Many clients come for anger management wanting to no longer feel anger, to banish it from their lives and become free of its grasp. But is anger actually an enemy or is it a friend? Does it ruin lives or enhance them? How does anger management help people understand their anger style and then change it?
There are two different anger styles:
Anger as an enemy (the anger rejecter)
Anger quite often is seen as an unpleasant and unwelcome feeling for many people. When they feel anger many people will try to squash it, hold it inside or avoid situations which cause them to become angry. Some people experience a real fear of losing control and avoid doing so at all costs, afraid of the consequences of showing their anger they hold inside their feelings and quite often become people pleasers putting their own needs last. This can lead to feelings of apathy, low self-esteem, invisibility, anxiety and depression. Some people can hold their feelings in this way, while others try only to become locked in a cycle of repressing their anger until it becomes impossible to hold in any more and an explosion results. Their anger becomes, rage and they lose control and suffer the consequences. The fallout from this is often a huge feeling of guilt, lack of control and low self-esteem resulting in self hatred and self-loathing.
Many people attempt to reject any feelings of anger to prevent any future outbursts beginning the cycle again until inevitability the anger dam bursts. If you are someone who sees anger as your enemy and store that energy up over time in an “Anger Dam” then it will eventually break, releasing a path of destruction in its wake. As a result things are never quite the same, as you can patch the walls up but you can always see the cracks. People will always be unsure, keeping clear, as they never know when they may need to run for cover.
Anger as a friend (the anger worshipper)
At the other end of the scale there are people for whom anger seems to be the one “cool” emotion and feelings of love, empathy and emotion are repressed and rejected as weaknesses. To them anger is a show of power, strength, control and dominance and they feed their anger ensuring people are “told how it is” not holding any punches and not considering how their behaviours may hurt the people around them. The most important belief is often that they must obtain respect at all costs. If you are someone who believes that by being angry you can get what they want or deserve then perhaps you see anger as a friend. If you think like this and believe that anger keeps you safe, respected, important and keeps your needs constantly met it can become a very addictive cycle, one which is hard to break. Often friendships, relationships and trust can eventually become lost for the anger lover. By embracing their anger it becomes self-perpetuating creating an even more angry and resentful person in the long-term. Ask yourself this, if you believe anger is a friend and ensures you’re needs are the most important, then why does it sabotage friendships, relationships and complicate your life? If your anger dictates your behaviour in this way then it is your master and it controls and manipulates you rather than you being in control of it.
How can anger management help?
Somewhere between these two beliefs is where anger can become a healthy and positive emotion in life. There is some truth in the beliefs of both the person who rejects anger and the person who worships it. Just think if we didn’t have a feeling of anger or injustice, people would become apathetic, accepting their lot, being bullied and abused and feeling unable to make changes. However, although there are many dangers in our lives, we no longer need to be switched on all the time.
When working with people in anger management I try and help people to learn how to switch off and how to respond differently, taking back control of their lives. Quite often, through learning where your anger is and how to control it clients become more and more capable of seeing their limits and saying no before they scream no.
Anger isn’t a friend or foe its simply a feeling an energy and sometimes it's a reminder that we need to take action, that something’s not right. However, the action we take needs to be in proportion to events and not become rage as a result of our past experiences or beliefs. Through anger management and CBT techniques people can become more assertive, in control, happier and more relaxed. Finally letting go of the beliefs and behaviours which kept them imprisoned, neither loving anger nor rejecting it but instead coming to respect and accept it's power.
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