People are always asking, “What makes Anger Solutions so much more effective than traditional anger management?” This is no simple question – as there are many facets of Anger Solutions that come together to make it an exceptional program. Today I want to share with you one of our great leveraging tools that help to contribute to our continued success. This leveraging tool is called, “The Pain/Pleasure Principle”. It simply states that: Human beings will do more to avoid pain than they will to obtain pleasure.

Think about that for a minute: Human beings will do more to avoid pain than they will to obtain pleasure. Ain’t that the truth! Women will endure a great deal of abuse before they opt to leave a relationship. Employees will often put up with harrassment, put-downs, poor leadership, and all sorts of workplace challenges before they decide to leave a job. People will put up with all sorts of misbehaviour from loud, rowdy neighbours before they decide to call the police, start community action, or move to a quieter street. We have known this for years… that we must be highly frustrated or dissatisfied with a situation before we will attempt to make a change. Why is this? Perhaps because there is safety in what we know. You’ve heard that old statement: “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t…” There is also a certain fear that is associated with changing – perhaps we will make the mistake of going from the frying pan into the fire.

This is also true when it comes to making behavioural change. It is so easy to do what we’ve always done – especially when there is some benefit in our current choice of action. Even if your present anger style is causing you pain, if you get the least amount of payoff from it, you will likely continue to use your old style because it is less painful than the perceived pain of trying to create change. We do this all the time – choose what we perceive to be the “lesser pain” rather than opting for what will bring us the “greater pleasure” in the long run.

Here’s an example: Jon Smith is angry at his wife. He doesn’t know how to talk to her without hurting her feelings, so he hides his anger by going out to the bars after work. This is causing him pain as well – because he is in effect alienating his wife and creating more distance between them. However, the perceived pain of confrontation is too much for him to handle so he avoids it by choosing the “lesser pain” of retreating to the bars. Jon’s problem is that he has not considered the “greater pleasure” of what might happen if he sits down with his wife and has that difficult conversation. He is too afraid of the immediate discomfort and cannot see past that to how his relationship with his wife might be better if they just talk it out.

Anger Solutions challenges this way of thinking and encourages people to address the pain/pleasure principle on a conscious level. This proves to be an incredible leveraging tool – try it for yourself!

How would you apply the principle of pleasure and pain to the following situations?

1. Quitting smoking
2. Foolish binge spending
3. Losing you temper at work

Here’s a Hint: List the perceived benefits of each behaviour (or the “lesser pain”) and remember what William Glasser says: “People do what makes sense to them…” If there is even a little benefit in the behaviour although it is painful, people will continue to do it.

List the downside – what is truly painful about this behaviour (the “greater pain”)?

Identify why it doesn’t make sense.

The key here is to emphasize the painful aspects or consequences of the behaviour… Ask yourself: If by changing your behaviour, you could achieve the same or better feeling of pleasure without experiencing so much pain, would you change? If you would like to learn more about Anger Solutions, please visit our website,

Julie Christiansen