Anger Management Techniques - The Meaning Behind the Anger Message

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


I need some help with my anger. I can go days, maybe even weeks without a bad episode, but when I have one it can be really ugly. I know when this happens I hurt the ones I love, and I have also lost some jobs because of it. I used to blame other people, but now I see it is my problem. I feel guilty and horrible most of the time, but I can’t seem to stop it. Is there any help for a guy like me?

Tired of Screwing Up in Miami

Dear Tired:

Yes, there is definitely help for people like you. It is possible to stop destructive anger patterns, and it is easier than you think. A good anger management training course like the one we offer at the Anger Management Training Institute can give you the tools you need to live a safer, saner life. However, I also want to address the since of guilt and shame I sense in your question.

Anger episodes are often triggered when we feel trapped and hopeless, because anger is basically a tool designed to give us the strength and energy we need to defend ourselves when we feel threatened. However, once people feel hopeless, helpless, trapped and ashamed all the time, anger begins to become a regular part of their behavior cycle. What some people don’t realize is how long this cycle may have been going on.

Many years ago, Dr. Eric Berne developed a theory he called Life Positions, which describes the negative way some people see themselves in relationship to others. These negative viewpoints may be an outgrowth of the messages about themselves and their worth they received growing up, or they may have been created instantly by some traumatic event or loss. At any rate, people can begin to see themselves in a “one down” position in relationship to others, which Dr. Berne calls the “You are OK, I am NOT OK” position.

It is this relative “OK-ness” that forms the basis of Dr. Berne’s theory about Life Positions, and at best these positions are simply illusions regarding the nature of the world. Truthfully, I just am and you just are; so how I view others and myself is only my opinion; it is not based on fact. Still, we end up treating these opinions as if they were facts. Have you ever heard someone declare, “I don’t understand this math problem; I am just stupid.” It would be just as effective to say, “Would you please explain to me how to do this? I am having trouble understanding the concept.” Someone who refers to himself as “stupid” is not dealing in facts; he is stating a life position. He is saying, “I am not OK because I can’t do this problem.” According to his life position opinion, only those who can do tricky math problems should be considered OK.
In 1971, Franklyn Ernst came up with the idea for the “OK Corral.” This diagram helps us to visualize the way that our life position views regarding ourselves and those around us can influence our attitudes and emotional states.

As you can see, there is only one position on this diagram that produces a happy, constructive attitude. It is the top right corner, where You Are OK With Me converges with I Am OK With Me. The other three quadrants represent life position views that can contribute to a lot of unhappiness and anger. While most people will shift around somewhat in their positions on this chart, depending on their relationship with the people they are with at the time, most of us have a “base” position that reflects our typical view of ourselves and the world around us most of the time. For people with destructive anger patterns, that means there will be a three out of four chance to be afraid, ashamed, and, therefore, angry most of the time.

This Life Position, I’m OK model can also help us to understand one more very important process that can contribute to powerful explosions of anger, namely, Blame. Whenever someone feels a sense of blame for something, whether they are being blamed by others or simply blaming themselves, they almost always get defensive and angry. Also, blame becomes a powerful weapon to use when we want to project our anger on to someone else. The OK Corral diagram can help us understand the different ways in which blame develops.

If my view tells me that:

You are okay and I’m not okay, that must mean that I am to blame, which causes me to feel helpless (and angry) I’m okay and you are not okay, that means that your are to blame, and I am definitely angry I’m not okay but you are also not okay, that means we are BOTH to blame, which causes me to feel hopeless and trapped (and angry).
Obviously, none of these life position views leads to healthy ways of dealing with anger!
The only truly healthy and constructive life position view is the top right-hand corner, which is willing to believe that I’m OK, and you are OK, too. When this happens, the focus shifts off of blame entirely, and the attitude becomes, “Assigning blame isn’t really important; maybe no one is really to blame. Right now we need to decide on the best course of action to take so that we can find the best solution and move forward with our lives.” This attitude produces peace and happiness and, in large part, it is what anger management is all about. The more often you are able to tell yourself this truth, the less power fear and anger will have over you.

“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.

Anger Management Seminars & Anger Management Classes & Anger Management Class & Anger Management Techniques & Anger Management Workshops & Anger Management Programs & Anger Management Courses & Anger Management Online Class & Court Ordered Anger Management Classes & Online Anger Management Classes & Anger Management Help & Anger Management Training & Anger Management Therapy