Friday, June 4, 2010

Psychotherapy Friday: Anger Management

Today's Topic: Anger Management

Anger management is important for everyone to learn. Whether you are quick or slow tempered, aggressive or passive, outspoken or shy, you will experience anger during life and need to know how to deal with it. Many people assume that if they do not express their anger in an aggressive or outspoken manner, they do not have problems with anger management. This is not true—you might simply be stuffing the anger deep inside, where it can come out in different forms later.

To understand anger management, one must understand anger. Anger is simply an emotion – it is not necessarily good or bad. It can indicate to us when something is not right. If someone walks up to me and punches me, I will become angry, because it was not right for the person to strike me. Anger can tell us that something is wrong, even when we can't figure out exactly what it is. Anger management does not work to necessarily reduce anger; it works to express anger in an appropriate manner.

To express anger appropriately, remember these guidelines:
1) Count to ten before saying or doing anything: Anger can cloud your judgment. Something that seemed like a "good idea at the time" can wind up with bad consequences (for example, yelling at someone or breaking dishes). Count to ten slowly while breathing deeply. This will allow your body time to reduce the adrenaline that contributes to the feeling of anger.

2) If you have a tendency to be outspoken, be quiet. If you have a tendency to be quiet, speak up! Those who are naturally outspoken usually need more time to think about their words. Those who are quiet tend to keep to themself what they want to say, and tend to regret not speaking up.

3) Determine whether anger is really the emotion you are feeling: Often, people think they are angry when they really feel sad, hurt, or upset. Anger can be a more acceptable emotion to feel (especially for men), and can mask the true emotion.

4) Figure out where the anger stems from: There are times that you become angry when that is not the proper response to the situation. For example, if you are single and a friend announces they are getting married, the proper response is happiness. If you feel anger, that probably comes from a deeper issue that you haven't resolved. Are you hurt that they are getting married, not you? Do you view yourself as someone "more deserving" of marriage than your friend? If so, acknowledge these issues and work on them.

Obviously different situations call for different responses. For example, if you are punched in the face, you probably do not have time to count to ten, ponder your motives for anger, and wonder if you are simply sad instead of angry. But instead of punching back, you can take the opportunity to leave the situation before doing something you will regret.

What are some ways you deal with anger?

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