I recently met a new client who struggles with anger. His reason for entering therapy centered on the following statement:
I am sick and tired of being angry all the time. I have been through anger management classes. I know how to deep breathe until I am blue in the face, and yet I am not making any progress establishing peace in my life. Frankly, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!
What Do You Do When You No Longer Want to be Angry?
Clients often enter therapy for anger because a spouse, or co-worker, or the court system has mandated that they get help for their ‘stuff.’ This is not to say that one cannot come to the realization that one’s behavior is inappropriate or destructive on one’s own. But it usually takes some type of negative consequence for individuals to seek out what is really going on in their lives. However, the client nevertheless comes face to face with their own reality, which is not just that someone or something has encouraged a life change, but that he is desperate for a new thing to happen in his life. He is angry and mad about it.
Anger is an interesting dynamic. Since anger can be both a state of being and an emotion, it takes some time to explore where one is on the anger spectrum. One can be anywhere from having no anger, to being mildly angry, to being irritated and frustrated, to being in a state of full-blown rage and fury. The world at large considers anger a negative and destructive word and would rather label people as frustrated than ‘angry.’ The ‘angry’ word seems too dramatic and intense. However, the challenges associated with describing anger as ‘negative’ can produce additional anxiety. They prevent an individual from identifying mild irritation, which is a signal that there is something going on that requires attention. While no one would know he was angry on the outside, someone could be fuming on the inside. The coping skills learned at the anger management classes are no longer effective. But what do you do when you no longer want to be angry?
From Anger to Empowerment
This is the time to move from being angry to becoming empowered. Managing anger has to do with giving you options in a moment when you are out of control. More and more research has shown support for creative techniques that help you to address your anger. Many of these techniques start with visualizing another way of managing the distress you feel in the moment. Below are three examples that have helped clients to move from ‘out of control’ to being able to manage an angry moment.
1) Take it Down a Notch
Give yourself permission to own your angry mood. Visualize taking your anger down one step at a time, the same way one takes a flight of stairs one step at a time. Identify the all-or-nothing distortion that may keep you from taking your first step off the angry ledge. Remember that anger can be seen on a spectrum. Imagine you are taking a step down from having an outburst, to stepping down to frustration, and then to irritation.
2) Change the Length of Your Anger Fuse
Imagine that your anger fuse can be changed ̶ like the wick on a candle, it can be either short or long. A short fuse makes it difficult to manage whatever triggers your sense of powerlessness and helpless feelings. Identify what ignites your anger fuse and what you need in the moment to manage your emotions. How much space do you need? How much time should you take? This will give you time to step back, watch, and understand how you lose control and give authority to something or someone else.
3) Let Off Steam
Imagine that you are a pot of water that is about to boil over. Observe what and when you overheat. Often your anger can go from 0 to 100 within minutes. A hot temper is usually the result of holding onto frustrating events without giving yourself incremental moments in order to regroup. Find strategic ways through which you allow yourself to let off steam by taking a walk, getting a massage, or going to the gym.
Christian Counseling to Deal with Anger
Dealing with anger takes time and patience. As a Christian counselor, I have found that clients who were stuck with traditional interventions have found visualization a helpful approach to managing anger. Christian counseling can provide clients with coping skills that enable them to confront and address their anger in a positive way.
“Lava in Volcano,”courtesy of Salvatore Vuono, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, ID 10010218
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