- Kenneth Boulding
Updated May 2013 by Heidi Burgess
"Anger management" describes a set of strategies intending to constructively control the emotional feelings and expression of anger.
All people experience anger from time to time, especially when embroiled in a conflict with others. Therefore anyone with a "bad temper" or a tendency to let anger overpower them can learn from the strategies of anger management. Anger management techniques can also be applied to groups by mediators during divorces, workplace disputes, or even peace negotiations.
Anger management is not about calling for a sedate, pacifistic state of humanity where anger is eradicated. Quite the contrary, it is thought that anger, when balanced and expressed appropriately, is a productive and frequently justified response. However, anger can easily become too powerful an emotion, causing people to grossly overreact and perhaps punish others in incommensurate ways. Heated anger usually causes others to become angry as well, contributing to a cycle of escalation.
Because of these ill effects, anger management techniques encourage people to learn to control and properly channel their anger. Techniques include simple relaxation methods (deep breathing, visualization), learning to avoid "knee-jerk" reactions, analyzing the source of the anger and then exercising direct problem-solving methods, communicating more effectively (for example, by slowing down and thinking before speaking), or using de-escalatory communication strategies such as active listening and I-messages. Also, since stress is a causal factor in excessive anger, management techniques may include strategies for reducing stress, such as encouraging realistic demands on one's self and instituting stress-relieving exercise such as yoga or meditation.
John goes to therapy at the urging of his wife. He's prone to angry outbursts and admits that he spends a good portion of his day angry at one thing or another. His therapist attempts to utilize anger management strategies. John learns to identify what makes him angry, and realizes that he often makes hasty assumptions and characterizations about situations that cause unnecessary hostility. By learning to slow down, think, and listen, he is able to significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of his anger.
Anger management techniques can be learned through education and practice. There are a large number of books and Web sites describing anger management techniques which would benefit anyone who finds that anger is an impediment to their own well-being or their relationships.
Anger management can also be taught in a group setting. This is sometimes called for by corporations as part of their periodic training programs. Since anger is such a common emotion, nearly everyone can learn something from such training.
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