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Section 17
Domineering Resident Technique #2
Who's Responsible for What in Conflicts with Domineering Residents...
Anger Management Styles

Table of Contents

If you find yourself thinking, “Hester made me upset,” or “I upset Hester,” this section may be useful in describing why this way of thinking about conflict is not only ineffective but inaccurate.  When feeling negatively towards a domineering resident or finding them angry with you, you may be tempted to misplace responsibility for those feelings. 

It is tempting to view interactions with Domineering Residents, staff, and others in simple cause-and-effect terms like…
1. Cause:  “If I am angry, someone else caused me to feel angry!”
2. Blame:  Or, “If I am the target of a Domineering Resident's anger or a conflict, am I in some way to blame?"
3. No Right to:  Or “If I am convinced of my ‘innocence’ or lack of fault in an encounter—do I conclude that the other person (staff member, resident, etc.) has no right to feel angry with me?  After all, I am not to blame; they should not feel that way!"
4.  Responsibility:  Or "Do I often assume responsibility for causing other people's thoughts, feelings, and behavior?"  However, your relationships don’t work that way— or at least don't work very well.

You begin to use your anger or other negative emotions as a vehicle for change when you:  
1. Are able to share your reactions without holding the other person responsible for causing your feelings and
2. Stop blaming yourself for the reactions that other people have in response to your choices and actions.

You are responsible for your own behavior. But you are not responsible for other people’s or resident’s reactions; nor are they responsible for yours.  Many people often learn to reverse this order of things. You put your energy into taking responsibility for other’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior and hand over to others responsibility for your own. When this happens, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for the old rules of a relationship to change.

Why is the question “Who is responsible for what?” such a puzzle?  
In general, many, oftentimes females more than males, have been discouraged from
1. taking responsibility for solving their own problems,
2. determining their own choices, and
3. taking control of the quality and direction of their own lives.
If you are a female… kind of hard to hear isn't it?  But if these three statements don't fit the way you were raised… good for you!!  For those of you Activity Directors who feel there is a grain of truth in the preceding, read on.

As you learned to relinquish responsibility for yourself, you are probably prone to blame others for failing to fill up your emptiness or provide for your happiness—which is not their job.
1. At the same time, however, you may feel responsible for just about everything that goes on around you in the facility.
2. You may be quick to be blamed for other people’s (not just Domineering Resident's) problems and quick to accept the verdict of guilt.
3. You also, in the process, develop the belief that you can avert problems in the facility if only you try hard enough. Sound familiar?

Confusion about “Who is responsible for what?” is one source of nonproductive self-blaming and blaming of others.  Confusion about “Who is responsible for what?” becomes a roadblock to change.  So how do you clarify your confusion about “Who is responsible for what?”  Here are two ways.

1. Learn to take more responsibility for yourself and less for the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of others, including your Domineering Residents.  In other words, you canceled the second Bingo game and Millie became depressed.  You did not make her depressed.  It was her decision to react that way to the cancellation.  You did not implant the depression in Millie.  She chose to feel that way.  She could have shrugged it off and thought, “Tuesday Bingo is canceled, no big deal.  That will give me more time to watch the birds outside of my window.”  It was Millie’s interpretation of the events that caused her emotion pain.  You did not make her feel anything.  It was her choice.

Below, briefly explain a situation in which you took responsibility for another's feelings.  (Journal more if needed.)


2. Remember—assuming responsibility for yourself means not only clarifying your part in a situation but also means observing and changing your part in the patterns that keepyoustuck.  The idea of how to “assume responsibility for your own feelings” will be expanded upon in detail in Section Three of this Manual.

What do you suppose causes you to be stuck in a pattern of feeling others are responsible for your feelings, rather than seeing that your thoughts and perceptions of a situation are responsible for your feelings?  (Journal more if it feels right.)


Feel angry or negative about a Domineering Resident's scorn? 
There is no shortage of advice about what you can do with anger and negativity in the short run. Some experts will tell you to get it out of your system as quickly as possible, and others offer different advice. In the long run, however, it is not what you do or don’t do with your anger and negativity at a particular moment that counts. The important issue is whether, over time, you can use your anger or negative feelings as an incentive to achieve greater self-clarity and discover new ways to navigate old relationships. You have seen how getting angry gets you nowhere if you unwittingly perpetuate the old patterns from which your anger springs.

Nonetheless, you may initially feel discouraged when you try to move differently in your relationships, especially those with your Domineering Residents.  So start with self observation.  How do you manage your negative feelings?  What do you do?

Observe Yourself
Begin to observe your characteristic style of managing your negative feelings.
1. Do you turn anger into tears, hurt, and self-doubt?
2. Do you alternate between silent submission and nonproductive blaming?

We all have predictable patterned ways of managing anger and conflict, though they may vary in different relationships. 

What is your behavior regarding handling negative feelings in relationships with certain staff?  What do you do?

What is your behavior regarding handling negative feelings in relationships with certain residents? What do you do?

What is your behavior regarding handling negative feelings in relationships with certain volunteers?  What do you do?

(Do you need to spend time Journaling on your behavior in handling negative emotions?) 

Note:  The use of the word "negative" regarding feelings is a little bothersome to me.  There is a school of thought that states feelings are neither good nor bad.  They just are.  I think a better word for "negative" is "unpleasant."  The word "negative" sounds like a value judgment to me.  Like it is "not ok" to feel sad, angry, cry, feel hurt etc.  Thus, we kind of "guilt trip" ourselves into thinking "What is wrong with me?  I must be defective, inadequate, or bad for some reason for feeling sad, for example."  However, if you accept that feelings just are, and you would prefer having pleasant feelings rather than unpleasant feelings, that seems to be a more positive approach.  The reason why I chose to use the words "negative feelings" above is because it is a simple, recognizable phrase most can relate to.  However,  I felt I needed to expand it’s definition for you. 

1. Below briefly describe a conflict you recently experienced with a Domineering Resident in your facility.



2. To learn more about your handling of this conflict, use the checklist below.  Are you more of a blamer, pursuer, distancer, underfuctioner, or overfunctioner?  Check the ones below that apply to you in the conflict situation above as well as other conflict situations in the facility.

Blamers:  When you react as a Blamer, do you…
___respond to anxiety with emotional intensity and fight­ing.
___have a short fuse.
___expend high levels of energy trying to change someone who does not want to change.
___engage in repetitive cycles of fighting that relieve tension but perpetuate the old pattern.
___hold another person responsible for your own feelings and actions.
___see others as the sole obstacle to your making change.

Pursuers:  When you react as a Pursuer, do you…
     ___ react to anxiety by trying to seek greater togetherness in a relationship.
     ___ place a high value on talking things out and expressing feelings, and believe others should do the same.
     ___ feel rejected and take it personally when someone close to you wants more time and space alone or away from
                    the relationship.
     ___ tend to pursue harder and then coldly withdraw when an important person seeks distance.
     ___ negatively label yourself as “too dependent” or “too demanding” in a relationship.
     ___ tend to label others as someone as not being able to handle feelings or tolerate closeness.

Distancers:  When you react as a Distancer, do you…
___seek emotional distance or physical space when stress is high.
     ___consider yourself to be self-reliant and a private per­son—more “do-it-yourselfer” than help-seeker.
     ___have difficulty showing your needy, vulnerable, and dependent sides.
___receive such labels as “emotionally unavailable,” “withholding,” or “unable to deal with feelings” from significant others.
___manage anxiety in personal relationships by intensi­fying work-related projects.
___may cut off a relationship entirely when things get intense, rather than hanging in and working it out.
___open up most freely when you are not pushed or pursued.

Underfunctioners:  When you react as an Underfunctioner, do you…
___tend to have several areas where you just can’t get organized.
___become less competent under stress, thus inviting others to take over.
___tend to develop physical or emotional symptoms when stress is high in either the family or the work situation.
___may become the focus of family gossip, worry, or concern.
___earn such labels as the “patient,” the “fragile one,” the “sick one,” the “problem,” the “irresponsible one.”
___have difficulty showing your strong, competent side to others who are close to you.

Overfunctioners:  When you react as an Overfunctioner, do you…
___know what’s best not only for yourself but for others as well.
___move in quickly to advise, rescue, and take over when stress hits.
___have difficulty staying out of and allowing others to struggle with their own problems.
___avoid worrying about your own personal goals and problems by focusing on others.
___have difficulty sharing your own vulnerable, under-functioning side, especially with those people who are viewed as having problems.
___become labeled as the person who is “always reliable” or “always together.”

3. Circle below the main style or styles you used in handling the Domineering Resident conflict you wrote above.

Blamer      Pursuer     Distancer     Underfuctioner      Overfunctioner     

4. What did you learn about yourself by increasing your awareness of your conflict with a domineering resident?



5. What, if anything, do you feel you will do differently next time?  The next Section will provide more strategies for increasing your self awareness and changing your behavior.



Would it be beneficial for you to continue the above exercise in your Journal?

Forward to Section 18
Back to Section 16

Table of Contents