Liam joined BAAM’s online group course during a difficult divorce.
How did you come to BAAM in the first place?
“I’ve always considered myself to be a happy person, during childhood too. I get on with everybody and always like to find a happy medium to a conflict. If I bump into someone in the street, I’m quick to apologise.
Last year, though, I was struggling with my marriage. I didn’t feel like my wife was giving enough, and I felt she was neglecting the children. I would become very frustrated, get angry, and say things that, with hindsight, were completely unacceptable. We’re in the process of a divorce right now. I don’t agree with her side of the story but now realise that I was belittling her emotions, and exercising controlling behaviour that I dressed up as being helpful but was actually me acting out.
I’m close to my sister, and speak to her a lot. She told me that while she didn’t think I was an angry person, she suggested that there are times when I could get very frustrated, and perhaps I could consider therapy.
I thought I could tick a box in the family court if I stood up and said ‘Now, my friends don’t think I’m an angry person, but I’ve had anger management and that demonstrates how cooperative I am.’ I feel very differently now.”
What do you remember from your first BAAM anger management class?
“I had trepidation. Plus I thought it would be a seminar, and was concerned whether I’d be able to concentrate for three hours on a Tuesday night. As the Zoom call filled up I noticed there were people from all walks of life and the UK, various ethnicities. They all looked as normal as me; not like ‘angry people’.
The session began and I realised it was very interactive! I was early in the court proceedings and felt a lot of uncertainty about opening up in front of strangers. I didn’t know if I was in the right place, still even after the second session but decided to persist as I started to connect with Mike.”
When did the coaching start having an effect?
“Around session three, I had a breakthrough. Mike was talking about ‘shaking the apple tree’, and as ever he was brilliantly mixing up the grave and the informal. I was cracking up laughing, and really began to empathise. I started to involve myself more. And I could see how much some people were getting out of the group, and others too were most comfortable expressing themselves in the smaller breakaway groups we’d form into for part of the class. Instead of seeing the sessions as a box-ticking exercise I began to really look forward to them, sitting down well before 7pm having made notes, with a pot of tea prepared. My trepidation turned into revelation.”
What aspects of the course have been most useful for you?
“Most of all the sense of awareness it’s given me, particularly in terms of my own emotions. We don’t talk about feelings enough in many families. I didn’t with my children either. And now I do.
I recognised that while in my mind I was trying to be super-helpful, making suggestions, in reality I was being controlling and not respecting others’ emotions. It’s up to me to meet my needs, rather than expect others to fall in around them. I also learned the concept of regressive anger; that when I start belittling people it’s bottled-up childhood anger coming out. We suppress things and they come back to bite us, when we are adults and have the power to be heard… then we can misuse it.
You get much more out of the class than anger management.”
What techniques do you find yourself using the most?
“I’ve found it very useful to tell people how I am feeling in a challenging situation, rather than make accusations or statements about their own behaviour. If you confront someone with their faults instead of explaining how you are feeling, they go into their shell and get angry, evoking more frustration in you.
It is up to us to take responsibility for ourselves – to control ourselves in the moment, don’t just let go, and avoid that momentary lapse which causes the anger to bubble over. Situations come up when you feel a bit of a rise, but take a breath and think twice. I learnt some breathing techniques shared by a lady in the class who is an experienced free diver!”
Has anger management helped you at work too?
“I’m getting much better at delegating, for example, which is part of shedding that sense of control and essential for teamwork. Trusting my instincts more, too, has made me a better colleague. If you ultimately trust yourself, you have that required self belief, have that confidence, you can still be very effective without aggression or unhealthy motivations. It doesn’t mean cutting out a part of yourself. It’s about an emotional awareness that puts you in a calmer, steadier place, which is what a leader needs.”
What would you say to anyone wondering whether to undergo anger management?
“I think that most adults could consider this course. It’s about how we behave, and how we think about emotions. It’s more about being in tune with one’s emotional intelligence than it is anger management.
Most of us on the course probably didn’t think of ourselves angry people. But friends, family, coworkers probably mentioned something to us. It’s important to take a step back and reflect, and that’s what a lot of the course is about – reflection.
No one wants to be off the straight and narrow, but modern life gets to you – work competition, child rearing, traffic. It’s hard. Simple tools can make this journey a lot less bumpy. Knowing some of these things, recognising when my behaviour was becoming unacceptable, might have changed things.
Anger tells you something’s wrong, but it’s what you do with it. Insulting others and being violent is unacceptable. But if you can work out what’s wrong and cope with it then it lets you get on with life in a more productive and positive manner. And that’s what BAAM does so well.”