"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal intending to throw it at someone else; but you are the one who gets burned"
- The Buddha
Anger is a basic human emotion which is a natural response to various life experiences, particularly to attack, to feeling deceived, manipulated, insulted, or frustrated.
In normal or perhaps in ideal circumstances, the feelings are ultimately relieved much like a pressure valve, releases energy and tension, and in this instance, the energy intention arising out of anger.
Again, like all emotions, anger triggers chemical and physiological changes, particularly to heart rate and adrenaline levels. Such surges can become both addictive and destructive. All humans are programmed to express anger from birth. But that can become excessive, to the extent of becoming a symptom of more complex mental health issues. Out of control anger can become destructive affecting one’s career, relationships, and general well-being.
Anger management therapy is designed to help understand and learn how to control the anger and lessen its impact. The natural way we express anger is through aggression, a key mechanism for survival. In turn, the “fight or flight” reaction enables us to fight and/or defend ourselves in order to survive.
On the other hand, it is unacceptable to allow our anger to be acted out each time we are irritated. If and how we are able to control the expression of anger will determine whether it is healthy or unhealthy. Asserting our anger in a healthy way equals asserting our needs in a constructive fashion; and shows others both our needs and how we wish them met. But done this way, nobody is hurt; plus, a less “pushy” approach tends to heighten respect on all parts. In order to express our anger positively requires knowing our feelings well enough to determine what they tell us of our needs. Failing to process anger this way leads to further anger and frustration in knowing, expressing, and having our needs met.
Anger, when unexpressed, often takes the form of depression and/or anxiety; just two of many common side effects of anger unexpressed and repressed.
Following are some examples of how anger usually results in unintended and unfortunate consequences: for example;
When we are aware of anger but suppress or hide it;
When we are burdened with a “short fuse” and allow it to explode in a burst of rage;
When we hurt or bully others, and use anger to intimidate them to get what we want or need;
When we attempt to explain our anger by pointing in the direction of external factors or other people;
When anger is used as a defense against hurtful comments or experiences, that is a defensive anger;
Righteous anger is when anger is seen as moral and justified in a fight for something significant.
What makes us angry?
Depending upon the individual, his needs and circumstances, a large variety of triggers can be found and may include;
- Hormonal imbalances
- Grief and bereavement
- Having property mistreated or trespassed
- Being intercepted when pursuing the goal
- Physical and/or mental illness
- Sexual frustration
- Someone acting contrary to a principle you hold to
- Withdrawal from medications or drugs.
Anger can be treated as unnatural, unacceptable, and signifying failure. In a chaotic family environment, the skills are often lacking at emotional communication. Since anger is often seen as a negative emotion affecting others, its expression, unlike other natural emotions, is treated as a taboo.
Anger is a problem when it harms you and those around you. It depends on if and how you express the anger. Suppressing or “holding in” the anger or exploding it outwards only leads to damage to your own health and well-being, and also to your relationships in every aspect of your life.
And there are the side effects of uncontrolled and/or unresolved anger, which include, amongst others;
Drug and alcohol abuse
High blood pressure
Weakened immune system.
Some of the problem signs of anger include;
Alcohol and/or drug abuse
Involvement in fights
Arguments with those around you
Troubles with authority
In anger management therapy you will be guided towards a reassessment of your perceptions and perspectives on anger and other related issues from your family of origin. We will also explore how your anger is affecting all of your relationships and your quality of life. You will learn how anger can be used in a healthy way in dealing with such matters as injustices and valid grievances. Combining therapy with mindfulness will enable you to recognize the earliest signs of frustration building towards anger; but remaining calmly in control of yourself. Thus can you become empowered in striving and reaching goals, resolving problems, and getting your needs met.
The goals of anger management include learning to identify and understand the triggers which make you angry. You are enabled to change the ways you respond to the triggers and develop and deploy skills to diffuse them while maintaining calm despite feeling anger surging. Learning to access, understand, and have your own needs met in positive ways is the ultimate goal. Learning how unhealthy anger can become healthy; learning to communicate needs and preferences clearly can preclude or resolve anger in conflicts.
Approximately seven years ago, I began an in-depth study of mindfulness and other forms of meditation as well as Buddhist thought. Following the writings and teachings of numerous psychotherapists who had preceded me in becoming involved with mindfulness, I found that the combination of therapy and mindfulness to be extremely powerful for those who practice meditation techniques on a regular or daily basis.
On the other hand, with therapy alone, the process is clearly far more difficult and lengthy.
“When we are angry, we suffer. We have to be there for our anger, we have to recognize its presence and take good care of it. In psychotherapy, this is called ‘getting in touch with our anger.”
-Thich Nat Hanh