Besides happiness, anger is the #1 emotion that people do not want to give up. It has been such an understudied emotion. Many of us have heard that anger “doesn’t have to be a bad thing”—if utilized in a healthy manner. With the shape of the economy, unemployment, and the housing market as it is; with the divorce rates at all time highs, and the deconstruction of the family system due to the demands of the workforce, it is as challenging as ever to just “handle it well.”
Most people experience anger a few times a week. Fifty-eight percent of anger episodes include yelling or screaming, and less than ten percent involve physical aggression. For most, the aggression is usually mild and consists of throwing small objects, such as pencils, or shoving. But for others it is a problem that truly impedes their happiness.
An enormous number of people come in to my office with anger problems and there is not an anger diagnostic category like there is with “anxiety” and “depression” disorders. Psychology textbooks rarely even mention anger. Where anger becomes a clinical problem is actually a fuzzy call because we have no such distinction for anger in the mental health field. Everyone gets the same treatment! The absence of many theoretical orientations from the outcome research literature has resulted in a limited view and ability to treat anger.
Some experts believe an anger-related diagnostic category could be helpful, others argue against it. Some say it isn’t necessary because anger may be a symptom of another disorder, others argue that a distinct anger diagnosis could be used wrongfully in court, for example, to explain–and perhaps create a defense for–criminally violent behavior.
One way to get on the same page with anger is to expose the myths that surround it. I am now going to present to you the myths that I believe prevent typical anger management classes and other anger-treatment from being successful and provide you with some ideas on how to combat the destructive anger that may be impeding your ability to experience the level of happiness that you would like to..and deserve.
Actively Expressing Your Anger Reduces It
This is basic Freudian thinking. According to psychoanalytic theory, if you don’t let your anger out—you will explode! Therapists want you to vent it out because they want you to feel better. Some therapists may even believe you have the RIGHT to be angry. They want you to do something —though it is temporarily rewarding, it really does not help you to get better in the long run.
First of all, chronic anger is a risk factor for heart disease. Decades of research show more verbal and or physical anger leads to MORE not LESS. How do you get to be an angry person? Practice Practice Practice! “Letting it all out”–isn’t helpful and, in fact, may increase a person’s hostility, according to a study by psychologist Brad Bushman, PhD, and colleagues, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 76, No. 3). Next time you’re angry, try holding it in—eventually it will simmer down.
Take Time Out When You Feel Angry
Therapists often tell their patient to AVOID or ESCAPE from situations where they are likely to get angry. They call this TIME-OUT. But, what about the situation where a couple is fighting a lot and because (lets just say) the man in the situation takes off every time they fight because he takes a time out when he gets angry. Is this helping the relationship? Very often the other partner ends up breaking it off saying “They won’t communicate!” Or, how about the employee who takes a time out when they get upset at work? Someone who takes breaks every time they get upset will likely seem too fragile and will come across like someone who cannot deal with pressure.
1-You are not addressing the problem and over time it gets worse.
2- Also, avoiding stops you from learning how to manage the situation better.
Taking a time out is only useful in the early stages of treatment when you are learning how to control your emotions.
Anger Pushes You To Get What You Want
People with anger problems believe it helps them get what they want! Sometimes they tell themselves that it pushes them to overcome adversity or injustice. I say it is MORE LIKELY to get in their way. We have all seen that difficult customer in a restaurant or in the mall…..anger may initially work but people in their lives become: resentful, bitter, and distant. In relationships there is often very little trust and intimacy. It is difficult for these people because they do not see the long-term consequences for their actions.
Insight Into Your Past Decreases Your Anger
Let’s say you are a young teen tennis protégé and your parents hire a tennis coach to improve your game. After observing you play, the coach’s diagnosis:
1) You are holding the racket at the wrong angle
2) Your stance is too awkward
If the coach spent months uncovering how you developed the awkward stance, or the holding of the racket at the wrong angle –how effective would that be? Imagine he discovered…..at summer camp in 2004 your sister taught you that grip. Didn’t she!
Or maybe he’ll find out that you got your poor posture in the 8th grade? How will that help you play better tennis? It is better to spend NEW time developing better skills!
Outside Events Make You Angry
If outside events made us angry, wouldn’t we all respond the same way when events occurred? Anger doesn’t just happen. It happens because you believe everything MUST be fair! That you should always get what you want, —or that things should go your way. Think about the things that you get yourself angry about for a second………how many MUST’s, SHOULD’s, HAVE TO’s, OUGHT TO’s apply?
Look for your demands and ask yourself:
Does everything HAVE TO be fair?
Can I stand it if it isn’t?
Can I ALWAYS get what I want?
What are the advantages of holding on to it?
What are the disadvantages?
• Repeatedly talking about an angry incident makes you angrier because you re-live it over and over.
• It IS possible to control your anger
• What you THINK influences how angry you get.
For more information or to schedule an appointment,
call or email Dr. Paul DePompo: