Anger is a normal human emotion; it is how we express our anger that matters. This does not mean suppressing anger or denying it exists. The premise of anger management is to learn constructive and meaningful ways of expressing and managing this emotion. Whatever the reason for how the anger problem developed, it is important to know that therapy offers tools to help you manage your anger more effectively and still get what you want. In fact, by managing your anger you will probably find that you are more likely to get what you want because you will be better able to maintain relationships and work with difficult situations.
Science of Anger
When we are angry our bodies become physiologically aroused. This means that our heart starts pumping faster, our blood pressure raises, and our breathing patterns shift. It is an experience that we are all familiar with. The reason our bodies do this to us is because our brain has been triggered by something in our environment that indicated we may be in a situation that is a threat to us, and therefore, our brains are helping our bodies prepare to fight (become aggressive) or flight (run). This is our basic human survival instinct.
Once we notice our bodies have become physiologically aroused, this is a cue that your brain has started to spit-fire a powerful concoction of cortisol and neurotransmitters called catecholamines, which is a fancy term for a group of chemically-related messengers in our brain that dictate how we feel and what we do. The principal neurotransmitters that are released when we are in emotional distress are norepinephrine, dopamine and epinephrine. Our brain, particularly the frontal cortex, quickly becomes immersed in these neurotransmitters, resulting in extreme difficulty being able to make good decisions, process information, have good judgement and impulse control. Also, our amygdala, which is the part of our brain controlling fear and aggression, literally takes over causing us to react before the rational parts of our brain have a chance to think it over.
This cascade of events leads to a decrease in your ability to take in information and hear what the other person is saying; reduces your ability to hear well; makes it difficult to sustain attention; reduces your peripheral vision; encourages you to take a defensive posture and tone; reduces your ability to problem-solve, listen, empathize and makes it very difficult to see any positives in the situation. Consider just how helpful all of this would be if we were truly in an emergent situation where we were at risk. On the other hand, consider just how detrimental this can be to our lives and relationships if we are not in an emergent situation requiring such a response.
This is why it is imperative to have insight into yourself, the function of your anger response, and the function of the anger responses of those you love.
Therapy for Anger Management
I have extensive experience working in this area and also provide court-involved anger management for those who have found themselves in trouble with the law as a result. Problems with the management of anger do not develop overnight, and I will work with you to learn about your triggers and patterns when it comes to anger. This involves reviewing situations where you have lost your temper or done something out of anger that you later regret. You may choose to talk about this yourself, or you can invite someone you trust to attend a few sessions with you to offer their perspective on the situation. This is sometimes helpful for people who have a hard time talking about their anger management problem even if they know that a problem exists. Once your particular patterns and triggers are better understood, the anger management work can begin in full force. I will help you to harness your anger; understand the interactions between your brain and expressions of anger; come up with a prevention plan to protect relationships; remove yourself from situations that are likely to provoke an outburst, and repair problems if you have a slip. Depending on the nature of your particular anger management style, therapy may involve practicing new communication techniques, learning ways to relax yourself when you feel an outburst coming on, or learning how to spot problems before they start.