Next season Family Matters will dedicate an episode to Anger Management. The following is a brief overview of what some experts have to say on the topic.
Anger is Natural
Preventing oneself from feeling anger is not the goal of anger management, although many TV shows and movies depict otherwise. Everyone feels angry at some point in their life; it is a natural response to something that is wrong in our lives. Anger can be a great motivation to fixing our frustrations and to push for positive change. However, all too often anger is mismanaged and often negatively impacts people’s closest relationships. Most people can recall a time that they have said or did something out of anger and regretted it later. The goal of anger management is to express your anger without harming you and those around you.
Dealing with Anger
The American Psychological Association (APA) state that there are three main ways people deal with anger: expressing, suppressing, and calming. Many experts find expressing one’s anger is the healthiest method if done appropriately. The trick is to express one’s feelings assertively, not aggressively. Expressing anger appropriately requires identifying the reasons for one’s anger and how to correct those reasons, without hurting anyone in the process. This allows people to refocus their energy on what is actually causing their frustration, making it a great problem-solving technique. Lashing out does not achieve any goal and usually alienates people who genuinely want to help. One’s family and friends can get hurt and feel disrespected. Instead of helping solve problems, poor expression of anger usually causes problems to get worse.
Suppressing anger can prevent harm to any relationships. The typical approach to suppressing anger is once one is holding it in, to forget about what is causing it, and to instead focus on something positive. While this may seem less risky than expressing one’s anger, it comes with some significant risks. Medical researchers suggest that internalizing anger can cause heart and/or psychological problems such as high blood pressure and depression. While this technique may prevent immediate harm to relationships, the personal harm can cause much more harm in the long run.
The final technique, calming, typically supplements either expressing or suppressing anger. It focuses on slowing down not only one’s outward behavior, but also internal processes. Many techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help to achieve this. A common technique everyone has heard of is to “count to ten”. The main goal is to slow down anger to prevent any rash responses. This also allows people to reevaluate their anger in a more objective lens, letting them think about how to better handle the situation.
The tricky part of dealing with anger is that it turns people from rational individuals to illogical ones. Many people, once upset, will use terms such as “always” or “never” in phrases like “you always do this” or “this thing never works”. These phrases are rarely true, but often justifies being angry, and to continue being angry. They focus on how terrible an exaggerated situation is, instead of how to fix it. Just by taking a step back and reevaluating the reasons why one is angry, it will improve how a situation is handled. Often a rational person will realize being angry will not help the situation, and just that conscious realization will change the way someone handles their problems.
How Anger Affects Families
Statistics in Canada indicate that 40-50% of marriages will end in divorce. While there are many reasons why couples divorce, some of the major ones include communication breakdown, unreasonable behavior, and physical, psychological, and emotional abuse. These display symptoms of poor anger management, indicating that anger management is a major concern in contemporary family life. Also, studies indicate that poor anger management in the home is adversely affecting children.
Many children blame themselves for their parents’ anger and fights. This often results in depression, worry, and anxiety. Some signs include falling grades, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, loss of appetite, less social, and trouble sleeping. All these effects have a significant negative impact on children’s health and lives. Often they will not be able to handle their own emotions appropriately when they grow older, causing difficulty maintaining intimate relationships. Because kids are much more vulnerable, poor anger management has a much more significant impact. Overall, anger management is something that every person, especially ones with families, should take seriously to prevent harm to themselves and the people around them.