Pros: Stress management techniques; handy exercises; assertiveness techniques; broad applicability
Cons: Some tonal aspects; a few assertions; errors; scale of some exercise benchmarks
Rating: 4 out of 5
First posted 2/18/2005
Review book courtesy of Adams Media.
Less than a month ago I reviewed Dr. Martin Seligman’s book “Authentic Happiness.” I almost wish I’d read that and Dr. Carol Jones’ book, “Overcoming Anger,” in reverse order. I think it might be more useful to explore stress, anger, and the negative emotions and then move on to ways to increase happiness. They’re still both valuable books to read, however, in whatever order.
“Overcoming Anger: How to Identify It, Stop It, and Live a Healthier Life” is the full title of this book, and it actually makes it sound narrower and perhaps less helpful than it is. It’s more widely applicable than it sounds, and covers stress management, assertiveness, relaxation techniques, burnout, communication techniques, and so on. It has a very thorough discussion of ways to effectively communicate with others, and some interesting background on anger, personal responsibility issues, violence, and conflict.
If you have troubles in any of these areas, whether at work, at home, or in your social life, you might find this book helpful. It discusses nature vs. nurture arguments and causative events to help give you a handle on your feelings and where they come from. Then it goes into plenty of practical techniques to help you take stock of and control those feelings and their expression.
Dr. Jones includes plenty of exercises. I do like it when books do this; I think it helps to make concepts more visceral and immediate for people who have a harder time grasping the abstract theories. Some of the exercises are as simple as going through lists of events that might have taken place when you were a child or statements that might apply to your childhood and checking off “yes” or “no” as to whether or not they apply to you. Others help you to evaluate the levels of stressors in your life, your susceptibility to stress, your style of anger management, or how well you cope with stress. Still others help to teach you to think about old problems in new ways, and provide you with a way of practicing some of your new techniques on paper before trying to put them into real use.
A few negatives
Sometimes it feels like the author is trying a little too hard to sound young and “cool” to appeal to younger readers. On the other hand, at least she doesn’t sound boring and academic, so this might be the lesser of two evils. Sometimes she also throws out a statement about one thing or another with nothing to back it up, and in a couple of cases this caught me short thinking, “why is she making that assertion? I’d like a little more information here.”
Dr. Jones also refers a handful of times to the negative impact of violence in movies, video games, and so on. Having known quite a few wonderful and caring people who watch violent movies and play violent games with seemingly no negative effect, I’d really have preferred, once again, to have a little context for her assertions, even something as simple as a reference to a few studies.
There are a few errors here and there, such as an exercise in which the verbal instructions say to rate items from 1 to 5, but the table of correspondences lists 0 to 4. Since you’re supposed to total up your score and compare it to a benchmark this actually does affect the outcome of the exercise. Along those lines, I’m not sure I agree with the benchmarks on some of the exercises. For instance, there’s an exercise for measuring your stress level due to various stressors. We’re told that if our total score is over 100, we’ll “benefit from learning some of the stress management techniques.” To reach a score of 100, though, you’d have to accumulate stressors equivalent to 10 spouses dying (you get 10 points if your spouse dies). Call me oversensitive, but I think most people would be in need of stress management techniques long before reaching 100!
All in all I think this is a very worthwhile book for anyone who suffers from stress, frustration, or anger and conflict management issues. It isn’t perfect, but it’s well-reasoned and helpful and provides a great many insights and coping strategies.