Helping people to better deal with, and express their anger has been a specialty area of mine for more than 10 years. I have worked with 100s of people in individual and group settings to assist them in gaining control of their anger. It is one of my favorites issues to address in therapy.
Most of us have regrets about instances in our lives when we said or did something out of anger that we later regretted. The consequences of this can be feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or shame. In some cases, the consequences can be drastic, especially if our anger led us to violence. Often, people who seek professional help to deal with their anger have thought about doing so for years. Friends and family may have expressed concern for quite some time. The tipping point can come when a valued relationship is on the verge of being lost or in some cases has been lost due to the destructive expression of anger. In some cases, the legal system has become involved and a person may be mandated by the court to attend anger management treatment.
How does Anger Management Therapy Work?
The first point to consider is that anger is not inherently destructive. In fact, anger is adaptive. Ask yourself what you think the purpose of anger is as an emotion. Why are all humans endowed with the capacity for anger? A brief answer is that anger protects us from being taken advantage of, conned, and manipulated. There is tremendous energy in anger, and it can actually bring people and communities together to promote valued social change and to overcome injustice.
In reality, your anger is not actually the problem. Instead, it is what you do with your anger that is ultimately destructive (or constructive). A first step in learning to control your anger is to become more aware of when you are becoming angry. Some people will say things like “I just snapped” when they describe an instance of explosive, destructive anger. However, this is rarely the case, and one of the things we will work on is increasing your ability to self-mointor.
Another piece of learning to control your anger will be to explore what happens for you physically and cognitively when you become angry. Anger has the potential to move us into a state of hyper-arousal. During hyper-arousal our heart rate increases and we are flooded with adrenaline to the point that it becomes difficult not only to think clearly about the current situation, but also to consider the impact of our actions on the future.
A third aspect of anger management involves exploring where you learned to “be angry.” This includes your observations of how parents, caregivers, etc. handled their anger. It also includes examining your own views about your anger, the world, and past painful experiences where you felt not only angry, but also frightened and powerless.
If you are considering anger management therapy for yourself or someone else, I am happy to discuss the process further with you and answer any questions.