Don’t Panic - Plan
I wonder how your second week of online practice has been? NCS Registrant Suzie Mosson, a director of Online Training for Counsellors, has some expert advice for practitioners making this move. Whethe...
GETTING THERAPY FOR ANGER MANAGEMENT
We are terrified of anger. We are terrified of others being angry of us, and we’re terrified of becoming angry.
There’s a good reason for that. Anger in modern society seems counterproductive. Losing control in the ‘heat of the moment’ can damage our reputations and relationships. It scares or even hurts other people. It can be very destructive.
If you want to find a counsellor to help with anger management, you are in luck. Because of how upsetting it can be for everyone involved, anger is an area in which most counsellors are very experienced.
A good counsellor will help their clients to get to the root of anger triggers. They will help them develop skills which will prevent themselves from getting angry in the first place. They will teach calming techniques, and work with their clients to build awareness of the kinds of feelings and issues which cause outbursts.
WHY DO WE GET ANGRY?
Anger is a very old and very powerful emotion. It also serves a vital purpose. Without anger to help us power through dangerous situations, it’s doubtful that humanity would have survived as a species.
Anger provokes a set of physical and cognitive changes which help us to deal with threats. As anger builds, hormones like adrenaline, vasopressin, and corticosteroids are released. These prep the body and brain for a fight - oxygenating the blood, dulling pain responses, sharpening focus on the ‘threat’, and wiping out all inhibitions which might make us too scared to defend ourselves properly.
Put less scientifically, anger catapults our brains right back into our evolutionary past. When we get angry, a very ancient, instinctive system muscles its way to the fore. Your inhibitions, your rationality, your sense of perspective – all those moderating influences which would normally pull hard on the reigns – get drowned out by your most basic survival instincts.
All of this is very useful if you’re single-handedly trying to fight off a sabre-toothed tiger, but it’s not so useful when you’re arguing politics on Facebook. In more modern ‘threat’ scenarios, this heightened focus, lowered inhibition, and instinct to lash out can lead to furious over-reactions.
WHEN IS ANGER A PROBLEM?
We all have that instinctive anger mechanism, designed to turn us red in tooth and claw when a ‘threat’ shows up. But some people’s anger is more easily triggered than others, and some people’s anger reaction may be faster and more violent than is healthy.
Anger is not always a problem, and it’s normal to lose your temper from time to time. However, if anger is having a significant negative impact on your life, it may be time to seek anger management therapy.
Sometimes, anger is useful. If we’re genuinely in danger, anger gives us the courage and strength to pull through. In a less ‘life and death’ scenario, controlled anger can be a powerful motivator.
Anger also acts as an important signal that something is wrong. Just as physical pain alerts us to the fact that something is wrong with our bodies, anger can alert us to the fact that something is wrong with the situation we’re in.
However, some people get angrier more often and more quickly than others. They ‘fly off the handle’ at what seem to be very minor triggers. And they may quickly hit that dangerous state of furious rage, in which they have little control over their words and actions.
Chronic anger is bad for everyone concerned. Angry people say and do things they’d never dream of saying or doing under normal circumstances. Remembering their actions while under the influence of anger can make people feel very guilty and ashamed. Nobody wants to feel like a ‘bad person’, but the things we do while we’re angry are rarely ‘good’.
Not to mention the fact that anger may be incredibly damaging for those on the receiving end. It’s horrible to be screamed at, insulted, or threatened with violence. Being the target of someone’s anger can wreak havoc with a person’s self-confidence, self-esteem, and mental state.
Not all anger is expressed outwards. Sometimes, angry people internalise what they’re feeling. Rather than lashing out, they withdraw, getting moody. ‘Stewing’ in anger like this can lead to rumination, which in turn can lead to anxiety disorders like depression.
Then there are the medical consequences of chronic anger. Both angry people and in those who often bear the brunt of their tempers are at risk of high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and heart disease.
All in all, anger is never a nice thing for anyone to experience. If you or someone you know is angry to the point where it’s damaging their life, it may be time to find a counsellor to help with anger management.
HOW DOES ANGER MANAGEMENT THERAPY WORK?
Most anger management therapies focus on nipping anger in the bud. There is no point in trying to ‘manage’ anger once you’re already furious. That’s like trying to ‘manage’ drunkenness when you’ve already downed two bottles of wine. Anger management is about learning to stop anger before it builds up too much momentum.
Getting therapy for anger management involves learning to recognise your ‘triggers’ – the things which are likely to make you angry. You can then learn techniques to keep the anger at bay in triggering situations.
Anger management techniques can help people to slow down their building anger, which gives them a chance to observe the process they go through when angry. This often brings insights and issues at the root of the anger.
As we mentioned above, anger is not just a destructive emotion. It’s often a signal that something’s ‘wrong’ with the situation you’re in. An anger management counsellor will encourage their clients to work out why, exactly, those anger-inducing situations are ‘wrong’ for them.
Sometimes, people’s instinctive anger mechanism fires up because a person is subconsciously reminded of something bad which happened in their past. Sometimes, an underlying mental health condition may cause people to feel insecure and under ‘threat’ in certain situations, which puts their anger response on a hair-trigger. There are many reasons why people may get angry at seemingly minor triggers – a good counsellor will help to dig out those reasons, and teach techniques to calm a burgeoning rage.
Once you’ve learned a bit more about the situations which make you angry, and have gained some understanding as to why this happens, it’s a lot easier to take control of this wayward emotion before it takes control of you.