By in Relationships

Collecting Anger Stamps

Prompted By lookatdesktop 's post

lookatdesktop posted an article about anger management and impulse control a few days ago. It reminded me of an analogy I heard maybe 30 years ago about this.

Green Shield Stamps or Trading Stamps

Many years ago, in the US (Trading Stamps) and then in the UK, (Green Shield Stamps) shoppers used to be given stamps when they purchased goods from a shop. For those born in the internet age, this may seem bizarre but we had no computers, no automatic discount, no debit or credit cards even. Shops tried to keep shoppers loyal to their stores by giving these stamps away, relative to the amount of goods purchased. The stamps were stuck in a book and you could obtain goods in exchange for these books of stamps from the Green Shield Stamp store. They ONLY provided goods in exchange for stamps. So customers who wanted something remained loyal to the store that gave them Green Shield Stamps and became collectors of stamps, in order to get some kind of reward.

How Does This Relate To Anger?

I'm getting to that!

Venting At Home

Did you ever see someone take out their bad temper at home after a bad day at work? It became known (in the circle where I worked) as collecting Green Shield Stamps. It had nothing at all to do with the real stamps of course, it was just that the mechanism was the same.

Bad Day At The Office

Let's say that the secretary has a bad day at the office. The boss shouts at her for making a mistake. She can't shout back (he's the BOSS and she needs the job!), so she goes home and shouts at the kids for some minor infraction and they in turn kick the cat.


The secretary collected stamps from the boss and stored them up (she was angry for being shouted at but couldn't release that anger), she cashed in the stamps (got her "reward") by shouting at her kids, who then got the stamps passed on to them. They couldn't shout back at mom (it might be different these days), so they cashed in the stamps by kicking the cat!

Valid Analogy

That analogy has remained with me as a very valid one for over 30 years. I used to drive to work for about 20 years along a road where two lanes merged into one and of course, a queue formed at rush hour. The people in the inside lane felt they had the right to move forward and not let in the people in the outside lane. Each morning, I would inch along as close as possible to the car in front, trying not to let any car from the outside lane into the inside lane (they would have been jumping the queue!!!). If a car managed to sneak in ahead of me, I felt angry most of the morning, until I realised that (a) I was choosing to collect stamps, which meant I might be looking for a chance to cash them in on some innocent person and (b) my feeling angry was not affecting the other driver, it just ruined MY morning and I decided to choose not to allow that to happen, after all, why should I allow someone else's choice of driving habits (as long as they weren't dangerous) affect MY life and morning? Once I decided that, I had much better, happier mornings and I used to let vehicles merge into one lane gracefully.

Once Again

Going back to the real trading stamps, they were collected for having carried out an action (shopping) and they were supplied in ratio to the amount of expenditure made. They built up by being stuck into books and were cashed in for a reward.

Anger stamps are collected when someone does you (what you perceive to be) a bad turn that you cannot turn back to them. It might be the boss telling you off or making you redundant, it might be a teacher shaming you in front of the class for the wrong haircut or poor homework, it might be another driver cutting you up on the freeway. Those stamps can build up if several things happen and you don't cash them in in small amounts. Some people build up books and books of stamps and cash them in in one explosive act, maybe of violence. The person cashing in the stamps feels rewarded by cashing in.

Are You A Stamp Collector?

I have been very lucky to have spent some years in a job where I had the opportunity and training to learn about some of these things. I now try to avoid collecting stamps. I use assertiveness techniques where possible, though I know that it is not always possible to do this and I use music and exercise as other techniques to work off any feelings of annoyance. A brisk aerobic session with fist punching was a great way of getting rid of tension from a difficult contractual meeting: not only did I feel much better, the anger also spurred a great session, where I expended much more energy than usual!

Does This Match YOUR experience?

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lookatdesktop wrote on April 6, 2016, 8:10 PM

This might explain why I have stomach problems and anger issues. I can't remember where I put that last volume of stamps but it's a doozy.

MegL wrote on April 7, 2016, 2:53 PM

Hmmm, I found that learning to forgive was a good way of dissolving those stamps instead of cashing them in.

lookatdesktop wrote on April 7, 2016, 4:48 PM

I need to take some classes in forgiveness. emoticon :grin:

MegL wrote on April 7, 2016, 5:34 PM

One web site There are plenty of others! emoticon :grin:

lookatdesktop wrote on April 7, 2016, 11:53 PM

I am no saint. It is hard for me a mere mortal to always just forgive and forget but as for forgetting is concerned, just give me a few more years.

MegL wrote on April 8, 2016, 1:45 AM

I am definitely no saint! I found this technique after years of spending my life being angry at everything. It reduced my stress enormously. But I also regret I didn't know it earlier because I resented my mother in law's interference for many years and didn't learn this til after she died. I think it would have improved our relationship immensely, at least on my side.