fear, anxiety, shame, or any number of other feelings which develop from not understanding the meaning of the other’s words or actions. In most people, the outward expression of such negative emotions, is simply to take offense and get angry. There are very few who will actually inquire as to what the speaker actually meant by what he/she said, or the person who, say, seemed to stare at our hero, actually had (or says that he had) in his head (not thinking at all about him/her, spaced out, looking at something else, remembering something he/she forgot to do, etc).

Jay McGraw’s point was that we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to interpret what others have said or done, but we do it according to what we ourselves—a different person—have learned and experienced in our lifetime—many times in a negative way in which we had to defend ourselves. Without feedback from the other person, it is nearly impossible to arrive at the right motivation or intent for what another person says or does. Of course, even then, the other person may be lying or simply unaware of his/her true intent. So our perceptual reality is very squishy, isn’t it?

So this is one of the primary tasks of living in the social world—communicating with others using words and behaviors—and being understood by them, and, of course, vice versa as well—trying to interpret the words and actions of others. This is possibly the most difficult skill that must be learned in order to live a healthy life. What role does anger play in all that? The feeling of anger is the signal that says that there has been a disconnect in the chain of communication that needs to be corrected before the personal relationship can be repaired between the speaker/behaver and the perceiver/victim.

This is not something that is easy to learn and usually takes a “course” in life skills, anger management, social interactions or some aspect of communication skills in order to assimilate the skill so that it is usable. In other words, this skill, if you did not learn it at home as a child, must be learned from someone else later on either in “therapy” or in a more-or-less formal class environment, in order to “catch up.”

Anger Management 818 participated in the North Hollywood Taco Cook Off on Saturday September 24, 2011. Our team had a booth at the event and handed out tips and information sheets on ways to handle anger. The information was received well by the community and our team enjoyed being at the event.