What Is Anger Management?

About 20 years or so ago I started to struggle with anxiety and depression. My unhappiness and internal struggles often presented as irritaion and anger.  After another ten years I realised, I wanted and needed to change. What a waste of life. I eventually said to myself, "If I want to be normal and not angry, then I should get a grip, take control and learn some anger management."

Anger Management… What is anger management?

I love the way Giles Coren puts a humorous slant on a serious issue.

“What was (is) wrong with me? Are other people this angry? Are you? Is it healthy? Is it better out than in? I’ve heard that suppressing it gives you cancer. Or am I thinking of barbecued meat? Should I calm down? Should I take pills? Or just deep breaths? Should I really be in therapy? Or in a straitjacket? I honestly don’t know (1) ”


Ten years ago, like many ordinary angry people, I honestly hadn't got a clue what anger was really about or what anger management involved. Today, with an experiential and educated insight I believe that people are very rarely born angry, they become angry.


anger management is easy.

A lot of people seem to think that anger management is simple and effortless. Just change your attitude a bit, learn 6 or 8 or 10 ingenuous anger prevention methods and boom…job done – no more anger.

Like many things in life - it's not quite that simple.


Anger is painful and destructive.

Once anger becomes a 'way of being' it can become a lifelong, self-perpetuating and depressing downward spiral... escape is extraordinarily difficult. Most angry people would choose to live differently, but find change without help almost impossible... help is not easily found. Anger is subjective, intricate, deeply entrenched and different for everyone. Anger usually severely depletes the life of the angry person and can devastate others living around said angry person. I have witnessed confused angry people on the verge of suicide.


Anger is not just rage.

It is true many angry people's lives are blighted by external tirades, but more common is that internal irritability - that all-pervading, underlying dull ache of frustration that can destroy the angry person's soul. Can you manage such a complex thing? I'm not quite sure that 'manage' is exactly the right word, but let's stick with it.


anger management has four meaningful aspects.

  • Self-discovery and self-awareness. Learning about the possible anxiety, depression and frustrations that are causing the angry outbursts. 
  • Becoming flexible in outlook, acceptance of differences and learning about empathy.
  • Creating your own lifestyle objectives and following a practical plan.
  • Having the skills to move forward independently and anger free.


I want to lose my anger - I want to lose it now!

There are loads of simple speedy anger management solutions out there! In books - on the net - 'quick fix' and 'self-help' – So, lets do it. In my opinion these methods claim a lot, but are usually a little thin on substance. Anger management is not just a few 'off the shelf' magic techniques. 'Quick Fix' and 'Self-help' very rarely works. Griffin, Tyrrell and Winn write in their book 'Release From Anger':


Try doing do as I tell you.

Griffin, Tyrrell and Winn write in their book 'Release From Anger':

“Block – Refuse to go there! Try saying strongly to yourself, as soon as the thought has popped into your mind, “No! I’m not going to allow that angry word (or anxious) thought to run through my brain!(2)”


Easy to say - hard to implement - far too difficult to do alone.


Standard anger management techniques and drugs.

R. T. Potter-Efron

“Frequently, you can stop a rage before it happens if you take a time-out or use other standard anger management techniques. You may also want to try certain medications that keep your brain from having a meltdown. (3) ”


I found stand-alone control techniques to be only frustratingly temporary solutions. Medication can help some and when I was prescribed and took 'Pericyazine' I discovered 'foolproof anger management.' I did not get angry, but then again, I only got out of the chair to go to the lavatory.


anger reactions are unique

You see the world through your eyes only. Everyone perceives everything differently, with their own subtle complexity, through their unique phenomenological field of perception. It is often said, 'perception is reality.' Everyone reacts to the world from what they perceive it to be. The same logic suggests that everyone's anger reactions are unique. Changing your perception is the key.


Anger Therapist

A lot of people I see during my work have read 'Anger Management for Dummies'. I warm to this book's accessibility and it is an exception in that it is not just crammed with one size fits all gimmicks and its seems that ultimately the 'Dummies' people agree with me on one key issue.

“If you do read Anger Management For Dummies thoroughly and you still find that you’re struggling with anger, we suggest you seriously consider getting help of a professional. (4)”


You know what, I also suggest you seriously consider getting help of a professional.


You can't change the world, but you can change how you see it and how you live in it.

Good anger management should alter your emotional feelings and reduce the extreme physiological reactions. You may not be able to change irritating people or difficult situations, but you can change how you feel about them and respond to them. As Plutarch the Greek philosopher said:

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”


Anger management is about self-awareness

Talking therapy with a skilled listener helped me (and countless others) become more self-aware. This understanding of who I was and why I was angry allowed a liberating removal of deeply rooted, grating angry internal lumps. Talking and listening or reading a book? GT&W again:

“We hope that, now you have reached the end of this book, you feel ready to tackle inappropriate anger with confidence by using the guidance in this book and, and perhaps, with the help of an effective therapist…. (2)”


Anger management is also about learning some skills and getting a plan.

The plan should be 'tailor made' and incorporate some trigger recognition and calming techniques. The skills should include a little emotional knowledge, some mindfulness relaxation, and focusing (which is a bit like feeling and understanding your bodily felt sense or gut feeling) .


Anger management needs to incorporate:

  • Self-discovery – learning who you are
  • Self-awareness – learning why you get angry
  • Learning to be open minded and less rigid
  • Becoming acceptant of yourself and others
  • Acquiring listening and empathy skills
  • Being mindful of your unique anger triggers
  • Behaving calmly and composed in provocative circumstances
  • Working out your personal life contentment balance
  • Becoming an independent anger free person - permanently

Books are great, but my personal experience was that by using this integrative model I found that previously challenging and anger provoking situations just faded away. I still get angry from time to time. A 'residue of anger' might occasionally wash over me in times of intense tension, but this anger is like any 'normal person's anger'. As Aristotle said:

“Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way - that is not easy. ”


Footnotes

  1. Coren, G. (2010) Anger Management For Beginners: London: Hodder & Stoughton.
  2. Griffin, J. Tyrrell, I. and Winn, D. (2008) Release From Anger: Practical Help For Controlling Unreasonable Rage: Chalvington. UK: Human Givens.
  3. Potter-Efron, R. T. (2007) Rage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Explosive Anger: Oakland CA: New Harbinger.
  4. Bloxham, G. and Doyle Gentry, W. (2010) Anger Management For Dummies: Chichester: Wiley.

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