Anger gets a bad rap. In today’s world, we constantly hear about people with “anger problems” who need “anger management.” To me, anger management is a crock of crap. We don’t give ourselves enough credit. People CAN and DO manage their anger. I ask my patients who say they need anger management to get angry at me, right there in the office/session. Often they cannot rise to the occasion. Why is that? Because they are actually in control of their anger feelings and can in fact manage their anger. Don’t get me wrong, when administered correctly, anger management programs can help a person recognize their anger cues and choose more appropriate responses. But anger management? It’s like telling us our anger is a bad thing.
Anger is NOT a bad thing. Anger is a VERY VERY VERY healthy emotion. Anger motivates us to protect ourselves, make life changes and lets us know when a boundary has been crossed. Anger usually gets negative press because of the aggressive or passive behaviors associated with it. When some people feel angry, instead of figuring out why they feel that way, they act out or act in. Yelling, punching people, throwing things, hurtful name calling and overall belligerence. Or, gossiping, manipulation, getting even, sabotaging others, binge eating and even using drugs and alcohol to numb the anger inside of ourselves. These maladaptive strategies never help us to get to the core of why we feel angry in the first place and lead us to believe anger is a bad emotion. Some people use anger as a default to hide other, less socially acceptable emotions like fear, jealousy or sadness.
In her book “Honor Your Anger: How Transforming Your Anger Style Can Change Your Life,” Beverly Engel helps to explain why anger is a good thing and how we can change the way we express that emotion in more constructive ways. Re-evaluating the way you experience, process, express and communicate anger has many benefits. First, the obvious is that it can improve your relationships and self esteem overall. But did you know it can also improve your physical well being? Unhealthy anger expression is linked with cardiovascular issues, chronic headaches, gastrointestinal issues, asthma, arthritis, elevated blood pressure, insomnia, back pain and obesity.
My advice? Find newer and healthier ways to get the anger out in a positive way. Work on finding out why you feel angry in certain situation and make a conscious effort to respond and not react when someone pisses you off. Think things through. Stay calm. Be assertive. If you feel that your anger is causing you problems in your life, maybe even talk to a professional about understanding your cycle of anger and how to work through it.
Remember, ultimately YOU can control your anger, not the other way around.