Anger and Anger Management
Anger and Anger Management
Anger and Anger Management
Anger is a normal, usually healthy human emotion, which if denied expression can lead to long-term problems such as depression, anxiety, chronic irritability and serious health issues. However, if expressed inappropriately it can destroy relationships, marriages and families. It can also cause serious problems in the workplace, socially, and leave the angry person feeling out of control and alienated from others.
Anger from an instinctual perspective is a survival mechanism that prompts an adaptive human response to danger or threat. By reacting aggressively we defend ourselves from attack or harm. However, laws, social norms, and common sense put limits on our instinctual nature by not allowing us to simply lash out at all that annoys and upsets us.
The emotional intensity of anger can range from mild irritation to uncontrollable rage. Some individuals are much more prone to anger than others, and have what's called, 'low frustration tolerance.' There can be both genetic components and 'learned responses' from childhood and upbringing playing a role in an individual's lower threshold for frustration.
The angry person experiences both a physical and emotional arousal usually without much prior warning. Heart-rate increases, muscles tense, and there is an adrenalin rush coupled with an intense emotional experience. But anger is a secondary emotion in that it is usually connected to emotional hurt and pain such as disappointment, vulnerability, helplessness and fear. Physical pain can also be the cause of angry reactions.
Anger can be caused by both external and internal factors and events. People can make us angry, a partner, a co-worker, a boss, a friend. Situations where we feel helpless can trigger intense anger and even rage, for example, being exposed to humiliation, or a reckless driver, a traffic jam. The loss of someone special and important to us, or the loss of something highly valued can be strong triggers for anger. Brooding or worrying over personal problems can also make us/keep us angry, as can memories of traumatic events.
Dealing with Anger
Expressing angry feelings in an assertive non-aggressive manner is considered to be the healthiest way to process this emotion. To do this however, the individual needs to know how to communicate clearly, directly and calmly what their needs are, and to get them met without hurting, threatening or dominating others. Assertiveness can sometimes be confused with being pushy or demanding, when in fact it is being respectful to both the self and others. As part of the process, many individuals are faced with having to become comfortable with being assertive.
Another way to express anger is to suppress it and then convert or redirect the emotion. Holding in angry thoughts and feelings, and replacing them with more positive ones can bring about a shift in behaviour which is more constructive. However, it is not always easy to do this when anger is intense and 'in the moment.' The risk with this intervention is that if the anger cannot get channelled outward and converted to something more sociably acceptable, it may turn inward and cause depression, anxiety and/or hypertension.
Another outlet for anger is through the 'Calming' approach.
This involves not only controlling the outward behaviour but also the internal responses. Relaxation techniques can lower the heart-rate, calm the nerves and allow the feelings to subside. Visualisation and imagery can be very effective techniques to bring about a shift away from arousal.
Channelling pent up emotion through physical exercise can also be highly beneficial.
The goal of anger management is to reduce both the emotional arousal and bodily feelings that anger causes. Individuals learn through anger management how to control their anger by implementing new ways of responding to situations, and adopt new strategies that work for them in managing the emotion more positively. Behavioural changes usually quite quickly bring about improvement in interactions with others, and act as positive reinforcement for on-going work.
An important element of anger management is to help individuals gain an understanding of their angry responses by exploring the roots of their anger, and identifying the triggers. Past hurts, disappointment, resentment or stress management problems in the present can all play a significant role in anger problems. Addressing the underlying issues connected to anger gradually reduces the intensity of the emotion giving it less destructive power. Without insight and understanding the emotion will most likely continue to seek expression through angry outbursts and have a negative effect on life and relationships.
Anger Management helps individuals take self-responsibility for their anger, apply 'problem solving' techniques to situations, and improve communication strategies.
Cognitive Restructuring is also an important part of anger management as it is often very difficult to change people or situations that make us angry, but the individual can change the way he/she perceives and thinks about the situation. Humour can also be a very effective tool to diffuse anger.
An Anger Management intervention does not necessarily need to be long-term therapy. Many individuals feel helped, and very much more in control of their anger in just a few sessions.Ann Kuis - Counselling Psychologist
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