Therapy for Individuals, Couples and Families
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Everybody gets angry. Anger is a human emotion which can serve both positive and negative ends which, in itself, is neutral. In fact, anger is not unique to humans; in many instances, it can be found in animals demonstrating that anger seems to be a common experience for other animals as well. Frustration, fear, feeling threatened or treated unfairly can trigger an angry outburst in any animal. Anger is a normal human emotion. It can be an appropriate response to injustice, unfairness or discrimination. However, what we need to achieve is a way of expressing anger that is reasonable, measured and proportionate.
Feeling is one thing, acting or behaving is another. The image that sometimes comes to my mind simply came to mind is that of a milk being heated on the stove. We have all had the experience of heating milk and, towards the end, the milk begins to rise rapidly and, if one is not quick, it can easily boil over the edge the pan going everywhere. As long as you remove it in time the milk will die down again and return to its original state. However, when it boils over, it goes all over the place causing a mess that needs to be cleaned up. Uncontrolled anger is somewhat similar to that milk and we need to take charge of that anger before it overflows.
Another image I like to use is talking about anger is the red zone. While everybody experiences anger on a regular basis not everyone experiences what I call “anger in the red zone.” If you think of the speedometer on a car and the speed limit on the freeway is 65 miles per hour, anything up to 65 miles an hour on the speedometer is the greens zone. Go beyond 65 miles per hour when you've entered the red zone. If you're going at 66 miles an hour you are unlikely he pulled over by the Highway Patrol, however, if you're going at 85 miles per hour it's another story. Some people habitually drive at 70 miles per hour, while others can go from 0 to 100 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. Anger that is chronic, albeit low-grade (chronic irritability), and anger that is intermittently explosive are two forms that create dysfunction both for the individual who is angry and also for those with whom they express their anger (often those closest to us). Both these things can be problematic, affecting our relationships, our employment and our own self-esteem. These the type of things that I call anger in the red zone.
Perhaps one of the things that sets human beings apart from other animals is the degree to which we have an ability to regulate our emotional states. Our emotions are a vital part of our evolutionary protection techniques, they enable us to form close bonds, both as families and as tribes and mobilize us when under threat. Throughout our evolutionary history, we have learned to respond to our emotions trustingly and positively and, for the most, they have served us well and continue to do so. However, it is at times of high emotional arousal that one is most likely to act and think less clearly.
Cognitive behavioral therapy provides one of many possible answers to managing anger. Feelings are often created by our thoughts and examining our thought processes to see if they are reasonable and rational can help us with emotional regulation and rather than feeling our way into behavior we need to behave our way into feeling.
Change can be hard. Many of us have learned patterns of behavior that go back years, or even decades. Making changes to these patterns does not come naturally because we want to return to the ways of interacting that we have learned from our past experiences, even when they do not serve us well. Learning new skills takes time and effort. It requires self-examination, relearning relationship patterns, practicing new techniques and a willingness to make change.
We provide executive coaching for anger management.