Anyone can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way—that is not within everyone's power and that is not easy. —Aristotle
Anger is a healthy human emotion; it is a tool we need to navigate the challenges of life. We need our anger in order to set healthy boundaries, to say “no” when we need to, to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm and to motivate us toward making positive changes. As with any tool—if we use it unwisely, it can work against us.
why do people have problems with anger management?
It is helpful to think of all emotional patterns as habits. If you regularly experience an unhealthy level of anger, it probably took years of build-up before you got to where you are, just like with any other habit.
Maybe you observed angry/aggressive adults when you were a child? Maybe you mimicked what you saw and realized that it can feel good and powerful to be angry? Maybe you were hurt as a child, never had the opportunity to process and work through all the complex thoughts and feelings that go along with such experiences, and so started being “an angry kid"?
When there is insufficient processing of early childhood pain, people end up harboring anger/resentment for years. It can snowball throughout life and become a daily habit. At the same time, becoming more skilled at anger management does not require an exploration of your past: that is optional. Therapy provides very effective and practical tools that people can use immediately in order to begin using their anger more constructively, while decreasing the intensity of it over time.
underneath the anger
It’s helpful to know that underneath (or alongside) anger lies other emotions that we may feel in a given situation. Sometimes we are fearful, embarrassed, lonely or ashamed, but we feel more comfortable with anger than with those emotions. That’s OK. Therapy helps people to understand the range of their emotions and to feel whatever they need to feel, without needing to act-out destructively. As people become more skilled in this type of emotional intelligence, they feel more secure and more confident.
A mentor of mine ran a therapy group years ago called “Using Anger Well.” I recall at the time it blew my mind that it was possible to learn to use anger well. Since then I’ve helped many people in this regard, and I thoroughly enjoy the experience each time. Helping people take charge of their own emotions in ways that allow them to feel more in control and more internally secure in their lives is definitely a labor of love.
Chris Kingman | Therapy
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