Anger Management

Anger is one of the many emotions that we all experience from time to time. Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy human emotion.Anger gets us "fired up", ready to deal with obstacles and achieve goals. However, as with most other emotions, when anger is experienced in the extreme it can have unhelpful and unwelcome repercussions in our personal, family, social and work lives. Mismanaged anger can be very destructive to all parties involved and is potentially the most harmful of the emotions, sometimes leading to acts of extreme violence. Yet, anger is probably best viewed as a secondary emotion, that is, it follows some form of threat or fear and is usually linked with unfulfilled expectations. Often people who have a problem with anger have a low level of tolerance or ability to deal with frustration.

Ways of dealing with anger:

  1. Projection of anger onto people not involved in the anger provoking incident, because we feel we can't express our anger directly to those involved, e.g. our boss, teacher, parent, etc.

  2. Conscious 'burying' of anger deep inside so as not to break social norms or perhaps hurt other people's feelings.

  3. Unconscious burying of anger. In this case, a strong but long forgotten threat can be buried so deep that we only know of it's existence because of angry feelings, thoughts and behaviour, that seem to be unrelated to anything in our present experience.

  4. Hostile and aggressive speech and behaviour. This may release our own tension, but such an approach can damage relationships and escalate hostility between people, that is, make things worse.

  5. Effective anger management and communication of concerns without disrespecting other people's rights, feelings and/or points of view.

Effective anger management tips include:

•Identify anger triggers.

•Notice the first signs of anger, e.g. tightly clenched hands or fists, tension in upper shoulders, physical agitation, urge to shout or scream, thoughts such as, "I hate...", or "It's not fair!"

•Remove yourself from the anger provoking environment. Do a different activity.

•Change your body language, posture and facial expression. Try a half smile.

•Do some physical activity to release built up energy. Kick a ball. Go for a run, a walk or to the gym. Burst some bubble wrap bubbles. Stomp on a few drink cans till flat.

•Slowly count to 10 (or 100) before taking action.

•Learn and use relaxation techniques, such as slow breathing and creative visualization.

•Learn and use problem solving strategies.

•Talk to someone about your concerns.

Tips for engaging with an angry, aggressive person:

  1. Maintain individual safety. Do not put yourself at risk. Notice exits.

  2. Remove others if in danger or encourage the person to move to a safer, quieter area.

  3. Remove any audience.

  4. Ask for someone to get some help if needed.

  5. Keep a safe distance. Two metres is good.

  6. Stay calm.

  7. Speak in a calm, clear manner. Do not raise your voice. Use a low tone and speak a little more slowly than normal. Do not use confrontational language, such as, "Act your age", "Stop being so childish", "Don't be an idiot".

  8. Use non-confrontational body language. Side to side is less confrontational than face to face. Do not engage in prolonged or exaggerated eye contact. Have your arms by your sides in a relaxed position, hands hanging naturally, open and relaxed.

  9. Encourage the person to take up a relaxed posture, e.g. sitting down.

  10. Keep talking.

  11. Focus on the behaviour that is causing concern, e.g. "You're upset. Let's calm down before we talk. You're angry. Put down the chair and we can work out what has upset you. I can't understand when you are yelling at me."

  12. Encourage the person to talk about their concerns in a controlled manner.

  13. When discussing the behaviour with the person after they have calmed down, clearly express the consequences of their actions and that aggression is unacceptable.

Remember, if anger is affecting your personal, family, social and/or vocational life, seek assistance from a professional. If you would like to discuss concerns about anger management with a Psychologist, please phone Regional & Rural Mental Health Services on (07) 4637 9989, or contact us via our Contact Form to arrange an appointment to see a member of our team.

Dr Pamela Seaton