It is not unusual to feel angry in life, whether due to fear, stress, frustration, or disappointment. In fact, because anger is a physiological reaction to a perceived threat, it is natural to feel angry when things are not going well in life. This is because the nervous system doesn’t necessarily know the difference between a true threat to safety and the experience of things not working out the way we want them to.
Feeling angry is not a problem – the concern, of course, is when anger results in destructive or self-destructive acts. Because anger prepares the body to fight against a perceived threat, it can lead to acts of aggression such as physical violence, emotional or verbal abuse, intimidation, destruction of property and self-harm. Our relationships and overall quality of life can suffer greatly if anger often gets the better of us.
Anger management is largely the process of using the mind to help calm the nervous system enough so that the anger can be expressed in healthy, constructive ways. Attempts to suppress anger, or bottle it up, can be as unhealthy as blowing up – losing control of one’s temper. Studies indicate that anger that is not expressed constructively correlates with high blood pressure, headaches, ulcers, alcohol abuse and depression.
Since anger management involves reducing physiological escalation, it is important to increase awareness of the physical cues that tell us the nervous system has perceived a threat. This awareness, paired with skills that help us to more rationally assess the true nature of the perceived threat and convince the body that we are going to be okay, allow us to de-escalate in order to more adaptively express what we’re upset about.
At the same time, even though learning how to de-escalate is an essential skill, it is equally as important to learn how to deal with frustration, fear, stress and loss without becoming so angry. In this way, true anger management coaching involves the preventative component of helping the client develop tools for reducing stress, tolerating frustration, and grieving loss.
Though there are proven methods for helping individuals learn to express their anger in healthy ways, it is ineffective to apply a one-size-fits-all approach. This is because from a temperament perspective, some people are quicker to anger than others, and not everybody’s nervous system is the same. Effective anger management counseling or education helps the client tailor methods that truly work for him or her.
At APPLE FamilyWorks, we have been pioneers in helping people develop tactics for reducing stress, coping with loss, and better managing frustration and anger. This expertise exists in our parenting class curricula, in our approach to resolving family conflict and in helping individuals learn how to express anger in constructive rather than aggressive ways. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you need help with anger management. Our licensed and pre-licensed Marriage & Family Therapists are ready to help you.