Kevin Stevenson, LMHC, MCAP

Anger Management

Anger is a normal and basic human emotion. Depending on how it is managed and expressed, anger can have positive or negative consequences. Awareness of angry feelings can be helpful as it can signal when our rights are being violated or our needs are being ignored by others. Anger can also help to energize and motivate us to work to address problems with another person or to change our life situation.
When anger is not managed or expressed appropriately or effectively there are potential negative consequences. Some people are chronically angry at others, or at themselves. Often, angry people where criticized or abused themselves earlier in life, and react to others in the same manner they where treated. Prolonged or intense anger and frustration contributes to physical conditions such as headaches, digestive problems, skin problems, high blood pressure and heart disease. Problems dealing with angry feelings may be linked to psychological disorders such as depression or anxiety. Angry outbursts can be a way of trying to cope with unhappiness, or depressed feelings. Chronic anger creates problems getting along with others, can lead to involvement in physically or emotionally abusive relationships. Having “a short fuse” is often a factor in other problematic behaviors such as “road rage,” accidents, and getting into verbal or physical fights.
While some people openly rage, others have difficulty acknowledging their anger and hold their feelings inside as they avoid the issue that angers them. They may expres anger in a “passive-aggressive” way that can take the form of baiting others, or frustrating them. People who express anger in a passive-aggressive manner may fear hurting others or being “a bad person” if they openly express negative feelings. However, they usually end up damaging the relationship because other people usually sense their anger on some level and begin to build resentment toward them. People who are unable to acknowledge anger in themselves often feel hurt by others’ hostility, abusive behavior, or withdrawal from them.
Anger is frequently a result of frustration, or of feeling blocked or thwarted from something we feel to be important. Anger can also be a defensive response to underlying fear or feelings of vulnerability or powerlessness. Many people with anger problems may be out of touch with signs that anger is building. Our body gives us important clues to when we are angry, sometimes before we are consciously aware of it. When anger builds, we react as we do to stress. We may feel tension or stress in our body as adrenaline is released, our breathing bay quicken, or our heart may start to beat faster.
Anger management is a process of learning to recognize signs that you’re becoming angry, and taking action to calm down and deal with the situation in a positive way. Anger management doesn’t try to keep you from feeling anger or encourage you to hold it in. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion when you know how to express it appropriately.
Signs of difficulty coping with anger:
  • Often feeling that you have to hold in your anger.
  • Threats of violence against people or property.
  • Out-of-control behavior, such as breaking things or driving recklessly.
  • Physical violence, such as hitting your partner or children or starting fights.
  • Frequent arguments with your partner, children or co-workers that escalate frustrations.
  • You have been arested or have legal difficulties because of your anger.
  • Use alcohol or drugs to try and calm your emotions.
  • Friends, family, co-workers have expressed concern about your anger.
  • Hurt others or those you care about, by demeaning or putting them down, cursing at them, or being verbally abusive.
  • Often end up regretting something you said or did when angry.
  • Find yourself gossiping or complaining about others rather than speaking to them directly about what is bothering you.
  • Frequently feel hurt or resentful that others treat you unfairly.
  • Often feel tense, irritable or frustrated.
  • You take out your anger on someone or something else rather than the person or situation that is bothering you.
  • Fear being out of control when you are angry.
  • You have lost or are in danger of losing a relationship, job, or something else important to you because of your anger.
Strategies to help cope with anger:
  • Learn to become more aware of what you are feeling, and recognize your anger when it occurs. Notice your particular signs that anger is building such as becoming tense, short with others, developing a headache, etc.
  • Seek support from others when you are struggling with anger.
  • Develop activities that help you copw with anger. Exercise can help to diminish feelings of agitation and frustration. Practicing relaxation techniques on a daily basis can aslo help in coping with anger.
  • Cultivate a sense of humor which can help lighten feelings.
  • Ask yourself “What is really bothering me?” Notice whether it is an interaction with someone else of something inside you. Avoid displacing your anger toward individuals who are not the cause of your anger.
  • De-escalate with a “Time out” when you recognize the sings of anger. Let significant others knwo that you may need to walk away to calm doesn when you’re really angry. Take a deep breath, go to a quiet place, and continue to use deep breathing to calm down.
  • Learn how to assert yourself, and talk to the person who is triggering your anger. Use the physical and mental energy that is generated from feeling angry to channel your response to the situation. Help the person to see how their behavior is afecting you in a way that they can hear and is not threatening. Use”I statements” that describe hwo you feel, rather than accusing the other person.
  • Avoid alcohol or drugs if you have anger problems.
  • Keep an anger log to identify the kinds of situations that provoke you. Learn to identify what triggers anger, what behaviors you do that are problematic and the consequnces of your behavior. Learn what underlying emotions might lead you to get angry.
  • Recognize that it’s your responsibility to express yourself appropriately to others, but their responsibility to deal with their own feelings in response.
  • Identify how anger was expressed in your family and how you where affected by significant others. If anger was expressed in hurtful and destructive ways think about how you felt when you where verbally, physically or mentally attacked or criticized. Consider the effect on your present relationships with others if you are perpetuating this same pattern.
  • Examine your options for behaving when you are angry, and visualize how you might respond. Recognize that you are responsible for your anger. Situations may contribute to your feeling angry, but you are responsible for how you behave. You may be legitimately and appropriately frustrated with something, but you don’t have to be inappropriately hostile or hurtful to others. You are bigger than your feelings and can make choices about how you respond. Work on developing more positive behaviors to replace the negative ones.
Counseling for anger management focuses on learning specific skills and ways of thinking to cope with anger. Identify your particular triggers and the physical and emotional signs that occur as you being to get angry. Pay attention to these signs and write them down.
Anger management can help teach you to:
  • Express your feelings and needs assertively, but not aggressively in situations that make you feel angry.
  • Calm yoruself down when you begin get upset or feel angry.
  • Identify situations that are likely to set you off and respond in nonaggressive ways before you get mad.
  • Communicate effectively to difuse anger and resolve conflicts.
  • Focus on problem solving in frustrating situations and instead of using energy to be angry learn how to redirect your energy to reslove the situation.
  • Learn specific skills to use in situations likely to trigger your anger.
  • Recognize when you aren’t thinking logically about a situation, and correct your thinking.
  • Avoid addictive escapes such as aclohol, drugs or food to dull anger.
  • Prevent psychological problems linked to anger such as depression, anxiety, work issues and troubled relationships.
  • Communicate your needs and learn how to recognize and talk about things that frustrate you rather than letting your anger flare up. Knowing how to express yourself can help you avoid impulsive and hurtful words or actions, resolve conflicts, and maintain positive relationships.
  • Maintain better health. The stress caused by ongoing angry feelings can increase your risk of health problems, including headaches, sleep problems, digestive problems, skin problems, heart problems and high blood pressure.
  • Use your frustration to get things done. Anger expressed inappropriately can make it difficult for you to think clearly, and may result in poor judgment. Learn to use feelings of frustration and anger as motivators to work harder and take positive action.

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                    Kevin Stevenson, LMHC,CAP