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john65pennington's avatar

How can something so simple, a rubberband, be so effective?

Asked by john65pennington (29197points) October 21st, 2010

Since I retired from my police department, I have had a problem with anger management with myself. My wife suggested I see a therapist. I did. My therapist tells me that while being an active police officer, that I had suppressed many different feelings, concerning the people I had to arrest and some of the terrible deaths i had witnessed in 44 years. That these feelings are just now surfacing, since I retired. My therapist has been a great help for me to understand why I do and say things, in an angry tone. At first, she suggested medication for me. Not being a pill-taker, I asked if there was another choice. She said, “yes’. She gave me a rubber band. “What do i do with this?”, I asked. She told me to place the rubber band on my wrist. The next time I felt anger approaching me, to reach for the rubber band and pull hard to let it sting my wrist. The object is to refocus my anger and channel it to somewhere else. I really had my doubts. For two weeks I have flipped this rubber band so many times, that I now need a replacement. Guess what? It works! Question: How can something, so simple as a rubber band, redirect a persons thinking and control their anger?

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13 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

Amazing, isn’t it? The simplest haha explanation is that your subconcious now recognizes that that kind of anger = pain, and so works to eliminate the source of the pain.

robmandu's avatar

I don’t think it redirects your anger directly.

It’s negative reinforcement is all.

You have a behavior you want to alter. When the behavior is presented, pain is introduced which trains you over time to avoid the behavior.

Congratulations, you’ve joined the ranks of Pavlov’s Dogs. :-P

Seriously though, the rubber band is simple. It’s effective. And it can be useful for correcting many bad habitual activities.

On another note, I’m kind of surprised your therapist recommends it. You’ve simply introduced another avoidance mechanism. You’re still not dealing directly with your anger issues.

Maybe you’ve gotten this far in life because avoidance is the best way for you to deal with those things. As a psychology layman, I’m just mildly surprised that a therapist isn’t attempting to deal with emotional issues more directly. Perhaps this is just part of a larger regimen of treatment, though. Maybe control first, correct later.

Cruiser's avatar

My take would be it has something to do with your meridians which in the ancient Asian medicine and holistic worlds are your energy channels in your body and the wrist contains a major meridian the purportedly controls energy flow directly upwards into your heart. Snapping the rubber band on your wrist could be like a mini zap to your heart and reset the rhythm of your anxious energy flow. Did she specify which wrist??

john65pennington's avatar

Robmandu, she did a very thorough job of evaluating my police history, before any decisions were made. she agreed and so did i, to try this solution first. if it did not work, then she would dig deeper. this is all i needed to set me back on course. no pills, no followup visits, just a simple rubber band. my wife has been known to reach over and flip my rubber band, when she senses my anger approaching. now, that’s teamwork.

john65pennington's avatar

Cruiser, yes, the left. its a funny sight to see us go down the interstate and some jerk cuts me off. my wife is the first one to reach over and grab my wrist and whamo…....anger is gone.

zophu's avatar

Because the problem is simple. I mean, I think the brain often gets hung up on simple things (not that the source of the anger is simple, just the anger and frustration itself.) The rubberband helps you bring the simplicity to the surface, where your mind is comfortable dismissing it. That’s my guess, anyway. Kind of like removing a thorn. It’s only a big deal when it’s lodged in a sensitive spot you can’t reach, once you’ve got a hold of it, it’s nothing.

Cruiser's avatar

@john65pennington Makes more sense and I suspect she is knowledgeable in the meridians.

Aster's avatar

also called, “aversive therapy” it’s actually a pretty old technique that is effective for many. Glad it’s working.

perg's avatar

Actually, I disagree that it’s got anything to do with the pain or the actual physical response, nor do I think it’s avoidance. Sounds like it’s a more direct way of making you, essentially, count to ten. When you had outbursts before, there was no speed bump, nothing to make you hesitate before you gave in to rage. Now your first reaction is “Snap the rubber band.” That moment of hesitation and the attention you pay to the act itself draws your focus away from whatever made you angry and makes you think about your response instead.

I left a very stressful career for a great new job but am still working on not overreacting to inevitable negative moments on the new one. Usually I just tell myself “Take a deep breath and wait a couple of minutes.” Now I think I’m going to wear a rubber band…

kevbo's avatar

I think many problems have simple cures but tend to be overlooked because there’s no value added money to be made.

perg's avatar

@john65pennington I’m curious about how other people are reacting to you doing this (besides your wife). Do they realize that you’re angry and trying to stop an outburst? I envision you reaching for the rubber band and suddenly everyone screams “He’s about to snap!” and runs away.

Cruiser's avatar

@perg Good question and I can only imagine he has one hell of a welt on his wrist too! X0

Aster's avatar

@john65pennington Hate to be pessimistic, but eventually it could stop working and you’ll need to blow up.

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