Even with all the counselling and personal consulting I provide on the topic of anger, I still experience anger like everyone else. Many of the same things that trigger your anger triggers mine as well. Some clients get surprised when I tell them this. Their perception is that because I’m a psychologist who specializes in anger management, I must never get angry.
This is when I have to remind clients that anger is a natural emotion – just like sadness, anxiety, and love. Feeling anger is not the problem; it’s what we do with our anger that makes it a problem. One of the main differences between those who have “problem anger” versus those who do not has to do with the manner in which it is expressed.
This is why treatment groups for anger are called “anger management” groups and not “anger cessation” groups. The objective is to teach the person how to appropriately recognize and express our anger. The goal is not to prevent anger from ever being felt. That would be un-natural and impossible.
An important tool that I emphasize in all of my anger management sessions is to recognize the difference between Reaction and Response.
Anger Management: Reaction versus Response
A reaction is an immediate, almost instinctive approach to a situation we are involved with, or a perception we have. It’s something that is done without thinking; something done on impulse, without consideration of what the consequences might be.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you go to a crowded place (a concert, sporting event, bar, nightclub, etc.). As you are walking along, you bump into someone. That person looks at you, and before you can say anything, they push you.
Why would they do this? They might have the perception that you bumped into them on purpose and that you wanted to start some sort of confrontation. They didn’t even give you a chance to apologize, or to consider that you bumped into them because you were pushed from behind.
They reacted. They pushed you without pausing to think why it happened. It was automatic and thoughtless. It was a reaction.
Now, imagine if the other person paused before pushing you. If they had actually paused, they would have heard your apology and likely would have responded peacefully instead of reacting angrily. When we pause and think about our options, we are responding.
Pausing Reduces Anger
This is what you want to do when you feel angry: you want to pause, even if just for a couple of seconds, before you say or do anything. When we pause, we are allowing ourselves to respond appropriately to a situation, rather than reacting and doing something that we might regret later.
This is one of the fundamental anger management strategies. That is, to learn how to pause and take a few seconds, or a few minutes, or even a few hours before dealing with the situation that is triggering your anger. By doing so, you will also gain deeper insight into your emotions, and will be more effective at managing your anger.
Hoping your week is filled with much knowledge, growth, and little anger.
Links related to this post:
- Click here for my post on the Anger Iceberg
- Click here for an article outlining Strategies For Controlling Your Anger
- Click here for a video explaining 7-stepts for managing your anger.
- Check out 31 tips for managing anger by Dr. Stan Hyman