Mentally ill People Aren’t Killers, Angry People Are

This heading appeared in The Star, followed by the sub-heading: Violent crimes are committed by people who lack skills to modulate anger, express it constructively and move beyond it. (Laura L Hayes, US psychologist)  The article is topical with regard to the case currently under trial of Oscar Pistorious who many people believe shot his girlfriend in a fit of uncontrollable anger, whereas he claims that he mistook her for an intruder. He is under observation for extreme anxiety disorder, a mental and emotional dysfunction.

The writer puts forward mindfulness as a way through uncontrollable anger. “Mindfulness training is a technique that shows great promise as a tool for the development of healthy and constructive management of negative emotions. Mindfulness can reduce anxiety, depression and stress. It has been used with success in populations as diverse as cardiac patients, prison inmates, police officers and children. One can observe one’s own thoughts without identifying with them and acting on them.”

With practice it becomes easier to watch thoughts in the mind. They present themselves constantly like an ongoing cinema show. The trick is to stand back and watch them, simply to let them come and go rather than trying to stop them or interfere with them. When you catch yourself feeling outraged by something someone has said, have a look to see whether your reaction is the result of identifying with thoughts in your head – your opinion. Try telling a committed socialist that capitalism has proved its worth all over the world and is the only sane way to go!

A useful exercise is to stand in a group of people voicing their opinions and deliberately say nothing. Just watch and listen. You’ll soon become aware of the identification – theirs and yours! Don’t feel obliged to say or do something about your revelation – just keep listening.

When the attention is focused in the present, the mind becomes less troublesome and will often present only thoughts relevant to the current task – leaving you free to respond rather than react. Although this practice of becoming aware of the thoughts is simple, it is not easy. We have spent years dwelling on thoughts about the past and future, and the habit doesn’t disappear overnight. So be kind and gentle with yourself. It may take time, but it’s not impossible!

(Chapt 3 Creating Distance : Living in the Now: less stress, more happiness by Jill Jacques – available on Amazon kindle.)

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About Jill M Jacques

I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and have spent most of my life here doing the usual things - marrying, having children and caring for an array of pets ranging from dogs to silkworms and chameleons. I first became interested in philosphy and its practical application in everyday life in my early 20s and spent many years as part of a group that pursued this goal. Drawing on this experience, I have been running "How to live in the Now" programmes for over 10 years. I wrote this book in response to requests from group members for something "simple and practical". I tend to see the funny side of life situations and enjoy writing humorous back pages as well as short stories and some poetry. Some of these have been published. Being here now is what really matters.
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