“Looking back now, it’s an amazing transformation.”
Dan, current BAAM anger management client
How did you make your way on to an anger management course?
“By 2010 I’d reached my angriest ever, without knowing why. I’d always had a bit of road rage, and loss of temper was one of my management styles in the company I run. My partner of the time was worried about some of my acting out and wanted me to do something about it. She found BAAM, because I wasn’t prepared to talk to anybody.
I had made a punching motion to a driver who’d nearly knocked me off my bike. And he was so distraught about it that I ended up consoling him… trying to explain that well, he had almost just run me over. I’d followed somebody back to their house before checking myself. I punched out the windscreen of my own car because I was frustrated about something that happened in a meeting.
Looking back now, especially considering that there was no medication involved for example, it’s an amazing transformation. It’s frightening to think I had the capacity for all that, especially how remote it seems.”
How did you feel about entering the programme?
“Apprehensive, to the point of extreme anxiety. The first course I took was the Weekend Intensive, and by the Saturday evening I’d actually walked out. I was overwhelmed by it, and ready to blame everybody else except me – especially this new person, Mike Fisher.
But as I lay awake at 6am on the Sunday morning a voice inside my head said, “if you don’t go back there it’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made.” I know now that my ego didn’t want to be stopped from acting out and showing off.”
What aspects of the programme did you most identify with, personally?
“What I like about BAAM is there’s a structure and ideas. I’m a logical person who likes a road map, but the perception is that any therapy is wishy-washy. There are many examples of things from the BAAM course that you can take away to work on the anger effectively.
For example, I like the acronym FLOW – focus, listen, objective, wait. And already this desk in front of me is safe.
I feel that I’ve had those tools provided to me by BAAM that have enabled me, over a period of years, to know that I’m not going to act out due to stress and anxiety. I had a friend who passed away from alcoholism. There was nothing like that for him to take away from his rehab.”
What impressed you the most about the BAAM anger management course?
“I’m from the north-east of England and Mike’s from South Africa. Both peoples have a reputation for straight-talking. Mike takes a lot of risks, but he’s only saying what everyone’s thinking and it allows the sessions to move on. So I was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t spend too long ‘thinking and feeling’.
It was also amazing to have the support group, where everyone was so different but coming together and sharing in a supportive manner – but not a ‘dysfunctional rescue’ environment. In an academic sense, the course is the lecture, and the support group is the revision process.”
What most helped you?
“Initially, the buddying up. I was still going to act out, but I could phone someone and ask for help. Mike even made himself available, but encouraged us to turn to the group.
Overall I realised it was exercise for a part of me that needed to become stronger, and was weak – the same way someone might need physiotherapy. I needed to improve my strength to perform better in life.”
What was the biggest surprise from the course?
“The broad range of people. I thought they’d all be meaty bodybuilders who’d been sent there for beating someone up. I didn’t even know what an ‘imploder’ was before I went; there were people there who looked like they wouldn’t say ‘boo!’ to a goose, while verbally or metaphorically I was all about smashing things up. And nowadays, I notice passive aggression on social media. I see it on neighbourhood WhatsApp groups. It’s very ‘poor me’ and it seems to play out online when they could just talk to each other.”
What are you focusing on with your own anger management work?
“The other thing I took away and stuck to was what started off as an anger journal. It’s now developed into an anxiety journal.
At one point in my work, everything got too much: the support group, journaling, sticking to it all. So I took a break. But as a result, I was vulnerable. So I started journaling again; having conversations with myself to distract myself away from acting out. When I wake up feeling scared, anxious, and lonely I’ve learned over time to use the journal as a way of expressing myself to myself, being my own therapist. It’s such a powerful thing, if you do it in the manner that’s most useful for yourself.”
Can you give us a snapshot of life now compared to then?
“Firstly it’s allowed me to deal with aspects of my personal life and relationships that may have never have been dealt with. I used to need a significant other to cast my shadow on to, in order to survive. I didn’t realise I was guilty of gaslighting etc as I was so deep in ‘poor me’ and requesting others to validate that. It’s made it easier to function normally in that environment.
Secondly, work-wise, it’s been simply astounding. I can allow someone to develop in their own space, their role, as I no longer have to demonstrate that I wear the stripes. Now I find it easier to explore their strengths and their development areas without telling them it’s my way or the highway. I now have a far more successful business with less staff, who are key to the team, glad to have their job and own it.
I spend a lot more time either feeling content and working out how to get back in that space. I have a much better relationship with my daughter and her children, it no longer makes me feel helpless that she has her own life and she’s successful.
It’s to do with being able to be calm and that making me feel better about myself. I wouldn’t be able to deal with examining shame if I hadn’t calmed down. I’m going to places that my head doesn’t want to, because it’ll be found out.
I’ve got choices I’d never have had in my life. I had a bad business experience recently, and I can get through these things, mostly by myself too. I’m not helpless thinking “Who do I turn to?” When I can actually turn to the new me – or rather, the me that always there.
Was it good value for money?
“To say it’s value for money is an understatement. But you won’t think that unless you complete the course and carry on the work. There are cheaper courses but you will not get the same results. I’m not a BAAM cultist, I promise, but you simply can’t put it into financial terms.
You’re given the tools straight away. So in accountancy terms, the set cost is prolonged without further cost.
When you’re encouraged to participate again, you can work on something completely new. Like the Shame Workshop I’m taking part in now.
People will think after the first session, “This isn’t value for money.” At that point you just feel exposed, like you’ve paid money to be a rabbit in the headlights.
We go into these things because we suspect we are not whole. We know there’s something wrong with us… when we punch a hole in a window for example. What price making yourself whole?”