• Anger Management

    We all know what anger is, and we've all felt it: whether as a fleeting 
    annoyance or as full-fledged rage. 
    
    Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it 
    gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems - problems 
    at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your 
    life. And it can make you feel as though you're at the mercy of an 
    unpredictable and powerful emotion. 
    
    What is Anger? 
    
    Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to 
    intense fury and rage. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by 
    physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate 
    and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, 
    adrenaline, and noradrenaline. 
    
    Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry 
    at a specific person (Such as a coworker or supervisor) or event (a traffic 
    jam, a canceled flight), or your anger could be caused by worrying or 
    brooding about your personal problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging 
    events can also trigger angry feelings. 
    
    Expressing Anger 
    
    The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. 
    Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, 
    often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight and to 
    defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, 
    is necessary to our survival. 
    
    On the other hand, we can't physically lash out at every person or object 
    that irritates or annoys us; laws, social norms, and common sense place 
    limits on how far our anger can take us. 
    
    People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal 
    with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, 
    suppressing, and calming. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive, not 
    aggressive, manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you 
    have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them 
    met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn't mean being pushy or 
    demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others. 
    
    Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when 
    you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something 
    positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into 
    more constructive behavior. The danger in this type of response is that if 
    it isn't allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward, on yourself. 
    Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or 
    depression. 
    
    Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological 
    expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at 
    people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them 
    head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People 
    who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making 
    cynical comments haven't learned how to constructively express their anger. 
    Not surprisingly, they aren't likely to have many successful relationships. 
    
    Finally, you can calm down inside. This means not just controlling your 
    outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps 
    to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside. 
    
    Anger Management 
    
    The goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional feelings and 
    the physiological arousal that anger causes. You can't get rid of, or avoid, 
    the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you 
    can learn to control your reactions. 
    
    Are You Too Angry? 
    
    There are psychological tests that measure the intensity of angry feelings, 
    how prone to anger you are, and how well you handle it. But chances are good 
    that if you do have a problem with anger, you already know it. If you find 
    yourself acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening, you might 
    need help finding better ways to deal with this emotion. 
    
    Why Are Some People More Angry Than Others? 
    
    According to Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in 
    anger management, some people really are more "hotheaded" than others are; 
    they get angry more easily and more intensely than the average person does. 
    There are also those who don't show their anger in loud spectacular ways but 
    are chronically irritable and grumpy. Easily angered people don't always 
    curse and throw things; sometimes they withdraw socially, sulk, or get 
    physically ill. 
    
    People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a 
    low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they 
    should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. 
    They can't take things in stride, and they're particularly infuriated if the 
    situation seems somehow unjust: for example, being corrected for a minor 
    mistake. 
    
    What makes these people this way? A number of things. One cause may be 
    genetic or physiological: There is evidence that some children are born 
    irritable, touchy, and easily angered, and that these signs are present from 
    a very early age. Another may be sociocultural. Anger is often regarded as 
    negative; we're taught that it's all right to express anxiety, depression, 
    or other emotions but not to express anger. As a result, we don't learn how 
    to handle it or channel it constructively. 
    
    Research has also found that family background plays a role. Typically, 
    people who are easily angered come from families that are disruptive, 
    chaotic, and not skilled at emotional communications. 
    
    Strategies To Keep Anger At Bay 
    
    Relaxation 
    
    Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can 
    help calm down angry feelings. There are books and courses that can teach 
    you relaxation techniques, and once you learn the techniques, you can call 
    upon them in any situation. If you are involved in a relationship where both 
    partners are hot-tempered, it might be a good idea for both of you to learn 
    these techniques. 
    
    Some simple steps you can try: 
    
    Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won't relax 
    you. Picture your breath coming up from your "gut." 
    
    Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "take it easy." Repeat 
    it to yourself while breathing deeply. 
    
    Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or 
    your imagination. 
    
    Nonstrenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you 
    feel much calmer. 
    
    Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you're 
    in a tense situation. 
    
    Cognitive Restructuring 
    
    Simply put, this means changing the way you think. Angry people tend to 
    curse or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. 
    When you're angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and overly 
    dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For 
    instance, instead of telling yourself, "oh, it's awful, it's terrible, 
    everything's ruined," tell yourself, "it's frustrating, and it's 
    understandable that I'm upset about it, but it's not the end of the world 
    and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow." 
    
    Be careful of words like "never" or "always" when talking about yourself or 
    someone else. "This !&*%@ machine never works," or "you're always forgetting 
    things" are not just inaccurate, they also serve to make you feel that your 
    anger is justified and that there's no way to solve the problem. They also 
    alienate and humiliate people who might otherwise be willing to work with 
    you on a solution. 
    
    Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything, that it 
    won't make you feel better (and may actually make you feel worse). 
    
    Logic defeats anger, because anger, even when it's justified, can quickly 
    become irrational. So use cold hard logic on yourself. Remind yourself that 
    the world is "not out to get you," you're just experiencing some of the 
    rough spots of daily life. Do this each time you feel anger getting the best 
    of you, and it'll help you get a more balanced perspective. Angry people 
    tend to demand things: fairness, appreciation, agreement, willingness to do 
    things their way. Everyone wants these things, and we are all hurt and 
    disappointed when we don't get them, but angry people demand them, and when 
    their demands aren't met, their disappointment becomes anger. As part of 
    their cognitive restructuring, angry people need to become aware of their 
    demanding nature and translate their expectations into desires. In other 
    words, saying, "I would like" something is healthier than saying, "I demand" 
    or "I must have" something. When you're unable to get what you want, you 
    will experience the normal reactions, frustration, disappointment, hurt, but 
    not anger. Some angry people use this anger as a way to avoid feeling hurt, 
    but that doesn't mean the hurt goes away. 
    
    Problem Solving 
    
    Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable 
    problems in our lives. Not all anger is misplaced, and often it's a healthy, 
    natural response to these difficulties. There is also a cultural belief that 
    every problem has a solution, and it adds to our frustration to find out 
    that this isn't always the case. The best attitude to bring to such a 
    situation, then, is not to focus on finding the solution, but rather on how 
    you handle and face the problem. 
    
    Make a plan, and check your progress along the way. Resolve to give it your 
    best, but also not to punish yourself if an answer doesn't come right away. 
    If you can approach it with your best intentions and efforts and make a 
    serious attempt to face it head-on, you will be less likely to lose patience 
    and fall into all-or-nothing thinking, even if the problem does not get 
    solved right away. 
    
    Better Communication 
    
    Angry people tend to jump to, and act on, conclusions, and some of those 
    conclusions can be very inaccurate. The first thing to do if you're in a 
    heated discussion is slow down and think through your responses. Don't say 
    the first thing that comes into your head, but slow down and think carefully 
    about what you want to say. At the same time, listen carefully to what the 
    other person is saying and take your time before answering. 
    
    It's natural to get defensive when you're criticized, but don't fight back. 
    Instead, listen to what's underlying the words: the message that this person 
    might feel neglected and unloved. It may take a lot of patient questioning 
    on your part, and it may require some breathing space, but don't let your 
    anger, or a partner's, let a discussion spin out of control. Keeping your cool 
    can keep the situation from becoming a disastrous one.  
    
    Changing Your Environment 
    
    Sometimes it's our immediate surroundings that give us cause for irritation 
    and fury. Problems and responsibilities can weigh on you and make you feel 
    angry at the "trap" you seem to have fallen into and all the people and 
    things that form that trap. 
    
    Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some "personal time" scheduled for 
    times of the day that you know are particularly stressful. 
    
    Do You Need Counseling? 
    
    If you feel that your anger is really out of control, if it is having an 
    impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might 
    consider counseling to learn how to handle it better. A psychologist or 
    other mental health professional can work with you in developing a range of 
    techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior. 
    
    When you talk to a psychologist, tell her that you have problems with anger 
    that you want to work on, and ask about his or her approach to anger 
    management. Make sure this isn't only a course of action designed to "put 
    you in touch with your feelings and express them" that may be precisely what 
    your problem is.  
    
    Anger Work-Out
    
    Anger work-out refers to a healthy and full expression of anger on inanimate 
    objects; not on people so as to rid yourself of hostility and aggression 
    aroused by anger. Each of the following techniques could be used alone or 
    in any combination.  
    
    �	beating on pillows 
    �	beating on a mattress 
    �	stomping on floor 
    �	beating a bed with tennis or racquetball racket 
    �	hitting a weight bag or punching bag 
    �	physical exertion, i.e., playing racquetball, running, hand ball
    �	yelling in a car with windows closed 
    �	yelling in a paper bag 
    �	hammering nails in a board or building something 
    �	games in an amusement park that require pounding 
    �	throwing soft objects 
    �	beating a pillow or bed with a foam or plastic bat 
    �	karate or judo practice 
    �	beating drums 
    �	screaming at a concert or sports event 
    �	screaming in a vacant field or park 
    �	using a shovel to dig holes in the dirt 
    �	hitting balls with a baseball bat 
    �	hitting a ball against a wall with racket or hand 
    �	bowling to hit all the pins down 
    �	writing a letter of anger, but ripping it up the next day 
    �	expressing feelings by writing in a journal 
    �	wringing a wet towel 
    �	kneading bread or play dough
    
    Adapted from the American Psychological Association at www.apa.org