Anger is a valuable emotion which tells us that we need to address a situation—often one involving an issue or disagreement with another person. Unfortunately, if it is not properly managed this emotion can interfere with your effectively addressing the situation which may cause further problems for you and your relationship with the person. I help my clients in anger management counselling learn psychological skills to respond to their internal signals of anger and constructively respond to them.
Learning how to relax to calm the tension in your body can help you manage your anger in the moment. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, distraction and hypnosis are examples of such relaxation techniques I work on with my clients in anger counselling.
I teach clients skills in counselling to help them reduce the intensity of their anger by changing their thinking. Distorted thinking, such as a preoccupation with people adhering to rules or assuming negative motives in others, tends to heighten the intensity of anger. Skills like thought records help a person view situations and people in a balanced, rather than an overly negative, manner. These skills thereby reduce the intensity of their anger which makes it easier to respond constructively.
REHEARSING CHALLENGING SITUATIONS
Preparing for challenging situations can help you manage your anger. I help clients visualize and rehearse situations by anticipating behaviours and words which could lead them to feel anger, then practice remaining calm and responding in a constructive manner. When these anticipated situations then arise, you are ready to respond to them effectively.
ADDRESSING WHAT LIES BENEATH THE ANGER ICEBERG
Anger is often referred to as a secondary emotion—the emotion at the tip of the anger iceberg. Beneath the surface are other emotions of which the person may be unaware or uncomfortable facing such as fear, hurt, frustration, guilt, shame and embarrassment. I work with clients to help them get in touch with these emotions and then deal with them. Doing so reduces the intensity of anger by addressing what lies beneath the tip of the anger iceberg.
STAYING ON TOP OF STRESSFUL SITUATIONS
People often overreact with anger in a given situation because of other problems in their life which they are worried about or haven’t addressed. I help my clients identify and take steps to solve these problems. These include current problems such as work, relationships and finances as well as past events from which they have not healed such as abuse, bullying and other traumatic experiences. Staying on top of these problems helps you view particular situations in proper perspective, making it less likely you will overreact.
PRACTICING ASSERTIVENESS AND CONSTRUCTIVE COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Learning how to communicate your points constructively and assertively is critical to effective anger management. Lacking such skills often leads to frustration which leads to expressing your points with aggression. I help my clients learn and practice skills to communicate their points constructively and assertively.
DEALING WITH THINGS AS THEY COME
Not addressing things that bother you or telling yourself that they don’t matter doesn’t make them go away. Doing so typically leads to a buildup of anger to a point that you are likely to overreact. In my role of Calgary psychologist, I help my clients deal with things that bother them as they come up so that their anger remains at a manageable level.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT TIME TO DISCUSS ISSUES
One of the secrets to managing anger is choosing the right time to discuss difficult issues and disagreements. Avoiding times when you’re already stressed and picking times when you’re more relaxed makes it more likely you will behave constructively even in contentious situations. I help my clients become skilled at choosing these optimal times.
Knowing when to stop discussing an issue is as important as choosing the right time to discuss an issue for effective anger management. Feelings of tension, an absence of constructive communication and the use of negative and aggressive language from you or the other person are signs of anger becoming too intense to manage effectively. I work with my clients to help them notice these signs and take time-outs when they occur. Doing so makes it less likely that you and the other person will act aggressively toward each other.
Learn more about anger management on my blog:
- How to avoid ruminating on self-righteous anger
- The siren song of self-righteous anger
- How to manage your moods behaviourally while waiting for cognitive skills to take effect
- How to manage your emotions while driving: A double-barreled approach
- Dr. Pat featured in the June 2019 edition of Reader’s Digest
- How to address abuse in a relationship: Take the right approach in counselling
- How to catch hot thoughts so that you can check and change them to feel better
- How to pick yourself up when you’ve ‘fallen down’
- Choosing a good hot thought: Situation-specific or general
- Two motivators to change behaviour: Hope for the good and fear of the bad