Psych Central

Anger Management: Eastern Equanimity and Courage of Non-Violence

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Anger_04I am in CT this week, doing CEU workshops on mindfulness-based anger management.  You can join me through a webcast which will take place tomorrow, Fri, March 14th – here’s how to register for March 14 Webcast of Anger Management Toolbox (via PESI).

When anger becomes the mood of human societies, the quality of fire (or the primitive and destructive intent of the frustrated ego) invades the plane of humanity. That fire is expressed as all of the aggression and competitiveness of humankind, including all of the ego-based politics of confrontation. And that ego-fire is, finally, summarized in the acts of war…. The fiction of separateness—and the denial of the universal characteristic of prior unity—is a mind-based illusion, a lie, a terribly deluding force, and a profoundly and darkly negative act.

—Adi Da, Not-Two Is Peace

The only means for realization of Truth is Ahimsa….I must reduce myself to zero.

—M. K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Philosophically, existentially, and spiritually, there used to be an East and a West on this planet—a Western (Occidental) and an Eastern (Oriental) way of living and viewing life. However, the cultural globalization of the past century nearly reversed these psychospiritual polarities. No longer does a person need to go to Tibet for enlightenment: The West has been churning out its own lamas and gurus with the same production intensity as it once did with Model …


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Anger Management: from Flight-or-Fight to Frame-and-Forgive

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.
Anger_04Angry people tend to be unforgiving. This makes sense: anger is too dualistic, defensive, and limbic to afford the capacity of being cerebral and empathic. Thus, the relax-and-release response (R-n-R) is an emotional prerequisite for any kind of empathic perspective taking.
The strategic goal of ESR (emotional self-regulation training), as part of anger management, is to enable a shift to what I call a “frame-and-forgive” stance (F-n-F). F-n-F is an interpersonal stance that allows one to see the bigger picture of what’s going on which, in turn, allows one to forgive rather than angrily hold a grudge.
In sum, F-n-F is not possible without R-n-R.
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Adapted from Anger Management Jumpstart (Somov, PESI, 2014)

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Book Review: “I Stumbled Upon a Jewel”

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

stuBook Title: “I Stumbled Upon a Jewel: a Collection of Essays by a Lay Sangha” by Margaret Peterson

About the book (from Publisher):

Virtually everything written in English about Buddhism has been written by scholars, ministers, or formal leaders, no matter whether it is Tibetan, Zen, Shin or any other Buddhist sect. This book is written by lay people about their own experiences with Shin Buddhism, which is after all, the Buddhism of the common people. The sangha or the community of fellow seekers is the backbone of Buddhism, providing a structure, encouragement, and nurturing of the development of one’s beliefs, yet it is not represented in Buddhist literature. Perhaps it is understandable that this is so since Buddhism began as an oral tradition, at a time when few people besides scholars could read or write. However, it is very often the sharing of one’s concerns and ideas with members of the sangha which makes Budddhism or any spiritual endeavor alive and relevant to one’s life. The sense of sharing and intimacy are captured in the essays presented here, with the special richness of poetry and visual images to enhance the heartfelt message of the book’s intent. It represents a breath of fresh air, bridging the gap between the point of view of the expert and the experience of the ordinary follower of the Buddhist path.

My (PS) review:

“Dogma blinds us: it sterilizes the once lived experience with intellectualization and conceptualization. “Stumbled Upon a Jewel” is Buddhist …


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Rethink Anger, Rethink Anger Management

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Anger_04In my approach to anger management, I see anger as fear (of invalidation, of disapproval, of various ego threats, etc). Until it dawned on me that anger was fundamentally a form of fear, I was lost at sea as a clinician. But as soon as I rethought anger as fear, all of my trial-and-error bag of tricks suddenly acquired an internal logic of an actual method (see Anger Management Jumpstart for details).

Anger-as-fear – as an idea – is however counterintuitive.  So, here’s a sample of some opinions on the matter from the experts in the field.

In terms of many threatening situations it may be wise to think of anger and fear as one combined emotional reaction. (Potter-Effron, 2012, p. 46)

By defining anger as the emotion of self-preservation of your worth, needs, and convictions, it is easier to detect your moments of vulnerability to it. (Carter & Minirth, 1992, pp. 8–19)

Feeling threatened can easily lead to feelings of anger and hostility, and from there to outright aggressive behavior, driven by deep instincts to protect your position and maintain your sense of things being under control. (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, p. 4)

The seed of defense brings offence. (Krishnamurti, 1975, p. 84)

When seriously threatened and unable to escape, animals often become enraged and attack out of desperation. This is fear-induced aggression. Fear-induced aggression demonstrates that anger and fear are very closely related emotions. Their common bond is a perceived threat. (Potter-Efron, 2012, p. 46)

Darwin argued that rage is a …


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Anger: Pre-rational, Not Irrational

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

Anger_04Anger is older than our thoughts and theories about it.  Anger is primordial survival know-how. It was made for the jungle.

Anger commands immense psychosomatic energies in a flash of time. Anger is a miracle of body-mind synchronization for self-defensive action.

Anger is a counterintuitive evolutionary innovation: Unlike fear, which takes us away from the threat, anger moves us toward the threat. It puts us on a path of confrontation with what scares us. How amazingly creative!

Anger has its own logic—it’s not irrational; it’s pre-rational.

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Adapted from Anger Management Jumpstart (Somov, PESI, 2013)

Related Posts


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Momentum of Fear

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

When paranoia has exhausted its evolutionary utility, there comes a crossroads of choice: to keep on fearing or to fearlessly accept the new normal (i.e. to recalibrate the understanding of what is now normal).  The momentum of fear usually pre-determines the direction we take.


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Waste Away

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

-1Mind is a perfectly fine thing to waste.  From a meditative standpoint, that is.  Indeed, mind comes, mind goes, recycling itself from one fleeting state to another.

Point is: mind wastes itself, leaving absolutely nothing of permanence to hold onto.

The real conservation question is: what remains?

Look into this cosmic mystery that you are.

more: Lotus Effect


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7 Habits of Existentially Vibrant Living

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

9781572247567The following are the seven Present Perfect habits that, in my opinion, comprise the basis of existentially vibrant living:

(1)   the habit of making one’s own meaning

(2)   the habit of noticing ordinary perfection

(3)   the habit of being present in the moment

(4)   the habit of making conscious choices

(5)   the habit of self-acceptance

(6)   the habit of accepting uncertainty

(7)   the habit of forgiving and compassion

These seven vital signs of conscious, meaningful, and mindful living are the goals of the program of existential rehabilitation.  Developing these habits will help you feel freer and more alive, more at ease and psychologically invulnerable, more attuned to yourself and more connected with others, and, most importantly, less preoccupied with what should be and more in awe of what already is.

Adapted from Present Perfect (P. Somov, New Harbinger Publications, 2010)


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Cutting the Costs of Perfectionism

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

9781572247567Perfectionism isn’t cheap.  In fact, it is existentially unaffordable.  Here’s a review of these costs and of the possible ways of cutting them.

Perfectionism is a Psychological Liability

Flett and Hewitt (2002) write: “perfectionists are more likely than nonperfectionists to experience various kinds of stress” (p. 257) and list four perfectionism-specific mechanisms that contribute to and exacerbate stress:

  • Perfectionists generate stress by pursing unrealistic goals (stress generation mechanism).
  • Because of their future time perspective, they anticipate future with worry and anxiety (stress anticipation mechanism).
  • Perfectionists perpetuate stress by coping with stress in such maladaptive ways as rumination or re-doubling of the effort to avoid mistakes and prevent failures (stress perpetuation mechanism).
  • And, finally, due to their cognitively-distorted perfectionistic appraisal strategies, they enhance stress by overgeneralizing, catastrophizing, and dichotomizing (stress enhancement mechanism).

Brown and Beck (2002) make a convincing summary of how a perfectionistic cognitive style with its rigid thinking constitutes a vulnerability to depression.

Perfectionists and compulsives are a tormented, unhappy lot.  William Reich referred to compulsives as “living machines,” highly productive but not enjoying what they produce (Maxment & Ward, 1995), typically presenting with symptoms of anxiety, worry, depression, and dysthymia.

One of the goals of existential self-rehabilitation is to redefine perfection in a manner that would allow you to leverage an unconditional self-acceptance and to become invulnerable to others’ disapproval of you.  Furthermore, an effective existential rehab would help you become more accepting of uncertainty in order to reduce your anxiety about the aspects of your life that you cannot …


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Anthropomorphizing a Neuron, Finally

By Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.

brainToday, in Science Daily I read: ”This is a relatively new technique for neuroscience, called a population and dimensionality analysis. Its goal is to understand how neurons work together in entire regions of the brain.” (my italics, from Researchers Discover How Brain Neurons Work Together, or Alone).

What stands out for me here is language.  You see, each of us is a “we” – a neural colony (of a Greater Neural Tribe).  A brain, as I have written before, is not an organ but an organization!  An organization of billions of stand-alone sentient cells – neurons.  Each neuron is its own mind. Once again, each of us is a “we.” And this “we” (that each of us is) is composed of neural networks.  At least that’s what we used to call them – networks.

The new technique of “population analysis” finally somewhat anthropomorphizes neurons – a population of entities sounds more humanistic than a network of… neural processors. That’s right: a population, not a network! We seem to be – in our analysis of ourselves – finally shifting away from a computer view of self to a view of self that recognizes neurons as sentient.  After all, if they (neurons) aren’t, then how can we be?

The amazing thing about this whole issue is that we – the neurons – look at ourselves (through microscopes) and we fail to see ourselves: instead of seeing our selves, we see our cells. But we are these cells. These …


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Reinventing the Meal
Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment
The Lotus Effect The Smoke-Free Smoke Break
Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. is the author of The Lotus Effect, Present Perfect, The Smoke-Free Smoke Break, and Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time.


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