The term Anger management commonly refers to a system of psychological therapeutic techniques and exercises by which someone with excessive or uncontrollable anger can control or reduce the triggers, degrees, and effects of an angered emotional state.
Some techniques for controlling anger are finding agreement with another person rather than a conflict. In some countries, courses in anger management may be mandated by their legal system.
The use of deep breathing and meditation as a means of relaxation. Other interventions include learning empathy, stress management skills, forgiveness, changing how you speak about yourself or others and improving optimism. As the issue of anger varies from person to person, the treatments are designed to be personal to the individual.
Anger in modern society
Modern society, anger is viewed as an immature or uncivilized response to frustration, threat, violation, or loss. Conversely, keeping calm, coolheaded, or turning the other cheek is considered more socially acceptable. This conditioning can cause inappropriate expressions of anger such as uncontrolled violent outbursts, misdirected anger or repressing all feelings of anger when it would be an appropriate response to the situation. Also, anger that is constantly “bottled up” can lead to persistent violent thoughts or actions, nightmares and even physical symptoms. Anger can also aggravate an already present mental health
problem such as clinical depression
Many people believe that depression is in fact anger turned inwards. This is because many depressed people react to stress
by turning their anger inward as a response to physical or mental abuse or neglect from parents or others. One secondary effect of the depression sufferer's denial of anger is that their interpersonal relationships
are often unhappy and unhealthy.
Another side-effect of anger is that it can fuel obsessions, phobias, addictions and manic tendencies. Many people who are not able to express their anger will let it out in some sort of furious activity which can result in clinical depression or even bipolar disorder. Anger can also fan the flames of paranoia and prejudice, even in normal, everyday situations. People tend to express their anger either passively or aggressively through the fight-or-flight response. The passive "flight" response is repression and denial of anger for safety. However, aggressive behavior is associated with the "fight" response and the use of the verbal and physical power of anger to abuse and hurt others.
Symptoms of anger
Anger can be of one of two main types: Passive anger and Aggressive anger.
These two types of anger have some characteristic symptoms:
Passive anger can be expressed in the following ways:
- Secretive behavior, such as stockpiling resentments that are expressed behind people’s backs, giving the silent treatment or under the breath mutterings, avoiding eye contact, putting people down, gossiping, anonymous complaints, poison pen letters, stealing, and conning.
- Manipulation, such as provoking people to aggression and then patronizing them, forgiveness, provoking aggression but staying on the sidelines, emotional blackmail, false tearfulness, feigning illness, sabotaging relationships, using sexual provocation, using a third party to convey negative feelings, withholding money or resources.
- Self-blame, such as apologizing too often, being overly critical, inviting criticism.
- Self-sacrifice, such as being overly helpful, making do with second best, quietly making long suffering signs but refusing help, or lapping up gratefulness.
- Ineffectualness, such as setting yourself and others up for failure, choosing unreliable people to depend on, being accident prone, underachieving, sexual impotence, expressing frustration at insignificant things but ignoring serious ones.
- Dispassion, such as giving the cold shoulder or phony smiles, looking cool, sitting on the fence while others sort things out, dampening feelings with substance abuse, overeating, oversleeping, not responding to another’s anger, frigidity, indulging in sexual practices that depress spontaneity and make objects of participants, giving inordinate amounts of time to machines, objects or intellectual pursuits, talking of frustrations but showing no feeling.
- Obsessive behavior, such as needing to be clean and tidy, making a habit of constantly checking things, over-dieting or overeating, demanding that all jobs be done perfectly.
- Evasiveness, such as turning your back in a crisis, avoiding conflict, not arguing back, becoming phobic.
The symptoms of aggressive anger are:
- Threats, such as frightening people by saying how you could harm them, their property or their prospects, finger pointing, fist shaking, wearing clothes or symbols associated with violent behaviour, tailgating, excessively blowing a car horn, slamming doors.
- Hurtfulness, such as physical violence, verbal abuse, biased or vulgar jokes, breaking a confidence, using foul language, ignoring people’s feelings, willfully discriminating, blaming, punishing people for unwarranted deeds, labeling others.
- Destructiveness, such as destroying objects, harming animals, destroying a relationship between two people, reckless driving, substance abuse.
- Bullying, such as threatening people directly, persecuting, pushing or shoving, using power to oppress, shouting, using a car to force someone off the road, playing on people’s weaknesses.
- Unjust blaming, such as accusing other people for your own mistakes, blaming people for your own feelings, making general accusations.
- Manic behavior, such as speaking too fast, walking too fast, working too much and expecting others to fit in, driving too fast, reckless spending.
- Grandiosity, such as showing off, expressing mistrust, not delegating, being a sore loser, wanting center stage all the time, not listening, talking over people’s heads, expecting kiss and make-up sessions to solve problems.
- Selfishness, such as ignoring other’s needs, not responding to requests for help, queue jumping.
- Vengeance, such as being over-punitive, refusing to forgive and forget, bringing up hurtful memories from the past.
- Unpredictability, such as explosive rages over minor frustrations, attacking indiscriminately, dispensing unjust punishment, inflicting harm on others for the sake of it, using alcohol and drugs, illogical arguments.
It should be stated that anyone displaying any of these behaviours does not always have an anger management problem.
Methods of anger management
Psychologists recommend a balanced approach to anger, which both controls the emotion and allows the emotion to express itself in a healthy way. Some descriptions of actions of anger management are:
- Direct, such as not beating around the bush, making behaviour visible and conspicuous, using body language to indicate feelings clearly and honestly, anger directed at persons concerned.
- Honorable, such as making it apparent that there is some clear moral basis for the anger, being prepared to argue your case, never using manipulation or emotional blackmail, never abusing another person’s basic human rights, never unfairly hurting the weak or defenseless, taking responsibility for actions.
- Focused, such as sticking to the issue of concern, not bringing up irrelevant material.
- Persistent, such as repeating the expression of feeling in the argument over and over again, standing your ground, self defense.
- Courageous, such as taking calculated risks, enduring short term discomfort for long term gain, risking displeasure of some people some of the time, taking the lead, not showing fear of other’s anger, standing outside the crowd and owning up to differences, using self-protective skills.
- Passionate, such as using full power of the body to show intensity of feeling, being excited and motivated, acting dynamically and energetically, initiating change, showing fervent caring, being fiercely protective, enthusing others.
- Creative, such as thinking quickly, using more wit, spontaneously coming up with new ideas and new views on subjects.
- Forgiving, such as demonstrating a willingness to hear other people’s anger and grievances, showing an ability to wipe the slate clean once anger has been expressed.
- Listening, to what is being said to you. Anger creates a hostility filter, and often all you can hear is negatively toned.
A common skill used in most anger management programs is learning assertive communication techniques. Assertive communication is the appropriate use of expressing feelings and needs without offending or taking away the rights of others. It is typically started with the use of "I" statements followed by a need statement, such as "I feel hurt, when you don't call if you're running late, I need for you to call me if you are going to be late".
With regard to interpersonal anger, Dr. Eva L. Feindler recommends that people try, in the heat of an angry moment, to see if they can understand where the alleged perpetrator is coming from. Empathy is very difficult when one is angry but it can make all the difference in the world. Taking the other person's point of view can be excruciating when in the throes of anger, but with practice it can become second nature.
Buddhists, on the other hand, recommend a slightly different approach. They believe that there are several antidotes for handling anger. The chief amongst them are patience, understanding karma, equanimity and realization of emptiness (the sum of which can be achieved through daily Concentration Meditation and Insight Meditation, or Samatha and Vipassana). The main issue of anger management is that anger is regarded as an incorrect projection of the mind, so that wisdom and insight can ultimately correct the mind and eliminate anger completely.