When anger and unhappiness have become the default for a person, anger management classes may help restore peace to that person’s life. Anger can often rule when people are in the midst of stressful situations and conflict. Some types of anger can be helpful to process emotions and address certain situations; however, anger can easily become unhelpful and dangerous when it is left unchecked and directed towards a person. Anger is a part of life as a human being, but it is the most helpful when it is addressed and managed correctly. The skills and understanding of the emotions that drive and make up anger are most often taught in anger management classes. This article will explore the idea of anger and how anger management seeks to teach healthy anger before discussing signs that anger management may be necessary. Finally, it will end with a discussion on anger management skills and how anger management may be used to deescalate a situation.
Before discussing how anger may be managed and addressed, it is important to define what anger is and how it can drive conflict. When most people think of anger, they think of furrowed eyebrows, pursed lips, and trading harsh words. For some people, anger may be loud and involve yelling. For others, anger may cause them to move inward and become quiet, withdrawing from the situation. Because anger is personalized, there are several ways that it can present. Some psychologists have broken anger down into three types:
- Assertive Anger: Assertive anger is the healthiest way to address and handle anger, as this type of anger presents in communication and assertions of why the person is angry and what they believe should happen to address that. Their emotions will stay steady as they seek to worth through the problem.
- Passive Aggression: Passive aggression is a form of anger that is controlled but unacknowledged. When people are practicing passive aggression, they are often quiet and will not admit that they are angry. They will often pretend there is not a problem while sulking or letting it affect other aspects of their life.
- Open Aggression: Open aggression is the most dangerous form of anger. This type of anger results in outbursts that can involve shouting and sometimes hurting themselves or others. Open aggression often includes bullying, criticism, sarcasm, and other forms of aggression.
No matter how anger presents itself in a person, most people recognize anger in themselves and others when it begins to creep into a situation. Like we said earlier, anger is not inherently bad, but how we present and handle anger may cause harm to ourselves or others, so it is important to understand how to manage anger in productive ways.
Based on the definition of anger above, anger management is best described as the process of learning to see and process anger in productive ways rather than destructive ways. This includes recognizing when anger is presenting as either passive or open aggression and trying to move from those types of anger into assertive anger. While many people develop habits to deal with anger when they are growing up, some people need to rework their presentation and management of anger to create a healthier environment for themselves and others.
Anger management is usually taught either in classes or group therapy sessions, but it can be addressed on an individual level as well. Common practices include exercises that teach participants to acknowledge anger and the ways that they are presenting this anger. Anger management also often teaches ways to calm oneself down to make productive conversation easier. Finally, anger management often uses role-playing exercises to encourage participants to practice speaking about their feelings and communicating what they need at the moment. The goal of anger management is to help individuals live safer and healthier lives based on the way they process their anger.
Signs that Anger Management May be Needed:
While most people would benefit from learning how to better process and address anger, there are some signs that anger has become unhealthy in one’s life such that they would greatly benefit from attending anger management. Some of these signs include:
- Emotional Expression: Often when people are struggling with more anger than normal, the anger will result in other emotions that can overwhelm a person. People feeling an emotional response to anger will often feel guilty, resentful, sad, easily irritated, and anxious.
- Physical Expressions: When people struggle with anger, especially if they are passive in the way they respond to anger, their anger will often show in physical response. This can include pacing, the volume of their voice, tone, repetitive movements, and the use of substances. While everyone will usually have some physical reaction to anger, it can be an issue when it happens frequently and regularly.
- Blaming: Another common sign that anger is misplaced or mismanaged is constantly placing blame on others. This can be harmful because the person blaming others will often feel a misplaced sense of justice in their anger and refuse to take responsibility. However, it also affects the person blamed because it will usually direct the anger straight to them.
- Frequency: While there are times where anger is more common based on circumstances, a person who is consistently or frequently angry may need to learn how to process and address the anger to not let it fester.
- Duration: Similar to frequency, if a person tends to stay angry for a long time after a situation happens, they may need to learn how to process through the anger than they feel and move forward with their life.
- Proportionality: The proportion of the anger to the situation at hand can be another sign that anger management is needed. If a person experiences intense anger over a small situation, they may need to learn how to address that anger.
- Difficulty with Emotions: Another sign that anger management may be helpful is when a person is having trouble putting words and names to their emotions that they are feeling with a situation. This is especially true when a person has difficulty expressing themselves calmly and healthily.
- Isolation: Isolation due to anger at different situations may mean that anger is not being dealt with properly and needs to be addressed. This can also be a common response in those suffering from depression, so there are often needs for multiple types of care in this situation, especially if self-harm is involved.
- Susceptibility: Anger is often triggered by a certain event or situation. Many people recognize these triggers and proportionately address them. However, if someone is regularly reacting strongly to a certain trigger, they may need assistance recognizing and dealing with that trigger.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it provides some basic characteristics to look for when assessing whether anger management is needed. A common thread through these signs is that anger is often unhealthy when not addressed and cared for productively. Finding ways to acknowledge and name anger will often help anyone struggling with anger find some relief.
Common Anger Management Skills:
While each person will need to identify and understand their anger to learn how to manage it, several tips will help to explore anger and the ways that it can be used productively.
- Identify the Source: Often anger, especially disproportionate anger, is caused by emotions or situations that are not directly impacting the angry person at the moment. Things like embarrassment, shame, anxiety, and vulnerability can impact anger, as well as the patterns we were taught as children. Understanding where the anger is coming from can help the person see the situation more clearly.
- Reality Check: When anger begins, it is often easy to let it control the situation. One way to stop this from happening is to do a reality check. This includes the importance of the situation in the grand scheme of things, whether it is worth ruining the day, whether the response is appropriate, and other questions that will put the situation in the right place.
- Watch for Warning Signs: Many people have signs that show that they are beginning to feel angry. This can include things like knots in the stomach, headaches, breathing faster, pacing, trouble concentrating, tensing muscles, or clenching your hands or jaws. Understanding these signs and recognizing when they start can signal that you need to begin to practice slowing down your emotions.
- Regulate Emotions: Another key to managing anger is to find ways to calm down and address the situation with more clarity. This can include taking time away from the conversation, pausing to breathe and listen, exercising, repeating a calming mantra, and stretching. By calming yourself down, it can help you to see the solutions and not react in anger to the situation.
- Remember the Other Person: Often anger is the freest with the people we trust. In situations where anger is happening toward someone, it is important to remember the humanity of the other person and find ways to remember that the relationship with the person that you trust is more important than winning the argument or proving your point.
There are many other tips to regulate and understand anger, but keeping these in mind in times of stress or arguments will help to approach situations with a calmer, controlled state and keep the situation conciliatory. However, it is also important to acknowledge that there will be times when professional help is needed and anger management classes or therapy may be necessary.
Deescalating Situations with Anger Management:
Another benefit to understanding the principles of anger management is that many situations can be de-escalated if a participant can use and apply anger management skills to the situation. Even if you are not the person experiencing anger in a situation, knowing how to recognize and address anger can help you to create a calm space to finish the conversation. When a person is experiencing aggression, it is impossible to reason with them and come up with solutions, therefore, the situation will need to be deescalated to continue the conversation. Some common techniques used to deescalate situations include:
- Listen: The most important thing in aggressive situations is to listen to the other person’s concerns and make them feel acknowledged and understood by offering comments to let them know that you have heard and understood. This also includes maintaining eye contact during the conversation.
- Wait: It is important not to interrupt the other person while they are expressing their frustration and explaining their feelings. Interrupting while the other person is talking will only increase the tension.
- Empathy: Finding ways to empathize and acknowledge that you have understood the other person will help calm their anger and the situation as a whole. Letting them know that you understand their frustration, even amid conflict, will help them feel like they are being cared for.
Anger management helps create calm situations out of aggressive and unproductive settings. Knowing how and when to use these skills will help everyone involved in a tense situation find a way to make anger productive and react in ways that put each other first. Anger may be a part of life, but it does not have to be destructive. If anger is controlling life, anger management classes may be the answer.