Contrary to popular opinion, anger isn’t really a problem. Anger is just a normal emotion. It is as much a part of being a sentient human being as love or grief or anxiety. When we are angry is shows that something we care about is being frustrated or threatened in some way. The problem isn’t anger.
However, the problem might be: the extent of the anger, the frequency of the anger, the duration of the anger, how we choose to express the anger.
Being overtaken on a dangerous road didn’t perhaps merit that level of rage that happens a lot and goes on for ages and can result in me wanting to catch up with the driver and hit him/her. But being temporarily angered that a reckless driver may have put my life in danger is a reasonable human response.
One very important thing that determines how we respond in any situation is what we believe. What we think has a powerful impact on how we feel and what we do. If we have a problem with anger, we need to explore the beliefs that we have that are leading to the problem. Our aim would not be to eliminate all anger, but just to be able to feel it at an appropriate level, rather than at an exaggerated and dysfunctional one.
Dysfunctional Anger Beliefs
- I need other people to act well, in a way that I think is right. (This is completely untrue. I may want them to act well. I may prefer them to act well. But I can cope if they don’t. Telling myself that I can’t cope if they don’t act well is an excessive anger producing lie.)
- It is always awful or intolerable if I fail to get what I want. I must always get what I want, when I want it. (This is untrue on virtually all occasions. There may be the very odd exception, but it is usually not awful or intolerable if I fail to get what I want. It may be undesirable or inconvenient, but we do not need to push the level of discomfort into something that is not true. Telling myself that I can’t cope if I fail to get what I want is an excessive anger producing lie.)
- There is a law in the universe that says I must be treated fairly, kindly, and considerately and it is completely intolerable if this doesn’t happen. (This is completely untrue. There is no such law written into the fabric of the universe. It may be preferable for me to be treated fairly, and it may be unpleasant when I am not, but I can cope when I am treated badly. Telling myself that I can’t cope if they don’t treat me well is an excessive anger producing lie.)
- People should be perfect. (This may be desireable, but it isn’t going to happen all the time. We need to accept that the world is populated by fallible, messed-up human beings, just like you and me. Telling myself that I can’t cope with human infallibility is an excessive anger producing lie. I may not like it, but I can cope with it.)
What strategies have you found most helpful in dealing with your own excessive anger?
For help with your anger management from a specialist counsellor, either face-to-face, or over the phone, or via Skype, contact the CBT Counsellor.