“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” ~Buddha
What is anger management?
Anger management is a procedure of acquiring the skills to recognize signs that you are becoming angry, and taking action to deal with the situation in a positive way. In no way does anger management mean holding the anger in or trying to keep from feeling anger. Anger is a normal human emotion, a healthy one when it is expressed appropriately. It is possible to learn how to control your frustrations by practicing anger management techniques on your own. However, seeing a anger management class is generally more effective. Anger management teaches you to recognize frustrations early on and settle them in a way that allows you to express your needs, while remaining calm and in control. Coping with anger is an acquired skill which involves unlearning some of the bad behaviors that result from frustration. Anger management helps you identify what triggers your emotions, and how to respond so that things work in your favor, instead of against you. We all feel angry sometimes and may say or do things we regret. This is a normal part of life, and may not necessarily mean you need anger management help. If your anger is having a detrimental effect on relationships, is making you unhappy, or is leading to violent or dangerous behavior, you probably need help.
Anger is a natural emotion that every human and many non-human animals experience. Mild forms of human anger may include displeasure, irritation or dislike. When we react to frustration, criticism or a threat, we may become angry – and usually this is a healthy response. Anger may be a secondary response to feeling sad, lonely or frightened. When anger becomes a full-blown rage our judgment and thinking can become impaired and we are more likely to do and say unreasonable and irrational things. Anger is not just a mental state of mind. It triggers an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Anger has survival benefits, and forms part of our fight, flight or freeze brain response to a perceived threat or harm. When a human or animal decides to take action to stop or confront a threat, anger usually becomes the predominant feeling and takes over our behavior, cognition and physiology. In many cases humans and non-human animals express anger by making loud sounds, baring teeth, staring and specific posturing as a warning to perceived aggressors to stop their threatening behaviors. It is unusual for a physical attack to occur without these signs of anger appearing first. If a stranger approaches some newborn puppy-dogs the mother will most likely growl, bare her teeth and adopt a defensive or ready-to-attack posture, rather than silently attack without any warning. If you trespass into the private land of a farmer in a remote area, his approach may be similar; his voice may be hostile, as may his body language, and posture. Instinctively, anger may surge in humans and non-human animals to protect territory, offspring and family members, secure mating privileges, prevent loss of possessions or food, and many other perceived threats. Experts say anger is a primary, natural emotion with functional survival value, which we all experience from time to time. The raised heart rate, blood pressure, and release of hormones prepare us physically for remedial action – which is either to fight or run away at top speed (fight or flight).
What can make people angry?
The most common factors that make people angry are:
- Grief – losing a loved one.
- Sexual frustration
- Withdrawal from drugs or some medications
- Some physical conditions, such as pre-menstrual syndrome
- Physical illness
- Mental illness
- Alcohol, some drugs, alcohol abuse, drug abuse
- Being teased or bullied
- Traffic jams
- Sloppy service
- Financial problems
- Being told you have a serious illness
Do I need help?
The following may indicate that you need anger management help:
- You have trouble with the authorities (the law).
- You frequently feel that you have to hold in your anger.
- You have numerous arguments with people around you, especially your partner, parents, children or colleagues.
- You find yourself involved in fights.
- You hit your partner or children.
- You threaten violence to people or property.
- You have outbursts where you break things.
- You lose your temper when driving and become reckless.
- You think that perhaps you do need help.
Depending on your circumstances and needs, sessions may go on for a few weeks or months, and sometimes longer. If you have any mental health conditions, such as depression, an addiction, or Asperger’s syndrome, for example, it is important that anger management sessions complement any other treatment you are having. It is vital that the psychotherapist or whoever is running the anger management classes knows about your current medical situation, as well as your medical history. Anger management classes and/or anger management counseling has the following aims:
- Help you identify your anger triggers – things that make you angry.
- Help you respond in a non-aggressive way to these triggers before you lose your temper.
- Learn how to acquire and utilize specific skills for handling your anger triggers.
- Learn to effectively identify moments when your thought processes are not leading to logical and rational conclusions, and to correct your thinking.
- Learn how to bring yourself back to a state of calm and peace when you feel the anger surging.
- Learn how to express your feelings and needs assertively in situations that make you feel angry or frustrated. Doing so in a non-aggressive way. Assertiveness has nothing to do with aggressiveness. Assertiveness includes respect for yourself, and respect for others.
- Learning how to redirect your energies and resources into problem solving rather than fury in situations which may trigger anger and frustration.
Most therapists say that it is important for the person to learn to recognize their anger. This may take time. The following questions may help:
- “How do I know when I am angry?” “What type of people, situations, events, places, triggers make me angry?” “How do I respond when I am angry? What do I do?” “What impact does my angry reaction have on other people?”
Most people are able to answer these questions straight away with several examples. However, it is only after some time that these questions can be answered comprehensively. The initial answers are a good step forward; a good first step. Many anger management counselors ask their clients to continually ask themselves these questions before being satisfied that they are fully knowledgeable about their personal anger. Many people find it helps when they realize that anger and calmness are not black-or-white emotions. There are varying degrees of anger, ranging from mild irritation to full rage. Our experience of anger moves around within the continuum between rage and calm. Those who see anger as black-or-white may have lost the ability to recognize when they are experiencing lower states of anger – they may be irritated but think they are furious, or even think they are calm. Most people are able to identify signs and symptoms of emerging anger which indicate where in the anger-calm continuum they are. These may include: Emotional symptoms (typically, listed from irritation to rage):
- A desire to escape from the situation
- Sadness or depression
- Desire to lash out verbally
- Desire to lash out physically
- A need to hold the anger in…
The following may also occur (possibly in order, sometimes not):
- You start rubbing your face with your hand
- You may fidget or clasp one hand with the other
- You start pacing around
- You become cynical and/or sarcastic
- Your sense of humor starts to go
- You become rude and abusive
- You crave substances that you think relax you, such as alcohol, tobacco or drugs
- Your voice starts getting louder
- You start screaming or crying
Some people are able to identify the onset of these physical symptoms when they are getting angry:
- Grinding teeth
- Clenching their jaw
- Stomach upset
- Accelerated heart rate
- Breathlessness (rapid shallow breathing)
- Hot flashes in the face and/or neck
- Trembling hands, and sometimes lips or jaw
- Tingling at the back of the neck
It goes without saying that, anger is one of those emotions that can be destructive and lead to various problems if it goes unnoticed. Although it can be tough sometimes, with the various types of anger around, recognizing when anger first occurs, is a key factor in determining what to do when it rears its ugly head.
Here are 12 of the most common kinds of anger. See if you recognize any of them.
- Behavioral Anger – This type of anger usually describes someone who is aggressive towards whatever triggered their anger… this can be another person. This can be someone who always seems to act out, or is troublesome. Sometimes the outcome is physical abuse or attacks against others.
- Passive Anger – People who use sarcasm or mockery as a way to hide their feelings, typically express this form of anger. They tend to avoid confrontations with people or situations.
- Verbal Anger – Anger that’s expressed mostly through words and not actions. Verbal abuse is used to criticize and insult people (put them down) and complain.
- Constructive Anger – This type of anger is a key factor in driving people to want to join movements and groups. It’s the feeling of being fed up with how things are going, and the need to make a positive change.
- Self-inflicted Anger – Anger that translates in causing harm to one’s own body. People who use this type of anger are acting out by punishing themselves for something they’ve done wrong. Some examples include starvation, cutting, and overeating.
- Volatile Anger – This form of anger occurs in varying degrees… it comes and goes. It can just appear out of nowhere, or build into something bigger. It can either explode or go unnoticed. It could even be expressed verbally or physically.
- Chronic Anger – Ever come across someone that’s seemingly angry for no reason, or mad all the time? More than likely, they were exhibiting this type of anger. People with chronic anger are just mad in general.
- Judgmental Anger – Putting other people down and making them feel bad about themselves, or abilities, is a form of judgmental anger. This person expresses their feelings by making those around them feel worthless.
- Overwhelmed Anger – This person relieves stress by shouting, and flying off the handle, when they can’t take situations and things that are happening around them, anymore. When things are just too overwhelming… which is why it’s called ‘overwhelmed anger’.
- Retaliatory Anger – This is probably one of the most common, of the bunch. Retaliatory anger usually occurs as a direct response to someone else lashing out at you… has that happened to you once or twice ?
- Paranoid Anger – This anger comes about when someone feels jealousy towards others, because they feel other people have or want to take what’s rightfully theirs. Or they may act out because they feel intimidated by others.
- Deliberate Anger – Using anger to gain power over a situation or person. A person expressing this form of anger may not start out angry, but will get angry when something does not turn out the way they wanted. Or, someone doesn’t see eye to eye with something they planned.
These are the most common types of anger. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, being aware of anger when it first appears is one of the first steps to master in order to make different choices in how to respond to it.
Anger can be a reaction to many triggers, but very often the trigger is not the root cause of the problem. In order to really control your anger, you need to take a long hard look at why you get angry, exactly what you are angry at, and the consequences of your anger.
If you look back over your life you’ll very often find that, at the times when you really lost your temper, it actually made things much worse instead of better.
The root causes of anger can be frustration and stress, and just by being overtired. Sometimes it can be from a feeling of low self esteem, and you can portray your own shortcomings or failings onto those around you. Unfortunately that often means loved ones, who bear the brunt of the anger through no fault of their own.
It is important for you to analyze the reasons for your anger and deal with it for many reasons. Angry outbursts have been the cause of the break-up of many otherwise happy relationships, and it is also extremely bad for your health. When you get angry your blood pressure rises and can lead to coronary heart trouble and other health problems.
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