More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder

Bipolar Anger & Learning True Self-Control

by Debbie Jacobs,
Feb 3, 2021

Life is often defined by specific moments. For me, those include moments of bipolar rage. And moments of personal breakthroughs—in managing myself, my mood, and my symptoms.​


Bipolar Rage and the Need to “Win” an Argument​

Have you ever had a moment when your buttons were pushed so badly that your bipolar rage drove you to do something so absolutely irrational, over-the-top, and, yes, “crazy” because you were so triggered, steaming mad, and wanting to win?

I have had “that moment.”

At almost 40 years old, I was still fighting with my own sibling—can you believe it? This did become, for me, an “awakening” moment. It helped me to see the error of my ways, even though I didn’t feel I was wrong or that I was not justified in my feelings and actions.

This “that moment” got me to see that this was not who I was or how I wanted to be. Finally, I saw how my anger wasn’t serving me, how it was causing suffering in me and to me, and then driving me to act in ways that were not me—all for a “win.”

I did know better, but I was not showing it, and this actually helped me to stop myself. I was pushed to my own limit and breaking point. But it also allowed me a breakthrough that opened my eyes and pushed me to change these behaviors that weren’t serving me.

(And, really, that doesn’t mean I “lost” at all. That breakthrough and those changes would benefit me. THAT was my win).

Changing My Behaviors with Therapy, Psychiatry, and Life Coaching​

I was already working with my long-term psychiatrist and in a DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) class when I stumbled upon a life coach. What she said really resonated with me, so I started working with her, too. She was into personal development and really gave me a new perspective of myself. She helped me to change my point of view and focus on my own actions.

I remember, one day, I was telling her about another fight I had with a sibling, and she didn’t take my side, validate me, or blame my sibling.

She said to me, “Don’t you ever stop?”

I heard her words—felt them in my soul—and I finally got it. This was another defining “that moment.”

A Key Lesson in Bipolar Mood Management​

What has helped me live with bipolar since then is learning how to stop myself. This was my path to cultivating better self-control; ultimately, this also helped me to build my confidence, accept myself, and experience comfort within. And to accomplish more peace by stopping the fire of anger inside.

It was not easy, but with the help of my life coach and DBT skills, my focus became about self-control. Not the kind of self-control that is sometimes used for dieting, studying, or spending money. Self-control over my emotional reactions—the hard stuff:
  • Self-control when triggered.
  • Self-control to bite my tongue.
  • Self-control to keep myself from getting angry, reactionary, and explosive.
This focus on self-control wasn’t restrictive but positive:
  • Self-control to not “beat myself up” by putting myself down or feeling bad about myself.
I started to gain control over the opposite—watching what I said, maintaining control over myself and my anger, and controlling comforting myself, building myself up, and feeling good about who I am: self-love.
This worked for me. Because I had the help, took the time, and made the commitment to focus—above everything else—on my own self-control.

We are human, but we do have a tendency to (over-)react when triggered, and this was where I aimed for personal change. For self-control and my personal power. For improvement. Because self-improvement is life improvement.

My “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” Approach to Self-Improvement​

It’s true—at least as far as I have found—that nothing worth doing comes easily. And there is no linear path to success or happiness. I like to think of it as a “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” approach: Trial and error until you, find for yourself, your own “just right.”

Other indications of success include the effort you are willing to make, the commitment you can have, and the perseverance you call on to see yourself through to accomplishing your goals.

When things don’t come easily to us, we are sooner to bail, fail, and give up on ourselves.

I think we have gotten used to quick fixes, instant gratification, and “snapping into” something. In my opinion, we’re trying to dodge good old-fashioned elbow grease and hard work. But trying to take a shortcut with self-improvement and self-control only leads us to failure.

It takes commitment, determination, and perseverance to help us to stick to our guns and not to abandon our goals. Sometimes, it is as easy as accepting a challenge or a “double-dog dare” to prove to ourselves we can do it.
What I proved to myself, in a similar fashion set by this life coach, was that I could cultivate ways for better self-control. It’s not impossible. It is possible and totally doable.

Making This Your Year of Self-Control​

We are in the beginning of a new year, with a difficult one behind us. I think the turn of the year is a good opportunity to set some goals, make some commitments, and regain focus for the year ahead.

There is so much to gain if we can commit and stick with personal work that benefits ourselves—whether it’s dieting, getting our finances in order, or dedicating ourselves to self-improvement. We can do this. We do it the good old-fashioned way: sticking to a plan over the course of time and seeing it through to our personal success. To the accomplishment!

With a brand-new 2021, this can also be a new you of better self-control. It does take intention, effort, persistence, growth, and time, as I know.

Could this be your year for it? Well, I say, Why not?
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