Anger Management - A "How-To" Guide Anger Management Classes & Anger Programs

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"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." --John Milton

What causes anger?

Anger is a natural response that all people have. It is caused by two basic things:

(1) Frustration: Not getting what we want, especially if we were expecting to get it;
(2) Feeling that others do not respect us or care how we feel.

There are many specific things that may cause anger, but they all come down to those two basic principles.

How is anger related to depression?
Often anger becomes depression. When a person gives up fighting a problem and loses the energy of anger, he becomes depressed. Many depressions, therefore, have the same basic causes as anger --frustration and/or a feeling that others do not respect you or care about you.

Our thoughts cause our anger.
If you are mad at someone, it is usually because you think that he meant to be disrespectful or uncaring. Since we can never be sure what another person meant, however, we may be wrong about his motive. Most arguments start from such misunderstandings. Remember: it is we who make ourselves mad!

Expectation determines frustration.
An entertainer may be angry or depressed because he did not win an Oscar, even though he still has wealth and fame. A poor man, however, may be happy because he found a $5 bill when he was broke. Our moods are relative to what we want and expect, not to what we actually get!

Self-concept affects anger and depression.
We all have areas in which we are sensitive, based always on past experiences. These sensitive areas cause us to react more strongly as well as to jump to negative conclusions more readily at times when our "buttons" are pushed. Thus, "know thyself" is a key to managing anger.

Several things affect the threshold of anger.

  • Physical fatigue
  • Pain
  • Alcohol, drugs
  • Other recent irritations or stresses.

These make us more irritable or susceptible to depression. Be aware of the thresholds of anger of both persons anytime there is a disagreement!

Managing anger is often managing communication.

For two people to communicate clearly, there needs to be a talker and a listener. However, in an argument there are two talkers and no listeners! Thus, to resolve an argument, one must remember several techniques of good communication:

Use active listening: Making eye contact and saying, "I understand what you're saying," or "I understand that you feel such-and-such," helps calm the other person down and helps clarify misunderstanding, often laying the groundwork for him to listen to you after he has calmed down.

Choose non-attacking words and use a polite tone: We can always express our views in a variety of ways, so the choice of words is important. Our tone of voice and our body language convey as much information as our words!

Do not let the argument expand! In many arguments (especially marital ones) one person brings up old issues from previous disputes. That expands the argument and creates too many issues to resolve at one time. If the other person tries to bring up other issues, use the "broken record technique" , repeatedly politely insisting that you will stick to the first issue, and will deal with the others only after the main issue has been resolved. Likewise, if the other person attacks you personally, you must resist the temptation to stop and defend yourself until the main point has been worked out. Once you let yourself get drawn into an enlarged discussion or put on the defensive, you have lost the ability to manage and resolve the argument.

Dr. John McCrary

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