Thursday, December 27, 2007

Problems with Web Server

If you have been trying to find the Anger Solutions website: or the site for the Canadian Association of Anger Solutions Professionals,, and you are having trouble logging on to the site, this message is for you. The server that supports my website AND my E-Mail suffered a major meltdown on Wednesday morning, and my web provider ( is working around the clock with its server supplier (Web Intellects) to rectify the problem. I have been assured that this should be all fixed and back up and running by the end of today. If not, I will post another blog with an update.

I'm sure you can imagine that a catastrophe like this one creates problems for everyone involved, from the people trying to access the site for information, all the way up to the company responsible for restoring the data to the new server. While this breakdown in technology presents a challenge for all of us involved, it reminds us of the days when things were simpler - when you could just pick up a phone and contact someone, or look through the yellow pages to find a number (rather than searching the web for it) - although technology often makes life easier - we are reminded that when we become too dependent on it, we could prove helpless when it decides to break down.

In any case, please know that the powers that be are working tirelessly to ensure that this blip in our online communications is repaired as quickly as possible, and that we (at all levels - data recovery, website provider, and myself - BRC) offer our sincere apologies for the inconvenience. Once we are up and running, I will be sure to make responding to the backlog of emails my top priority.

Thanks for understanding - and not getting too angry at me! :)


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reflections - A Year in Review

They say that as we age time flies by more quickly and I have come to realize just how true that is. 2007 has come and is nearly gone, and it has been a long year in many ways, but a very short one in others. At this time last year, I was busily preparing for my parents who would be coming from Jamaica to spend the holidays with us. How could I know that would be our last family Christmas together? In February she passed away - in March we buried her. I saw my home island from a new perspective - re-connected with friends and family, and upon returning to my adopted home, I vowed to make a greater effort to make time for the people I love - realizing that life is but a vapour.

I started blogging too about a year ago - and in the beginning, wasn't sure how to get this thing going. Now, we have a bit of a groove going. The early months of 2007 were a blur - dealing with issues related to my mom's passing, getting more books printed so I could fill orders, (, and finding the strength to do all that had to be done while grieving...
In April, I participated in the Easy Living Show (thanks Lynn!)( and ran another Anger Solutions Train the Trainer group, and certified 4 wonderful trainers from Toronto, London, and Cornwall, bringing our total number of certified trainers to 35. (
And in June, we ran our first Certified Trainer led bootcamp in Ottawa.
I also attended the Women of Distinction Awards as a nominee in the Education category: what an honor to be recognized with such formidable women as Suzanne Aucoin - who succumbed to her cancer only a few short months after this event.

In July, I saw another huge project come to fruition, the first annual meeting of the Dental Technicians International Association, of the which I helped to organize and publicize - I also had the privilege of being one of the speakers at the event. I also attended my sister's brainchild, the 1st annual Canadian Gospel Music Conference in Ottawa, and had a great time there with my Dad, brother, extended family, and of course a bevy of hot Canadian and international gospel music industry greats.

This brings us to August - and our 2 week "pilgrimmage" to Newfoundland. (The picture below is of Cornerbrook, NFLD). This trip was the fulfilment of one of my long term goals - about 7 years ago, I was in St. John's Newfoundland, and fell in love with the beauty of the place. I so wanted to bring my family to the "rock" so they could share in the experience, but didn't know how. 6 and 1/2 years later, the opportunity arose by way of a missions trip, and we jumped aboard. We visited all the Maritime provinces, participated in a life changing mission trip, saw some old friends and made new ones. For our kids, one of the highlights was enjoying lobster dinner at Fisherman's Wharf in PEI, and collecting that trademark red sand from the beach in the middle of a late summer gale.

September marked our Stress Busters event, as well as the launch of my online course, "Introduction to Anger Solutions", then on to our Fall Professional Development series in November. I started podcasting in the fall, and am figuring out how to refine the podcasting process with the help of some key mentors. You can listen at Of course, through it all, I have been writing course content, and preparing material for a new book, which I will hopefully launch in the spring - and planning new events right through to June of next year. (

And here I am now - finalizing plans for another Christmas. It will be different this year of course, no family (from my side anyway) traversing the miles to descend on our house for the holidays, and only memories of my mom to get us through. But there is no time to dwell on the past - the future beckons and the now demands to be noticed. This could possibly be our last Christmas with all three kids living at home, as my daughter plans to start university in the fall of next year. This is also our first Christmas with three teenagers in the house, and we want to savour every minute of it. So we plan to take our time, and revel in the "now", while keeping a keen eye on our plans for the future.

I don't know what this year has been like for you - but I hope you will take some time over the holidays to bask in the "now" moments. Savour the flavour of the holidays, because all too soon the future will be upon us, demanding our time and attention. Have a happy holiday - Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Celebrate Kwanzaa - whatever your faith, make the best of the season!

All the best to you,

Julie Christiansen

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Fourth Reason Why Teenagers Drink

This just in from ScienceDaily (Dec. 5, 2007) — Most high school seniors drink because they want to experiment with alcohol, some drink for the thrill of it, and others because it helps them relax. A new study finds that a fourth group of high school students share all those reasons for drinking, but they also drink to get away from problems and to deal with anger or frustration issues.

Kids with multiple reasons to drink, including reasons related to coping with life, show the heaviest and most problematic drinking behaviors. The data for the study came from 1,877 students from the national Monitoring the Future survey conducted annually.

"Our study found that for the graduating class of 2004, students who had multiple reasons to drink, including reasons related to coping, were also more likely to begin drinking at an earlier age, more likely to be drunk in the past year and more likely to drink before 4:00 pm, compared to students who drank to experiment with alcohol, to experience the thrill of drinking or just to relax," according to Donna Coffman, Ph.D., of Penn State.

"It is important to know why high school seniors drink so parents, teachers and high school counselors can pay special attention to the needs of the small but high-risk group of seniors who offer multiple reasons for drinking and who also have anger or frustration issues. Research shows that drinking patterns established during adolescence are likely to continue through adulthood," according to Coffman.

More than three-quarters of high school seniors have already experimented with alcohol, so it is too late to tell them 'not to drink,' or ask them to wait until they are of legal age. Kids who drink to help them deal with anger or frustration issues are not likely to benefit from a prevention program developed for kids who are just experimenting with alcohol, Coffman said.

Coffman and her colleague Lori Palen, also from Penn State, said the purpose of their study was to identify the major motivations for drinking, find out if the motivations were different for boys and girls, and understand how the different motivations for drinking among boys and girls were related to drinking initiation, frequency of drunkenness and daytime drinking.

"Boys were more likely to belong to the higher-risk group of thrill seekers, while girls were more likely to belong to the lowest level of risky drinking, the experimenters. Both boys and girls who drank just to experiment with alcohol were also more likely to initiate drinking at a later age, compared to those who drank for other reasons" Coffman said.

Compared to the experimenters, boys who reported drinking before 4 p.m.were eight times more likely to belong to the highest-risk group that drank for multiple reasons; girls who drank before 4 p.m. were six times more likely to belong to the group that drank for multiple reasons.
Coffman said that their study looked at a representative sample of one graduating class. "We cannot say our results apply to all graduating classes after 2004, but the findings should certainly be useful to educators, prevention experts and parents."

Previous studies have found that alcohol use reaches its peak level during and immediately after high school graduation. It remains high through the age of 25, "that is why the senior year of high school is a critical point for which to understand the motives for drinking and to establish healthier alcohol use behaviors," Coffman said.

The full study is published in the December issue of Prevention Science, a peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Prevention Research.
Adapted from materials provided by Society for Prevention Research.

Society for Prevention Research (2007, December 5). Four Reasons Why High School Seniors Drink: One Could Signal Problem Drinking.
ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 11, 2007, from­ /releases/2007/12/071204091854.htm

About 1 and 1/2 years ago I conducted a survey of over 100 high school students in the separate school system in Niagara. One of the questions I asked was, "Do you use drugs, alcohol, sex and/or gambling to cope with your anger/stress?" 3o% of the respondents indicated that they do use these risk-taking behaviours as coping mechanisms.

When I first released the results, I remember thinking, "This number isn't so bad - it is only 30% ..." But that means that potentially 3 out of every 10 teenagers will choose a poor coping method - all of the above mentioned behaviours have the potential to be highly addictive (yes - sex too) - so what can we do to teach our children better coping methods?

First: Let's lead by example. Pouring yourself a drink as soon as you walk through the door after a hard day, is sending a clear message to your kids - that alcohol can help relieve stress. This is true for people who stop off at the bar on the way home as well. Drinking does not solve problems - it creates them. Parents who roll and toke in front of their kids are also setting a terrible example - how can we expect our children to take the high road, if they see us doing differently?

Now - I must be clear. I am not so naive as to think that all kids who turn to alcohol/drugs/sex/gambling learned to do that from their parents! Many kids rebel against the morals of their parents and turn to these behaviours that they have never witnessed in the home. All I am saying is that we can start by being good examples to our kids.

Second: How about a little education? Our kids are inundated with messages from television, radio, print media, schoolmates/peers, and more. However, the voice of the parent or primary caregiver still holds a great deal of sway in those volatile teenage years. If we throw our hands up and say, "Well, it's just a phase..." or "They don't listen to me anymore..." we do our kids a great disservice. Just because a kid doesn't look like he's listening, doesn't mean he isn't. It is part of the natural developmental process for teens to begin to "distance" themselves from their parents; however, they still need boundaries, and they are looking for their parents and other significant authority figures in their lives to help to set those boundaries. Let's not shirk our responsibilities in this area.

Third: Provide alternatives. Show teens how to communicate effectively - provide them with the tools and the language they need to explain their feelings and to work through conflict in a constructive way. Teach them how to resolve anger (rather than bottling it up, or drowning it in booze). Show them how to release stress in productive ways rather than engaging in risk-taking behaviour.

Everything we need to be effective in our lives is right in front of us - we just need to be shown how to use the tools we have. Take me for example - I'm math illiterate. I have all the tools in MS Excel to do calculations for me, but I don't know how to set up the equations. Once someone teaches me, I'll be able to do it for myself. But until then, I constantly require help, or I just find SOME OTHER WAY to get the job done. Teenagers are the same. They have the tools they need to resolve their negative emotions, but they need help - a teacher/mentor who will show them how to use those tools. Without that assistance, they will find SOME OTHER WAY to release stress and anger - and they will resort to what they know.

So - let's do our part to help our kids to make right choices. Set an example. Teach them what them is right and wrong. And provide them with alternatives to the risk-taking behaviours they may be inclined to choose if left to their own devices.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Anger Solutions Learning Curve

The first 3 sessions focus on building awareness and challenging limiting beliefs around anger. As awareness of feelings, anger styles, and the development of anger increases, the client will often report that they are experiencing more anger, and will conclude that the program is not working. What is in fact happening is that they are experiencing an increase in their conscious awareness of what was previously occurring on a subconscious level. In other words, they are not experiencing MORE anger – they are only more aware of the anger they typically experience.

It is at the high point in the chart (between sessions 2 and 4) that participants will drop out of the program, because they find their new levels of emotional awareness too overwhelming.

1. Leveraging tools are built into sessions two and three in order to increase motivation to stick with the program.
2. “How To…” tips are included at the end of each lesson to help participants begin implementing new strategies to express emotions, and to begin choosing assertive behaviour as an alternative to their typical anger style.

Traditionally, if a participant can stick with the program through to the end of lesson 4, they will not drop out for reasons of emotional overload.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

When Playgrounds become Battlefields

Sad news from St. Eustache Quebec on Monday, after a 12 year old boy dies in a schoolyard altercation. This is the second schoolyard death in Quebec within just a few months - and again attributed to student scrapping. Listen to my thoughts on the longterm ramifications of this incident, how it could have been prevented, and where we need to go from here. 6 minutes, 8 seconds. Go to the podcast site:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Anger is now a Medical Issue?

This Just In - November 11, 2007 on Google News: Road Rage has a New Name

Blame it on the stressful and hectic lifestyles we all now lead, but it seems as if everyone is losing their temper. For example, more than 5m British drivers confessed to road rage offences in a recent survey by DriveSafe, an independent road safety organisation.
Feeling angry is a natural reaction to certain circumstances, but it’s the way you respond that’s crucial. It is perfectly appropriate to point out to someone they have pushed into a queue. It is not appropriate to abuse the queue-barger.

There’s even a new name for people who can’t restrain their anger. Extreme attacks of rage are linked to a medical condition called intermittent explosive disorder (IED, which fittingly shares its initials with improvised explosive device), a condition characterised by a failure to resist aggressive impulses. Harvard and Chicago Universities, which carried out joint research on IED, claim 4% of Americans are affected by the condition, many of whom probably own guns.

There are physical signs you should look out for to prevent an attack of rage. Your mouth dries, your heart starts racing, your hands slick with sweat, your face flushes, you breathe faster and you clench muscles, especially in the jaw and fists. If you are aware of these signs, you will know to be wary. At this point, ask yourself: is your anger to do with the situation, or the result of preexisting stress? What action can I take and still be in control of the situation? Something as simple as taking 15 deep breaths in a row, each time exhaling for twice as long as you inhale, will start to relax muscles.
There's more but I think what we have here will suffice...
This article about road rage being lumped into the medical diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder seems to imply that rather than resolve anger, now all we have to do is medicate it. I’m not sure I like where this is heading. I believe that by categorizing a normal emotional response with a certain CHOICE of behaviours - and then giving it a medical diagnosis puts our society on an ever steepening (yes - I said steepening) slippery slope towards total lack of accountability for one's actions.

For example, all the symptoms described in the article as leading toward rage are part of the natural fight or flight physiological response to stress and anger. One might easily experience all of these symptoms – but choose to internalize their anger rather than externalize it. It seems misleading to imply that these physiological cues are sure fire indicators that you are heading for a bout of rage, when in fact the "rageful" behaviours are just as much a CHOICE as it is to keep one's feelings inside.

In fact, if one is aware of his/her physiological cues, and chooses to continues toward a rageful outburst, can that truly be defined as IED? Consider that IED is characterized by a swift buildup and explosion of anger, and a quick return to baseline – typically one does not have time to become aware of or to counteract the buildup – because of cognitive impairment such as developmental delay or acquired brain injury.

To say that road ragers have a medical condition is a huge cop out I think – and perpetuates the gross misconception that anger is a disease or a dis-order rather than something that was placed in the human emotional and psychological construct as part of our normal functioning. Think about the ramifications for making road rage and other types of outbursts a "medical" condition - what kind of havoc could this wreak on the streets when people come to believe that their chosen method of anger expression is a "sickness that couldn't be helped"?

Let me be clear about something: Anger in and of itself is not a sickness! Those of you who know me well have often heard me say this – it’s not contagious, and it’s not a disease. Anger is an emotion that is as natural as happiness, sadness, or fear. However, in my sometimes cynical mind, I suppose that since we can medicate sadness (with anti-depressants), and fear (with anti-anxiety drugs), it comes as no surprise that the push is on to find medications to quell the symptoms of anger too. If they ever come out with a treatment for happiness, I think that will be the day I might have to start looking for a saner planet on which to live.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Learn and Network with My Millionaire Friends!

Hi — I wanted to let you know about a new company called My Millionaire Friends that is launching on January 1, 2008. This monthly coaching and networking program offers a lot of tangibles on a monthly basis (CDs and printed books and newsletters to name a few). They are running a special prelaunch price. Check it out at or click on the graphic below. And even if you can’t join right away–they have a great “How to Become a Millionaire Diagram and Checklist” you can download for free.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Work the New Playground for School Bullies

This Just In - October 27th, 2007

Workplace is a second life for school bullies
Sat Oct 27, 1:01 PM
By The Canadian Press

For many, the modern workplace is another chance to relive the taunting and cruelty of middle school.

The bullies may wear business casual now, but in a random phone survey of office workers, 29 per cent of respondents said they still deal with rude or unprofessional co-worker behaviour.
Different troublemakers require individualized coping mechanisms, but directness, confidence and flexibility are essential in any confrontation, said Diane Domeyer, executive director of staffing company OfficeTeam, which conducted the survey.

"Recognize that it's not going to change overnight," she said. "Learn to adapt."
Meanwhile, avoid chatting with the office gossip lest his reputation damage your standing with colleagues. Defuse a belittler's invective by confidently asserting your position. Don't be afraid to tell her or a supervisor your feelings.

"Stand up and be brave," said Domeyer. "If you find over and over again that it's starting to affect your morale and productivity, that will affect your career."

OfficeTeam and research company International Communications Research interviewed 532 randomly selected full-or part-time adult office-dwellers in an unscientific August phone survey.

Interesting survey - although unscientific - can be supported by other studies, including one by the ILO that rates Canada as the 4th most dangerous country in which to work due to high incidences of workplace violence. That said, I find the strategies for coping - "stand up and be brave" - may get you somewhere, but not very far in the grand scheme of things. You know from my previous posts that I have had my share of bullies for bosses, and so I decided to go on the record again, with some workable, practical strategies that anyone can use to survive and even thrive in the bully's environment. To take a listen, go to: The recording is about 5 1/2 minutes long. At the end of the recording, take advantage of the offer to download a free copy of my 4 page report on how to cope with bullies in the workplace.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Angry? Sleep on It!

Sleep Deprivation - from HR Magazine, May, 1999 by Stephenie Overman
You know the feeling: It's hard to get out of bed in the morning. You can't put together two intelligent sentences before your first cup of coffee. It takes longer than usual to complete your work duties.

It's called sleep deprivation and it affects some 70 million Americans, according to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The commission's studies show that work-related problems such as increased stress, inattention and diminished productivity are caused by workers' lack of sleep or poor quality sleep. The cost for U.S. businesses is estimated at $150 billion a year.
Read the whole article at:

Now put that together with this article just released yesterday:

Emotions Run Amok in Sleep-Deprived Brains
Charles Q. Choi, Special to Mon., Oct 22, 12:20 PM ET
Without sleep, the emotional centers of our brains dramatically overreact to bad experiences, research now reveals.

"When we're sleep deprived, it's really as if the brain is reverting to more primitive behavior, regressing in terms of the control humans normally have over their emotions," researcher Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, told LiveScience.
While past studies have revealed that sleep loss can impair the immune system and brain processes such as learning and memory, there has been surprisingly little research into why sleep deprivation affects emotions, Walker said.

Walker and his colleagues had 26 healthy volunteers either get normal sleep or get sleep deprived, making them stay awake for roughly 35 hours. On the following day, the researchers scanned brain activity in volunteers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while they viewed 100 images. These started off as emotionally neutral, such as photos of spoons or baskets, but they became increasingly negative in tone over time—for instance, pictures of attacking sharks or vipers.

"While we predicted that the emotional centers of the brain would overreact after sleep deprivation, we didn't predict they'd overreact as much as they did," Walker said. "They became more than 60 percent more reactive to negative emotional stimuli. That's a whopping increase—the emotional parts of the brain just seem to run amok."

The researchers pinpointed this hyperactive response to a shutdown of the prefrontal lobe, a brain region that normally keeps emotions under control. This structure is relatively new in human evolution, "and so it may not yet have adapted ways to cope with certain biological extremes," Walker speculated. "Human beings are one of the few species that really deprive themselves of sleep. It's a real oddity in nature."

The findings are detailed in the Oct. 23 issue of the journal Current Biology.
Read the whole article at

What we can extrapolate from these two articles is that over 20% of the US population is sleep deprived; meaning that over 20% of the population may be experiencing overreactions in the emotional centers of the brain, when faced with negative stimuli. In other words, on a normal day, a person having had adequate sleep will be able to cope more effectively with negative stimuli than one who is sleep deprived.

When anger-inducing situations come your way, do you find you have no tolerance? Do you fly off the handle more quickly than you used to, and do you find that you are more stressed and less able to cope? The answer might be as simple as increasing the amount of time you spend sleeping each night.

The studies show that increasing the amount of sleep we get each night, and maintaining regular sleep patterns are ways to ensure that our brains can function at peak potential during our waking hours. Could resolving anger be that simple? While it takes more than a good night’s sleep to resolve anger, ensuring that your brain is well rested can take you a long way towards being able to evaluate your circumstances more clearly, and to make better choices about how you want to achieve positive outcomes in the face of anger.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Prosperity Doesn't Increase Happiness in Alberta

This just in on Sunday: No commentary from me on this one... just lots to consider.

Survey suggests Albertans are unhappy with their quality of life

Published: Sunday, October 14, 2007 1:24 PM ET
Dean Bennett, CP

EDMONTON - You know there are anger problems in Canada's land of milk and honey when you find the highway literally covered in, well, milk and honey. Mental health counsellor Robert Peters says that's what happened in the case of one woman who played a high-speed road-rage game of cat and mouse on Calgary's Deerfoot Trail expressway with a man who cut her off.
The pair darted in and out of traffic - he swerving at her, she opening her grocery bag to launch comestible missiles through the driver's window.

"The woman later felt she'd better step forward (for help) because her children were in the back seat at the time and witnessed it," said Peters.

Her story is one of an increasing number of tales emerging in Canada's wealthiest province - a portrait of disquiet reflected in a new Harris-Decima survey of western Canadians conducted for The Canadian Press.

The online survey looked at the attitudes of 1,400 westerners, but found the most angst and unhappiness in Alberta, the province that leads the nation in growth and per capita wealth.
One in four Alberta respondents said they found people in the province generally grumpier and less civil compared with two years ago.

And despite multibillion-dollar budget surpluses and a provincewide construction boom to try to accommodate the teeming inflow of newcomers:
-24 per cent said the post-secondary education has worsened.
-28 per cent said grade-school education has deteriorated.
-51 per cent said their community has not improved or, in some cases, even worsened.
-70 per cent said there has been no improvement in their family's health and well-being.

The survey, conducted Sept. 10-12, is considered accurate within 2.6 percentage points 19 times out of 20. When just the 350 Alberta respondents are counted, the sampling error is plus or minus 5.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The level of dissatisfaction found in the survey is becoming apparent on streets and highways. Peters says more and more stories of road rage are cropping up in his counselling sessions, to the point where he decided separate group therapy dedicated to road rage was in order. His first pilot session began this weekend.

The idea took shape after he heard the grocery story and learned of a Calgary truck driver who was so fed up with being cut off that he tailed one offending vehicle with a family inside, overtook it and ran if off the highway, leaving it perched precariously at a 45-degree angle over a ditch.

The trucker was charged and had to attend anger management classes, although they were tailored to domestic violence.

"We need to address this particular road-rage phenomenon more actively and directly in group therapy," said Peters.

It appears there's also anger in Alberta's hospitals. The province's growing population has led to long waiting lines and bed closures due to lack of staff.

"It's getting worse," said Bev Dick, vice-president of the United Nurses of Alberta. "People are coming to the end of their rope faster and have almost come to the point of thinking that the louder they yell, the faster they're going to get attention."

A recent survey by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found close to half the province's 24,000 nurses have experienced some form of abuse.

"Verbal abuse is one of the most common, but certainly it is not uncommon that nurses are spit at, hit, kicked, or punched by patients or the patient's family," said Dick.

"There's plenty of downside to any boom, and our members are on the front lines to all of that."
Post-secondary students, meanwhile, are dealing with squeezed housing markets and soaring rents, said Michael Janz, president of the University of Alberta students union.

More than three-quarters of many student loans are used simply to pay the rent, said Janz, leading in some cases to students sleeping in offices or 24-hour common areas or, in one recent high-profile example, to a student sleeping in his buddy's shed.

"It's getting a little ridiculous," said Janz. "We're all thankful to be living in a bustling economy, but the boom's not always beneficial for everyone."

The crazy growth is fuelled by oilsands megaprojects in northern Alberta. The Fort McMurray area has been forced to deal with the social fallout of overcrowding, skyrocketing prices, and increasing crime and homelessness.

A 2006 survey found there were 441 homeless people in Fort McMurray, up 24 per cent from 2004.

"We don't have the shelter space to keep all these people off the streets this winter," said Rod McDonald, chairman of a committee that looked into the problem. He said they're making progress, citing a 200-bed shelter that is soon to open. Disturbingly, he said, the survey found that 65 homeless were children as young as 11 who survived by staying at various friends' places ("couch surfing," said McDonald) or, in the case of one-third of them, swapping favours for a place to sleep.

"We didn't specify in the survey what those favours might amount to, but you could imagine in many cases it could be sexual favours."

McDonald said more than half the young homeless admitted involvement in high-risk ventures like crime, numbers that may have helped spur the concern over lawlessness in the Harris-Decima poll. Three-quarters of those surveyed said they saw drug use getting worse, while close to half said their sense of security and safety was declining and 44 per cent viewed themselves at risk of physical harm. Those numbers, however, don't jibe with Statistics Canada figures released this summer indicating that as of 2006, the national crime rate was at its lowest in 25 years.

The overall crime rate fell five per cent in Alberta, though Edmonton, with 3.7 homicides per 100,000 residents, trailed only Regina (4.5) among major cities. "We have to do more to address the homicide rate here in Edmonton," said Sanjeev Anand, a University of Alberta law professor who studies youth crime. "But having said that, the rate is still low when you compare it to a lot of major American cities."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Getting Past Your Past Video

Recovering from events of the past takes time, but it also takes commitment to move forward. This brief motivational video will give you some tips on how to move past the past to a brighter future.

You can order this audio CD with workbook online at - Note the price for the set is incorrectly stated on the website as $69.99 - it is only $49.99.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Here's a New One: Gift Rage

"Gift rage" lands worker in court?
Thu Oct 4, 9:33 AM
TOKYO (Reuters) - A disgruntled Japanese worker smashed up his employer's office in a fit of pique after his boss ignored his gift of jelly desserts, a national paper said on Thursday.
An Osaka court heard that the 31-year-old man, who worked for an online clothing sales company, had given the company president a box of jellies in the summer as a mark of gratitude after landing the job, the English-language Asahi Shimbun said.

Many Japanese maintain a tradition of sending gifts to important business contacts in summer and winter.

When the employee realized that his boss had left the box of jellies unopened under his desk, he smashed 22 computers in the office with a truncheon, the paper said. No one was injured in the incident.

The man pleaded guilty to charges of obstructing business with force, the paper said.
"I wish the company president had cared a little more," the paper quoted the employee's lawyer as saying.

Prosecutors said the employer had been too busy to open the gift, the paper said.

This latest account is a sad commentary on the state of employee/employer relations. When people feel as though they are not valued, they will act on their frustration - some turning anger inward, and others turning anger outward. It is a shame that the employer in this case did not recognize this act of tradition and respect, and at least take 30 seconds to show his appreciation for the gift. Such a small token of gratitude could have prevented everything. On the other side, the employee obviously had little or no coping skills to help him deal with the feelings of frustration and rejection that he felt at the perceived slight by his employer. Too bad he didn't know about Anger Solutions... (

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Anger Solutions Train the Trainer Gaining International Attention

The Anger Solutions(TM) Train the Trainer program is designed specifically to equip counsellors and social workers with the skills they need to immediately begin implementing Anger Solutions(TM) groups or individual counselling sessions with their client group - as well as certifies them to train other staff in their agency or community (with a one-day session). The program is beginning to receive international attention with requests to attend coming from as far away as East Asia.

The 3-day program is the most intensive of all our trainings. There is a truckload of theoretical work that must be covered, mostly on the first day - as well as several opportunities for practical application of the training materials. It is always fun, incredibly informative, and is often cathartic for those attending.

Because of the international attention this program is receiving, the T3 program will be evolving again, and we may incorporate one evening session to address the specific purposes for which internationals are attending the program.

The next T3 session will take place in London, Ontario at the Ramada Inn on Exeter Road - from November 14 to 16, 2007. The Ramada is conveniently located adjacent to the 401 and is readily accessible from all points in Southern/Southwestern Ontario. The city of London has an airport, so people can fly directly to London, or fly into Hamilton International Airport and take a short drive to London (about 2 hours).

This will be our third year facilitating the T3 program, and it has evolved and developed since we first ran it early in 2004. Since its inception, we have certified over 30 Anger Solutions(TM) Trainers from agencies spanning the province of Ontario (including Ottawa, Cornwall, Kingston, Napanee, Haliburton, Toronto, Niagara, London, and Sault Ste. Marie). The Anger Solutions(TM) Program has been in use in Ontario for over 10 years, and has been facilitated in over 15 cities to counsellors and participants from over 150 agencies.

If you would like to attend our London T3 session, you must have completed a mimimum 2 year diploma program from community college in the area of social services (Child Youth Worker, Social Services Worker, Addictions Counsellor), or a minimum Bachelor's degree from University in the Social Sciences, and be actively employed in the field of social services. To learn more about the T3 program, visit my website, . Please contact us at if you would like to attend but do not have these pre-requisites.

You can register online for the program at, or call my assistant, Tracey at Sensible Office Services ( to register with her.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Radio Interview - Audio coming soon

I had a great time being interviewed by Kathy Grant Mahon ( and Hallam Carter of CHRI 99.1 FM ( "Gospel Groove" last evening, (Sunday, Sept. 30, 2007). It's a great show, and if you love black gospel music - everything from traditional to "Holy Hip Hop" or reggae, this is a great venue for you to listen online and to learn about what is new in the gospel music scene.

Anyhow, we had a great discussion about residual anger in Christians and why people of faith often have such difficulty dealing with our negative emotions. We talked at length about forgiveness and the power of God to positively impact our hurt and wounded hearts. I don't usually talk about faith too much in this blog, but I would be remiss if I didn't share this with my readers. Moreover, research backs it up - people of faith are generally healthier and have a longer life span because they tend to have a more positive outlook on life, they have a strong support system, and they lean on their "Higher Power" when the going gets tough. Having said that, we are not perfect, and we must learn to deal appropriately with this issue - just like anyone else.

The audio recording is "so-so" for the interview, and I'd like to edit out some of the dead air and commercial breaks, etc. Once that is done, I will load it onto the blog or the website, so you can all take a listen.

Friday, September 28, 2007

We Do Not See Things as They Are - We See Things as We Are

It was Anais Nin who first said these profound words. Here's an optical illusion I received in my Inbox this morning - that shows just how deceptive our perceptions can be when coloured by our own ideas...

If you look at the images from your seat in frontof the computer, Mr.Angry is on the left, and Ms.Calm is on the right. Get up from your seat, and move back 12 feet, and PRESTO!! They switch places!! It is said this illusion was created by Phillippe G.Schyns and Aude Oliva of the University of Glasgow. Does this prove that we sometimes may not be seeing what's actually there?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Anger: Hell on Wheels

Anger it seems, is on a roll. A recent survey by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation found there are 12 per cent of young men aged 16 to 24 said they were more likely to honk their horn in annoyance, while the vast majority of older drivers -- 95 per cent -- didn't use the horn when frustrated. But perhaps most alarming, the study said "some 670,000 Canadians say they like to take risks while driving, just for the fun of it." The study also found that there are over twice as many males engaging in aggressive driving as there are women.

"Aggressive driving is a broad issue that includes behaviours like excessive speeding, running red lights, honking the horn, taking risks for fun while driving, and, in the extreme, physical violence," Ward Vanlaar, a research associate for TIRF, said in a press release Tuesday. "An aggressive driver may not intend to harm others, but their behaviour elevates everybody's crash risk," he said. "Speeding, taking risks, and running red lights are all extremely dangerous."
The interesting thing is what happens when this type of driving results in what is commonly known as "road rage" - other drivers retaliating with even more aggressive driving (e.g. cutting off the offender, or following too closely), or with violence (ranging from yelling, obscene gesturing, to extreme cases of property damage or physical assault). When driving degenerates to road rage, what is behind it

If belief is the basis of action, then road rage behaviours are rooted in a belief. Typically there is a feeling that rights have been violated or infringed upon - perhaps there is a belief that the other person "meant to do that", implying a personal vendetta being carried out on the roadways. If aggressive behaviour behind the wheel is belief-based, then all the sanctions, tickets, and fines in the world will not change the motivation for the behaviour. The study shows that the most aggressive drivers also have the highest incidence of traffic offenses - doesn't change their behaviour though...

Look - 670,000 Canadians drive aggressively because they believe it is FUN. The only way they will change their driving habits is to make it NOT FUN. The only way to keep people from retaliating against other aggressive drivers is to change your belief systems about what they are trying to achieve. People are not out on the roads looking for an accident; they are out there driving like Indy 500 race car drivers because it is fun. Perhaps they are out there for the thrill of the wind in their face, and the feel of the open road. It is easy to get lost in fun, isn't it? It's easy to forget that your fun may be a source of danger or discomfort for others - isn't that true?

The same is true for people who are driving aggressively because they believe it is the only way for them to survive on the roads. "Get them before they get you" is a common attitutude, which finds its way into the driver's seat. Again, these drivers are not looking for an accident, they are in survival mode that stems from a belief that all the other drivers out there are on a personal mission to "get them", so they must drive defensively (or often aggressively) in order to get from A to B safely. If they cause a near miss here or there, it is likely the other person's fault, and they were the ones who avoided the accident.

Think about some of the beliefs that may contribute to road rage: If I do this, I will get this result. I am doing this because the other person deserves it. I have every right to be angry because of what this person did. These are all belief statements - faulty ones because they do not consider the outcome of the kneejerk reaction. If you damage someone's property or person, sure - you'll feel avenged, but you'll also likely feel handcuffs around your wrists. The other person may deserve to be punished for his/her bad driving habits, but you'd be better off taking the license plate number and reporting him/her to the police rather than trying to be a vigilante. While you have every right to feel angry, you have a RESPONSIBILITY to deal with your anger in a way that does not put you or anyone else at risk.

Think about that the next time you come in contact with an aggressive driver, or the next time you decide to be one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Busting Stress is a Blast!

Yesterday, I held my first Stress Busters for Professionals workshop in about a year. We had a good turnout of 12 people from all walks of life, clerks, managers, real estate agents, sales executives, and small business owners. Every time I do one of these programs, I am reminded of just how much I LOVE working with people, and sharing insights that can help them improve their lives. I am also reminded of how much I learn each time I facilitate one of these workshops. One of the best parts about the Stress program is getting everyone down on the floor to do some relaxation exercises. In North American society, we are always in such a rush, and everything is always so noisy and busy, that we very rarely get permission (much less the chance) to just stop... to enjoy the silence, and to just BE.

This five to ten minute exercise, in which we just take the time to reacquaint ourselves with our bodies and our spirits, and to just BE in the moment - to me, is worth the whole day. To see people get up from that place of tranquility and to witness the changes in their faces, their posture, their breathing... it is pretty cool to be a part of that transformation.

Thanks to all attendees for the great reviews - 4s and 5s out of 5 - and I appreciate the positive comments and encouragement, some of which I'll share here...

"It was a nice, casual approach..."
"Great seminar - I will use the tools provided and it was nice to have some re-affirmation."
"Thank you for a wonderful day!"
"Excellent course content. Very useful tools."
"I was able to learn somethings new and valuable that I will be able to use."
"I enjoyed the day; happy I registered."

Our next Stress Busters session will take place early in 2008 - By then I hope to have my new book about Busting Stress ready and in print. In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled here as I talk about some of those issues that will eventually make it into the book.

What's your biggest challenge when it comes to stress? I'd like to hear from you!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New Yorkers caught up in SPIN Rage!

This Just In:

New York broker accused in 'spin rage,' assault on gym member

Tue Sep 18, 11:50 PM

"NEW YORK (AP) - A Wall Street stock broker has been charged with assault after he became enraged during a cycling class at a posh health club and slammed a fellow member and his bike against a wall.
Christopher Carter, 44, a broker at Maxim Investments Group, was at Equinox gym taking a spin class, a high-impact workout using stationary bikes. He apparently became so fed up by member Stuart Sugarman's hooting and grunting during the workout that he picked up Sugarman and his bike and hurled them into a wall.
Samuel Davis, Sugarman's lawyer calls the incident an example of spin rage."

You KNOW I'm going to have something to say about this!

This is a classic example of super aggressive behaviour. Check out the whole article on Yahoo Canada news - notice that Carter shows no remorse for his behaviour. In his mind, he did what he had to do to get Sugarman to shut up, and got the result he wanted. Why in the world should he change his anger style?

Listen - people do what makes sense to them (said a man much wiser than I - William Glasser). In other words, they do what they believe will get them the results or outcomes they desire. Carter did what made sense for him at the time; however I'm guessing he was too caught up in the heat of the moment to see the criminal charges coming at him as a consequence of his choice. If it is true that Sugarman had to have back surgery as a result of the assault, the gym better have some strategy in place for damage control (such as banning the offender, Carter) - otherwise they may have a lawsuit on their hands as well.

How about this? Sugarman's lawyer calls this an "example of spin rage". What exactly does that mean? Is "spin rage" a common occurence in NYC? Is spin rage some kind of epidemic sweeping the city or is this another incident of the use of unnecessary force to resolve a stupid argument? The term "road rage" was coined in the late 80s / early 90s and has since been adapted to everything from office/desk rage to surf rage. It seems now that any act of aggression needs to have a label - it is almost as if giving it the label softens it somehow... "It was an act of spin rage, folks. If he hadn't been spinning, he never would have behaved that way." Do you see how ludicrous that sounds?

The truth is that aggressive people behave aggressively when they think it will get them what they want. The circumstance, environment, or people involved don't really matter - they just provide a setting for the aggression. Aggressive drivers are just aggressive drivers. Yes, sometimes people who are typically more docile will come upon an occasion in which they will totally lose their cool and act out of character; however, for the most part, when you see someone acting aggressively - it's because that's how they are MOST of the time. It is how they CHOOSE to be. So it will be interesting to see how this case pans out - will Carter get off or will the courts recognize that this guy is just a rich bully who is prepared to thrash people who get in his way? Maybe it works on Wall Street, but in the gym - think again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What's UP with the Suicide Rate?

This just in Sept. 8-07 from the St. Catharines Standard:

"Girls' suicide rate in U.S. highest in 15 years"

The suicide rate among preteen and teenage girls in the United States rose to its highest level in 15 years, and hanging surpassed guns as the preferred method, federal health officials reported Thursday. The biggest jump - about 76 per cent - was in the suicide rate for girls ages 10-14 from 2003 to 2004. There were 94 suicides in that age group in 2004, compared to 56 in 2003. That's a rate of fewer than one per 100,000 population. Overall, suicide was the third leading cause of death among young Americans in 2004, accounting for 4,599 deaths.

What's wrong with this picture? Think about this... the biggest increase in death by suicide in the US, is among girls 10-14 years of age. Sure, the statisticians say that only amounts to one per 100,000 population. But look at it this way: in the city of St. Catharines, with an estimated population of 300,000, that's three families this year who might have to bury their baby girls. In a city of 1 million - that's 30 families that will put their 10-14 year old in the ground. Is that acceptable to you? Almost 4600 American families lost their kids to suicide in 2004 - who knows what the stats will read when the studies for 2006 and 2007 come out. In Canada,
completed suicide is about 3½ times higher for adolescent boys than girls in Canada, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadian young people aged 15-19. I don't know about you but I find these stats alarming.

We all have a responsibility to our kids - to teach them how to resolve conflict, how to work through problems, how to ask for help, and how to help others.

We parents have a responsibility to be aware of what is happening with our kids and to stop burying our heads in the sand, hoping that their dark moods will be just a passing phase. We need to stop trying to be their BUDDY and start being their PARENT. Friendship will flow naturally from a healthy child/parent relationship. Permissiveness is not the answer. Being a heavy handed authoritarian is not the answer either. BUT kids need boundaries. They need to feel secure. They need to know that there are alternative solutions for every problem. They need to have a voice for their emotions, including their anger, fear, and depression.

Educators too have a responsibility to teach these solutions in the schools. We've come a long way in drug education - what about talking about issues that lead kids to experiment with drugs? While we don't want to give kids any ideas... we have to realize that MTV is raising our kids while we sit idly by, hoping for the best. Pardon my rant, but I believe that there are other alternatives to suicide. Suicide is a desperate act - a cry for help from a desperate person. I DON'T believe that any pre-teen or teenager (or anyone else for that matter) should have to feel so alone and so detached from his/her world that s/he has to turn to suicide.

There are several factors that can lead to childhood depression or anti-social/aggressive behaviour. Among them are family intactness (married/co-habiting/divorced or separated parents), the presence or absence of extended family support, behavioural trends from as early as age 3, pro-social or anti-social parenting, whether or not a child is popular, rejected, or neglected in school, and the list goes on. Anger Solutions gives kids a system for expressing their feelings about negative topics; teaches parents how to behave like grownups so they can set a good example for their kids; gives safe and appropriate alternatives to self-abusive behaviours and anger turned out-ward. In a nutshell, Anger Solutions(TM) teaches people of any age how to deal with their emotions and their problems more effectively.

I have been advocating for several years now that this material needs to be introduced into schools at the elementary level. I am typically called into high schools to talk about stress and self-esteem, and that's fine, but what about the kids who will never make it to high school? We need to begin interventions earlier, and stop taking it forgranted that "little kids don't have problems". Let's face the truth, folks. The stats don't lie.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

You Are Gun... With a Twist

I always marvel at that slogan: "Guns don't kill people... People kill people". Yeah - that's true, but all too often, people kill people - using guns! Early in my book, Anger Solutions, I use the analogy of "triggers". We all have triggers that people or situations can pull (or buttons people can push) that sets of a chain of reactions in our thoughts, words, and actions. Does that mean that when people push your buttons, or pull your triggers, that you have to fire?

This distinction became clearer for me during a coaching session this week. It occurred to me that my client always seems to correlate his behaviours with what people do. It's always someone's fault - if only things weren't so stressfull, if only people would do what he wanted them to, if only he weren't under so much pressure from his clients... he wouldn't be so aggressive and intimidating. He also has made it quite clear that he can turn off his aggressive behaviour style when he is with certain people, but it comes out full swing with others. So I had to ask: "Do you believe that other people are responsible for what you do?"

I gave him this as homework to think about... What you do is not a function of people or situations around you; what you do is a function of your choice. You may be like a gun, with triggers that can set you off, but the twist is that you are a human being - not an inanimate object. You cannot be manipulated into firing, unless you allow yourself to be. You ultimately make the choice to be aggressive, to be threatening, or to be intimidating, just as much as you make the choice to be nice, passive, or to "kiss butt". Very often people make these choices unconsciously or automatically - they do not realize that they are in control. A large part of the Anger Solutions program is to wake people up to the realization that they are in control of what they think, do, or say - even when their hot buttons are being pushed.

So the next time someone or something pushes your buttons - remember, you are a gun with a twist. You can make a choice about how you respond based on the following factors:
  • what is really happening
  • what it means to you now and what it will mean in the future
  • what kind of outcome you would like to see come from this event (e.g. do you want to go to jail for assault or would you like to resolve the situation assertively?)
  • how important is the person (or the people) involved in this situation, and how would your like your relationship to progress from this point? Your choice of behaviour will determine where it goes from here.

Remember this the next time you decide to fire at will. Guns kill people. People kill people too. You are both a gun AND a person with the power of choice. Choose wisely.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Why Do Bullies Get Ahead?

I just read an intersting article in the Epoch Times ( that stated that in a recent survey it was found that over 90% of workplace bullies were promoted or in some other way rewarded despite their inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. Indeed, throughout my 15 year career in human services, I found that workplace bullies often got their way and were promoted to leadership/management positions. Toxic bosses often run rampant through their workplaces like bulls in a china shop - with no regard for the health and welfare of their staff or the clientele they serve. I have been yelled at in front of my team mates, berated in front of clients, called names, and have even been accused of being the sole cause for the organization's complete failure. Just recently a friend told me that her boss sat the team down and told them that if they ever reported her to HR for any reason, she would have something bad done to them - then she singled out one particularly attractive female on the team and told her that if she ever reported the boss to HR, she would have her raped! Let's see how many laws were broken in this last example:
  • harassment (against labour law)
  • uttering a threat (see criminal code, folks!)

Never mind the fact that she is openly intimidating the members of her team, and closing off their only option for recourse (reporting her to HR), which by the way, is typical of bullies.

How is it that these kinds of people are allowed to remain in leadership positions? The answer (unfortunately) is quite simple. We let them! Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can hurt your feelings unless you give them permission." Although I used this quote for many years in my seminars, I never really learned the power of the statement until I found myself at the mercy of a REALLY toxic bully supervisor. She had me fearing for my job and unable to get up in the morning because of the negative anticipation of what the day might hold. She was mean, shrill, and downright evil. Then one day I woke up and did what I tell my clients to do. I evaluated the situation and asked myself the question: "What's the worst thing that can happen if she fires me?" - The answer wasn't so bad... first, I wouldn't have to go to work to put up with her anymore. That was a huge bonus. Second, I have lots of skills - I could find another job, or just work in my business more and build that up. Either way, I would win by not working there anymore.

Once I faced my demons, I decided that I wasn't going to give her permission to poop on me anymore. Sure enough, that day, she called me into her office for another slap down session, and I looked her in the eye, and asked her if she planned to fire me, because if so, I wanted to get my resume ready. The response was amazing. Her jaw dropped, and for the first time, she was speechless. She stumbled over her words until she finally said, "Well, there's nothing in it for me if I fire you." Then I was able to lay out my expectations - I told her that the constant monitoring was counterproductive, and that I needed to get to work if she expected me to "improve". In other words, I called the slap down sessions to a halt. From that point onward, she treated me differently - because I took away the permission to treat me badly!

Since that time, I have advanced, and regressed in my ability to stand up for myself; just as we all do. Depending on the situation and the stake we have invested in any particular thing (job, relationship, purchase - whatever), it seems to be human nature to back away from conflict for fear of losing... However, we lose much more when we sacrifice our self esteem and our emotional and mental stability to the whims of a workplace bully.

So here are some ways to counter bullying at work.

  1. The next time your boss, supervisor or co-worker yells at you, act surprised and genuinely disappointed in their immature behaviour, shake your head, and say NOTHING. It takes two to escalate an argument, and if you don't engage, they will just be on a wild rampage to nowhere.
  2. If your typical response has been to say nothing - that in itself could be interpreted as permission. So in this case, speak up. Don't yell or raise your voice to the other party's level, just be firm. You can state your limits, "Don't talk to me like that..." or set boundaries, "Let's talk about this later - you clearly are not in a position where we can discuss this rationally right now." Chances are you will not have the opportunity to get that whole sentence out, but you have stated your expectations, and if the behaviour continues, you can feel free in walking away.
  3. Despite the threats of retaliation - REPORT to HR! If you have no HR department, then call the labour board, or better yet, call the police. If someone threatens to have you raped, you should acknowledge that threat, your response might be something like, "That sounds like a threat, and if you're serious, I'll have to notify the police." The bully will likely retract the threat, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't call the cops. If something ever happens to you, better to have the report on file than not.

Whining and asking, "why do you always treat me this way?" only feeds the bully's fire. This is what the bully wants - to see that his/her intimidation tactics are working. When you call the bully on his/her behaviour, s/he has to answer for it. Most workplaces have anti-harassment or anti-bullying policies. Under definition of Canadian law, most of the behaviours I have described in this blog constitute workplace violence, and cannot be allowed to go unchecked. I for one am tired of coming up against people who think the only way they can get what they want out of their staff is to berate, belittle, and bully them. You don't need a union or even the support of your team behind you to have a backbone. All you have to do is say, "I won't allow you to treat me this way." Think about it... What's the worst that could happen?

Something to think about!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Practice What You Preach

I get really annoyed with people who talk a good talk and don't walk the walk. It has always bothered me when I see people with that old "monkey see - monkey do" attitude. When someone talks about being a good leader and then behaves in a way that is contrary to one's stated opinons or philosophy - it leaves everyone with a bad taste in their mouths. When an authority on any subject says, "this is how it should be..." they better live it. Otherwise, people will be thinking, "What a hypocrite!"

Do you want to be labelled a hypocrite, or do you want to be consistent in your philosophies, beliefs, and actions? I know I do. That doesn't mean I am successful. Sometimes despite my best efforts, I turn into the monster I seek to destroy; that is an inevitability of being human. Having said that, I find that life is much easier when you just live out your beliefs. Now, if you have read my previous blog entries, you may be thinking "huh?" - especially after the one about my email rant to a colleague... the fact is that I know I'm not perfect, but I do my best to learn from my mistakes so I don't keep making the same ones over and over again.

So as you go through your daily activities, think about what your personal philosophies are and how they apply to everything you do. Don't make excuses from your mess-ups - trying to cover up a mistake rather than admitting to it just lessens your credibility. Rather, work towards learning from what toook place and think about how you can revise your actions, reactions, and responses so that they can be more congruent with your self-avowed beliefs. You'll find the following:
  1. People will respect you more, and feel angry or frustrated with you less.
  2. You will feel negative emotions because your life is conguent with hw you say you choose to live.

Lastly, become a student of human behaviour. You can learn a lot about yourself by simply paying attention to how people react to you and how they interact with you. Comments? I welcome your thoughts. Please keep it clean - no profanity allowed. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Soft Answers Turn Away Wrath: Soft Responses Get You Nowhere

I promised in my last entry to talk a bit about the biblically based concept: "A soft answer turns away wrath." - This quote, found in the book of Proverbs - though simple, is quite profound. Let's dissect it from back to front. Wrath is not just "upset" or "angry" - this is SEVERE, intense anger. The kind that makes you see double, or makes you completely crazy. Turning away means re-directing. So you are in error if you think that by giving a soft answer you can completely diffuse an out of control situation. What you do by giving a soft answer is you RE-DIRECT the intensity of the anger or emotion towards a new purpose or outcome.

Think about it. When you are experiencing intense anger, are you thinking about how you can resolve the situation in a way that is best for all concerned? I think not! You're thinking about how many ways you could kill someone and hide the bodies. You're replaying every episode of CSI to make sure you don't get caught by leaving behind any evidence. In the heat of the moment, the last thing you want to do is show love. What a soft answer does, is it demonstrates the speaker's willingness to resolve the issue rather than escalate the issue. In this way, it re-directs the attention of the angry person away from his/her feelings, back to the situation at hand; thereby facilitating the process of resolution.

What exactly is a "soft answer"? I'll tell you first what it is not. It is not a flimsy response. It is not the transference of blame, either to someone else. You've heard these before: "I'm so sorry, it wasn't me, it was Julie..." What you're really saying there is - "Be angry with her! Go fight with her!" It is not giving in to the angry person just so s/he will leave you alone. When you do this you teach him/her that you can be bullied into doing what s/he wants. It is not "sucking up" or reacting weakly. Giving a soft answer in no way implies that you are a pushover.

Rather, having the ability to give a soft answer is a demonstration of your level-headedness, and your assertiveness. Giving a soft answer is: Thinking about what is happening, what is being said or done, and pre-determining a course of action and a response based on the best desired outcome for the situation. It is then stating one's thoughts, feelings, opinions, demands or ideas in a way that is honest, open, and direct, and is not deliberately offensive or hurtful to others. It means sticking to the issue rather than taking the bait of escalating emotional intensity.

Often people ask me, "Does this mean I have to pretend like I'm not mad? Cause that's hard!" Sure it is. Let me remind you, there is nothing wrong with feeling angry. Where we go wrong is what we choose to do about it. Remember the TSA model. Think, Say, and Ask. There is nothing wrong with saying, "I'm feeling incredibly angry too - in fact, I'm so upset right now, that I may say something I'll regret..." There is nothing wrong with letting your face show your emotions, as long as somewhere in there, the other party can see that your goal is to resolve, not escalate the issue. Be aware of your body language and what it is communicating. Because in the end, no matter how "soft" your answer is, if your body language is HARD, you're headed for a fight.

So here it is. Giving a soft answer doesn't make you a softie. Remember this the next time you're faced with intense, severe anger. Give it a shot! Then drop me a line at, to let me know how it worked out. BTW, you can see my new video about my program Getting Past Your Past at Yahoo Video and on You Tube. I'll post it here with my next message.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Physician Heal Thyself? My Big OOPS

Last week, I received a special offer by email for a copy of a free e-book showing me how to get booked on radio programs. The e-book came with a free DVD and all I had to pay was shipping for the DVD. So, I bit the hook, and purchased the shipping (but it was the wrong selection - I should have chosen shipping for outside the US). Now I have to qualify this story by explaining that I belong to a lot of e-lists because I have an insatiable thirst for information and knowledge. Several of these lists that I subscribe to have proven to be nothing more than a constant push for me to buy more informational products that are ALL guaranteed to make me rich, famous, an internet millionaire, etc. So I have learned to be skeptical and a little bit critical of much of what I receive. Okay - back to my story. So this fellow that I got the e-book from has never inundated me with emails, and I think - offers quality products. Bearing that in mind, when I received another email from him on Tuesday this week stating that my DVD would not be shipped because I didn't pay the right amount for shipping, I think I lost my sanity and threw away all rational thought for a moment or two, and sent a retaliatory email. Just to be completely transparent, here is a bit of what I wrote back to this guy:

"Sorry Alex - that sounds a bit like a scam to me - I did not see an option for any other method of shipping for the DVD - Perhaps clearer communication about the shipping payment options for US to Canada would have avoided this unfortunate situation. I suppose your next email will say something like: if I want the DVD, it will cost me so much plus the new shipping costs."

OUCH! What was I thinking? Let's deconstruct this note... "sounds like a scam" - UNFAIR JUDGEMENT. "I didn't see an option for any other method..." - That is true - I didn't see one, but it apparently was there, so My Bad, not his. "Perhaps clearer communication..." - That is also a good suggestion; however, what is the likelihood that he will implement my suggestion in light of my accusations of him being a scam artist? "I suppose your next e-mail will say something like...." That is the worst of all - Talk about your "inside voice" taking over and wreaking havoc on the world!

Fortunately for both of us, my self-righteous indignation didn't last long, as he was assertive and upfront enough to send me a reply. Here is what he said...

"You don't sound sorry at all. You sound cynical. Directly below the shipping info box in my shopping cart (for all items) is the following notice:
"Please note: If you need your order IN A HURRY, please choose FEDEX shipping ... US Mail can be slow and unreliable .... If you are outside the US, you must select Global Priority
shipping" You missed it. That's all. Why the need to get nasty with me? Comments like: "sounds a bit like a scam to me" and "I suppose your next email will say something like: if I want the DVD, it will cost me so much plus the new shipping costs" are entirely unnecessary.
I would be happy to remove you from my list if this is how you really feel about me."

Congratulations to him for staying assertive and not sinking to my level of cynicism. Without his writing back, two things would have happened: I would have continued to think I was right and justified in tearing a strip off him, and his reputation would have been eternally damaged in my eyes. In short, I would have learned nothing, and gained nothing, and he would have lost a customer. Instead, I wrote back an apology and he wrote back an acceptance of said apology. Now we can move on, and I can stop feeling like a jerk in a few more days.

While it is truly embarrassing to admit that I had such a lapse of judgement resulting in such bad behaviour, I felt the need to be transparent about this... because this blog states that nothing is sacred in the discussion of anger - not even the Anger Lady's mistakes.

1. Never judge people's actions if you don't know all the facts. Even then, preserve judgement - the one who asks the most questions wins.
2. If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all. There is no need to do or say anything that is damaging to someone else's sense of self.
3. Read the fine print! Never assume - you know what they say, it makes an ___ out of U and Me. You fill in the blanks.
4. A soft answer turns away wrath. My colleague was assertive, but gentle in his response to my tirade - and in effect, he turned my anger away. We can learn a lot from that response, but I'll save that for another entry.
5. Assertiveness works. Ask questions. Say what you think, feel, want, and need WITHOUT intentionally trying to hurt the other party. Works a lot better than accusations and a snotty attitude. Yes, I just said "snotty"...
6. Even "experts" in human behaviour have lapses in judgement. We have bad days, and we make mistakes. We are not perfect, and thanks to those who remind us that we need to practice what we preach.

Until next time...

Julie Christiansen

Friday, May 11, 2007

Awards Ceremonies - Good or Bad Stress?

Last night I had the honour of taking my daughter with me to the Niagara YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Gala Banquet to find out if I was a winner in my category of Education, Training & Development. I could really relate to all those people who say, "It's really just an honour to be nominated!" - While that's true, let's face it! When it comes time for them to announce the winner, you really want it to be you! I'll tell you what, I thought my heart was going to leap right out of my throat, it was beating so hard. When they finally announced the winner for my category, Tracy Sacco, Collegiate High School Principal, I was actually a little relieved. While it would have been the icing on the cake for me to have walked away with the beautiful bronze statuette, I think at that point my blood pressure was so high, I might have fainted before I got to the stage to accept it.

That for me, was a classic example of what happens when the body becomes overwhelmed with a stress response. My body went into a high impact state of fight or flight - even though I wasn't being threatened by anything. The simple feelings of emotional expectancy and anxiety combined to make a potentially lethal cocktail in terms of my body's physiology. With heightened awareness, my heart beating exceptionally hard and fast, my blood pressure up, and my body producing inordinate amounts of sugar and cholesterol, in that moment, even though it was a "pleasurable state of fear", my body was being put at risk for a plethora of diseases from cardiovascular disease to diabetes.

Fortunately, that state of intense stress only lasted for about 5 minutes. Once my category was announced, I quickly went back to my baseline and enjoyed the rest of the evening. But think about this - what if I or you - walked around in that intense state of stress ALL the TIME? How long do you think it would be before you had a heart attack or stroke, or ended up with some other kind of illness like irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, hypoglycemia, diabetes, or stomach ulcers? I don't know about you, but I think finding ways to manage stress effectively is well worth the effort. It could possibly save your life; it will most definitely extend it.

So what? - some of you are asking. What does this have to do with anger? Guess what folks: the anger response is almost identical to the stress response at the physiological level. Everytime you get angry, you will go into a state of fight or flight. The longer you stay angry, the longer you put yourself at risk for developing disease in your body. That's definitely something to think about.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Changes: Good and Bad

I haven't written for several weeks and with good reason. In December of last year, my mother came to be with our family for an extended visit (from Jamaica). She has been suffering from some improperly diagnosed health problems for close to 18 years, and we felt it was time that she came back to Canada to get proper medical attention. Part of that process for an expatriate citizen is that one must live in the country for a certain number of months before one's OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) coverage can be reinstated. For us that meant three months. Sadly, on the 19th of February, just a few days shy of her three month point, she passed away in her sleep. The coroner said he could find no discernable cause of death - she just decided she had enough, and went to sleep and didn't wake up. As you can imagine, it was an incredibly traumatic experience, even though she went peacefully and without any suffering that we could tell - it leaves us with a bevy of unanswered questions, the number one question being, "Why? - Why Now?"

That being said, we have come together as an extended family, and we are doing our best to cope with our loss. One of the things I firmly believe is that anger can often stem from grief. Indeed traditional thought in grief counselling state that there are 10 stages of grief, and one of them is anger. What I have learned through this experience is that the anger comes in waves. It doesn't come all in one tidy package that once we're over, we can just move on. I have good days and bad days. On my bad days, it is all I can do to pull myself out of bed. When I have to take care of the business aspects of losing my mom - like insurance, banking, all that kind of thing, sometimes things don't flow smoothly. On bad days I feel like screaming at them, "My mother is dead - surely you can make this easier for me!" But in my heart, I know that it's not their fault, and it wouldn't be fair to take out my hurt and pain on them. Still - the feelings are there and they are very real.

There are other times, when the anger is directed completely inward. I remember the day she died, that I had to call my father to let him know. That was likely the hardest thing I have ever had to do. You've got to realize that he only spoke to her the week before, and she was joking with him about being on a diet and how he wouldn't recognize her when she came home... The degree of self-loathing I experienced after speaking to him was so intense I could hardly understand it. I realized after a few days of avoiding the phone, that I was afraid that he would blame me for her passing, and I was terrified of facing him. It took my breaking down and confiding my feelings to a good friend that helped me to get past that, so that he and I could talk to each other again. And she was right - he held nothing against me, and despite his own pain, has been very supportive. There are still times, even now, that I feel so angry at myself - for the things I said to her, for the things I didn't say - for the times when I tried to get her to be someone other than she was, failing to realize just how magnificent she was already... But that self-inflicted pain doesn't honour her memory, or help me to heal. It just makes me want to stay in bed and feel sorry for myself. If there is one thing about my mom, she would be throwing a bucket of ice water on me and telling me to stop being a baby, and to get on with my life!

One of the things I have come to realize at a deeper level this year is this - Just Because You Heard It, Doesn't Mean You KNOW It. There are things that we have heard and understood about grieving and how a profound loss affects someone's life - but until you've experienced it, you can't really KNOW what it's like. For me, this has been one of the most painful learning experiences I have ever had. But I intend to learn from it. Otherwise, it would all have been for nothing. Although I still sometimes ask "Why?" I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. If that is true, then I have to trust that there is a reason that my mom left us on February 19th, and that everything will become clear in its own good time.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Part Two: Lessons from a Champion

I promised a note about what I learned frm a former client who recently completed an extreme hike. This is a woman who is incredibly fit and competes in Iron Man competitions, but had a lot of personal struggle and anger issues she needed to work through. After completing her extreme hike, she emailed me with some insights on what she learned in the process of pushing her body to the limits over a 12 hour period.

Here's what she sent me...
  • everyone has highs and lows, emotional and physical. That goes for whether it is an extreme thing or just ordinary life.
  • a group of people are stronger than the one singular and they can accomplish so much more together-working together towards a common goal provides a lifelong bond that can never be broken and is never forgotten
  • a foundation of respect for teammates comes from witnessing conviction and effort contributed
  • self respect, confidence and pride comes from completion of a goal-internal strength to tackle other obstactles in life comes from overcoming an momumental task seemingly unattainable
  • trust and faith in others and hope in the world comes from knowing other good people exist

How's that for making giant leaps?

Are you ready to make your own giant leap? Visit my website at and click on the link for Coaching.


Julie Christiansen

Anger Solutions(TM) Creates Lasting Change!

If there's one thing we can count on... things are going to change!
I met with an old client of mine for coffee and a 2 year follow up the other day. It was, I have to say, one of the best things that has happened this year. We began the Anger Solutions(TM) Coaching program 2 years ago, and I recall him making strides in both his awareness, and his choices.

When we started, he was unemployed, estranged from his wife, on probation, and just getting out of detox for his alcohol and drug use. By the end of our 15 week coaching program, he had secured full time work, was re-establishing connections with his wife, working towards marital reconciliation, and staying clean and out of trouble.

Two years later, his long-term outcomes are astounding! Having fully reconciled with his wife and enjoying another addition to his young family, he is settled and gainfully employed. Of all the things he told me, I find this the most amazing. He said, "Since I was 12 years old, this is the first and longest time in my life that I have not been either in jail, on bail, or on parole." He went on to say that he is convinced that had he not completed the Anger Solutions(TM) program, he would not be experiencing the success and the peace he currently enjoys in his life today.

There is no greater testament to the power of the Anger Solutions(TM) than that! I count it an infinite blessing to be able to share this program with people who need it. Stories like the one above just go to show, that if you have the will and the way - you can produce drastic, lasting change in your life!

Want to find out how you can make the same kind of drastic, lasting, positive change in less than sixteen weeks? Contact me through this blog or visit my website, and click on the link for Coaching.

Thought for today: "Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars." Frederick Langbridge