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Introduction to Anger Management for Healthy Expression

Introduction to Anger Management for Healthy Expression
Lesson ONE
Written by Anger Specialist Yvonne Sinclair M.A., LMFT
Anger “Management” for Healthy Expression Welcome!
This class will give you all the tools to take your client from expressing anger in an unhealthy manner that gets them into trouble to appropriate expressing. In this course, we will discuss anger, anger management, and anger expression. “Management” to some people may mean keeping their anger inside, holding anger in, or “stuffing” it. This form of “management” is like blowing a little air into a balloon each time you are frustrated, angry, mad, irritated, or annoyed. Each time you “stuff” your anger, you fill the balloon with a little more air. With each breath into the balloon, we may tell ourselves, “I got it,” or “I am okay.” Finally, the balloon will burst just as you may explode with anger or rage. Suddenly you may be expressing anger in a way that hurts others and gets you into trouble. The anger comes out somewhere even when we think we are “controlling” it. It may express itself with physical sickness or emotional pain. Anger is a response to what life brings or what happens around us. Everyone has reasons to be angry from time to time. There are many injustices in the world. Sometimes anger is justified. Our angry feelings are a red flag that we perceive an event as not fair or not right. The anger is not what gets us into trouble. What causes problems is a destructive response to our anger. What we do with anger and how we express anger determine if the outcome is positive or negative. The best predictor to a positive outcome is your willingness to take an honest look at the consequences to your anger expression and to examine your process of how you express this negative emotion. Is anger bad? Anger feels bad! Anger can raise your stress and negatively affect your health, especially when you “manage” your anger by keeping it to yourself. When you “stuff” your angry feelings, you are not managing the. This form of anger “management” can jeopardize your health and well-being. Changing your way of expressing anger may take time. You have expressed it the same way all your life. Let it be a process of evolution. Each day you can be more aware of your feelings and express them in a more assertive, effective manner. The way we express our anger is learned in our family of origin where we grew up. Do we stuff, explode, or slam doors? Do we use our words? These methods were learned from the people who modeled anger expression for us when we were growing up. Now, as adults, we are modeling anger expression for another generation. We are showing our children how to express anger. We can change their anger management by changing our own way of expressing anger. Take a little time to explore the changes you wish to acquire through these classes. How would you like to change this learned behavior for yourself? Sometimes we avoid expressing our anger because we feel a need to take care of others. We “stuff” our anger or avoid open, honest communication because we feel it will upset the other person. This behavior is called co-dependent behavior, and it is not healthy for yourself or others in your relationship. Anger finds a way to come out somehow. It may manifest itself in a physical illness. It may come out all at once in a rage or angry explosion. Anger will find a way to express itself some way. It can be healthy or unhealthy; you are the one to choose. We can use our anger energy for a positive response. We can notice our anger early and express in a healthy way. This anger “management” allows our body to be clear, and then the anger does not have a negative effect on our health. Anger is not bad; it tells us something is happening that is not good for us. We can learn to use this energy to keep ourselves safe or resolve what is not right with our world. Learning to express anger in a way that will be positive for your relationship (and others around you) and learning to make healthy choices about anger expression is beneficial. It will not only be good for you, but will also protect the people around you. If we stuff anger, others may sense something is wrong and this may set us up to be avoided or misunderstood. The other people around us only have their imagination to decide why we are upset. Sometimes anger expression is avoided for other reasons. Some examples include the following: fear of losing control, fear of hurting or offending another person, fear we will be disliked or rejected, and fear our partner will no longer like us. ANGER FACTS *Anger is not a bad emotion. Anger is a “normal” emotion. *Anger feelings are normal. Everyone feels angry at one time or another. *Anger can be controlled. It is easier to control anger whrn it is in it's early stages. You can learn ways to control your anger. *Ignoring your anger is like blowing air into a balloon. The angry feeling builds and builds until it explodes. *Even after you are angry, you can control your anger. You can learn to calm down and learn to avoid anger triggers for you. When your partner is angry, you may feel uncomfortable. You may feel afraid if in your family of origin angry meant violence followed. Your partner’s anger belongs to your partner. Remember: you are not in charge of making it okay. You do not have to “fix” it. It is not in your "basket of issues." You can care, and you can be there for them, but it is not under your control. As a partner, you will want to be there for him/her, hear him/her, allow him/her to express, and if the anger is about your relationship, communicate about resolution. As they grow up, people are sometimes given the message that they are responsible for everything going well. He/she is responsible for making sure all works well. People are sometimes given the message they are responsible for everything running smoothly – the kids, the car, the yard, the house, the finances, and the relationship, etc. This is an impossible job for one person. If you were given these messages, male or female, and feel the need to “fix” everything, your partner's anger may be especially troubling for you. If you “gotta” fix it, you will not want to hear about anything you cannot fix. This prevents you from being able to just be there for your partner if he/she is upset and just needs to talk. I would like to suggest you change your personal message to a realistic message. One person cannot and should not be in charge of making everything right for anyone else. So, when you go to the “I gotta fix it” place, tell yourself, “I don’t gotta fix anything.” This will help you be there for your partner when he/she experiences anger. Allow him/her to express without needing to “fix” the situation for him/her. Even if the anger is about your relationship, you do not “gotta” fix it. You only have to be there to communicate about finding a resolution. Webster defines "anger" as a feeling of displeasure resulting from injury, mistreatment, opposition, and usually showing itself in a desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling. Shame feelings can play a part in our anger expression. Shame can be understood as a sense of being unacceptable, small, or defective - a feeling we are not okay in some way. If the shame is deep and long-standing, then it can be excessive. It may never go away no matter what is done. It can begin in our family of origin and we may come to the place of giving up in despair because we feel as though we can never live up to other's expectations. This kind of shame may get too painful to endure, and we may find a way to cover it up or to distract ourselves from the pain. One way we do this is turning the shame feelings into anger. This helps us feel bigger. It is a band-aid to a big injury, however. Shame is not a feeling of guilt. Guilt feelings come when we feel we have done something wrong. Shame feelings tell us we are wrong. When we express our angry feelings in a rage, we push people from us. We are saying, "Don’t come close to me." Sometimes this is because we feel desperate to keep others away so they cannot destroy us emotionally. If we are dealing with shame from the messages we were given growing up, our anger response may be based on those feelings. Most of the time, rage happens as a surprise to the angry person. This is like the bursting of the balloon. The enraged person may be defending himself/herself against overwhelming shame that can be debilitating to his/her self-esteem. Anger can be a cover-up for other feelings. It may cover sadness. For men, being angry is usually more socially acceptable than crying. For women, crying is usually more socially acceptable than anger. Noticing our feelings and being honest about them will help us determine what our appropriate process for anger. Anger is not a clear-cut subject. Just as each person is complicated and unique, his/her way of expressing anger is also complicated and unique. The good news is changing behaviors is not usually complicated. Changing the way you express your anger will take slowing down and paying attention. Just like with learning a new dance step or learning to ride a bike, at first it is not easy and automatic. At first, you have to pay attention to the changes you are working to implement. Changing behaviors is not impossible. Understanding our complicated, unique selves will assist us in undoing the old, learned behaviors and adopting new healthy ones. This class is designed to step you through this process of change. All you need to do is follow the steps and allow the change. Not expressing your anger is actually unhealthy. This class is designed to assist you in learning healthy expression of anger. You can learn to express your anger in a manner that does not get you into trouble. Relax and enjoy the evolution of the new you. ©Copyright 2010 by Yvonne Sinclair M.A., MFCC. All Rights Reserved.
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