top of page

How to Gain Control over your Anger



Anger and how is it Treated?


Struggling with an anger issue can cause significant problems in your life and can ultimately lead to consequences that can be life altering. Consequences such as loss of job, family, position, even your freedom. Anger fundamentally can be originating from various sources and may be originating from a response to danger. Therefore, identifying the source of anger is crucial in being able to treat it.


It is important to note that no two anger responses are the same and that the source of anger may dictate how anger shows up in your life. For example, experiencing anger that is originating from a history of abuse or trauma will look completely different than trauma that may be occurring because of systemic oppression or sexism. Therefore, a combined approach to uncovering the source of anger to develop effective coping skills to address it is critical.


In my work with clients, I incorporate a combination of “talk therapy” and structured therapy, to help ease the process of discovery, all within a safe, collaborative, and supportive space that fosters exploration. Talk therapy begins by openly discussing what has been occurring in your life and how it has been impacting you. It is utilized so that a history of anger and its expression can be uncovered. It also helps in identifying if anything in your past has helped regulate your anger. Through psychotherapy (talk therapy), you will be able to further uncover if what you are feeling, whether consciously or unconsciously, has been contributing to furthering your anger or if there is anything within your past that may help address your anger.


The structured therapy portion of treating anger works by bringing in various evidence-based therapeutic approached that can help you to further develop ways of coping with the circumstances that are leading to responding in anger. Various approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) have been successfully used to address anger. This is all approached with the end goal of behavior modification so that anger can be better controlled.


Anger Management or Anger Treatment, what’s the difference?


The term anger management has become quite popular and is based on an evidence-based curriculum that is used to help clients struggling with anger gain insight and skills to address how they express anger. It is popularly used in group settings, but can also be used in individual therapy, and has ironically been portrayed in the media comically, such as in the movie “Anger Management” with Adam Sandler as the client and Jack Nicholson as Dr. Buddy, who uses an unorthodox approach to help our famous client Sandler address certain aspects of his anger, such as his passive aggressive behavior or inability to be assertive without becoming overtly aggressive (screaming at the top of his lungs).


Anger treatment takes traditional anger management a step further by utilizing a psychotherapeutic (talk therapy) approach to helping you discover what in the past, whether consciously or unconsciously, has led you to experience instances of anger. By taking anger management a step further, you will be able to gain further insight into what has caused this response to adversity and explore ways in which you have been able to overcome it, in addition to developing structured coping skills.


What is covered in Anger Treatment?


The basis of anger treatment is rooted in anger management and begins with learning more about the patterns of anger in your life and how it has been affecting you, your relationships, and other areas of your life. Topics such as identifying the style of anger, are collaboratively worked through to help you discover if there are certain events or cues that lead you to anger. For example, if you are on a bus and someone walks by you and hits your shoulder, do you immediately react? How does the reaction look like? How do you calm yourself down afterwards?


Additionally, an exploration of this pattern and any events in your life that have contributed to the instances of anger. Some common examples of contributing factors to anger can include growing up in a home where a parent was habitually angry, past trauma, depression, and self-esteem issues, can all appear in the form of anger towards others and yourself. Surprisingly is the fact that most of us carry to some degree something from our past that may be a primary contributor to anger in our lives.


Other important components to anger treatment include education on the anger cycle and an exploration of where you are at on it. An exploration of some therapeutic tools that can be used, such as thought stopping and cognitive restructuring as a way to help view a particular situation in a different way is also completed. Education on the differences between passivity, passive aggressiveness, aggressiveness, and assertiveness are readily utilized to help explore and inform you on your particular style of communication.


All of this with the ultimate goal of developing an anger management plan to help you cope with future instances of anger. Important to note is that anger is not something that is addressed with the intention of totally removing it but instead to work towards addressing it in a manner that is helpful rather than harmful.


So what did all those acronyms from before mean?


In the first section of this article, I had listed various therapeutic approaches and how they can be used towards addressing anger. In addition to the approach that leads to the development of an anger management plan is the use of approach such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT). Other approaches can be incorporated but these two in particular are highly effective in helping individuals with anger issues.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) works by looking at the cognitive process (how we think) and works by looking at these anger responses as opportunities for change. In CBT, the examination of our thought process can provide the clues necessary to work towards making the changes necessary so that anger is not as prevalent in your life. Self-talk, and how this shows up daily is especially important because of the emotional response that occurs with certain self-talk patterns.


Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) is another approach that works for individuals who experience their emotions intensely, such as in the case of anger. The whole idea behind the word “dialectical” is to see the opposing viewpoint in a certain situation. In the case of anger, it would look to see the alternatives to becoming overwhelmed by anger. Some aspects of DBT are particularly effective, such as the skills that are developed for emotional regulation and the development of mindfulness.


Emotional regulation in DBT works by helping to reduce intense emotions while also increasing positive emotions, which leads to an increase in your confidence and ability to navigate situations that could lead to anger. Mindfulness works by remaining aware of a particular situations and to work towards viewing it nonjudgmentally. Mindfulness helps to gain control over a situation by focusing on the aspects of anger that occur such as your bodily and psychological reactions and remain present to them in that moment.


Is all Anger bad?


Anger, in and out itself, is not particularly bad. However, what we choose to do with that anger is what can lead to it having a negative impact on our lives. Additionally, there is a place in this world for righteous anger which is necessary for change to occur. Systemic and societal changes are necessary and anger plays an important role. Anger also has played a role in the survival of humans throughout time and will always play a role in it.


The important question to ask yourself is, “how is my anger affecting myself and those around me?” Is your anger leading you to experience difficulties that are negatively affecting your life? If it is then it may be time to seek out qualified help in therapy to help explore your anger further and to help you develop the necessary skills to cope with anger so that it is not taking over your life.


Resources


If you are looking for a way to track your daily anger struggles and to begin the work on exploring your anger, check out my anger management journal that is available on amazon by clicking here.


If you are looking to schedule a free consultation to help address your anger please click here.



bottom of page