Dementia and anger management #DAM2015 Day 17

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 8.21.46 amAs I’ve been committed to two blogs a day for Dementia Awareness Month 2015, I’ve been reviewing old writings to see if there was any value in revisiting go of the issues!

Some time ago I set up a blog called One Big Rant… where a few friends and I were going to have regular rants on topics that we felt strongly about.

We collectively wrote three!!! Not what one would call a raging success, but oh well, we tried…

The blog on manners that I wrote, and one on smoking a girlfriend wrote were interesting to read again, so I decided to share part of one that I wrote in 2012, that seems in line with the title of my soon to be released book, What the hell happened to my brain?!

Just for my girlfriend Karen, I will soon share the one she wrote on smoking here too (apologies in advance to my friends who still smoke!!)

Just to preface the blog I am about to post, it probably goes without saying, I am already a fairly direct person, and although dementia has actually softened my edges, or mellowed my directness (Yes, I know, what would it have been like a few years ago!!!!), I do fear the day when I may not be able to control my emotions or the anxiety attached to dementia, and become one of those people with dementia who is publicly and unreasonably angry, someone with one of those dreaded “challenging behaviours” I talk so much about. This, for me, is perhaps the greatest fear of dementia, as the thought of being a burden to my husband and sons, and of being mean or angry towards them is almost unthinkable.

It is quite likely, the blog below will not mean anything to me, and perhaps I won’t be able to consider the consequences of my actions or ‘behaviours’… this is truly, for me a terrifying thought. Perhaps, then, there will be no amount of anger management strategies that will work…

WHERE HAVE ALL THE MANNERS GONE? Posted on August 1, 2012

“What the hell happened to my ranting??? … Perhaps I can start the ball rolling again with a new topic, as the lack of common courtesy and basic manners in the new age, and especially the online world does drive me nuts. It seems it is okay to abuse people on-line, without the decency to talk to someone face to face. The London Olympics was an example of this, although it is interesting that most television stations and Olympians were asking us to tweet or send Facebook messages to everyone competing, but when someone sent something less than positive, there is outrage. They can’t have it both ways. People are generally willing to bad mouth a person behind their back, publicly slander them or their ideas, but usually not willing to own up to it. Most people don’t send thank you cards or messages for gifts. Drivers cut in front of you as if they own the road, no manners at all.

Rudeness – foul language, poor or no manners, personal attacks are definitely on the increase.

… And if you have any brilliant ideas for how to bring back a world where common decency and courtesy is almost automatic, then please let us all know.”

So not to forget about the negative impact on the people rudeness and anger is directed to, but having bad manners or showing public displays of anger impacts the way others treat you, view you and feel about you. It can incite anger in return, even hatred and does no-one any good, especially not the person or people who are openly angry. It makes us look unprofessional, unkind, and turns others away from us.

Anger management is about controlling impulses. It is also worthwhile as it is about what can be the difference between others respecting or not respecting us or our work If we want to be seen as a person not to be with, because our temper tantrums can’t be trusted, that’s ok, but I’m almost sure most of us don’t want that.

On the American Psychological Association website, under the heading Why Are Some People More Angry Than Others?it says:“According to Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in anger management, some people really are more “hotheaded” than others are; they get angry more easily and more intensely than the average person does. There are also those who don’t show their anger in loud spectacular ways but are chronically irritable and grumpy. Easily angered people don’t always curse and throw things; sometimes they withdraw socially, sulk, or get physically ill.

People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They can’t take things in stride, and they’re particularly infuriated if the situation seems somehow unjust: for example, being corrected for a minor mistake.

This past paragraph, I feel, is important, and worth thinking about. When I was a child, I was easily upset and often lost my temper, and I had to work really hard to learn to manage it. Behind closed doors, there was a lot of yelling and fighting, as well as long periods of ‘silence’ by one of my parents, and there was quite simply no form of healthy or rational role modelling on how to resolve conflict. As a child, in order to manage my temper outbursts, I went from fight – to flight – and for many years refused to face difficult things, deal with issues, or engage properly about the things that upset or angered me. I simply ‘resolved’ any conflict by walking away, useful at times, but not necessarily constructive or healthy.

Interestingly, since being diagnosed with dementia, or maybe since having such a public space here, I feel as if I have become better equipped to engage in debate and disagreements in a healthier way. I suspect it has something to do with the fact it takes me more time to think about what to say or how to respond.

But, will this new-found way of managing, continue as the dementia progresses?

Taking more time, as well as writing about the things that upset or anger me privately, helps me find the strategies to respond in a more considered and professional way, to be kinder (hopefully), rather than in such a reactive way. I hope it lasts… although the ‘dementia experts’ tell me it won’t!

For the sake of my BUB, I certainly hope it does…

Fight or flight as the only options for resolving conflict, are not especially helpful, for anyone.

How one reacts or responds to any given event or interaction, in 100% UP TO THEM. We cannot blame anyone else for our behaviour, not even if we are ‘right’ and they are ‘wrong’. Being right is always a rather speculative thing anyway. And being ‘right’, does not give anyone permission to be nasty to someone else. That is the type of excuse the perpetrators of domestic violence use, often saying the person they abused deserved it.

No-one deserves to be abused, privately or publicly, in any way.

As the recipient of online bullying earlier this year, the blog above written in 2012 reminded of the way it makes you feel when someone is abusing you. They may be really nice people most of the time, but public anger and any other form of bullying simply makes you want to get away from them.

My daily mantra (one of them) is to look in the mirror, honestly, to assess, if possible, if I am at fault, or could improve the way I do something, including my own behaviour.

No longer because I don’t like myself, but to be a better person, and as Tony Bennett says, hopefully, to be remembered as a “nice person”. My most important goals are to strive to be a nice person, and to be kind to everyone.

What will it be like, for me, and for others, when I can look in the mirror, but not be able to see what needs changing…

I imagine the usual strategies for dealing with anger, and the anger management methods will not work, and probably, won’t even be thought of, as it is hard to be rational if someone is behaving in an angry manner towards you.

I really hope my goal of being remembered as a nice person, and especially that my ability to be kind, remains intact…

8 thoughts on “Dementia and anger management #DAM2015 Day 17

  1. I so recognise the fight or flight reaction to difficult stuff — it took me until my forties before I was able to control my anger. Oddly, now I don’t get as angry as often as I used to but when I am angry I usually rant on paper for quite a few days before I am able to see what I can DO about a situation. And sadly, I often have to regularly return to ranting until I see progress. But people who meet me now apparently perceive me as “calm” which amuses me. Anyway enough about me. My sister has maintained her stoic, sweet nature despite the frustrations of dementia. Much of the research about “challenging” behaviour suggests that understanding what the person with dementia is experiencing (not being able to go into garden, wanting to go home etc) will make a huge difference to how their behaviour settles or is exacerbated. I’m sure your BUB knows you well enough to make sure you are understood, Kate. xx


  2. I reckon all of you will stay intact dear Kate- the luminous eyes, fabulous laugh and your quiet look as you take people in. You may get stroppier but I think we all need more of that😉
    Thank you for writing of your fears-it really does help the rest of us, hon. Hugs. xx


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