Chapter 3: Get Stuck in Your Head

This chapter will help practitioners of all levels (except The Gifted and Weirdos) develop the cognitive (i.e., thinking) skills needed to create anger before, during, and after any event. Case studies will illustrate each technique. Guidance will be provided on how to manage psychotherapy, even if involuntary, and sample therapy sessions will be provided.

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How people interpret ambiguous events and focus their attention (e.g., past, present, or future, self or others, feelings or tasks) all influence how well they cope with life’s difficulties. Learn the following mental habits and cognitive skills to keep yourself fuming all day.

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Rehashing: Play It Again, Eve

Rehashing is the practice of dwelling, in painstaking detail, on how badly you’ve been treated and the injustices you’ve suffered. Become fully absorbed in memories of past wrongs, with special, almost exclusive, attention paid to the other person or situation’s vileness. And take for granted that your memories are an accurate representation of what really happened.

Rehashing is a useful practice for those who want their anger to become a trusted companion.

CASE STUDY: EVE’S PEACEFUL AFTERNOON

Eve was sitting alone on a peaceful afternoon. She hadn’t had much time to herself lately, so it was a rare moment of tranquility in her busy life. She sat on the small, secluded beach and felt the warm breeze on her face. She wanted to make the most of this peaceful time, and decided to focus her attention on the driver that cut her off in traffic last week on her way to class.

She attended bi-weekly Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) class, not because she was a commercial driver. She was just liked learning about hazardous materials.

Last week, as she cruised to her HAZMAT class, traffic slowed. She’d need to merge left into the fast lane, but as soon as she saw an opening, a shiny, convertible, sporty something or other cut in front of her from the right, then slid into the space she’d been planning to occupy.

Back at the beach, here was Eve, vaguely distracted by the sun and breeze, glad to mentally be back in the driver’s seat again, fuming at that fancy piece of #$#@ that cut her off. She felt the bitterness of believing someone else disregarded her existence and walked all over her. She could feel her gut churning, face getting hot, and hands gripping the steering wheel. She remembered all the kind and generous thoughts she had about that #%*@&*!$!* #%*@&*!$!* piece of #%*@&*!$!*.

Or, wait, she thought, “Did I forget some of the insults?”

She knew there was something else, really foul, that she thought would ruin the other driver’s life. If they ever heard it.

Sitting on the beach, Eve looked up with unseeing eyes at the beautiful blue sky, numb to the peaceful breeze, and let the nourishing memory sink in further. She smiled, knowing she just felt more like herself when she was livid.

What You Can Learn from Eve

Eve didn’t let herself get distracted by her surroundings. No matter how much the situation begged for Eve to enjoy the present moment, she directed her attention to an ugly moment in her past. She let herself become so engrossed in the memory of last week’s traffic unpleasantness that she experienced the associated sensations, beliefs, feelings, and thoughts as though they were happening in the present.

CAUTION! Novice and Intermediate students may find themselves focusing on the technical aspects of learning these skills and forget that the main point is to maximize your wrath. Eve increased her fury by interpreting being cutoff in traffic as a moment of existential importance: “She felt the bitterness of believing someone else disregarded her existence and walked all over her“. Remember, the most critical step is to make yourself a victim. 

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Venting: Let It Out

The verbal diarrhea version of rehashing is venting. In that way, this section could fit into Chapter Five, the social side of anger.

Any act that gets you immersed in your horrible past is a form of rehashing. Venting, however, is the practice of retelling an event to someone who had nothing to do with it and is in no position to offer practical assistance. Venting provides the advantage of making you a martyr while giving license to discount all of your naïve friends’ counsel.

CASE STUDY: EVE ATTENDS A READING

Eve didn’t want to go to the reading. It sounded to her like some New Age garbage. But her friend Michael persuaded her by telling her how much he wanted someone to go with him. And then reminded her of all the times he begrudgingly accompanied her to those HAZMAT classes.

Despite her irritation, she went and sat through the whole thing. And she was glad she did, because she really connected with Anger: The Pathway to Inner Peace, the first volume in the much-maligned Complete Guide to Ecstasy series.

After the reading, she approached the author to get some additional tips.

Eve: “Okay, I refuse to acknowledge any feelings other than anger, lie to myself, and surround myself with people who scream at strangers. Am I even close to becoming one of The Blessed?”

Author: “Close. Now all you have to do is practice venting. Cram as much of your victimhood as you can into every moment and prattle on about what a victim you are.”

Eve: “Cram? You mean like with suitcases?”

Author: “Metaphorically, yes.”

Eve: “I hate doing that. Hurts my back. But, if you’re going to fly, you have to cram your baggage or you’ll go broke. Used to be you could do the extra duffle or something, no biggie. But now? It’s like you have to take out a second mortgage to check a bag! And it’s not even like you get any leg or seat room for all the bags you don’t check. With my back, it’s sooooo miserable. I toss and turn and can’t get comfortable. As if you can toss or turn in those seats. It’s every flight. Every. Flight. And the planes are always late! I can’t remember the last time I just went to the airport without any hassles, and actually got on my flight when it was supposed to take off without anything else going wrong and forget it if you have a connecting flight! I remember this one time… wait, what were we talking about?”

Author: “Never mind. You got it.”

What You Can Learn from Eve

Eve held a masterclass in victimhood. She made herself the victim of the packing process by mentioning how it hurts her back. Then she made herself the victim of airlines by griping about their prices, leg room, seating, timeliness, and schedules. And she nailed her point by emphasizing the awfulness of Every. Flight.

Novices and Intermediate students, the key is to practice piling on your self-pity by letting your meandering rant flow from one horrid experience to another. The more you practice, the smoother it’ll become.

**

Rehearsing: Visualize Your Tantrum

Rehearsing is the habit of mentally creating and escalating a future conflict. The key factor in this exercise is engagement, or becoming so absorbed in the imagined problem that you could stage the action for your local theater group.

Rehearsing is a favorite of The Gifted when they know they are about to enter a social situation with the possibility for disagreements. You might have already noted the irony here… The Gifted are usually the ones who turn a mildly uncomfortable social situation into something really awkward and cringe-worthy. But you knew that, because if you don’t get irony there’s no way you’d have made it to this point in the book.

CASE STUDY: ADAM’S FAMILY REUNION

Adam’s extended family celebrated the holiday season with a big, fancy feast in a private room at the family’s favorite restaurant. During the drive to the party, in the Uber, Adam couldn’t help but think about the many, many cousins he hadn’t seen for at least a year. Memories of his favorite cousin, Craig brought a smile to his face. He looked forward to seeing Craig and getting to know his new family.

Then his least favorite cousin flashed across his mind – rude old Mack. His given name was Mack, but everyone called him “rude old Mack”, even when he was a small child. He and Adam rarely saw one another and usually only spoke at these family functions.

But years earlier Mack called Adam, out of the blue, on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. The unbeaten New England Patriots, Mack’s favorite team, were facing the scrappy New York Giants, Adam’s favorite team.

Mack offered a bet.

“After the Giants lose, you send me one dollar. Just one dollar. And I know even you can afford that. But you have to write, ‘I’m a loser’ on the back of the dollar. I’ll do the same if the Patriots lose.”

Despite his reservations, Adam accepted instantly because he didn’t want Mack to have the satisfaction of thinking he’d rattled Adam. Adam was pleased with himself that his sense of pride was still intact.

The Giants won and the Patriots’ hopes of becoming the greatest unbeaten team in NFL history were dashed. Adam was pleased and waited for his dollar.

Years later, that dollar still hadn’t arrived. Adam didn’t see the point in calling Mark to discuss it. He figured the cousin would either pay up or not.

Adam came back to himself in the present and had a passing thought about some of the other cousins he wanted to see, but something kept pulling him back to rude old Mack. Adam decided the best approach, the one that would leave him in the best mindset for a large family gathering, was to focus on preparing for battle with Mack. To do so, he imagined all the things Mack might say and do, and planned how he would respond.

“I mean, he called me. I didn’t call him. And then he cheated me. I mean, seriously, if he tries to act like he already paid me, I’m gonna go off. I’ll get in his face and tell him what I think of him. And it’ll be even worse if he acts all innocent and lame, as if to say, ‘What, what, what did I do? I don’t remember a bet like that. Besides, I don’t have your address.’ Then I’ll really go off and be like, ‘You could call me to make the bet but you couldn’t call me to get my address? You’re an idiot.’ But what will be even worse for Mack is if he tries to come up with some excuse, like, ‘Well, the Patriots really shouldn’t have lost anyway, so I shouldn’t have to pay.’ I bet that’s how he justified it. And if he tries to pull that stuff, I mean, I’m really gonna go off.”

Adam was so mad by the time he got to the party that he literally stomped to the front door and threw it open. He trampled his way through the restaurant’s main dining room and flew into the family’s private party ready for battle.

Adam was pleased to have gotten himself in just the right mood for the occasion.

What You Can Learn from Adam

Adam concentrated on how he would confront and respond to Rude Old Mack rather than focusing on more pleasant things, such as memories of good times with other cousins or the joyful anticipation of reconnecting with loved ones.

Adam’s genius move was to consider multiple ways Mack might respond, rather than preparing for just one sort of reply, and remind himself that he’d go off on Mack for each excuse or rationalization. This approach primed Adam’s anger and maximized his chances of a successful temper tantrum.  

Everyone from Novice to Advanced students can benefit from foresight. Use foresight to your best advantage by priming yourself to become angry no matter what happens.

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Basking in the Illusion of Control: Just Be Positive

Whatever bad situation you’re already in, you’ll get the most out of yourself by adding some toxic positivity. Constantly tell yourself that you have control over things you can’t possibly influence. 

Convince yourself you can change external conditions if only you can get yourself angry enough. For example, here are some things you can control, but only if you are full of rage: 

  • Weather
  • Flight delays
  • The opinion of anyone who watches cable news to understand the world

When driving, keep telling yourself that if you just rage enough, the following will happen: 

  • The driver in front of you will go faster.
  • The driver behind you will go slower.
  • Gridlock will unlock itself sooner than usual.
  • The car next to you, into whose lane you would like to enter, will stop slowing down and speeding up in tandem with you.

In short, the more you try to convince myself you can control events and outcomes that you really can’t, the angrier you’ll be.

CASE STUDY: EVE BEHIND THE WHEEL

“What is this clown doing?” Eve asked herself as she glanced at the car in the left lane. She’d been trying to move left for five minutes, but she and the other driver got into that horrible pattern where every time Eve accelerated, they did, too. Same every time she slowed. But they kept waving her over.

Finally, in a moment of fury, she accelerated recklessly and slipped between the car in front of her and her recent neighbor. “If they hadn’t made me so mad, I might still be stuck back there,” Eve said to herself. “Good thing I don’t put up with bad driving.”

She enjoyed the freedom of unrestricted movement for seventeen seconds until she came upon the same gridlock she saw most mornings. “I don’t know what the #!$#%@ is wrong with these people. Why don’t they just move! I mean, seriously, if this doesn’t get moving, I’m going to lose my sh*t! I mean, no one wants me to get mad, so everyone better just get the #!%#!#@ moving!”

Eve kept ranting, screaming through her windshield, and gesturing wildly for people to move. The drivers around Eve became concerned about Eve’s volatility and moved as far away from her as possible. Drivers in front of her crept up to the rear bumpers of the car they were following. Drivers behind her slowed until she was out of sight. And drivers on either side changed lanes as quickly as they could.  

When traffic eventually got moving again, Eve smiled bitterly to herself and thought, “Well, at least I did my part to free us all from another traffic jam by getting all those idiots moving. Not that I’ll ever get any thanks for all my effort.”

What You Can Learn from Eve

Eve convinced herself that she could control traffic if she just became angry enough and reacted accordingly. That would have been enough for most people. But Eve showed her place as one of The Gifted when she interpreted her outburst as the cause of the traffic jam clearing. This would ensure that she’d return to this habit again and again. Novice and Intermediate students take heed!

Advanced students can improve their game with a simple twist to maximize your anger. Eve skillfully made herself the victim of all the other drivers who would never thank her for clearing traffic. So, the next time one of your rage attacks changes the sky from clouds to sunshine, remind yourself of all the people who owe you a debt of gratitude for the improved weather conditions that they will, selfishly, never repay.

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Filtering: Don’t Bother Yourself with the Facts

To filter means to discount any evidence contrary to your beliefs. And the beliefs you’ll want to protect are those that maximize anger.

Look for trouble. Be on the lookout for anyone violating your Shoulds (see Chapter 2). Mentally note anything that goes wrong in your life and how mad every setback makes you. Be sure to overlook the hundred things that go right every day. Take for granted all the stuff in your world that works.

Encircle yourself with negative people who can help you notice and remember all the ways the world has treated you horribly.

Or just continue to spend time on social media. Those algorithms will take care of the rest.

In summary, the most effective filter to increase your anger is anything that makes you a victim.

CASE STUDY: ADAM’S DAY AT THE PARK

Adam got together with friends at a local park one afternoon. On the way there, someone cut him off in traffic. He got to the party without any other problems and made good time doing so. When he arrived, he was greeted by some buddies, who helped him carry and setup his Foosball table. He played a couple rounds of Cornhole and, like a lot of people, wondered for just a second about the person who named that game.

A new person arrived, was introduced to Adam, and gave him a bland, distracted greeting. Adam got back to the festivities and crushed a few games of Foosball. He had an amazing dinner of ribs, corn-on-the-cob, baked potatoes, and pie thanks to everyone’s collective contributions. While he and his buddies sat around their campfire and chatted about this-and-that, the guy with the lousy greeting disagreed with Adam’s point about the negative economic impact of COVID on small businesses. The moment passed, the party continued and Adam left a couple hours later when things were winding down. 

The next morning, Adam made his weekly call to his parents. He knew they were looking forward to hearing about his time at the picnic. He appreciated their interest in his social life, but felt like they really didn’t get him. They’d admitted to him multiple times over the years that they didn’t understand all his anger.

He knew their real problem is that they were Weirdos. Adam told them they should feel honored, and rightly so, to have raised one of The Gifted. But that fact never seemed to impress them.

When his parents asked how he enjoyed the picnic, Adam said, “Oh, what a waste of time. First, there was this jerk-face who cut me off on the road. Ohhh, that idiot made me so mad. People like that shouldn’t be allowed to get a license.

“But that’s not even the best part. Next was this new guy who totally ignored my greeting and was about as exciting as a dishrag. Why did some like that even bother coming to a party if they aren’t going to try to have a good time. I hate people like that; they shouldn’t be allowed at parties.

“Oh, and then, and then, the kicker was that this same dishrag thought he was suddenly some kind of Advanced on economics and attacked me about some stuff I was saying about small businesses. People like that jerk always seem to have something to say. He’s just a know-it-all. Damn, people like that just make me so mad. He should know when to keep his stupid mouth shut. Seriously, I’ve got a subscription to The Economist, for Pete’s sake and I’ve actually read some of the short articles. I mean, I own a copy of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and plan to read it one day. What has the dishrag ever done?”

Adam was proud of himself for giving his parents such a complete picture of his day.

What You Can Learn from Adam

Adam narrowed his memory of the picnic to the parts he didn’t like and framed himself as the victim each time. He told his parents he was cut off by another driver, ignored upon introduction, and intellectually attacked by a new arrival to his social circle. Adam didn’t mention, because he didn’t notice it in the first place, what went right, such as the entire drive to the party except the moment he was cut off, freedom to gather with friends, the good fortune to have people to help with the Foosball table, a chance to play Cornhole, meeting a new person, and the sheer joy of sharing a great meal.

Novice and Intermediate students, please make special note of Adam’s relentless consistency. He framed himself as the victim and blamed others for making him mad three times in that short tale.

Practice, practice, practice!

**

Mind-Reading: You Know I Know You Know I Know

You Know What the Rest of Us Are Thinking

To mind-read means to convince yourself you know what other people are really thinking, even if they claim otherwise.  

Understanding other people is a difficult waste of time. It usually requires asking questions and, worst of all, actually listening to the answers. This then requires you to use empathy, which leads to processing needless caring emotions. Understanding someone else’s point of view is just too much work.   

Who wants to go through all that hassle and bother when you can fill in the important details yourself? This is where your superb skill of mind-reading comes in.

Whatever rotten motive you can cram into a friend or stranger’s head, go for it. The most important thing is to believe your own fantasy.

Here are a couple examples to get you started:

  • “So, you think I’m stupid? You didn’t say it, but I know you were thinking, ‘This person has an IQ at least two standard deviations below the mean.’ I know that’s exactly what you were thinking.”
  • “You don’t believe my argument that Area Fifty-Two is a giant arena for UFOs because you think that I’m biased towards sports stadiums because I played shortstop at Arizona State for three-and-a-half years. Admit it, that’s what you were thinking. Word-for-word.”

CASE STUDY: ADAM’S DAY AT THE OFFICE

“An accident. Today of all days,” Adam said as he stared ahead at the line of cars standing still in front of him. Now he would be late on the morning of his employee review. He distracted himself from the growing anxiety by scrolling on his phone. He glimpsed an article titled, “Are you in the right job?” and clicked automatically. He read about all the telltale signs that the problems he was having at work were the product of a bad fit between him and the company.

He was interrupted with a phone call from an unfamiliar number. He was so frazzled about being late to work that he answered without thinking.

“Put me on your do not call list already!” Adam yelled at his phone when he heard the familiar, robotic voice explaining that there was a problem with his car’s extended warranty.

While he was still fuming about the telemarketing call, Adam thought of the ways he was a bad fit on the job. It had started on his first day. He knew that the people he went through training with didn’t like him. Sure, they invited him out for drinks every night, and kept asking him to sit with them at lunch, but he was sure they didn’t like him. He couldn’t explain how he knew; he just knew. He could feel it.

At the office, Adam’s boss, Tommy, was looking forward to this review. He admired Adam’s work ethic and liked how conscientious he was about his paperwork. He was hoping to get more out of Adam. Tommy believed Adam made a good team player when he wanted to, people seemed to like him when he wasn’t anxious. There had been a couple run-ins, and his classmates from training were just plain scared of him, but with some work on his productivity he could be an asset to the company. In today’s meeting they would set some goals and he would let Adam know they would consider him for a promotion if he could meet these.

Tommy suddenly realized Adam must be running late so he sent a quick message.

Adam arrived at his desk, sweating and panting, when he received an IM from Tommy that read: “Ready for you anytime.”

Tommy meant it as a casual invitation to take the pressure off the moment. He was trying to distract from the tardiness by sending a breezy message.

Adam saw it for what it really was – a statement that Tommy was tired of waiting. Just another example of how Adam was a bad fit, just like the article said. He threw down his coat and bag, spilled his coffee all over his phone, and ran, cursing under his breath, upstairs to Tommy’s suite.

When he arrived at the Executive suite, he was greeted by Tommy’s assistant, Pat.

“He’s waiting for you, Mister…”, said Pat.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. He’s been waiting all morning,” interrupted Adam as he marched past a now very puzzled Pat, into the office.

“We’re off to a late start here, Ken, and I need to say, ‘I’m sorry that…’” started Tommy.

“I know. You’re sorry that you ever hired me. I’m late and It’s just another example of how I’m not working out here. I get it,” announced a defiant Adam.

Tommy was shocked. “I think there’s been some kind of misunderstanding.”

“Misunderstanding my butt,” snapped Adam. “You obviously have a problem with me. That’s why you wrote that hostile message: ‘Ready for you anytime.’”

“Wait a second, please, Adam,” said Tommy. “I don’t know what happened to set all this off but I can tell you that I don’t have a problem with you. I apologize if I’ve ever given any other impression. In fact, I was hoping to address a couple things we’d like to see change so that we can promote you.”

“That’s exactly what I’d expect you to say,” snapped Adam. “Just covering your tracks and trying to give a guy false hope. But you can’t really explain away that horrible text message, can you? Well, I know phony when I see it. I quit.”

Adam was grateful he saw through Tommy’s condescending attitude. He smiled knowing he’d saved himself from any more trouble at the company.

What You Can Learn from Adam

Adam filled in the blanks of social uncertainty with explanations that made him the victim, first of his colleagues and then his boss.

He made assumptions about how his fellow trainees felt about him despite their overt signs of acceptance. He relied on the vague, intuitive sense of knowing that emotions offer, and defended his position with the gem every member of The Gifted uses eventually: “He couldn’t explain how he knew they didn’t like him; he just knew. He could feel it.”

Adam insisted that Tommy really meant to be negative no matter what his boss said. Text, greeting, or thoughtful explanation didn’t make a difference. Adam convinced himself he knew what Tommy was really thinking.

Adam completely ignored Tommy’s heartfelt apology. By not addressing it, he could still be angry. Because it is very difficult, impossible really, to genuinely accept an apology and still be a victim.

**

Personalizing: Yes, It Was Intended for You

To personalize is to convince yourself someone else, even the Universe, did something to you personally.

Personalizing takes mind-reading a step further. Mind-reading only assumes that you know what others are thinking, while personalizing assumes something, usually unpleasant, was specifically directed at you.

It helps to convince yourself that you are very, very important. The more important you are, the more likely it is that other people are trying to take you down and ruin your life. See Chapter Six for further details on how to inflate your ego.

The Gifted understand their place in the Universe. They assume that the Universe has paid them special attention and decided It hates them. The Gifted treat even minor disappointments as a personal attack by the Cosmos. And whoever is standing nearby at the time.

The Gifted also understand that, in the absence of any clear evidence such as the results of a lie detector test, the best response to every lousy event is to assume it was a personal attack by someone. The key is to remember that it was specifically directed at you.

CASE STUDY: EVE TAKES A CLASS

 Eve arrived late to the HAZMAT certification class. Within five minutes of arriving, she’d had a falling out with her neighbor over whether flammable solid materials are the same thing as spontaneously combustible materials. The teacher insisted that this brief introduction to the four, color-coded sections of every HAZMAT placard was not the time or place to argue something so abstract, but Eve persisted until several other class members changed seats to move further away from her.

Eve struggled to remember which warnings went with which colors and asked for assistance five times. The teacher, in an effort to contain her growing impatience, sighed and briefly stared at the ceiling before trying to explain, for the final time, her mnemonic system.

“Flammability is red, which is easy to remember because a lot of people learn to imagine anger as red. And anger can get pretty flammable. Unstable is yellow, and I remember that by thinking that yellow is for fear, and anxious people usually feel unstable. Health hazard is blue, and depression is hazardous to your mental health. And that last one, special hazard, like an oxidizer, is white. And I only remember that one by reminding myself that it isn’t one of the other three.”

Hours later, when the day-long seminar reached the final question and answer segment before the test, the teacher prioritized the questions of those class members who needed the HAZMAT certification as a professional requirement. The class wasn’t a professional requirement for Eve, just a personal curiosity.

As a result, Eve was furious at only having time to ask two of the twelve questions she’d prepared. She began to think of all the ways the teacher had attacked or offended her over the past eight hours. And she remembered the teacher sighing when she, Eve, had simply asked for clarification about the warnings when something the teacher obviously hadn’t made clear enough to that point. Or else why would she, Eve, have been asking essentially the same question again?

That sigh.

Eve was so aggravated about that sigh, and that glance at the ceiling, that she could barely concentrate on the pass-fail test the teacher had just placed, or “slammed,” she would later say, in front of her. She looked down and saw just one question.

What do each of the placard colors stand for?

“That irritating sigh. That stupid eye roll,” thought Eve.  “Of course she asked about the one part of this whole stupid class I struggled with. This just isn’t fair. I spent my whole Saturday, and three hundred seventy-eight dollars and ninety-nine cents, by the way, on this, and what will I have to show for it? Nothing. Just a failed test about the one thing I couldn’t get right.”

Eve scribbled her response.

Red is for flammable. Blue is for health. Yellow is for unsteady. And white is just not the other three.

When Eve received her test back, she didn’t even look at the grade.

“I don’t know what you had against me, but it’s really unprofessional of you to make me answer the one question you knew I struggled with. It’s like you designed my test just to make me fail.”

The teacher looked around the room, in stunned silence, as if to ask to rest of the class for help.

“Do you think you got a special test or something?” asked Eve’s nearest neighbor, several rows away.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes. I only had one question and it was about the only content I didn’t understand,” retorted Eve.

“What was it? Because mine was what hazards each color stood for,” responded another student from across the room.

“Yup, that’s what I got, too,” said yet another student from behind Eve.

Soon there was a cacophony of agreement about the test contents. Followed by some laughter.

“But still,” barked Eve. “She only picked that question because she didn’t like me. That should be obvious to everyone.”

“Wait, you think the teacher made the test up on the spot just to ruin your day?” asked Eve’s neighbor.

“Well, why not?” asked Eve.

“Those tests are made up months in advance,” said the teacher. “By the company that creates these seminars. I’m an independent contractor hired to provide you course content. I had nothing to do with the design of the test or selection of tested material.” She concluded with as measured a tone as she could manage. “And besides, you’re insane,” she muttered. An instant later she realized she’d spoKen the last bit out loud, cupped both hands over her mouth and stared in terror at Eve.

“Ah! There it is! I knew it! You’ve had it out for me from the start,” announced a triumphant Eve. “I’ll be calling your supervisor and asking for my money back. And I’m going to give you the worst review.”

Eve was pleased with herself for not letting that teacher walk all over her.

What You Can Learn from Eve

This was a special demonstration, even for one of The Gifted. Eve convinced herself that the teacher wrote a test specifically for her. And that the teacher only included course material Eve had struggled with earlier in order to ensure she’d fail the class. She even failed to be convinced after other classmates pointed out that they had the same test. And she was unmoved by the teacher’s description of her role, or lack thereof, in the testing process. But she jumped on the teacher’s mumbled comment about her, Eve, being insane, as proof that, no matter what they could or couldn’t prove about the test, the teacher had it out for her personally.

Novice and Intermediate students, don’t be discouraged. Even Advanced practitioners have difficulty generating this level of distrust. This case is meant to demonstrate that personalization, when done well, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if the other person didn’t have it out for you before, by the time you’re done telling them you believe everything they do is an insult to you, they’ll want nothing more than to make your beliefs a reality.

**

Labeling: That #!$#^@* Piece of #!#%@!

To label is to reduce another person’s humanity to a single word. Usually negative. Often four letters. You know what I mean.

Fully dehumanize the other person as efficiently as possible.

Do not think about the other person as a fully-formed human being with their own perspective, feelings, beliefs, and relationships. Earnestly considering the humanity of other people just ruins the mood.

If they did something to make you mad, then the least you can do, as a thoughtful citizen of the planet, is to give them an accurate label. Otherwise how will the Universe and everyone else know their true value?

CASE STUDY: EVE GOES OUT

Ready for their evening out, Eve and May stood in front of Eve’s apartment building, each staring their phones. “Where is this idiot?” Eve asked the Universe about the Uber that, according to her screen, had been one minute away for the past eleven minutes.

The Uber slowed as it approached, and double parked in front of Eve’s building. A black Cadillac Escalade behind the Uber honked its horn before Eve could take a step.

“Just keep it in your pants, jackass!” Eve yelled at the woman driving the Caddy.

Eve got in the Uber and immediately noticed an electric scooter coming towards them in the road. The rider wasn’t wearing a helmet and was staring down at his thumbs working maniacally on his phone, presumably texting.

Eve felt annoyed and, hoping for moral support she glanced at May, who was staring out her window and smiling. Eve silently sneered at her friend. Once the scooter maneuvered out of the way, Eve yelled out the cracked window, “#!$#&!#@! Why don’t you learn to follow the rules of the road, you #!$#&!#”

Eve looked at May, who only offered an apologetic smile.

They arrived at the restaurant without any other incidents and five minutes early for dinner with their Joanne and Bobby. After they exchanged good-byes with the driver and the Uber pulled away, Eve said, “That driver was too quiet and had horrible customer service. What a jerk.”

Eve looked at May, who lifted her shoulders up to her ears, raised her eyebrows to her hairline and offered another meek smile.

Then, they saw both members of an elderly couple yelling and gesturing wildly at the Lyft driver who, according to the shouts, had just parked too close to where they were waiting for him. In that moment, Eve realized that May never joined her in screaming at strangers. May was a good listener, and a thoughtful and considerate person. But she left all the hostility to Eve.

“What a loser,” Eve thought about her… friend? She wondered.

What You Can Learn from Eve

Eve ultimately reduced everyone in her life to a one-word negative label. She didn’t let herself get sidetracked by irrelevant details like other people’s needs, relationships, feelings, or history. She labeled everyone as some version of lousy.

The driver was first an idiot but later a jerk, the honking driver a jackass, the texting scooter-rider a(n) #!$#&!#, and her friend, May, a loser.

Novice students, pay special attention to Eve’s example. She’s shown it’s easy to be angry at someone once you’ve decided they’re essentially lousy. Because that person must be lousy for a reason.

And the reason they are lousy is whatever they did to get Eve to label them in the first place. In other words, Eve is the victim of their horrible behavior, and so is entitled to reduce that person’s humanity to a label. Use this kind of circular logic to make your angry life much, much easier to enjoy.

**

Overgeneralizing: Everyone Always Makes Everything Too Vague

To overgeneralize is to take a small sample of information and apply it too broadly.

Use an individual to categorize a whole group.

Use one example to predict your entire future.

Overgeneralizing is a great way to create massive anger in your life, because it makes a small problem so much bigger, and worse, than it is.

So, the next time you have a problem with someone, pick something arbitrary about them, such as whether they are left or right-handed, the color of their eyes, or if they have a mole larger than five millimeters in diameter on the upper half of their face.

Then label everyone like them as some version of crappy and get on with your day.

PRO TIP: To maximize your overgeneralizations, keep this list handy:

People: “People are the worst people ever.”

Always: “People are always jerks.”

Never: “People are never not jerks.”

Everywhere: “People everywhere are always jerks.”

Every time: “People are never not jerks every time.

CASE STUDY: ADAM GOES FOR COFFEE

Adam decided his coffee maker didn’t make a good enough cup of decaf and walked to one of his neighborhood’s eighteen coffee bars, where a barista was serving a table of three their beverages.

Adam overheard the threesome start griping about their coffees the moment the barista left the table. He decided to hate them, because he loved to hate whiners and complainers, and snuck a peek to see what they looked like. It reminded him of those times, while driving, when he was so angry with another driver, he made a point to pull alongside them so that he could look at them, stare at the side of their head, and internally wrangle with great philosophical inquiries about why they were such horrible people.

Anyway, Adam snuck a peek at the three coffee drinkers, and noticed they were each wearing t-shirts that advertised something called a Spartan Race.

Adam hadn’t ever considered the point, but after hearing this threesome complain about their coffee and verifying what was on their shirts, decided, “Anyone who does these Spartan Races, whatever they are, must be a pretty soft character. Seems like they can’t handle any adversity and just go through life whining and complaining.”

What You Can Learn from Adam

Adam limited his impression of everyone in a group (i.e., all Spartan Racers) to an irrelevant similarity (i.e., they complained about their cups of coffee) of a tiny fraction of the whole group (three out of the thousands of Spartan Racers) and then applied that one impression to everyone in that group (All Spartan Racers are whiny complainers).

Socrates himself would’ve been proud of this airtight logic.

And now Adam can project hostility towards all Spartan Racers and be very comfortable with himself.

**

Catastrophizing: Your Horrible Future Has Arrived

To catastrophize is to assume a situation will be much worse than it will be, or even could realistically be.

You know that friend of your that always thinks that something awful is about to happen? Same one who shoots every idea out of the sky with an exhaustive list of what could go wrong with any plan. You’ll want to channel their restless energy and savage pessimism for this skill.

Whatever is going on in your life, good or bad, it’s about to get a lot worse. Whatever is working, won’t. And when things go wrong, they will go very wrong. It will be hell on earth.

MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK: Repeat these types of thoughts daily to enjoy a lifetime of crippling anxiety!

Since anger is sometimes a secondary response to anxiety, if you want more anger, create more anxiety.

Treat every minor setback or problem as a devastating, life-altering disaster.

Exaggerate whatever challenges you’re facing until they are unrecognizable.

For example, imagine you are studying for the Certified Public Accountants’ exam, because you are a masochist. It’s 11pm the night before you are scheduled to take the Financial Accounting section, and you are struggling to complete your online practice test. Bond amortization tables are kicking your butt, because they are mean and ridiculous.

You are on the edge of your seat with worry about the exam, when your internet goes out. No service. You check your phone and discover the outage is not temporary and might take until 2am to fix.

Too late to go to the library.

You’re not going to complete that practice test.

Now, to produce the greatest level of anxiety, which you will ignore in favor of rage (see Chapter 1: The Basics – Forget Emotional Intelligence, Ignorance is Bliss), please let your thinking follow this logic:

  • I will not finish the practice test before I take the real thing tomorrow.
  • This means that I’ll probably fail this section tomorrow.
  • And once I fail, I’ll spiral and not be able to complete the whole exam in the eighteen months allotted.
  • And then I’ll never be able to get a job as an accountant.
  • Or anything else.
  • I’ll always be struggling to earn a living.
  • I’ll end up on the streets, begging for money. And people are the worst, so no one will help me.
  • And then I’ll perish in some way that lands me a spot on The Hundred Worst Ways to Die.

PRO TIP: To streamline your catastrophizing, just consult the following list and insert each qualifier into each statement about the future:

  • Horrible
  • Awful
  • A disaster
  • The most horrendous
  • The worst
  • The most worst (Author’s Note: I’m hoping this one catches on).

CASE STUDY: ADAM’S FENDER BENDER

Adam was sitting in gridlock on his way home from his last appointment, at The Vanity Spa for Rich Narcissists. He was relieved because, just today, he had met his quota for the quarter. He had freaked out at a few months ago, as he did at the beginning of every quarter, when he saw his updated quota. “It always seemed to be updated upwards – This quota system is a disaster waiting to happen,” Adam thought.

And that’s when his car was bumped from behind. Adam and the other driver pulled over and exchanged information. No one was hurt, and the damages were minor. Even the information exchange was uneventful. They both had current insurance and IDs. But when Adam got back in his car, he could barely contain his runaway thoughts.  

“Sure, this was just a minor fender-bender, and they bumped me, but this will ruin me. My insurance company probably won’t believe that it isn’t my fault and will try to charge me to repair the other car’s damages. Then everyone will take me to court and I’ll lose everything. I’ll have to sell the house to pay my attorney’s fees and will still lose the case. I mean, I might as well already go turn myself in at the nearest maximum-security prison. And I never learned to fight. Damn, I’m going to be locked up any day now and don’t even know how to make a shank. I’ll be dead in a week.”

Adam was so livid at the prospect of his upcoming death sentence that he ran to the other car, still parked in behind him, and yelled into the windshield, “Your stupid driving is gonna get me stabbed to death!”

What You Can Learn from Adam

Adam showed he was no Novice when it comes to catastrophizing. The story opened with a reminder of how he’d expected his last quota to be “a disaster waiting to happen.”

After the accident, Adam jumped from one conclusion to another, each one exponentially more horrid. He’d be blamed for the accident, get sued, lose his house, be sentenced to incarceration and murdered in prison.

And he responded to each as though it was already a reality. This brought the future horror into the present moment and provided ample fuel for Adam’s fury.

Students of all levels can benefit from this simple demonstration that, to create more anger, make the future consequences of this moment awful.

**

PSYCHOTHERAPY: Get the Most Out of Your Anger

If you decide to get yourself some psychotherapy, make sure you find a therapist that will help you develop all these new skills.  One who encourages you to practice angry habits in the session.

If you want to hone your ability to label, vent and blame, what better place than the confidential confines of a psychotherapy office?

After all, therapists literally wrote the book on this stuff, so who better to teach you how to get the most out of your best qualities?

STAY TUNED for The Complete Guide to Misery, Volume CVI: Empathy Is for Quitters!

CASE STUDY: ADAM’S THERAPY SESSION

Adam: “I’m here to get better at mind-reading. I was in a small car accident last week and it wasn’t until hours later, sitting alone in a basement, that I finally figured out what the guy who bumped me was really thinking.”

Therapist: “Wow, what a specific goal. It’s great that you’re already familiar with cognitive distortions! And I think you meant to say you’re here to get better at not mind-reading.”

Adam: “I don’t know about that distortion stuff but, yes, I’m here to get better at mind-reading.”

Therapist (nervous chuckle): “Do you mean not mind-reading?”

Adam (staring): “I can tell you already don’t like me.”

Therapist: “Let’s talk about that.”

Adam: “I knew you were going to say that.”

Therapist (eyes lifted, head nodding): “Oh, now I see, you’re one of those clients… here to get better at mind-reading. Okay, go ahead. What am I thinking now?”

Adam: “You’re thinking that pizza sounds good for dinner.”

Therapist: “Close. I was thinking about dinner, but decided I was in the mood for Pad Thai.”

Adam: “Damn!”

Therapist: “No, no, you’re already pretty skilled. Try again.”

Adam: “You wish this session would be over soon.”

Therapist: “Getting warmer…”

What You Can Learn from Adam

Adam stayed focused on honing his skills during the session. This is the most productive use of that time, regardless of the therapist’s cheek in implying they’d like to end the session.

**

INVOLUNTARY THERAPY: Oops, Now You Did It

Sometimes people who improve their anger skills, without changing their boundaries, do something that leads to legal trouble.

If you find yourself in court-ordered or other involuntary therapy where some measure of progress is expected, be alert for any therapist who encourages change in the wrong direction.

Complete your mandatory sessions as needed, but, for goodness’ sake, keep your focus on the long-term goal: a future full of fury.

Some therapists will misunderstand the goal and take it upon themselves to influence you in the direction of productive life skills and harmonious relationships.

To be sure you don’t make any meaningful changes, choose a therapist that will insist on talking in endless detail about your past, be quick to refer you for medication, and provide glib advice on lifestyle changes that only tangentially influence your problem.

Avoid therapists that focus on how you generate symptoms. The ones that insist on getting inside the moment of what you’re doing when you’re creating the problem are especially challenging because they are efficient at generating lasting changes.

When possible, insist on talking about chemical imbalances and medications, discuss how your past made you, and, when confronted with your problem behavior, repeat “that’s just how I am.” 

CASE STUDY: EVE’S COURT-MANDATED SESSION

Therapist: “Hello. Please come in and make yourself comfortable. I understand the court has ordered you to complete twelve sessions of anger management. Can you tell me your version of what brings you here?”

Eve: “Sure. I called some impatient woman a jackass for honking at me. She was in this giant Cadillac Escalade and sat on the damn horn for like forty seconds. Somehow, she found out who I am and pressed charges.”

Therapist: “And you’d like to learn how to control your anger so that you don’t get in more legal trouble?”

Eve: “What?!!? No. Definitely not. I want to get better at telling people off. I mean, surely I could have come up with something better than ‘jackass.’ So maybe I need some kind of social skills class instead of the anger management. Can we do that instead?”

Therapist: “Just so I’m clear, you’re asking me to help you be more insulting?”

Eve: “Exactly. More insulting is exactly my goal. See you already understand me so well. I can’t wait to learn from a professional!”

Therapist: “Well, that’s not really what I do…”

Eve: “Look at that, we’re out of time. Well, see you next week!”

What You Can Learn from Eve

Eve turned lemons into lemonade and made the most of her opportunity in therapy by focusing on what she can learn in therapy rather than griping about the court-order that she attend counseling. She chose a goal, to get better at snappy put-downs, and enlisted the therapist’s expertise.

**

Conclusion

Let’s face it, not everyone is lucky enough to be a natural Eve or Adam. Adams and Eves are gifted across all domains of the biopsychosocial model of anger. So far, we’ve focused on the psychological piece of this model. The next chapter will introduce the biological piece.  

**

Thanks for reading! Chapter 4 coming soon!

One thought on “Chapter 3: Get Stuck in Your Head

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