It has been estimated that 1 out of 5 North Americans have some type of anger management problem. Anger that is not properly controlled can lead to health problems, family problems, addictions, concentration difficulties, stress, depression and a general inability to function effectively.
Chronic Anger – A Toxic Emotion
Research studies have shown that chronic anger is related to heart disease. Each episode of anger adds stress to the heart by increasing heart rate and blood pressure. When this happens over a period of time it causes strain and damage on the arterial blood vessels.
Do You Have An Anger Management Problem?
Certain signs or symptoms can be an indication that your anger might be a negative factor in your life. Some of these signs are obvious, but others are less so.
1/ You constantly feel anger at others
2/ You are frequently angry at yourself
3/ You keep rehashing old situations in a resentful manner
4/ You feel anger at many things that are happening and can’t get these thoughts out of your mind.
5/ You blow up at people
6/ You feel cynical and down about life
7/ You have an addiction problem
8/ You are judgmental
9/ You feel depressed
10/ You feel stressed
Anger – A Positive Emotion
I believe that anger is a necessary emotion. It gives us important signals. On a basic level it can alert us to danger. On a lesser scale, anger can tell us that there is something bothering us that we need to look at. The crucial factor in anger is how it is dealt with and expressed. If it is expressed in an assertive and constructive manner it becomes a positive force in a person’s life. People generally have 3 different ways of expressing anger.
1/ Expressing Anger Directly – This can be positive or negative depending on how it is done. Constantly venting anger is not a constructive strategy. It causes damage in relationships and jobs and it often leaves a person feeling angrier instead of having a sense of release.
2/ Suppressing Anger – Many people who suppress anger harm themselves by turning it inwards and constantly brooding about it. Suppressing anger can also lead to people storing it up and having it explode in a destructive manner.
3/ Calming Anger – There are a number of good methods of calming anger. This strategy can work if it is done properly and it isn’t just a temporary measure where a person will just suppress it soon after.
My Anger Management Program
In helping people to manage their anger I focus on 2 different stages that assist them in effectively dealing with their anger. These stages are: 1/Controlling anger 2/ Transforming anger
Many people who come to me first need to control their negative outward expressions of anger. They realize that these expressions are harmful to their life and they want to stop this destructive behavior. There are certain strategies that can help them to do this.
· Relaxing/Calming – Mindfulness techniques of self-awareness and meditation, repeating a calm word, using imagery to focus elsewhere, physical and mental relaxation
· Cognitive Restructuring – Becoming aware of the thoughts and triggers that underlie the anger, learning to understand and redirect these thoughts
· Problem Solving – Examining why we are angry often reveals a problem that is bothering us. Getting control of the situation and solving the problem helps to manage anger. Often people realize that there are stresses that lead to anger. For example, grieving a death or lost relationship can underlie anger.
· Better Communication – Learning to be assertive by speaking up with positive communication can make a person feel more in control and better able to get their needs met
For some of the people I help, learning to control their anger is sufficient. Other people need a further strategy to fully manage their anger. Transforming anger consists of a deep understanding of anger plus learning how to redirect it so that it becomes a force for change in their life. Ways of achieving this are:
· Understanding the origins and roots of the anger – This involves examining a person’s past history and helping them to understand how and why they became so angry.
· Understanding the message of the anger – Often anger disguises other feelings such as hurt and shame. Learning these hidden feelings defuses anger.
· Creative Transformation – Learning to redirect anger in a creative manner through positive expressions such as social change, the arts, knowledge.
· Spiritual/Existential – Learning to see the bigger picture of life. Gaining wisdom and real serenity through having a deeper feeling and understanding about our existence.
Making Anger An Ally
When a person realizes that, if properly used, anger can help their lives they begin to feel more in control. They start to understand themselves better, communicate better, feel more at peace and use their energy in a way that enhances their lives and the lives of those around them.