For years, I’ve had a thought experiment I like to run in which I imagine I’m talking to aliens who want to know about human beings but lack knowledge of human behavior and cultural institutions. In the thought experiment, being fascinated by human interactions, the aliens ask about issues that arise in daily life. I explain my personal problems to these aliens and try to explain why people behave as they do, and by doing so, listen to my own problems in an objective way–shorn of the “catastrophizing” people do.

You can imagine my surprise when Dr. Chip Tafrate, a clinical psychologist, recommends this very thing for people to address anger issues in an interview with Brett Mckay on the May 25th episode of The Art of Manliness podcast.

Start the podcast at 30:40 to hear the part about the cognitive strategy.

This is a great way to give your problems some context, which is to say, see the miniscule space most of our personal “catastrophes” occupy in the universe. Your ugly divorce becomes “we’re dissolving a social institution, that, while some people enter into for companionship, the primary function of which serves to pair people up to produce and raise offspring ….”

To which the aliens respond, “Interesting. Can the individuals not pair up again?”

You get the idea.

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