Anger Management has become common topic to write about not only because of the increase in worldwide violence in the media, but also the increase in workplace violence that appears to be escalating year after year. Therapists are seeing more and more cases of voluntary clients calling for Anger Management sessions, as well as court mandated sessions due to civil or domestic violence situations. Although complex processes are said to be at play as to why two individuals can react differently to the same stressors, helping those who act out is not only important to the aggressor, but also to the people who are closest to them.
This series on Anger Management will begin with two definitions of "What is Anger?" first from the APA manual "Controlling Anger Before it Controls You" and second by nationally renowned speaker Israel Kalman, MS. The bulk of the material will utilize information from the workbook Stop Anger Now by Ron Potter-Efron, MSW, Ph.D. which will be broken down into subsections on Prevention, Containment, and Resolution of anger.
So, what is anger?
"Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage" according to Charles Spielberger, Ph.D, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure goes up, as does the level of energy, hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. "Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You can be angry at a specific person, an event, or anger can be caused by worrying or brooding about your past or current personal problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings."
The second definition states that "anger is the emotional drive to defeat anyone or anything we perceive as a threat." "In 'nature', anger is what we feel toward an enemy and it is a way of helping us to defeat our enemies." In nature, getting angry is the first step to winning and often, surviving. "In 'civilization', getting angry becomes the first step to losing and may bring along a host of civil, legal, financial, correctional, and other serious problems."
In the following material, we will look at areas of anger Prevention, Containment, and Resolution in the realm of Actions, Thoughts, Feelings, and Spirit. This information is designed to bring about a greater understanding on how we deal with anger and develop insight into how to manage anger more effectively. I use this material in my Anger Management sessions. What are your thoughts on the following statements?
Choices: Anger is an emotion like other emotions that we can choose or not choose. We can actually choose NOT to be angry when something occurs that we don't necessarily like.
The Substitution Principle: Exchanging Old Behavior for New: For each angry or negative action that we quit doing, can a calm or positive action be substituted? For example, can the goal of substituting more positive than negative responses be developed?
How I Tick People Off: What do other people do that gets you angry (see list in previous newsletter)? What do I do that gets other people angry? Being honest here may be the first step in being aware of how anger originates.
Doing, Not Trying: We have to make a commitment to DO and not just TRY to quit being angry. Like quitting smoking, trying doesn't make changes - doing does! Do we use trying as an excuse?
Hope for the Best, but Prepare for the Worst: Have a "plan of action" when encountering a potentially anger-producing situation. Go into the situation with a positive mindset, but be prepared to exit if the plan does not go well.
Know Your "Hot" Thoughts: Do you carry around "hot" thoughts, "trigger" thoughts, or negative "automatic" thoughts that are preloaded and ready to leap out at any given moment?
This is no Time to use Mood-Altering Substances: Alcohol, illegal drugs, and some prescription medications can allow anger to grow and manifest into an even larger problem. In order to be able to think clearly and manage anger more effectively, the use of mind-altering substances should be avoided.
Setting Small Goals for the Future: Setting small goals toward anger reduction and achieving them helps to show that progress can be made and confidence built. In time, this may actually help to quell the development of a serious build up of anger.