On a soft leather couch in a warmly lit room, a middle-aged husband finally says to the counselor, “I pushed her into the wall. I ‘lost it. ’ The yelling and constant fighting over small things have to stop. ”
An executive from a major telecom company complains that he is tired of the politics and pressures from upper management to make employees meet unreasonable deadlines. His wife says he needs to quit the job and get help because “his job is our life. ”
A 40-year-old man is charged with beating his wife.
A 15-year-old girl is asked to seek counseling for making threats to a classmate.
An employee is put on probation for screaming at her boss.
In the movie Anger Management, Jack Nicholson uses a golf club to transform the hood of another driver's car.
All of us have been here—angry—at one point or another. These people are trying to navigate their complex feelings of stress and anger. Anger can be one of the most frightening and complicated emotions we experience. For some, anger can be a seething cauldron that explodes if the conditions are ripe. For others, anger is not a loud, spectacular expression but a chronically irritable and grumpy disposition.
Easily angered people don't always curse and throw things; sometimes they withdraw socially, sulk, or get physically ill. People who have explosions of anger land themselves in trouble, enough to find themselves behind bars or charged with restraining orders. Others lose their marriage or job over the mismanagement of anger.
It would behoove angry individuals to not seek help. Oftentimes, people only seek counseling or an anger management group once they are mandated to or if they are told to get help. However, with anger management books, CDs, DVDs, and classes popping up everywhere, who knows what works? It's a multi-million-dollar industry, colorfully packaged for consumers to be served by a host of entrepreneurs and experts who are anxious to teach the secrets of self-control.
George Anderson, president of Anderson & Anderson, a Los Angeles-based anger management firm and consultant for the movie Anger Management, has contracts with court systems, colleges, and hospitals across the country. “It should be a class, ” he says.
Anderson, the first global anger management/executive coaching training provider, identifies that there are differences in programs as well as practices.
Today, many “practitioners" call themselves anger management counselors. Some of them hold degrees in psychology, to practice professionally, with varying skilled proficiency; others have business degrees and claim to have the answers to anger management.
Counseling Might Not Work
For many people, though, an anger management group or counseling does not work. Part of the problem is that anger management is a term that has become the panacea and is used to encompass a variety of techniques. Many groups or sessions are based on the group therapy model that uses talk therapy to “talk out anger” or to be more “self-aware. ” In this model, the premise is that participants can learn to recognize beforehand that they are about to “lose it. ” Counselors also offer classes that draw on principals of meditation and relaxation techniques. Deep breathing is a wonderful way to relax. When angered, however, how do individuals start to breathe in through the nose and breathe out through the mouth if all they want to do is scream?
Anger management is different because it is not a psychiatric problem. Thus, the symptoms cannot be managed with a pill or through counseling. Anger is a primitive emotion—a feeling of displeasure—and it is accompanied by physical changes in the body. We learn early to respond to anger unconsciously through the dynamics of our families. What we don’t learn is that anger is a secondary emotion, which means a certain feeling or feelings precede anger.
Anger Management Works
If management of anger can be learned, it also can be unlearned. Anger management is a systemic set of skills for re-socialization and deep transformation around the anger. Knowing the Anderson & Anderson methodology and incorporating it into a rich format offers participants a means to an end. It can work and does work. George Anderson discovered that an anger management program has certain components. If tightly woven together, the program offers participants the kernels of knowledge for true anger management.
Most of us know the risks of not getting help. Sometimes, however, we fool ourselves into believing that there won’t be that “next episode. ” Anger can be a tricky emotion to manage. We can delude ourselves into thinking that the poor expression of anger was justified.
When It Is Time to Get Help
If it is time to do something about anger, then know the differences in the programs. First, ask questions and find out if your provider is trained, certified, and licensed in a mental health profession. Second, ask the provider if he or she is certified as a trained facilitator of anger management.
If your anger is getting the best of you, consider The 7 R’s of Managing Anger*:
Recognize that you are angry.
Remember to take care of yourself.
Recharge yourself by being around people who are positive and loving.
Reshape your perception about the situation that is causing anger.
Rectify your mistakes and forgive the mistakes of others.
* - Copyright pending
Sonia Brill, LCSW, located in Denver, Colorado, is developing what will be a significant Anderson & Anderson service program for the Rocky Mountain region. Ms. Brill is an Executive Coach and a Certified Anger Management Facilitator, who received graduate training from New York University and post-graduate training in Group and Family Work from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine-Group and Family Institute. You can reach her by calling 303-267-2302 or visit her Web site at http://www.angerxchange.com .