Anger Management Classes - You Can Bust the Anger Cycle

by James A. Baker
(June, 2008. Recovery Today)

Anger Management Techniques - You Don’t Have to Hit to Hurt


I just turned 17. My younger sister and I live with my mom, who is a single mom. Me and my sister have different dads, neither of which have ever lived with us. My dad died when I was about 6. Me and my sister love my mom, but she has a terrible anger problem. She blows up about everything - chores, friends, grades. She works hard and is tired all the time so we just try to stay out of her way and give her a break, but it’s no use. When she is ready to blow, there is no stopping her. When we were younger, my sister and me used to think everything was our fault. Now we are pretty sure my mom is just nuts. What worries me is that I am starting to act just like her. I can’t stand her angry attitudes, and notice I am blowing up right back at her now. She threw me out of the house last week and I didn’t even really care. Can you help me not turn out like her?

Terrified in Tucson

I am a 20-year old honor student who has (finally) left home to go to college, but I am worried about my dad. He is a brilliant man - he has a PhD in theoretical physics and has taught at several leading universities. He also has a horrible anger problem. I have always loved him, but I have also always lived in fear of his rage and tried so hard to keep him happy because I didn’t want to set off an episode. Now that I am trying to be on my own, I am totally panicked. In the last couple of years, I have found it harder and harder to trust guys, I am very afraid of relationships and I barely feel like leaving my dorm room. I have a very high IQ, I got a perfect score on the SAT, I have a full scholarship, but I don’t think I can make it. I live in constant fear that I will trigger rage in people around me, especially guys who want to hook up with me. I said I was worried about my dad. I guess I am worried about me, too. Anger has ruined my life and now all I want to do is run and hide.

Hopeless in Houston

Dear Houston and Tucson:
It saddens me to report that your stories are all too common. Kids everywhere are suffering psychologically and emotionally (and often physically, too) as the result of living most of their lives with angry adults. The situations you each describe - growing more and more angry on one hand, being trapped by fear on the other - are both very common. You are both wise beyond your years for stepping up to ask for help, because it is the key to breaking the anger cycle in your family.

Too often, anger addicts - not to be confused with those suffering from a clinical condition like bi-polar disorder - developed their patterns of rage because they were raised by or with raging adults. Children raised in these situations learn to stuff their anger, hide from perpetrators, or walk the perfection line in an attempt to keep everyone happy. None of this is happy or healthy, and as the kids grow up, they develop their own problems. Tucson, you are noticing the beginning of what could become your own serious anger problem. Houston, you may be well on your way down the path of co-dependency where you will do almost anything to keep someone happy, and never learn to take care of yourself. The good news is that you are both wise enough and brave enough to ask for help.

The first thing I want you to know is that none of this is your fault. The destructive anger of your parents affected you, but it was never about you. Your parent’s anger is not evidence that you were not good enough or that you didn’t try hard enough to keep them happy. The anger they recklessly displayed toward you or around you does not mean that you are a failure - someone unworthy of being loved. Their anger is THEIR problem. Tragically, you happened to be living in the line of fire, and now you must deal with the wounds you received but never deserved.

The second thing I want to impress upon you is that because their behavior has affected you, it is urgent that you get help. A lot of kids in your position develop coping mechanisms that make it hard to talk about what has happened to them. Instead, they often try to just ignore it, bury it, keep it a secret, or treat it like it was no big deal. This just makes it worse, and it almost guarantees that you will develop even more serious emotional, relationship and addiction problems as you grow into adulthood.

Look at it this way; if your parent had shot you with a gun and you were standing there bleeding, would you ignore it and hope it got better or would you call 911? (I know it makes sense that your parents or some responsible adult should call 911 for you, but don’t count on that. Adults can be terribly irresponsible about things like this.) What will happen if you don’t make sure you get help? You might bleed to death; even if the bleeding stopped you would probably still die from an infection. The infection analogy is more accurate here. When kids ignore the problem and don’t get help, the pain and damage festers inside their minds and emotions as they grow up like a terrible psychological infection, eventually doing terrible damage. And so the cycle continues. Pretty soon, they are causing pain for others, just like their parents caused for them.
So reach out for help locally, as soon as you can. Talk to the school counselor or your pastor or call Alateen. A good anger management class should be a part of your personal growth and recovery plan, but you will also need a more comprehensive support plan to help you reprogram your thoughts and emotions to see yourself and the world more realistically. You can break the cycle of destruction that anger has caused in your family right now, so your kids can live safe, happy, loving lives.

“Anger is one of the great unconfronted addictions of our time,” explained James A. Baker, author of The Anger Busting Workbook. “We expend copious resources treating the symptoms and the causes, but sometimes we just need to help people get a grip.” As Founder and CEO of Baker Communications, Jim combines 25 years as a celebrated corporate trainer with many years in the recovery movement to create a powerful tool for helping anger addicts lead saner, safer lives. Jim founded the Anger Management Training Institute ( to aid anger addicts and the people who care about them.

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