Anger management techniques
August 23, 2011 10:21 AM   Subscribe

What is anger management therapy like?

I am pretty sure I need anger management therapy. I have a bad temper (not physically violent ever, but verbally out of control on occasion and VERY unable to deal with stress) and I need to get it under control before my son gets to the age where he might become the target of my anger (he is only 8 months now). Everyone always suggests therapy, but I haven't really read about what anger management therapy actually entails. What goes on that I can't do on my own?

Also, if anyone with anger issues has some kind of magic technique (not talking about counting to ten or deep breaths or that sort of thing), by all means feel free to share.
posted by feathermeat to Human Relations (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Anger management is often done in a group setting. We do it where I work. We talk about the different styles of anger, recognizing your triggers, how to NOT personalize things others say or do that sets us off, how to communicate our wants in a productive manner. We talk about what to do when we do feel ourselves getting angry, and how to manage our stress so we can stay away from that "last straw" effect. A lot of it boils down to good communication skills. People start off sometimes a bit freaked out about the group aspect, but everyone is there for the same reason.

What goes on that I can't do on my own?

You can't observe yourself and listen to your own answers and call bullshit on yourself. Anger management counselling is really helpful. Your son will learn how to handle anger by watching you, so kudos to you for recognizing that you need it.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:59 AM on August 23, 2011

Anger management group is very helpful, if you're willing to be candid about your issues and triggers in front of others. Even if you find doing that difficult on tricky issues, as I did, the group helps a lot, and you'll be surprised at how smart and insightful some folks are. The main thing it does is help you recognize your particular triggers and teaches you ways of heading off your ugly reactions. I found it useful. Very.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 11:40 AM on August 23, 2011

Many more modern clinicians would recommend mindfulness-based stress reduction for anger issues, these days. It's usually a 10 week program, wherein one learns to meditate, be more mindful, and become more aware of one's tendencies and responses. The benefits extend vastly beyond easing anger and stress to a general increase in well-being.
posted by namesarehard at 5:31 PM on August 23, 2011

Anger management is not about anger avoidance. It's about learning how to respond to and deal with anger - to manage it, in fact - in ways that don't damage people or their property or your relationships with them. Its aim is not to change who or how you are; it's about acquiring skills.

I had never considered my own lack of anger-management skills until the day I realized, having lost my temper and shouted at my beloved, that I'd caused her every bit as much fear and pain as hitting her would have done. I'd probably not have realized that had she not had the guts to tell me so to my face and make me believe her.

I haven't ever attended any kind of formal anger management group or therapy, but I've done lots of reading and lots of introspection, and for the last fifteen years I've been able to trust myself completely not to let my anger cause damage.

The main thing I've learned is that anger is at least as much a physical process as a mental one. I can now recognize what my own anger literally feels like as it's coming on, which gives me time to deal with it instead of getting caught short and taking a big emotional dump right in the middle of the living room floor. I expect that I would have caught onto this rather more quickly had I in fact bothered to attend some formal emotional potty-training sessions.

Dealing with anger is a physical process as well. If I feel rage coming on, and I'm around people that my remaining angry is likely to hurt, and I need that anger to go away as fast as possible, I will say something like "I'm very angry now, and I need to go and walk that off" and then I'll just go - quietly. I am very, very careful to avoid door-slamming or other histrionics on the way out. And then I'll just walk - hard! - until the hormones are all burned off and the red mist has lifted and the howl of insanity is no longer jabbering inside my skull and I feel like me again. And when calm is restored I'll go back and apologize for walking out and then just deal with whatever it was that triggered the rage in the first place.

Obviously this is less than ideal, but it's a hell of a lot better than lashing out, physically or verbally, at other people while in the grip of an anger that temporarily drives out all empathy. And I've found, over the years, that the fact of making myself the only person whose permission I require to leave when angry has pretty much eliminated my fear of getting angry, and that this in turn has ended up meaning that anger is in fact almost never triggered inappropriately any more.
posted by flabdablet at 6:14 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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