Just so we’re clear, anger is a normal, healthy emotion shared by all people everywhere. When it gets out of hand, though, anger can become destructive and lead to all sorts of personal problems. While we can’t cure anger, we can manage the intensity and effect it has on us. Effective therapeutic strategies exist for managing anger and can help us become less reactive. We can even learn to develop more patience in the face of people and situations we cannot control. Learning how to manage anger is to understand what contributes to it and how we are impacted by others and the world.
Anger management is structured around teaching helpful coping strategies to better handle situations that are upsetting or hurtful. While learning skills to reduce aggression is necessary, the primary focus of any anger management program is to encourage taking preventive measures in our daily lives to reduce the likelihood of conflicts that trigger unhealthy reactions. This is important in understanding and improving conflict resolution that can lead to a more fulfilling life.
The feeling of anger is natural and can be beneficial to us when it is understood and used appropriately. Anger is really a secondary emotion, or expression of other feelings, like hurt, disappointment, fear, and shame, that are sometimes hard to access in the moment. Considering and accepting that we have control over how we communicate our feelings can help us make better judgments and decisions.
Rather than reacting in ways that don’t always leave us feeling good, we can find more appropriate ways to express ourselves. Anger can be used as a guide to inform us of when we’ve reached a point of discomfort. Keeping our anger in check and the behavior that goes with it, such as aggression, can help us avoid legal problems, difficulty with, or loss of relationships, and disciplinary actions in the workplace.
Some of the symptoms that help inform us that anger management might help are:
- Getting easily annoyed or frustrated/irritated
- Frequent yelling
- Using sarcasm consistently
- Blaming others
- Taking anger out on your surroundings
- Destroying property (i.e., hitting walls, throwing phone)
- Being overly critical or judgmental
- Consistently using aggressive tone
- Difficulty in expressing feelings appropriately or respectfully
- Erratic behavior
Many therapeutic approaches are available to help us understand and deal with anger issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy, improving communication skills, focus on problem-solving and conflict resolution, avoidance of problematic situations, and use of humor are some of the ways we can get to a better physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual space. The goal of these approaches is to facilitate self-sufficiency and, while anti-depressants are commonly prescribed for anger issues due to their calming effect that support control of rage and negative emotion, the real agent of change is us.
The key to anger management and overall wellness is to share our thoughts and feelings openly and honestly, to stay consistent with our treatment plan, to remember that results take time and determination, to maintain homework between sessions, and to communicate often. When this happens, the road to recovery seems a bit smoother and more attainable.