Bette J. Freedson, LICSW, LCSW, CGP is the author of the “Relax and Learn Seminars: Skills For All Seasons,” a repertoire of workshops based on the principles of effective stress management. In her work Ms. Freedson emphasizes the power of the mind/body connection to improve decision-making, increase effective coping, reduce time wasted in conflict, boost morale and productivity at work, and create greater harmony in relationships.
Q. What Makes Anger a Confusing Emotion?
At various times we have all been and will again–be angry. Anger is an entirely human feeling. It can also be a confusing emotion. While it is has been a common lay opinion that anger is bad, studies have revealed that problems with anger actually have to do with anger that is unresolved or mishandled. The bad reputation that has stuck to anger seems to stem from three main sources:
- the reality that explosive anger or anger unresolved for long periods of time can contribute to the development of (or worsening of) physical problems
- the fact that bad, often violent and/or criminal acts, have been committed by some people in the state of extreme anger called rage; and
- the pain of the stressful and often disturbing FEELING inside of us that we experience when we are angry.
Despite the realities that anger can lead to violence, social misdeeds, health issues and a variety of relational problems, anger as an emotion is not essentially bad. Poor management of anger involving ineffective and unhealthy coping choices is what leads to dysfunction and interpersonal problems.
Q. How Can We Begin to Understand Anger?
Contrary to what you might have been led to think by some health enthusiasts, getting rid of anger is not possible, or even desirable. Anger is an important emotion. It signals us that some stressful or difficult situation, a “crunch,” needs to be dealt with. The situation needing your attention might have arisen in your workplace, your personal relationships, or might be the angry feelings themselves. Some situations require action, some do not. However, each situation is best handled when you understand (a) what is triggering the angry emotions in you; and( b) how to deal with the feelings that you feel when you are feeling angry.
To begin dealing with your own anger, it might be helpful to keep a journal in which you note the situations that bring up your anger. Being able to recognize and label the feelings in your body and the thoughts in your mind are important prerequisites to making effective coping choices in the “crunches,” that is, in the grip of angry feelings. Your ability to cope with situations that make you angry will have the potential to improve your health, your relationships and your overall well–being.
Q. What Are Some Basic Tools For Managing Anger? AKA–What to Think and Do When You Are Seeing Red?
These basic tools for managing anger can be explored in further depth, with the creation of coping strategies, in individual or group therapy with a professional social worker.
Three Basic Tools:
Tool #1: Accept and Recognize Your Anger and Your Responses
- Accept that we all get angry at times and that you will too.
- Recognize the triggers that propel you into the “crunches,” and become familiar with the usual coping methods you employ.
Tool #2: Become Aware of What You Think and Do in a “Crunch.”
- Come to a conscious knowledge of the assumptions and basic belief systems underlying your anger triggers. (For example–Your “Shoulds”.)
- Learn the differences between effective and ineffective coping choices in general; and specifically which ones work best for you.
Tool #3: Identify Anger Management Options and Practice, Practice, Practice!
- With the help of a professional social worker, you can identify new coping options.
- Armed with your ability to recognize your anger triggers, and the awareness of your own coping patterns, try out new options and evaluate how effective they are in the “crunches”.