Beyond Anger Management
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Steve Earlam. MSc. Dip HE. MNCS (Accd). MFDAP
26th September, 20110 Comments
There are many suggestions and proposals that explore the reasons why people behave angrily or aggressively, why conflict occurs and how relationships suffer as a result of defensive approaches caused by unacceptable behaviour. Equally there are many suggested recipes offered that propose a view to helping those blighted with poor behaviour.
The management of anger is a goal for many distressed and frustrated souls. There are some very good strategies, techniques and models on offer for those who desire a change. There are self help guides, books, CD ROMs and specialist therapists available to assist with the choice of approach. Anger management has a well rooted position in behaviour change, we can learn how to avoid, control and escape from potential high risk situations and events, we can learn how to control and diffuse emotional arousal, where we struggle is in understanding why we behave the way we do.
A fundamental understanding of behaviour is perhaps a good starting point for anyone considering embarking on a journey of behaviour change.
How do we decide that the time is right to begin that journey?
Beckhard (1969) suggests that we must be dissatisfied with our current situation; we must have a vision of what is possible or what may be possibly different in the future if we do contemplate change. We must have a clear understanding of the initial steps and our vision must be clear and achievable.
How many of us, I wonder, when deciding to make changes, consider those three elements and what is more, have them in place. If one or more of the elements is absent then there will be little possibility of overcoming our natural resistance to change, argues Beckhard.
And what about resistance? We all have a natural inbuilt resistance to change, we can’t help it comes with the package. We resent change; it interferes with our well ‘learned’ and well rehearsed theories. It takes us out of our comfort zone. We have developed our ‘learning’ over a lifetime, right or wrong, good or bad, it really doesn’t matter. It is what we know and it is what we accept.
We have formulised our patterns and models, these have become our paradigms and we have become reluctant to shift them. We have learned well, we have worked hard, and now, because other people have become dissatisfied with our behaviour, we are expected to change.
But change we must, for the sake of our relationships, our children, our health and well being. We must confront our resistance head on, in an understanding way, not just on an intellectual level we must also deal with change on an emotional level, and that can be problematic because we perhaps do not have a well formed emotional vocabulary and we may therefore struggle to communicate on an emotional level, so we must begin to learn all over again.
We have become adept at resisting change after years of natural selection and adaption, once we figure out how to do something we tend to stick with it.
Change takes time and effort although most of us believe it can be quick and effortless.
There are no easy ‘step’ models to change, but we must get ourselves moving, remember one of the basic rules of motion?, ‘it takes effort to get an object moving but once in motion things tend to stay in motion’, well that rule is perhaps worth remembering the next time we are sitting head in hands, wondering why it all went wrong again after the latest anger outburst.
We should consider personal change as a process of stages that enable us to plan our approaches to change. Lewin defines a three stage change process where we begin by ‘unlearning’ or ‘unfreezing’ our current behaviours. We begin this change process because we have become dissatisfied with life as it is; this is also when we begin to think about doing things differently because what we have done previously does not seem to work for us. We then begin to consider change itself, a transformation begins; we attempt to learn and understand new concepts and ideas.
Once we are confident that our change process has been successful, when we are satisfied with some of the early results of our new practices, once it feels that we are ‘re-learning’ then we can continue ‘freezing’ these new thoughts, emotional responses, views, values, beliefs and practices and begin to re-construct our behaviour theories.
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