DON'T LOSE IT, USE
Managing Your Anger
ANGER: A COMPLEX EMOTION
One of the most common characteristics we share as humans is the capacity to experience emotions – the state of feeling psychic and physical reactions that create both a psychological and physiological transformation that prepares the body for a fight or flight reaction. Fight or flight reaction is designed to improve our chances for survival from what may be perceived as a threatening situation. Unfortunately, there are times when the emotion of fear can cause us to build up both a psychological and physiological reaction that can be visible as anger.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, anger is an intense emotional state induced by displeasure. Anger also names the reaction but in itself conveys nothing about intensity or justification or manifestation of the emotional state. Anger can be manifested as ire, rage, fury, indignation, or wrath:
IRE, more frequent in literary contexts, may suggest greater intensity than anger, often with an evident display of feeling <cheeks flushed dark with ire>.
RAGE suggests loss of self-control from violence of emotion <screaming with rage>.
FURY is overmastering destructive rage that can verge on madness <in her fury she accused everyone around her of betrayal>.
INDIGNATION stresses righteous anger at what one considers unfair, mean, or shameful <a refusal to listen that caused general indignation>.
WRATH is likely to suggest a desire or intent to revenge or punish <rose in his wrath and struck his tormentor to the floor>.
While anger is a complex emotion, it can be responsible among other things for helping us to feel a forced sense of control in a chaotic situation. An example of this is what happens when we are forced to focus our attention and energy on lifesaving maneuvering in traffic because of the carelessly inattentive and reckless driving behavior of another motorist. Anger may also give us a sense of power and strength, like when we are attacked verbally or physically by another and the fight response is triggered. It’s at this time that we may believe that we need to exert equal force against that person in an effort to withstand an impending attack or when we believe that we’re being manipulated, deceived, or forced to meet someone’s unreasonable expectations. Anger in these situations plays paradoxical role in survival. On the one hand, anger promotes the same process for the psychological and physiological transformation that prepares the body for a fight or flight (i.e., survival) reaction. However, on the other hand anger can also work against our survival resulting in an emotional state that results in actions or behavior that can result in dangerous conflict, struggle, or illness.
UNDERSTANDING OUR REACTIONS
Since unmanageable anger can work against survival and lead to destructive actions and harmful outcomes, understanding ways of creating controllable anger is an important step in learning how to develop effective anger management strategies. One factor that contributes to a person’s anger response may be their early developmental exposure to anger reactions growing up with their family. Since we learn as children how to react socially based upon what we are taught and exposed to, we also learn how to resolve conflict via these observations and personal experiences. This means that it’s important for those of us who were raised in dysfunctional households to recognize the difference between unhealthy and healthy expressions of anger. Therapy or counseling may be very appropriate venues for self-discovery concerning this issue. Professional support can facilitate a person becoming more skilled at developing better communication to support a more healthy exchange of ideas and feelings.
Another cause for the anger response may be ineffective management of excessive frustration, and anxiety. The buildup of anxiety and frustration may create a state of emotional exhaustion that can easily turn into a reason to be angry.
Finally, our thoughts can contribute to an anger reaction. Thoughts like “never” and “always” when talking about self or others can escalate a perception in ways that create an irrational justification of events, in this case over generalizing. An example may be to say that a friend never cared or to say that a family member always yells. While these events may occur with significant frequency, it may be difficult to prove that it never or always occurs. Emotionally, it’s easy for us to become invested in a belief. Unfortunately, when that investment becomes extreme it limits our ability to problem solve and escalates frustration, anxiety, and the emotional reaction of anger. Consequently, what is referred to as “cognitive restructuring” plays an important role in helping us create a more realistic thought process that minimizes the possibility of anger as a reaction. Cognitive restructuring simply means changing the way we think about a situation.
HOW TO CONTROL OUR ACTIONS
Admitting that we are angry rather than denying and internalizing the feelings that may cause anger is very healthy. Once we’re able to admit what we are feeling it’s much easier to explore these feelings and to determine healthy strategies to effectively manage it and sensibly express it. When we choose to bury our feelings of anger with chemical substances, denial, evasion, and containment, the outcome may be filled with destructive consequences. Learning relaxation techniques to reduce feelings of frustration and anxiety can also contribute to effective anger management. Therefore, to avoid inappropriately displacing feelings of anger to self or an undeserving person it is important to learn effective anger management techniques and strategies; you might consider participating in a workshop specifically designed to help students manage their feelings of anger. The environment of college brings with it an array of new situations, relationships, and experiences, all of which will require patience, understanding, and the development of new coping skills. While you may experience an array of emotional feelings when things don’t go as expected, losing your temper is not a solution to managing what may be an unfair, challenging, difficult experience. The trick of managing your anger is learning how to handle yourself in a positive way. To accomplish this, remember that screaming, yelling, breaking something, or fighting, while giving a temporary release, creates an array of problems and does not make us feel better long-term. Instead, try the practice of taking a deep breath, taking a walk alone or with a good friend to help calm yourself, or finding someone to talk with about your problems in order to help reduce feelings of anger.
Remember, anger is a necessary emotion that is designed to help us understand that something is going on in our life that we need to address. How we address what is going on is what anger management teaches us. In other words, we want to learn how to address anger and deal with it in the healthiest manner. This means talking about what is happening and not avoiding it so that we can get to the source of what may be upsetting to us.
STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING ANGER
Benson George Cooke, Ed.D.
Assistant Director and Counselor, Counseling Center
Counseling Center – Self-Development Center – provides a
media library of personal growth and academic skills programs available
to students, faculty, and staff at George Mason University. The programs
may be used in the Self-Development Center during hours of operation,
or the programs may be checked out overnight. http://www.gmu.edu/departments/csdc/anger.htm
Counseling Center – Self-Development Workshops offers information regarding managing anger. Individuals who seek to improve the quality of their lives and their relationships may find the workshops helpful. Topics include managing stress and achieving relaxation; becoming more assertive in one’s academic and personal lives; learning to communicate more effectively with others; and developing strategies for managing one’s anger. http://www.gmu.edu/departments/csdc/sdwksp.htm
George Mason University Police Department – provides a safe and secure environment for all university students and guests. This website introduces a student to the personnel, services, proper security measures, policies and regulations that promote campus safety. The University Police have many services that assist in the safe completion of a college education. Special safety tips, a directory of relevant telephone numbers, and a copy of current crime statistics can be found on this website. For locations and contact numbers, visit http://www.gmu.edu/police/
United College Ministries in Northern Virginia offers different Christian denominational information regarding services, workshops, volunteer and internship opportunities, mission trips, retreats, and Bible study groups. One can also find pastoral care and counseling, and award, grant and scholarship opportunities at http://www.gmu.edu/org/ucm/index.html. Under http://www.gmu.edu/org/ucm/conflict.htm, the ministries cover conflict resolution and spirituality.
Sexual Assault Services (SAS) provides a confidential and comprehensive response to all reports of sexual assault and the related issues of stalking and dating/domestic violence. SAS also offers information, psychological, medical, legal and judicial advocacy, and assistance with academic intervention. SAS provides educational programs to campus organizations and classes and offers a volunteer component to students with its Peer Support Program. http://www.sexualassaultservices.gmu.edu/.
Center for Multicultural Human Services – CMHS is a nonprofit organization licensed by the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services as an outpatient mental health center and provider of substance abuse and home-based services. http://www.volunteersolutions.org/acvo/org/1146711.html
The Counseling Center of Fairfax - (CCF) is a community of independent, experienced mental health professionals who are committed to providing a continuum of quality care for individuals, couples, and families. Their extensive and diverse professional backgrounds include such areas as counseling psychology, school psychology and social work. As licensed professionals, they are particularly dedicated to providing a comprehensive array of counseling services and resources to the community. Individual and group anger management training are both available. http://www.ccf-web.com/
Fairfax County – Family Services – offers information and
resources emergency care, health care needs including both physical and
mental, clinic sites for assistance, and a variety of human service programs
in the area. http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/living/healthhuman/
Northern Virginia Family Service – operates on the principle that families are the foundation of a strong society. It is a private, non-profit organization staffed by professionals trained in counseling, social work and community outreach. Northern Virginia Family Service is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children and is a member of the Alliance for Children and Families. Northern Virginia Family Service is funded by foundation grants, individual and corporate donations, government contracts, counseling fees and United Way. For frequently asked questions, information on health care, teen service, and counseling visit http://www.nvfs.org/
Prince William County – offers information on domestic violence, and 5-week long anger management group classes at two different locations. http://www.co.prince-william.va.us/default.aspx?topic=010055000100000597
Virginia Department of Health – Office of Family Health Service – offers information on 50 programs that focus on strengthening the health of families and communities, plus risk avoidance tips and information on how certain issues affect public health. One of the divisions/centers includes injury and violence prevention. http://www.vahealth.org/
The Women’s Center - is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Initially, the Center's services focused mainly on career counseling and seminars. However, as social change continued to have an impact upon all aspects of women's lives and our community as a whole, the Center developed and expanded its services to meet those challenges. The Women’s Center offers psychological, financial and career resources and services to help individuals and families who are impacted by domestic violence and abuse. It provides a wide variety of on-site programs covering issues related to domestic violence and abuse, including workshops and support groups. http://www.thewomenscenter.org/
National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center – offers facts, information, and publications regarding anger and how to deal with it. The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center is a “one-stop shop” for information on youth violence prevention, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other Federal agencies. For a toll-free number visit http://www.safeyouth.org/scripts/teens/anger.asp
American Psychiatric Association – offers facts and information about anger, anger management, tips to control anger, and whether or not one may need professional help. Also the Web site offers suggestions regarding whether or not there is a need for counseling. http://www.apa.org/pubinfo/anger.html
Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service offers valuable information about many health topics. For the age group 18 to 25, the Web site offers information about managing anger. It describes what anger is, the physical signs of anger, releasing anger, chilling out, getting help, how anger can be helpful, and that violence is a learned behavior. http://www.cyh.com/SubDefault.aspx?p=160