Everyone gets angry at least once or more a week. It is a normal reaction that humankind has relied upon throughout all of history. When expressed effectively, anger helps us to define our boundaries, establish our rights, correcting wrongs and maintain a more just culture. Anger becomes a problem, though, when it is not expressed effectively, but instead becomes frequent, uncomfortable, intense, habitual or long lasting. It commonly occurs when we have, for example, negative experiences that we perceive as:
__ Unexpected __ Preventable __ Intentional
__ Unfair __ Disappointing __ Intolerable
__ Someone else’s fault ___ One’s own fault and poor reflection on oneself
In other words, anger tells us we need to take care of something that is bothering us. Extensive research studies tell us that habitual anger has many possible negative consequences for our physical and mental health, i.e:
__ Interpersonal conflicts __ People wanting to avoid you
__ Major medical problems like heart disease, stroke and cancer
__ Low self-esteem __ Saying things you regret __ Costly property damage
__ Poor decision-making __ Job dissatisfaction __ Family discord
__ Altercations with the law __ Clouded thinking leading to rash acts __ Poor memory
If your anger or that of someone you love puts you at risk for any of these problems that’s when an anger management program can help.
The purpose of an anger management program is to teach adults and children who have problems with anger learn how to reduce the intensity and frequency of their anger and, when it occurs, to express it appropriately.
When anger is making your life or the life of those around you unpleasant, an anger management program can help. The purpose of an anger management program is to teach those with anger issues how to reduce the intensity and frequency of their anger and, when it occurs, to express it appropriately.
The anger management approach is based on cognitive behavior therapy in combination with awareness training. It was developed by psychologists Howard Kassinove and Raymond Tafrate. It’s called the Anger Episode Model.* It was developed by researching how individuals respond to anger in real-life situations and has been empirically proven to be a useful tool for learning to manage anger effectively. The model has five main components, each related to the next:
1. Triggers are the external or internal events, words, thoughts or experiences that set off an anger response.
2. Our Appraisal is the meaning or interpretation we attribute to the trigger, in other words our thoughts about it. A simple teasing statement, meant in jest, for example, may be interpreted by one person as a light-hearted way of building a bond, while another person might interpret the same remark as an attack on his or her character. When a trigger is appraised as a negative event anger is the likely result. Such a reaction occurs most often when we experience the trigger as unexpected, preventable and intentional.
3. Our Experience our inner self-awareness of anger. Our experience included the bodily physiological reactions when we get angry, that is how we feel in our body. For example, we might experience an increased heart rate, clenched fists, sweating, muscle tension, shaking, sense of our temperature rising, etc. Our inner experience also includes the angry thoughts that pop into our mind (i.e. “I hate this person.” “This is an outrage.”) and imagined vindictive actions (i.e. “I’m going to teach her a lesson.” “I wish he would drop dead.” “I’m just going to quit this job and leave my boss high and dry.”
4. Anger’s Expressive Patterns are the way we as express our private, internal experience of anger. We may express our anger outwardly, inwardly or indirectly.
- An outward expression of anger could be yelling, screaming, insulting verbal statements like “You’re a jerk” or motor behaviors like pushing, shoving, hitting or throwing, or other forms of aggression like violence.
- Inward expression of anger occurs when someone client consciously chooses not to express their anger. In these instances suppressed anger may eventually dissipate or alternatively the anger may be lead to ruminating about the trigger or may pop out at another time.
- Indirect expression of anger becomes what’s called of passive aggressive actions or covert sabotage, i.e. passively resisting to demands on the job, not carrying one’s weight in a team, intentionally ignoring requests, purposely failing to act in a timely manner, or engaging in gossip can all be expressions of anger.
5. Anger Outcomes are the results we generate by expressing feelings of anger. If the result is positive (it provides attention, compliance or admiration of others) we will likely repeat this behavior to express our anger in the future. If, on the other hand, the results are not positive (or are ignored) we are less likely of to use the behavior occurring again in the future.
Taking part in an anger management counseling program based on this model enables you first to understand exactly what anger is, how it’s related to your emotions, when anger can be useful and when it won’t be, and how to avoid ways of expressing anger that make matters worse. It provides an opportunity to practice new reactions to angry feelings so that they become less intense, less frequent, shorter in duration, so you become more effective in managing whatever life situations you face.
If you or loved ones are struggling with anger issues, I will be glad to talk with you further about the program. Please contact me.
*Drs. Kassinove and Tafrate have been working together for more than 20 years on the development of treatments for anger and aggression. They are world-wide authorities on anger management and have authored many scholarly books and papers on anger and aggression. Use the link to review their work and find out more about the Anger Episode Method.