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Judy Ford has given us an easy to follow manual for dealing with
the interactional stressors that make many of us angry. It's especially
useful because of her self-disclosure in the very beginning of
the book. She tells the reader in the first few pages that she
came from a loving family flawed by the denial of anger. With
a grandma who frequently said, "Only dogs get mad."
Ford got the impression early on that anger should be immediately
repressed. Keep that in mind as you read the book, occasionally
Ford's directive approach to avoiding flare-ups borders on insistence
that emotions can be compartmentalized, controlled, and expressed
in the best way possible. It is as if no one ever need scream
an obscenity when scalded with hot water.
However, Getting Over Getting Mad is a useful tool for
people who experience shame, guilt, and anxiety over having normal
negative feelings. For the self-help virgin who hasn't heard before
that emotional reaction is a normal part of the human condition
this book is a great first step in self-understanding. Ford offers
user-friendly methods for dealing with the fall out from expressing
anger inappropriately or destructively. She also provides explanations
in lay language for what portion of a situation or interaction
is likely to light a fire. Sometimes her succinct suggestions
are things the reader can use immediately for example suggesting
the reader try during the course of the week to say yes and no
clearly. Other times her suggestions may irritate the reader or
seem almost patronizing, for example when she advises the reader
to apologize for bad behavior.
With short chapters and clear examples the reader can easily skim
through the book finding chapters relevant to his or her own situations.
The clear divisions into four parts each dealing with anger in
different circumstances: when you are alone, when you are with
a significant other, when you are around children and when you
are with colleagues makes it easy to use the book as opposed
to merely reading it.
Ford also demystifies several terms in the self-help lexicon by
using exact terms. Readers won't confuse self-assertion with aggression
because Ford clearly spells out what she means by referring to
"healthy self-assertion." She is very clear by what
"snapping at your sweetheart" means as opposed to "shouting"
or "yelling" the clarity of her language leads to the
reader developing insight into what is happening in his or her
own life and what to do about it.
When discussing anger with colleagues, she pulls from her experience
as a therapist and observer of others to remind the reader that
sometimes even basic things like attention to "good manners"
can make work situations run smoothly. She points out that externalizing
blame for situations in the work setting can hurt you --- that
constantly assuming others are at fault can be a block to personal
and professional growth. While this optimistic outlook may not
always be accurate it is empowering and far more useful than littering
an organizational chart with fault lines. Unfortunately, despite
discussing client situations Ford does not seem to have a real
grasp of jobs that can be almost abusive. She does not seem to
understand that many people work in settings where they cannot
cause change or are working for a paycheck, not a career path.
While this book is exceedingly useful for someone who lacks a
basic understanding of anger management, it is not a tool for
readers who are aware that their anger is potentially violent.
Ford's suggestions for working through couple problems might be
potentially dangerous if one or both partners are violent or abusive.
Likewise in the work setting anger can be destructive and impede
a career. It is certainly good advice to "take care of yourself"
and it is true that "work is about more than getting paid."
People in positions where "taking a lunch hour and getting
a manicure" is not an option are likely to be frustrated
by reading Ford's pointers on self-nurturing.
We all have to deal with difficult people. Sometimes diffusing
techniques can really help us communicate with tempers in check.
And, an after work massage or lunch hour walk can certainly soothe
a ravaged worker. However, readers with more serious stressors
in the workplace, or without the funds to buy treats and rewards
for themselves may well lose patience with Ford during the last
bit of the book.
In essence, normal people dealing with normal communication problems
that need to understand anger and communication will likely benefit
from Getting Over Getting Mad. The reader with an extensive
library of self-help books need not rush out to add this one unless
said reader is a therapist who uses books with beginning clients.
People who have enormous anger over traumatic events or people
working in an uncaring system will also need to look elsewhere
© 2002 Diane Goldberg
Diane Goldberg received
her MSSW from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and is an
LCSW in North Carolina. She is currently a consultant and free
lance writer with a particular interest in stress management,
crisis intervention, travel, and woman's issues.