What is Anger Management?
Anger management programmes are specifically designed for people who realise they have a problem with their anger and find it incredibly difficult to respond to challenging situations of any nature. Participating in such a programme allows you to recognise the source of your anger. Once you discover where your anger comes from, you can then learn how to manage it productively. Expressed cleanly, anger is a healthy emotion, meaning the person is neither passive-aggressive nor active-aggressive.
The challenge in any situation is to manage our anger by being assertive and clear about how we feel and what we need in that moment. Anyone can learn anger management skills, however, it takes repetition, practise and a lot of support from others. There are lots of books written on the subject, courses to attend and one-to-one sessions available to help, although the most beneficial resources are those provided by specialists in anger management. This is key because it gives you the opportunity to delve into your anger specifically, keeping the focus on anger without being distracted by ‘open’ sessions. Sometimes the reason for the discrepancy between professionals can be because managing anger requires a specific skill that combines education and psychology. This psycho-educational approach is the key ingredient in unpicking unhealthy anger. General counselling is not specific enough to help people manage their anger effectively. Skills, strategies and tools are what is needed, so that at the point of having anger triggered, you activate your learned coping strategies, to manage your intensity of feeling and ensure that the anger is not acted out. This is not to say that other mental health professionals are not helpful, because they are, but that it would be useful to determine how comfortable or skilled a professional is working with anger directly before chossing to work with them.
Learning the art of managing anger can be truly life-changing.
How can anger management help?
Attending an anger management programme will support you in recognising the classic symptoms well before you are triggered, and then offer solutions and coping strategies in being able to express your feelings and emotional needs healthily. This has the effect of helping you to feel calm and in control, instead of having your feelings hijacked into negative territory, which can include fear, hurt, shame and sadness, among many others.
Below are typical signals that suggest your anger could be problematic, meaning you might wish to consider professional help:
- Realising you often need to suck your anger in, and then get to the point that you explode without warning.
- Noticing that you often overthink, ruminate and focus on the negative.
- Constant irritability, short temper and defensive behaviour.
- Getting into arguments and conflicts with others that increase your levels of frustration.
- Being physically threatening and verbally violent towards family members and others – this is a key sign.
- Smashing up objects or property.
- Road rage
- Finding that even you are afraid of your outbursts towards others, causing you to experience anxiety and possibly depression.
Do the research
Knowing how to express clean and healthy anger involves learning to express your feelings appropriately. Acquiring new behaviours is also essential when it comes to anger management. There are a vast number of books, websites, podcasts and YouTube videos offering information and tips on the subject. However, if you are unable to learn and apply the skills using these self-help methods, you may need to find a specialist in anger management to supplement this, either for one-to-one sessions or through a well-developed group anger control programme.
In the age of the Internet, it has never been easier to access information about in-person group programmes or one-to-one sessions. It is even possible to access virtual help, with live interactive courses, webinars and self-help groups enabling patients to access help remotely.
Here are some tips on how to access help:
- Doctors, mental health providers and counsellors can all provide referrals.
- Research prominent websites or directories.
- If you know someone that has already attended an anger management programme, ask them for suggestions or a referral.
- Ask your HR department or use telephone helplines.
- Local libraries often serve as community hubs, which can provide a wealth of information about public self-help services.
What can you expect from anger management coaching?
Anger management programmes or one to one coaching
Anger management programmes are usually conducted in a group alongside others suffering similar issues. One-to-one anger management coaching is normally delivered individually, although it is also open to couples or families. The environment, length and number of sessions can vary, depending on the program, counsellor or your needs. There is no set formula; many courses are adaptable and could last anywhere between a few sessions and several months.
Beginning anger management
When first starting work on your anger issues, it is vital that you explore and identify the sources of your anger, also called anger triggers or drivers. It’s also important to notice how you are feeling and what’s going on for you physically, as these are the prime indicators that your anger has been triggered. Naturally, the goal is to have strategies in place to manage triggers and recognise early warning signs of anger. This is the key to effective anger management. It is important to recognise and list the following:
Stressors (anxiety) indicators: Stress fuels anger, so managing stress more effectively helps you to manage anger more productively. Examples of major stressors could be finances, health, time management, family, co-workers, travel and traffic, etc.
Physical indicators: They are different for everyone, but examples could include blood pulsing through your veins, overheating, a racing heart or disrupted sleep patterns.
Emotional indicators: This is often a build-up of negative emotion with no outlet. You might often have negative thoughts or ruminations about someone or something that has triggered your anger. You may be critical or judgemental towards yourself and others. You may have frustration that you want to express to someone, but hide and repress your true thoughts or feelings when communicating with them.
What usually takes place during anger management sessions.
During anger management coaching sessions and programmes, the intention is to help you to understand your feelings and to recognise that expressing anger more healthily usually yields a better result. It will also help you to identify the reason for your anger and resources to help you manage it, for example you will likely identify coping strategies to calm yourself when you feel the onset of anger. These programmes can also uncover other issues that may exacerbate anger, for example stress and anxiety, shame, depression, addiction, health problems (including mental health issues) and post-traumatic stress. Recognising these issues gives you the scope to correct them, which is paramount in finding a lasting solution for managing anger.
The aim of anger coaching and anger management programmes is to support you in finding a permanent remedy for your anger. This can include:
- Identifying your most risky anger triggers and putting in place strategies to manage them, including asserting yourself more positively and proactively to avoid being triggered.
- Embracing fundamental skills to apply in situations that could potentially trigger your anger.
- Noticing when your ability to think clearly diminishes and how to recognise the symptoms, which will refresh your ability to be logical and reasonable.
- Put in place self-soothing strategies to calm down so you don’t become hijacked by your feelings.
- Understand your feelings and express them clearly without blame.
- Knowing your wants and needs, and expressing them very clearly without blame.
- Identify solutions to solve problems creatively and manage crisis more effectively
- Learning how not to take things personally
- Expressing your vulnerability without feeling threatened.
- Becoming more emotionally resilient by understanding what makes you who you are and drives you to do the things you do.
- Recognising there are many creative solutions to solving problems especially when it comes to anger.
- Learning how to communicate to get the best and most productive results
The benefits of managing your anger
Managing your anger well can be life-changing. Here are just some of the positive aspects:
1. You will no longer find yourself controlled by anger when confronted with challenges
2. Understanding the difference between assertiveness, aggression and passive-aggression, and choosing to respond to situations appropriately.
3. Expressing your feelings and needs in such a way that you are heard and taken seriously.
4. As you learn to manage your feelings better, you will also find that your self-esteem will increase, which results in your feeling happier and more relaxed.
5. You will be more approachable to others, as they will no longer feel intimidated by your anger.
The ways that anger management helps:
Anger management is designed to help you express your frustrations clearly and positively, so that people respond positively to you. When angry we say hurtful, cruel things which we regret, so learning how to manage confrontational situations helps to sustain healthy and meaningful relationships with others.
Anger management programmes recognise that stress fuels anger, so by teaching you how to reduce your stress levels, the programmes allow you to maintain better physical and emotional well-being.
Being competent at managing anger can prevent psycho-social problems that are linked to trauma, stress, shame and anger. These behaviours are also linked to anger, and have been proven to increase addictive and self-destructive behaviours. Learning how to manage your anger and stress using effective techniques gives you the freedom to remain present, relaxed, and happy.
One final teaching in anger management support is that anger actually has many positive attributes and can even fuel productivity when expressed correctly.