Feelings from Behavior

Feelings from behavior: Just because I may be experiencing a particular feeling or set of feelings doesn't mean I will behave in any given way. Feelings (proximal) are not the same as behavior (distal).

In the self-help section of the local bookstore one can find shelf upon shelf of books which purport to offer expert guidance on how to manage ones anger. I have surveyed a good many of these and while many of them are excellent, nearly all of them miss a really important distinction that is central to being able to mange our behavior when we are angry. The emotion of anger is not the same as the behavior of anger.

This distinction is partially obscured by the fact that we use the same word [anger] to refer to both phenomenon and partially by the fact that both so often appear together. So it is not a surprise that most people don't see the difference. But it becomes an essential distinction if we are to have a healthy relationship with our anger.

Jane and Joe are both angry about what happened in the living room as Joe was watching the game and Jane wanted him to clean the bedroom. In this scenario neither was really furious, but I did hear of a similar situation in which the wife tripped the circuit breaker and while her husband was looking for why the power was off, cut the plug off the power cord to the TV.

Jane and Joe feel their feelings but do not have to act them out in a manner that only increases the tension. They don't have to start a fight. They are not trying to make each other lose. They know that their emotions don't determine their choices.

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