||'Anyone can become angry - that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time - that is not easy.'
(Aristotle. The Nichomachean Ethics)
Everyone should get angry every now and then. It's a
natural response we need to be able to make use of.
Without the ability to notice and then to use anger, we
can tolerate far too much nonsense in personal, social
and professional life. But anger that is uncontrollable
and leads to rash and even dangerous action is a
challenge for many people. And those who are regularly
dominated by their own anger are likely to be more
susceptible to a variety of restricting and even
life-threatening illnesses - as well as being, at the
very least, difficult for those around them.
Some people have been told that they have 'anger issues'. This is classic psychobabble that needs to be discarded if we are to understand what anger is and how it affects us. One doesn't have a condition called anger; one gets angry in certain circumstances - for a variety of reasons. These might include:
- circumstantial stress at work and/or at home
- difficult personal relationships
- poor sleeping
- traumatic past experiences
- inadequate meeting of personal psychological and physical needs
- lack of confidence skills
- incomplete learning of other emotional management skills
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Also some people may be more
inclined, by both natural temperament and influences of upbringing and
environment, to anger more easily. Regardless of this, there are always triggers
for anger. It hence remains always possible to learn to recognize and then to
neutralize those triggers. This is what anger management is all about - not
turning off a switch called anger but learning how not to risk tripping the
switch at the wrong moment.
Anger is, biologically, a preparation for fight. When people lose their tempers, the thinking brain shuts down and the emotional system mobilises the classic fight or flight mechanisms. Angry people often experience an overwhelming sense of being right and may lose any sense of fear. Various other physiological reactions are typical - sometimes trembling or shaking or a rapid heart beat or what many now call 'adrenaline rushes', sometimes breathlessness and inability to think clearly. All these are classic survival reactions - the kinds of automatic responses that enabled our ancestors to stay alive. We are naturally keyed up to hit out or make a dash for it.
Effective therapy for anger
- encourages clients to recognise their own anger triggers
- teaches a thorough understanding of the fight or flight mechanism and how to work with it
- diffuses any harmful effects of negative past experiences through effective techniques
- does not require prolonged and painful introspection
- does require the client to learn how to take responsibility for their own reactions and to balance their own needs
- teaches effective relaxation methods
- rehearses new patterns of action thoroughly
- does not take a long time
Many clients find they can reach effective goals in 2 or 3 sessions and it is rare to take more than 5 sessions to learn effective anger management and deal with common personal concerns. However, individuals vary enormously and sometimes there are multiple accompanying challenges to meet. In these cases. it is impossible to predict number of sessions. Therapists are available for optional occasional coaching sessions following a course of treatment.
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