Anger Management may sound cliche, but people need to manage their anger just as much, if not more, than any other emotion. The truth is we are always managing emotions to some degree. Anger is the emotion that gets the most attention because it frequently causes people to infringe on others’ rights – hence the popularity of the term ‘anger management’, but here’s the kicker: anger is what we call a secondary emotion which results from an underlying primary emotion of fear or anxiety. Fear and anxiety, however, are vulnerable emotions, so in order to protect ourselves, we sometimes resort to anger.
So, how can we manage anger?
First, we have to remember that we cannot manage someone else’s anger. We can only manage our own.
Second, we have to recognize that it is a secondary emotion and then identify what the primary emotion was that led to the anger.
Third, once we have identified that we are actually feeling fearful or anxious, then we can address that emotion. We can manage our fear by reflecting on if our fear is rational: if it is, we can address it and take steps to decrease the need for fear, or, if it is irrational, we can realize we do not need to feel it. If we are feeling anxious, we can think about what is causing us to feel that anxiety and manage that feeling. We can take a ‘time-out’ by walking away from the situation and taking a break, we can exert some physical energy, or if we are at home, we can lie down for a few minutes until the anxiety diminishes.
So, anger management is not what it seems; it is actually anger recognition and then identifying and managing the underlying emotion of fear or anxiety.
Julie Perron, L.M.F.T.A.
Julie Perron is a licensed marriage and family therapy associate practicing in South Bend, IN at Wright Directions Counseling.