Anger Management What You Need to Know
Anger destroys a person’s health, personal life, career and even social life. A casual family window-shopping trip can turn out to be the most distressing trip for the entire family if a family member gets into an anger outburst either with a family member or stranger. Says Dr. Ravi Samuel, a psychotherapist; “Anger is an emotion ranging in severity from mild irritation to intense fury. Its impact is psychological, and it can impair a person’s ability to think rationally and logically.” He continues, “Anger is also accompanied by a physiological arousal to respond verbally or physically.” Is it not getting common these days to see two people on the road swearing at each other?
A Powerful Emotion
As we attempt to comprehend the factors that trigger off anger, it becomes vital to understand that biologically, the amygdala (also known as the ‘feeling brain’) experiences emotions prior to the thalamus (known as the ‘thinking brain’). This explains why a person, spurred by anger, tends to indulge in certain verbal expressions and physical acts. “Anger is caused by interpreting external events as an insult to a person’s dignity or that of others and can further intensify by repeatedly pondering over such events”, adds Mr. Samuel.
A Growing Concern
Stress, interpersonal conflicts and the distressing break-down of relationships can have an adverse effect on some people and can manifest itself in difficulties in controlling anger. Anger has become a common problem today for almost all age groups, irrespective of gender.
“Children are being brought to my clinic by parents concerned about their child’s destructive activities and uncontrollable behaviour”, Mr. Samuel states. “Executives who are troubled by their inability to deal effectively with their teammates, also seek my help. Moreover, housewives too, when faced with deteriorating relationships with their spouse and children, approach me for guidance.”
It has been discovered that anger can be influenced by genetic factors and social circumstances too. Also, people from disturbed family backgrounds may display a greater predisposition to anger. Mr. Samuel adds, “On the other hand, anger is an emotion that should be expressed. However, you require knowledge to help you handle this powerful emotion.”
Implications of Anger
Anger is known to have a huge impact on a person’s mental and physical health. If overlooked, it can lead to problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, insomnia headaches, digestion problems, abdominal pain, loss of hair and skin problems (eczema) too. It can also lead to disorders such as anxiety and depressive disorders.
“Suppressing anger, however, without dealing with the underlying cause or emotion, can also have a negative effect and can lead to passive-aggressive behaviour and hostility”, reveals Mr. Samuel. “Being assertive without being destructive is the best balance you can learn in dealing with this emotion. Physical violence towards people is certainly abusive behaviour, which I seek to actively discourage”, he states.
“There are several techniques, such as relaxation techniques and cognitive restructuring, which can be practiced to overcome anger”, assures Mr. Samuel. “However, in cases of uncontrollable anger, a psychotherapist will also have to work on the person’s self-esteem, emotional coping techniques and problem-solving capabilities.”
While some people seek timely help when their relationships get affected due to poor anger management, there are others who even opine that anger is a ‘life skill’ that they are equipped with. “It is such people who are likely to suffer from the impact of anger on their mental and physical well-being and this can also adversely affect the quality of life of people around them”, emphasizes Mr. Samuel.
Anger Management Techniques
CBT is a combination of cognitive therapy, which examines undesirable thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs (known as cognitive processes) and behaviour therapy, which focuses on the behaviour adopted in response to such thoughts. With the help of structured techniques, a CBT therapist seeks to identify the thoughts that cause distress.
CBT encourages challenging negative beliefs to gain a realistic view of situations. This involves a collaborative effort between the therapist and client, to work on the client’s problems and help equip the client with beneficial skills to overcome distortions in thought patterns.
45-year old Mr. Ranganathan, a very efficient manager in a multinational company, was faced with growing resentment from his staff and the management, due to his display of anger in trivial issues too. Mr. Ranganathan also found most of his ideas turned down by the Board of Directors. Aware of the implications of the situation, he approached Mr. Samuel.
On detailed evaluation, it was discovered that he displayed a highly condescending attitude towards the staff and derived a sense of mastery by shouting at people. His presumption was that his subordinates would perform their duties out of morbid fear and was even blissfully oblivious of the resentment and hostility.
Mr. Samuel identified his dysfunctional thoughts, faulty beliefs and undesirable behaviour. Using CBT, techniques such as ‘mirroring’ and ‘benefit analysis’, Mr. Samuel enabled Mr. Ranganathan to resolve his issues amicably and overcome his anger.
The ‘mirroring’ technique involves the therapist enacting the behaviour of the person, which helps put him on guard against such dysfunctional actions. ‘Benefit analysis’ is another technique in which the therapist enables the person to understand how his actions, if replaced with right behaviour, can be beneficial to him in several ways.
With CBT gaining a firm foothold on treating psychological issues, anger management techniques can provide respite to those in need of help in managing their emotions.