I think it is important to differentiate between the emotion anger and the aggressive actions often associated with anger. Anger is the emotion experienced when we perceive an injustice, a wrongdoing or hold an expectation of ourselves or others that has not been met. It stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight system) and calls on us to attack ourselves or others.
There are three types of behaviour / communication born from anger: aggressive, passive or passive aggressive. In the main, when people attend therapy to deal with anger it is because aggression has got out of hand, they are hurting those they care about either physically, verbally or emotionally. In these instances anger management focused therapy may be a helpful option. Here, you will learn what triggers you anger and develop an increased awareness of your emotional state. You will learn what to do when you feel angry, how to express it in healthier ways and perhaps explore the root of underlying anger that explodes disproportionately to perceived wrongdoings in the here and now. You will also learn how to manage your general sympathetic nervous system levels, through exercise, writing or relaxation exercises.
Few people feel sympathy for someone who reacts angrily and few people try to understand. However anger is an emotion like all other emotions that when causing no harm to anyone else is healthy for the individual to express. There are times when some people may have done wrong and need to be made aware of our displeasure. However when anger starts to impact negatively on our relationship with others we need to learn better ways to manage it.
Did you know that there is a specific part of the brain solely designed to inhibit emotion? This area can be weakened temporarily through substances like alcohol but with practice we can also strengthen this part of the brain.
CBT will work on teaching a range of techniques that will help us understand when we are getting angry and deal with this emotion in a more appropriate way. Through collaborative discussion of situations where you feel angry; we will start to understand the patterns in your thoughts and be able to predict future situations where you may feel anger and where you can put the new techniques into place. If you wish we will look into your past and discover the root causes of your predisposition to anger.
If you suffer from anger or know someone who does, try and understand that at the base of this visible presentation of emotion is hurt and that being able to discuss this confidentially with someone may really help.
Perhaps a less known side to anger is the passive presentation. If we perceive aggressive behaviour to be an unhelpful or fruitless course of action we may be passive, biting our tongue, say nothing and swallow the injustice. Passively communicating anger may have been learnt as the only viable option in childhood and can then continue throughout adult life and relationships. Unfortunately this is just as dangerous a way to deal with this emotion.
It is helpful to think of anger in the body as a pressure cooker. When you express the anger it releases this pressure and we are able to think rationally again and feel calm. If you do not express your anger, the pressure builds inside your body. This can see explosions of aggression disproportionate to the wrongdoing - the straw that breaks the camel's back. Long term chronic stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system is also very unhealthy physically with research increasingly finding links to sleep disturbance, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, muscle tension, jaw clenching, irritable bowel syndrome (ibs), Chrones disease, stomach ulcers and other illnesses related to the inflammatory system.
Therapy can provide a forum to discuss how you feel and express your anger in a safe environment with no fear of consequence. It can help you learn how to express your anger in healthy ways, communicate assertively and manage your stress levels with relaxation and self-care techniques.