Saturday, May 22, 2010

Anger Management Strategies

Anger Management Strategies
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist for twenty-five
years, I deal with the same eight conditions over and over. One of
the most common complaints I hear about is relationships.
(The other seven are mood problems, children's behaviors, ADHD
or learning disorders, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor assertiveness
and addictions). All are affected by our skills in managing
People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious
approaches and psychological processes to deal with their
angry feelings. The three main ones or categories are
expressing, suppressing, and calming. These are found in the
broader literature on psychology, and are summarized here:
1) Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive—not
aggressive—manner is the healthiest way to express anger.
To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your
needs are and how to get them met, without hurting others.
Being assertive doesn't mean being pushy or demanding; it
means being respectful of yourself and others while stating
your experience and asking for what you want. Not
expressing yourself is, sooner or later, asking for
psychological trouble.
2) Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or
redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop
thinking about it, and focus on something else, preferably
something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your
anger and convert it into more constructive behavior.
This works as long as the anger is sooner or later expressed,
not just chronically suppressed (to make it “go away” forever).
The danger in this type of response is that if it isn't allowed
outward expression, your anger can turn inward—on yourself.
Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure,
or depression—the extreme of which may be suicidal impulses.
Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to
pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive
behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling
them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or over a very
long time it can create a personality that is perpetually
cynical or hostile. People who are constantly putting others
down, criticizing everything, and making sarcastic comments
haven't learned how to constructively express their anger.
Not surprisingly, they aren't likely to have many successful
This form of dealing with anger often leads to other,
long-term maladaptations. Just about any form of addiction is
suspect, as are extreme behaviors, in general. Chronically
suppressed individuals frequently display disturbances of normal
affect. They can also appear to be hyperactive and/or impulsive.
From a psychodynamic perspective, extreme anger at self may be
partly to blame for extreme risk taking behavior. Lastly,
divorce courts are filled with people who are chronically enraged.
3) Finally, you can calm down inside. This means not just
controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your
internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm
yourself down and let the feelings subside. Calming down can
occur before something anger-inducing occurs, during the
anger-inducing episode itself or after it. Examples of each
are meditation, mindfulness or going to the gym, respectively.
When any of the three approaches to anger-control fails,
look out. Trouble is brewing.
-Dr. Griggs

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