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Review of "Getting over Getting Mad"

By Judy Ford
Conari Press, 2001
Review by Diane Goldberg on Feb 3rd 2002
Getting over Getting MadJudy 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 for advice.

© 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.