Lewis Psychology Anger Management Services
What Is Anger?
Anger is an emotion. The physical effects of anger include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. Some view anger as part of the fight or flight brain response to the perceived threat of harm.
The external expression of anger can be found in facial expressions, body language, physiological responses, and at times in public acts of aggression. Humans and non-human animals for example make loud sounds, attempt to look physically larger, bare their teeth, and stare. Anger is a behavioral pattern designed to warn aggressors to stop their threatening behavior. Rarely does a physical altercation occur without the prior expression of anger by at least one of the participants. While most of those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them," psychologists point out that an angry person can be very well mistaken because anger causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability.
Anger as a primary, natural, and mature emotion experienced by all humans at times, and has functional value for survival. Anger can mobilize psychological resources for corrective action. Anger can empower us to challenge injustice or to make positive changes in our lives. Uncontrolled anger can, however, negatively affect personal or social well-being and result in aggression or violence to oneself or others.
Fortunately, there are effective treatments that can help us to understand and manage our anger such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Psychology Of Anger
Anger is a form of reaction and response that has evolved to enable people to deal with threats. Anger can potentially mobilize psychological resources and boost determination toward correction of wrong behaviors, promotion of social justice, communication of negative sentiment and redress of grievances. It can also facilitate patience. On the other hand, anger can be destructive when it does not find its appropriate outlet in expression. Anger, in its strong form, impairs one's ability to process information and to exert cognitive control over ones behavior. An angry person may lose his/her objectivity, empathy, prudence or thoughtfulness and may cause harm to others. There is a sharp distinction between anger and aggression (verbal or physical, direct or indirect) even though they mutually influence each other. While anger can activate aggression or increase its probability or intensity, it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for aggression.
Physiology Of Anger
The external expression of anger can be found in facial expressions, body language, physiological responses, and at times in public acts of aggression.
The facial and skeletal musculature are strongly affected by anger. The face becomes flushed, and the brow muscles move inward and downward, fixing a hard stare on the target. The nostrils flare, and the jaw tends toward clenching. This is an innate pattern of facial expression that can be observed in toddlers. Tension in the skeletal musculature, including raising of the arms and adopting a squared-off stance, are preparatory actions for attack and defense. The muscle tension provides a sense of strength and self-assurance. An impulse to strike out accompanies this subjective feeling of potency.
Physiological responses to anger include an increase in the heart rate, preparing the person to move, and increase of the blood flow to the hands, preparing them to strike. Perspiration increases (particularly when the anger is intense). A common metaphor for the physiological aspect of anger is that of a hot fluid in a container.
Causes Of Anger
Usually, those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them" and in most cases the described provocations occur immediately before the anger experience. Such explanations confirm the illusion that anger has a discrete external cause. The angry person usually finds the cause of his anger in an intentional, personal, and controllable aspect of another person's behavior. This explanation is however based on the intuitions of the angry person who experiences a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability as a result of their emotion. Anger can have multiple origins, some of which may be remote events, but people rarely find more than one cause for their anger. Disturbances that may not have involved anger at the outset can leave residues that are not readily recognized but that operate as a lingering backdrop of anger.
Causes of anger include:
- Low frustration tolerance - when you go on the attack to deal with situations that most people would just put up with
- Lack of assertiveness - if you cannot speak up for yourself and get some of your own way by negotiation you may find yourself exploding instead
- Tiredness, stress, pain and hormonal imbalances can all contribute to the problem.
- Fear - anger can be felt as a response to situations that we fear will overwhelm us if we do not go on the offensive
- Shame - anger can spring from the feeling that we have to fight to preserve our dignity and sense of self-worth
- Response to past trauma - if you have been badly hurt in the past you may be reacting over-aggressively towards anything that seems threatening in the present
Symptoms Of Anger
Anger can be of one of two main types: Passive anger and Aggressive anger. These two types of anger have some characteristic symptoms:
Passive anger can be expressed in the following ways:
- Secretive behavior, such as stockpiling resentments that are expressed behind people's backs, giving the silent treatment or under the breath mutterings, avoiding eye contact, putting people down, gossiping, anonymous complaints, poison pen letters, stealing, and conning.
- Manipulation, such as provoking people to aggression and then patronizing them, provoking aggression but staying on the sidelines, emotional blackmail, false tearfulness, feigning illness, sabotaging relationships, using sexual provocation, using a third party to convey negative feelings, withholding money or resources.
- Self-sacrifice, such as being overly helpful, making do with second best, quietly making long suffering signs but refusing help, or lapping up gratefulness.
- Ineffectualness, such as setting yourself and others up for failure, choosing unreliable people to depend on, being accident prone, underachieving, sexual impotence, expressing frustration at insignificant things but ignoring serious ones.
- Dispassion, such as giving the cold shoulder or fake smiles, looking unconcerned, sitting on the fence while others sort things out, dampening feelings with substance abuse, overeating, oversleeping, not responding to another's anger, frigidity, indulging in sexual practices that depress spontaneity and make objects of participants, giving inordinate amounts of time to machines, objects or intellectual pursuits, talking of frustrations but showing no feeling.
- Obsessive behavior, such as needing to be clean and tidy, making a habit of constantly checking things, over-dieting or overeating, demanding that all jobs be done perfectly.
- Evasiveness, such as turning your back in a crisis, avoiding conflict, not arguing back, becoming phobic.
The symptoms of aggressive anger are:
- Threats, such as frightening people by saying how you could harm them, their property or their prospects, finger pointing, fist shaking, wearing clothes or symbols associated with violent behaviour, tailgating, excessively blowing a car horn, slamming doors.
- Hurtfulness, such as physical violence, verbal abuse, biased or vulgar jokes, breaking a confidence, using foul language, ignoring people's feelings, willfully discriminating, blaming, punishing people for unwarranted deeds, labeling others.
- Destructiveness, such as destroying objects, harming animals, destroying a relationship between two people, reckless driving, substance abuse.
- Bullying, such as threatening people directly, persecuting, pushing or shoving, using power to oppress, shouting, using a car to force someone off the road, playing on people's weaknesses.
- Unjust blaming, such as accusing other people for your own mistakes, blaming people for your own feelings, making general accusations.
- Manic behavior, such as speaking too fast, walking too fast, working too much and expecting others to fit in, driving too fast, and reckless spending.
- Grandiosity, such as showing off, expressing mistrust, not delegating, being a sore loser, wanting center stage all the time, not listening, talking over people's heads, expecting kiss and make-up sessions to solve problems.
- Selfishness, such as ignoring other's needs, not responding to requests for help, queue jumping.
- Vengeance, such as being over-punitive, refusing to forgive and forget, bringing up hurtful memories from the past.
- Unpredictability, such as explosive rages over minor frustrations, attacking indiscriminately, dispensing unjust punishment, inflicting harm on others for the sake of it, using alcohol and drugs, illogical arguments.
It should be stated that anyone displaying any of these behaviours does not always have an anger management problem
Counselling and Psychotherapy for Anger
Counselling and psychotherapy can enable the individual to develop a balanced approach to anger, which both controls the emotion and allows the emotion to express itself in a healthy way. During anger management individuals are encouraged to be more:
- Direct, such as not beating around the bush, making behaviour visible and conspicuous, using body language to indicate feelings clearly and honestly, anger directed at persons concerned.
- Honorable, such as making it apparent that there is some clear moral basis for the anger, being prepared to argue your case, never using manipulation or emotional blackmail, never abusing another person's basic human rights, never unfairly hurting the weak or defenseless, taking responsibility for actions.
- Focused, such as sticking to the issue of concern, not bringing up irrelevant material.
- Persistent, such as repeating the expression of feeling in the argument over and over again, standing your ground, self defense.
- Courageous, such as taking calculated risks, enduring short term discomfort for long term gain, risking displeasure of some people some of the time, taking the lead, not showing fear of other's anger, standing outside the crowd and owning up to differences, using self-protective skills.
- Passionate, such as using full power of the body to show intensity of feeling, being excited and motivated, acting dynamically and energetically, initiating change, showing fervent caring, being fiercely protective, enthusing others.
- Creative, such as thinking quickly, using more wit, spontaneously coming up with new ideas and new views on subject
- Forgive, such as demonstrating a willingness to hear other people's anger and grievances, showing an ability to wipe the slate clean once anger has been expressed.
- Listen to what is being said to you. Anger creates a hostility filter, and often all you can hear is negatively toned.
A common skill nurtured in anger management therapy is learning assertive communication techniques. Assertive communication is the appropriate use of expressing feelings and needs without offending or taking away the rights of others. It is typically started with the use of "I" statements followed by a need statement. For example, "I feel upset when you don't take my feelings into consideration when you talk about your past relationships. I hope you can be more thoughtful and know what you should and should not say the next time."
With regard to interpersonal anger, people can try, in the heat of an angry moment, to see if they can understand where the alleged perpetrator is coming from. Empathy is very difficult when one is angry but it can make all the difference in the world. Taking the other person's point of view can be excruciating when in the throes of anger, but with practice it can become second nature. Of course, once the angry person is in conditions of considering the opposite position, then the anger based on righteous indignation tends to disappear.
Make An Appointment
If you would like to arrange an appointment, make a referral or require further information about how we can help please telephone our Wolverhampton practice on: 01902 827808. Alternatively fill out our online contact form.
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Medical disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice by a qualified doctor.