FOCUS ON: Anger Management – An Introduction

We live in a society where, all too often, the go-to response to anything or anyone who gets in the way of what we want is: anger. 

A car cuts you off in the traffic…anger

Lecturer locks you out of class for being 15 minutes late…anger

Parents won’t buy you the latest shoes / gadget … anger

Anger is a normal, healthy emotion but when it starts hijacking your life and becomes your automatic response to any and every situation it’s a sign that you need to start looking at the real reason for your anger and how to manage it.

anger

What is Anger?

Anger is an emotional state which varies in intensity. It is both normal and healthy to experience anger in response to events or circumstances in which you have been unfairly treated or there’s a perceived threat. The feeling of being angry is neither good nor bad; rather, when it comes to anger, what is important is how you express it, experience it and what you do with it. When anger results in you either harming yourself or someone else, be it physically or emotionally, there is a problem.

Myths about Anger

Myth: It’s healthy to vent my anger and get it all out.

Fact: Suppressing or ignoring anger is not healthy, however venting it is not any better either. Anger does not have be “let out” in an aggressive manner in order for you to avoid “blowing up” or “going crazy”. In fact, by allowing your anger to be expressed in an aggressive rant or outburst you are merely reinforcing your anger and the feelings that come with it.

Myth: Anger, aggression and intimidation earn me respect and get me what I want.

Fact: Never confuse bullying with having power. People who use aggression to get what they want may be feared but they are never respected. People are more willing to listen to you and accommodate your needs if you communicate with them in a respectful and calm manner.

Myth: I have no control over my anger, it just happens.

Fact: You can’t always control your environment, how it impacts on you and how it makes you feel, but you can control how you express your emotions in response to it. You always have a choice in how you decide to respond to a situation – you can effectively express your anger without having to resort to verbal or physical abuse.

Myth: Anger management is about suppressing your feelings.

Fact: Anger is a natural response and will come out in one form or another regardless of how hard you try to suppress it. Anger management is a tool whereby you become aware of your emotional and physical reactions to situations and the underlying feelings and responses they evoke. The purpose of anger management is to learn different ways of expressing your anger and frustration which are both healthier and constructive.

Source: Segal, R. & Smith, M. (2014). Anger Management: Tips & Techniques for Getting Anger Under Control. Retrieved from: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/anger-management.htm

Why is Anger Management Important?

People express their anger in different ways. Not everyone expresses their anger in a loud, cursing and throwing of things manner; instead there are some who express a constant, simmering irritability and grumpiness, and there are those who withdraw and sulk or even become physically ill.

People who are easily angered are believed to have a lower tolerance for frustration. Simply put, they cannot cope with being subjected to frustration, inconvenience or annoyance. They find it difficult to take such things in their stride, and become particularly upset when they consider a situation to be unjust.

Regardless of whether you are genetically predisposed to being an “angry person” or you’ve learnt to rely on it as way of getting what you want; poor anger management can lead to the breakdown of relationships and impaired judgement. Out-of-control anger harms your:

  • physical health – constantly operating in a state of stress and tension is bad for your health. Chronic (constant or recurring frequently) anger increases your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and  unhealthy cholesterol. It can also result in a weakened immune system and insomnia.
  • mental health – Chronic anger uses up huge amounts of mental energy and can interfere with your thinking and judgment, making it harder to concentrate and enjoy life. Unmanaged anger can lead to depression, stress and other mental health problems.
  • studies and career – Constructive criticism, creative differences and debates are healthy and necessary to help you grow as a student and employee. However, verbally abusing or lashing out at a peer, lecturer, colleague, parent or client both alienates the person and lessens their respect for you. In addition to this, you will earn a reputation for being “hard to work with”, “unable to take criticism”, “unpleasant” etc. which will follow you and make it harder for you to succeed in life.
  • relationships –  there is a saying “Taste your words before you spit them out“; once something has been said (or done), it can never be unsaid or taken back resulting in deep or even permanent damage to friendships and relationships. Chronic anger results in people perceiving you as being untrustworthy, they will struggle to address issues with you out of fear of your reaction and may even feel uncomfortable being around you.

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In the next instalment of the FOCUS ON: Anger Management series we will be looking at strategies and tips to manage you temper


References:

American Psychological Association. (2015). Controlling Anger Before it Controls You. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx [Accessed on: 08 April 2015].

Segal, R. & Smith, M. (2014). Anger Management: Tips & Techniques for Getting Anger Under Control. Retrieved from: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/anger-management.htm [Accessed on: 08 April 2015].

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