Why ‘Anger management’?
‘Anger management’ is the buzz phrase these days, but what do we really mean by this? Clearly anger can be a powerful emotion, and one that we have all experienced. Yet it is one that we find the hardest to control or to understand. It seems to happen to us and we don’t feel in control. So why does it have the particular title ‘Anger Management’? We dont usually talk about ‘Obsession Management’, or ‘Depression Management’.
It is as though we believe that anger is not something we can understand in order to be free from it – as we might hope to do from depression or anxiety. We seem defeated before we even begin – believing that the best we can hope for is to learn to manage its effects somehow.
It is my belief that we can get to the root of anger, and will usually discover that there are other emotions involved. We can learn to distinguish a complex chain reaction of which aggression or violence are the final expression. We can find ways to accept these other emotions and find better ways of expressing anger itself when it does arise. For more on this please see my blog on the knot of anger.
Anger or Aggression
Firstly we need to distinguish between anger, an emotion, and aggression, an expression of that emotion. Very often the two are confused. We can also subdvide acts of aggression into those that are harmless and those that hurt people or are damaging to things. We may then see that some ways of expressing our anger are healthy and others not.
Indeed, I believe it is vital that in our personal tool-kit we have ways to express our anger healthily. This will allow us to express ourselves to someone when we feel that we have been treated unfairly, for example. Being able to do so in a healthy way opens up the possibility of finding restitution for any unfairness. To express our anger in a way which turns our aggression upon the other person is only likely to lead to conflict. This in turn usually leads to our needs not being met.
Inexplicable outbursts of emotion – particularly anger – can lead to confusion and overwhelm. Often there is a belief that ‘there is something wrong with me’. Yet there can be many root causes of this kind of experience. Often there are connections with feelings of anxiety or stress which can become entangled like a bundle of wool.
Therapeutic Approach to Anger
The therapy process helps unravel and understand the processes involved, giving you back control.
My approach is not prescriptive or aimed principally at managing the behaviours. It is more of an enquiry process. By taking the time to explore what is going on under the surface, we can unravel each strand, allowing the overall picture to become clearer and control to be regained.
When dealing with anger we may:
- Look at beliefs around the expression of anger;
- Explore the experience in the body, noticing how it feels. In this way we become familiar with it and gain important early warning signals;
- Develop strategies to direct the powerful energy of anger as it arises, in order to express it safely and cleanly.
- Inquire into what the anger is trying to tell you or what it needs;
- Discover that the anger is there to protect something.
This can take some time and takes compassion on the part of the therapist. The client may also discover of the importance of compassion for oneself, the one who is undergoing this difficult experience.