Anger Resolution: Stop, Collaborate, and Listen
Wait…did I just use Vanilla Ice Lyrics for my article title? Why, yes, I did, and you are welcome.
In all seriousness, I chose these three words to help describe my ideas about how anger can be resolved and/or managed. About a year ago, I decided to go and get my certification in Anger Resolution Therapy mainly because as I was doing counseling with my couples, I realized that anger came up a lot, either with one or both of the partners. My clients appeared to be having a difficult time managing it, expressing it, letting it go, or all of the above. As you can imagine, expressing anger in non-productive ways can seriously hinder a couple’s communication abilities. Not to mention, if the maladaptive behavior stemming from said anger is spilling into other parts of your life, such as work, family relationships, parenting abilities, or friends, it can be astronomically damaging causing legal issues, friends and family jumping ship from your life, and all out isolation and despair. No one wants to hang around someone who cannot contain their rage.
Notice I say things like “manage”, “contain”, “behavior stemming from anger”, etc. This is why:
ANGER IS NOT THE ENEMY, THE DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR STEMMING FROM IT IS!
Think about it. Anger has its adaptive qualities. It’s a sign that something is wrong, something is off, something is dangerous, and this allows us to discern what we can do about it. The problem is it becomes maladaptive when the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. This happens when our sensors say “fight, survive, and take no prisoners”, when something that really isn’t that threatening happens, such as your wife forgetting to buy milk at the store for your morning cereal, or someone at the post office accidentally steps on your foot.
Another thing I would like to point out is this: Anger is rarely a primary emotion. There is usually something behind it and often it is frustration, fear, insecurity, sadness and a general feeling of LACK, if that makes any sense. Some anger management professionals would say it is not necessary to get into the underlying feelings driving anger. I don’t agree. They would say the behavior and anger needs to be eliminated, and the underlying issues don’t matter. I agree the behavior needs to be stopped immediately, but after it is, the underlying issues should and need to be dealt with. I say, if you can identify the underlying emotion, then the anger loses its power and has more chance of staying at a normal healthy level, which ensures the safety of you, your partner, your family or anyone else involved. And safety is the first and ultimate goal.
Stay tuned for next month where I will discuss how to stop the destructive behaviors often associated with anger.
Next blog now available! Click here to read more on anger resolution step 1: STOP!
MS, LMFT-Associate, LPC-Intern, CART, CST-Candidate