When Rage Overwhelms: Finding Hope Through Anger Management
Diana Castillo Eddy, LMFT
Anger is no stranger to anyone who has driven in traffic, worked for an unappreciative boss or lovingly raised children. When going about one’s daily business, this stress-provoking emotion appears in varying degrees depending on the situation. Anger can range from slight annoyance at the check out when the person behind you rushes to the front of the line at a newly opened register, to frustration when the paper jams in the printer, to irritation when the TV remote is nowhere to be found. In the case of a parent scolding a teen for arriving home way past curfew, anger can demonstrate devotion and concern. A reasonably angry reaction to the responsible party signals that behavior or actions were inappropriate and unacceptable. Getting angry is a part of being human. It allows the brain to weigh the limits of tolerance. Anger serves a purpose.
As a species, anger helps us react to and protect ourselves from serious threats. Anger can spur significant political and social movements, and anger has compelled people to take action against injustice. When expressed in a healthy, constructive manner, anger is a typical, essential human emotion. However, there is a limit to how much anger is conducive to a healthy, happy life. People who cannot manage their anger experience overwhelming and uncontrollable eruptions that can turn abusive, frightening or violent. Some people feel enslaved by their rage. Others feel trapped and isolated by their problems with anger. Some watch helplessly as their loved ones distance themselves out of fear. Many people with anger issues feel hopeless and ashamed, knowing their behaviors are affecting relationships with friends, family and coworkers. Even when conscious of their behaviors’ harmful results, many feel powerless to change.
The inability to control anger has a deeply negative effect on one’s life, and without help, these emotions persist and worsen, continually feeding on the resulting frustrations. When rage turns to violence in personal relationships, when heated outbursts on the job jeopardize a career and when anger negatively affects interactions in the community or creates problems with the law, then it is essential to learn how to manage these overwhelming emotions. Most people with anger issues know their tempers, reactions and actions are problematic, and many wish for a life in which their anger is not controlling them. However, many are unsure what to do. If these emotions are too over-powering, then experts from both the Mayo Clinic and the American Psychological Association suggest people seek out specialized help to deal with their anger. One possible path to addressing this serious issue is through counseling with an anger management program.
Anger management is not about blame, and not about accusing someone of being a bad person. Anger management is not about teaching someone to become submissive or toss aside opinions and preferences. Anger management programs are designed to help people learn ways to better handle situations that trigger angry responses in order for them to control the emotions that consume them. Most individual or group programs help participants find healthy ways to manage and express their anger. In addition, participants are introduced to strategies that work when they’re faced with situations that trigger their anger responses. Because it is necessary for people to find ways to make anger management a natural part of their lives, participants also discover how to be assertive in ways that are not aggressive as well as learn how to engage in conflicts in a safe, appropriate manner. Considering that each person is different, anger management classes help people find the best personal approaches to managing conflicts in effective, healthy ways. Although the methods may differ, all programs have the same goal of helping people enjoy lives in which their emotions aren’t continually leading to negative consequences.
Many people have gained control over their lives by learning to manage their anger. As an emotional response, anger is not necessarily bad. It is when this emotion becomes an overwhelming burden that people need to seek help. With positive steps, support and commitment, people can learn to manage their anger, find opportunities for personal satisfaction, and begin enjoying lives filled with self-respect and happiness.