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Reacting Vs Responding:
When it comes to the context of human interactions, communication and relationships, reacting and responding are mistakenly used as synonyms – when really they are different.

Think about it, when your boss sends you an email that rubs you the wrong way, or when you receive a text that offends you, you are inclined to respond immediately and “give them a piece of your mind.”
This is reacting. It is “emotionally charged” as described by Anita Avedian in her anger management essentials workbook. Giving the sender a piece of your mind can be interpreted as an attack – right? There could be insults, and words exchanged that we later regret. After some research here are some brief characteristics of reactions:

They are defensive| Emotionally driven | They are sporadic or instant – Meaning long term effects aren’t taken into consideration | According to psychology today, they are “driven by the beliefs, biases, and prejudices of the unconscious mind.” | They are forms of defense mechanisms| They are normally passive which tend to digress the relationship in question and last but not least | There is lack of a mindfulness element.

However, if we take the same incident and respond to it rather than react to it, then there is a difference. There is time taken to reduce the emotional charge, it’s well thought out and not as harsh as a reaction. Here are some characteristics of responses:

They are thoughtful and contain reasoning |They are logic driven | They are active and tend to progress a relationship because the long term effects are taken into consideration | Takes time | Takes both conscious and unconscious mind to formulate a response.

Big Idea:
The goal is to respond and not to react.

Now that we have understood what the difference between reacting and responding is, it is advisable to do the latter. It is a healthy way to be mindful, improve relationships, reduce self-sabotage and to be self-aware in different situations. Some wonderful examples provided in Anita Avedian’s Anger management essentials workbook are;

1. Wait. Take some time to cool down before responding. Take a walk, sleep on it, do breathing exercises, walk away – to give you an opportunity to clear your mind.
2. As you wait, journal through your emotions and thoughts. You can draft a response immediately and after some time has elapsed and you have calmed down, go back and go through the draft. Use this as an opportunity to identify the differences in the reaction vs. res.
3. Call a trusted person, vent and brainstorm the appropriate way to respond.

Anger cannot be controlled but our response to anger is in our control. Anger is an automatic response of the nervous system. When it feels threatened the brain floods the body with stress hormones prompting the body’s fight or flight response. It is extremely important to pause and reflect on your anger and the desired outcome before you speak or act. Some tips for calming your mind include: Counting to ten or walking away from the situation until your emotions subside and you can think rationally.

Fear, anxiety, grief, and shame are primary emotions. Anger is not.

Anger may give you a false sense of power. Expressing anger by yelling, fighting, assaults and self-harm do not lead to respect from others. Instead it will destroy relationships and in extreme cases can lead to personal and financial losses. Taking the time to acknowledge anger, and discover the underlying problem can inspire you to be more solution oriented. Ignoring anger and bottling feelings not only neglects to address the problem but may result in serious health problems that can affect your quality of life.

Anger Health Problems Include:

Digestive Problems
High Blood Pressure
Heart Attack

Anger Management Skills:

It is important to accept anger as a natural response to perceived threats and loss. Learn to observe your thoughts calmly without judging or reacting. It may be helpful to keep a journal to record when and why you get angry. By jotting down your feelings you can refer back to them and discover your anger pattern to reach possible solutions. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, listening to music, and any hobby or activity that allows you to have a sense of peace. Research has shown that regular exercise like walking, running, dancing or yoga can reduce stress levels and improve your mood as well as your health. Treat yourself and others kindly and respectfully to reduce frequency of angry outbursts. Consider joining an anger management group to learn better communication and conflict resolution techniques.

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!

In anger management, the words “respect” and “disrespect” are heard often. Mostly it is about how someone else is disrespectful. So let’s think about what it means to be or feel disrespected.

First, let’s define the term “Respect.” According to, respect is defined as deference to a right, privilege, privileged position; proper acceptance or courtesy; and acknowledgment. According to Merriam-Webster, respect means a high or special regard. Thus, when a person states they are disrespected, they are probably feeling disregarded, or not acknowledged.

In our Anger Management program, we discuss how the feeling of anger is a secondary emotion, meaning there is an underlying emotion felt before anger. Understanding this feeling allows you to reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior.

Take the following example: someone cuts you off while driving and you slam on your brakes to avoid rear-ending that person. You suddenly become angry and start yelling at the person. However there is an underlying feeling here: fear. You become afraid that your life or car might be in danger however, you cannot do much with fear. Therefore, anger takes over to help you take action. This is the point you start to honk. The underlying feelings of disrespect and anger parallel.

The word “respect” is based on a person’s beliefs and experiences. Since people have different perceptions about what happens around them, their version of “respectful” will vary. So, when you hold certain beliefs about how someone should act with you in certain situations, and that person acts differently than what you expect, you think that he/she is being disrespectful towards you.

Example: You feel that your partner should be at your side throughout the duration of a party or social event. Let’s examine the situation. Think of the following belief: A partner should be by the side of a significant other at social events otherwise, it is not a good relationship. The reason for this belief is to feel emotionally safe with your partner. Feeling disrespected occurs when your partner leaves your side for a little while. You start to think, “He prefers being with his friends than with me,” and you begin to feel disregarded and hurt. Your discomfort with feeling hurt becomes overwhelming, so your body’s defense mechanism prevails. Instead of connecting with the emotional pain and taking responsibility, you blame your partner for “disrespecting” you.

Notice how you attribute your responsibility of your pain to your partner. You are holding your partner responsible for your own emotional pain, and expect them to change their behavior (which you label as disrespectful), rather than changing your own belief and thought around the situation (owning your emotion and belief, and taking responsibility). Essentially by stating “He disrespected me,” you are victimizing yourself. You are giving your partner the power over your feelings. The purpose of this blog entry is to help become aware of your own beliefs and thoughts, and not give so much power to those around you.

You may think, “Well, at what point am I not supposed to be okay with what my partner is doing?” Great question since it is frequently asked. You still have your set of boundaries that feel comfortable and/or uncomfortable. If you have friends in your surroundings that seem to have healthy relationships, ask them how they perceive the same situation. Or ask yourself, “Is this belief helping me or hurting me?”

The good news is that beliefs that result in feeling disrespected are learned, so they can be unlearned. When replacing a belief with one that is helpful, you realize that you rarely feel disrespected; your poor perception of the situation changes. Your improved insight of the underlying thoughts and feelings of disrespect helps with building healthier relationships.

If you would like to work on your outlook of life so that you feel more respect rather than disrespect, contact one of our Anger Management counselors. At Anger Management 818, we are ready to help you have better influence of your life. You may request from your anger management counselor to review the “Disrespect Worksheet” with you.

Author: Anita Avedian, MFT
Director of Anger Management 818

Written by: Anita Avedian, MFT

Many people wonder how a situation escalates so quickly. Questions such as, “What happened?” or “How did he end up leaving?” are asked, yet there is not much success with finding a fulfilling answer.

We live in a society where immediate gratification is part of our daily lives. It is a great challenge for many to take the time to reply to a triggering email or an upsetting voice message. We want to respond right away because the pain is so intolerable. Unfortunately, this is a journey of digging ourselves into a deeper mess.


When we react, we are emotionally charged. This is not a good time to reply to the email, or return the phone call. I challenge you to hold off from replying to the email until the following day. In fact, write the draft without sending it, and reread the draft the following day. You will notice how harsh, defensive and/or attacking the initial email sounds. Maybe it’s not that harsh, however my guess is that there is a difference between the initially drafted email and the final email written on the following day.


Responding rather than reacting requires for you to wait until you have cooled off, and worked through the issue, prior to replying to the situation. It helps to explore and understand what really bothers you about the situation, and if appropriate, you can share your wants or needs with the person. During the waiting process, you can either journal through your own destructive thinking and hurtful feelings (remove comma) or call a trusted person to share your feelings and brainstorm, in order to productively handle the situation. This practice will increase the likelihood of saving important relationships and friendships.

How To Do It Differently

For example, if my supervisor criticizes me at work, I will feel angry and resentful, and I will act withdrawn (reacting). How I can respond is to recognize that my work does not have to be perfect, and that my supervisor was probably only trying to help me (responding).

Another example: I receive a disturbing email. My reaction is to write an entire page in return, defending myself, and venting my frustrations. The consequence would be potentially losing a friendship. On the other hand, when responding, I would journal through my anger, fear, and concern, and work towards understanding what the email triggered in me. Maybe ask myself, “What was this really about for me?” Once I gain some insight, and also try to recognize the writer’s point of view, I would write an email expressing my thoughts and feelings respectfully, and negotiate by requesting my wants.

If you are interested in learning more about reacting versus responding, you can contact one of our clinicians to work with you.

Some feelings tend to be disturbing, uncomfortable, torturous, and downright painful. So painful that we often cover these feelings up with depression, or anger, or anything else that will help to cover up or ignore what we’re truly feeling. We might even stop to wonder why we even have these feelings in the first place – why would our minds make us feel so bad?

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Anger gets a bad rap. It always gets blamed for those explosive outbursts you hear about in the news, road rage, post office shootings, and domestic disturbances. I wouldn’t want to be blamed for all those things. Would you? Does anger really deserve such a bad reputation? Could it be possible that anger is actually a good thing but it just gets used in the wrong way? Could it be something healthy and productive if used or channeled in helpful ways? Many people let anger get the best of them; replacing their rational thinking and leading them to do irrational things that are often violent.

Anger is held responsible for so many bad things in our society that most people now think anger is completely wrong, not allowed, and a problem if you feel any of it. Anger Management 818 provides anger management classes that help people learn about how anger operates in their lives and we help people find ways to use it more productively. As an anger management facilitator, I had one man say that he had learned helpful tools in my class but he still was getting angry and wasn’t happy about it. I had to remind him that we all get angry and it will be that way for the rest of our lives. Anger is part of our basic emotional operating system, like our computers, meaning it is a core emotion, along with fear and love. These emotions are primal to us as humans, informing us about how to live our lives and how to survive. Anger can’t be surgically removed but it can be managed and channeled in ways that benefit us and don’t cause harm to others.

In an effort to reframe the bad reputation that anger has gained, let’s understand why anger is one of our core emotions. Anger is energy. It is also a signal that tells us much about who we are and what is important to us. When we get angry, there is a biological response. Our bodies prepare for fight or flight, with perhaps a raised heartbeat, clenched fists, and tightness in the chest, all gearing up to protect ourselves and continue surviving. This worked really well when we as humans were living in caves, surviving hand to mouth, and dealing with wild animals potentially attacking us. Now in our ever so domesticated society, we still have caveman aspects to our brains but don’t have those life threatening scenarios on a daily basis. When our bodies respond so strongly, it’s easy to let that build-up of energy (anger) come rushing out of us, by punching someone or verbally slaughtering another, only to have law enforcement get involved and potentially go to jail, get written up at work, and get court ordered to attend anger management classes. 

So, before anger gets the best of you, let’s look at ways to better handle it. Anger is best managed by being proactive. This is a very, very important concept in anger management. Being proactive includes having a higher self-awareness that puts you in touch with your own feelings and emotions on a minute by minute basis. Part of this includes beginning to recognize all the emotions that lie underneath your immediate anger response. Anger is a secondary reaction to primary emotions such as fear, sadness, and frustration.

Additionally, being proactive includes using four basic concepts– knowing how your anger works and your anger triggers, using assertive communication, exercising genuine empathy for others, and managing stress in your life. Noticing the small beginnings of internal anger allows you to diffuse it sooner, instead of letting it build up and eventually explode. It is much harder to manage and dissipate explosive anger than addressing the initial feelings of it early on.

It also helps to identify and recognize how anger has operated in your life, how it has affected yourself and others, and what building blocks are included in leading up to your own anger responses.

Looking at how you communicate with others helps in identifying how changes can be made. Four basic communication styles are commonly used – passive, aggressive, passive/aggressive, and assertive. Recognizing which you use most often can help you begin moving from unproductive ways of communicating to more productive, open, and healthy styles of communication. This is best accomplished by using assertive communication which includes clearly stating your needs, being respectful of the other person’s opinion, and using ‘I’ statements. Speaking from the position of ‘I’ keeps the perspective coming from your own experience instead of starting sentences with ‘you’, which can feel attacking to the other person and lead to defensiveness. Using assertive communication will lead to clearer expression, new solutions, and helpful compromises.

Empathy is another important part of anger management. Using empathy starts with recognizing that most of the time, none of us really know what’s going on with the other person and the dangers of assuming we know how, what or why someone has done or said something. By identifying how each of us would like to be treated in many scenarios, a different approach to understanding others emerges, leading to less reactionary responses. One approach to using more empathy includes taking a 5 to 10 second pause before reacting and responding to someone. This pause allows you to imagine what it might be like to be in the other person’s shoes and respond with that perspective in mind.

Lastly, recognizing how stress builds up in your life and how it affects your own feelings and behaviors helps in managing many of your reactive responses. Some of the ways for one person to manage stress might not be the best way for another person, so it’s ideal that you find specific approaches that work for you. When one of my clients was getting upset and could feel some aggression coming up, he got down on the floor and did as many push-ups as he could, until he was exhausted. Afterwards, his body felt different, less explosive, and his head was clearer, making it easier to focus on the situation at hand. He told his wife he would be doing this from time to time and she learned to support him doing it, even in the middle of an argument. By do so, their communication was more successful and both of them were less aggressive.

These are some of the basic ideas behind anger management. They are the building blocks to healthier ways to live with anger, rather than letting reactionary emotions get out of hand. Using these approaches can be very helpful and healing. By implementing these tools, we are finding people in the world who are more self-aware and less likely to have those angry explosions that we hear about in the news, on the road, and in the post office.     

Molly Lyda, MA, MFT Intern, is an Anger Management Facilitator with Anger Management 818. For more information on anger management, go to