Anger can take many forms. People can feel frustrated when they don’t get what they want. When there is irritability there may be anger under the surface. There could be anger outbursts, sometimes after a long build-up of small frustrations and difficulties that have not been dealt with. Anger can be felt when we feel we are not listened to, or if we think we are unfairly criticised. It is a natural emotion which is positive and constructive in helping people to survive. It gives mental and physical energy to defend ourselves and create positive change. Anger is a response to a perceived threat or challenge. It is often an emotional reaction to feelings of loss, hurt, or failing to get a basic need met.
Although it can be a positive emotion when used constructively, it becomes a problem when it becomes too frequent, too intense, lasts too long and when there is no control over this emotion. Anger can disrupt relationships. Angry behaviour can be changed and we can learn ways to channel the impulse to be aggressive.
What is involved in anger management?
CBT can be helpful in anger management. In therapy we will break down what happens when you get angry. What goes through your mind when you get angry? In CBT we will reflect on these thoughts. It could be that you have thinking patterns with lots of “shoulds” , “oughts” and high expectations, which will increase the chance that you feel frustrated and angry. How does your body feel – are you feeling hot, are you aware of having palpitations and increased heart rate, and do you notice you are feeling tense? CBT offers coping strategies to reduce the physical symptoms of anger.
When there are feelings of anger, behaviour changes and there could be shouting, throwing something, pushing someone, crying, getting drunk or hurting ourselves. Often after we have shown this behaviour we feel worse about ourselves, which makes us more frustrated and irritable. CBT helps to think of alternative behaviour.
Assertiveness training can be helpful in relation to anger management. Communicating your needs in a respectful way will help to prevent feelings of anger and resentment. Problem solving is also an option.
Compassion Focussed Therapy can be also used in managing anger. It helps to develop a new, compassionate way of understanding anger, and many different skills for working through these feelings.