Anger is a healthy and very normal emotion. We all feel anger from time to time and it is an emotion that lets us know that we perceive something as ‘not right’.
In some ways it is a self-preserving emotion and sets the start on the fight or flight response when necessary. In some cases, however, anger can become unpredictable and uncontrollable and the person becomes overwhelmed with the emotion to the point of no longer being in control of their response. When this happens anger can become violent and dangerous. Those struggling with anger management problems often face a host of difficulties in their personal relationships as well as work and social relationships. In this sense it is necessary to contain ones anger and express it in relevant and appropriate ways.
Anger is most often a result of vulnerability coupled with a negative judgement or belief of some kind.
Our beliefs about ourselves, others and how we should function in the world are what shape our attitudes, thoughts and perceptions. When we perceive something as unjust, or negative then we react to it and this is where anger originates – in the perception of something being “not right”. This accounts for certain people feeling angry about something while others don’t – it is all in the perception of a thing. When our vulnerability is coupled with a negative perception of an event or situation then it more than likely results in anger. Sometimes, anger can even be a substitute for another, less tolerable feeling like shame, fear, or sadness. In this sense, the anger wells up to protect the person from feeling the emotion that is uncomfortable – again they have perceived things as “not right”.
However, when anger becomes unpredictable and out of control then we need to explore whether there are any distorted beliefs and attitudes that are contributing to the problem.
More often than not this will be the case. In this sense, speaking to a psychologist will help identify any thought distortions and help replace old negative beliefs with more adaptive ones and allowing the person to gain more control over their feelings and reactions. Often it is also necessary to look at more appropriate ways of expressing anger rather than it becoming explosive and aggressive.
In this sense, counselling often assists the person to express their anger more assertively as opposed to aggressively. In other cases, more appropriate ways of “blowing off steam” may also be explored so that the client feels in control of their emotions.