Anger is not a bad thing. In fact, anger warns us when one of our personal boundaries has been violated, and our ‘safety’ is in some way threatened. What we do with our anger and how we express our anger can be destructive.
Anger is a result of linear thinking, with a focus on cause and effect, and is processed through right vs. wrong judgments. This right/wrong thinking, then, keeps us from solving the problem which results in the destructive behavior, and keeps us focused on expressing the angry feelings. To prove this to yourself, think about the last time you engaged in angry behavior, and answer these questions:
- Where did you learn how to be angry?
- How do you feel when others around you are angry?
- How do you feel when others are angry at you?
- How do you look when you are angry?
- When is being angry fun?
- How often do you get a rush from being angry?
- Which is most important; self respect or winning when you’re angry?
Episodes of anger follow a pattern; the trigger, appraisal, private experience, and long/short term consequence. Behavior associated with anger includes eye contact, physical proximity, posture, gestures, vocalization (tone, volume, inflection) and one’s over all receptivity.
There are several strategies for managing anger; creating an internal buffer, relaxation and calming techniques, preparing for known triggers, time delay tactics, redirecting attention, planned avoidance, and the ever popular and oh so difficult ‘just walk away’.
Your anger didn’t develop over night. In fact, for many of us our anger has been growing throughout our life time. Therefore, anger is not going to be reduced, managed or ‘cured’ in a short period of time. For many people it has become a habitual response which is pervasive in many areas of their life. Anger may have been necessary and served us well in the past, but when our anger begins to interfere with our ability to live our lives (getting arrested, destroying property, physically hurting ourselves or another) and our well-being (losing our marriage, having our children fear us, driving all of our friends away), anger is a problem.
You will never eliminate anger. It is a natural reaction to threat to safety. You can learn to view threat differently, and manage your anger response. Anger management therapy takes into account all of the information presented above.
Duane believes that anger management therapy is most effective when done in a group environment. The group provides the opportunity to compare your responses to the responses of others, provide feedback to others and receive feedback from others in the same situation, and offers a place where one can commit to change and be held accountable for unproductive thinking or behavior. Individual counseling may also be helpful, in conjunction with an anger management group.
(Duane has been facilitating anger management groups for men and women over the past 15 years, and has provided documentation about these groups when they have been court ordered for a participant. He has also provided individual counseling to support any group work the participant may be attending.)