Strategic Psychology is a private practice in the centre of Canberra offering psychology services for those who believe they may benefit from anger management skills training.
Anger feelings range from annoyance to intense rage. They are usually accompanied by physiological changes, such as an increased heart rate, blood pressure and increases in the release of stress hormones. This can cause you to shake, sweat and feel out of control. When people feel angry, they often engage in behaviours such as yelling, throwing things, criticising, ignoring, storming out and sometimes withdrawing from others. Anger can lead to violence and other abusive behaviours if not properly controlled.
If you frequently encounter problems as a result of anger, you may benefit from anger management skills training. This involves understanding the reasons behind your anger, learning and practising more helpful ways of expressing it, and knowing how to prevent the problems leading to and resulting from anger.
At Strategic Psychology in Canberra, our psychologists base their treatment strategies on empirically sound, tried and tested methods. We are passionate about assisting people in Canberra to address the challenges that may arise as a result of anger problems.
Anger management skills enable you to notice what triggers anger, what signals your mind and body give you to indicate that you are becoming angry, and learning techniques to prevent out-of-control situations resulting from anger explosions. The following are skills that may assist you in reducing the problems you may experience due to anger outbursts.
Identifying anger triggers and early warning signs
It is helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
- What situations make me angry? (E.g. running late for an appointment and not being able to find a car park) – You may be able to avoid them or learn to respond differently when they occur.
- How does my body feel when I am about to have an anger outburst? (E.g. Racing heart, sweating, tight chest) – The earlier you recognise these, the more able you will be to calm down before the anger becomes out-of-control.
Develop more balanced thinking
It is common for people who are angry to experiencing exaggerated and illogical thoughts (e.g. ‘Everything is ruined now!’). Try to develop and practice more balanced responses to difficult situations that involve being kinder to yourself and others (e.g. ‘This is annoying and it is understandable that I am becoming upset, but it is not the end of the world and anger will not help me fix the situation’).
Take time out
If you feel that your anger is becoming out of control, take time out from the situation – go outside, walk or do another activity. However, before leaving, schedule a time to discuss the situation at a later time once everyone involved has calmed down. Try to engage in activities that will calm you down prior to resuming the conversation.
Learn assertiveness skills
Assertive communication is clear and firm in intent, but also respectful. It enables people to communicate honestly but appropriately, and to stand up for their rights and feelings without trespassing on those of others. Anger is often used inappropriately in place of assertiveness. It may seem effective as they often leads to the desired outcome. The problem is that it can harm others, it can be seen as bullying and it does not lead to respect or affection.
When communicating assertively, it is important to acknowledge who and what has led you to feel angry. Use ‘I’ statements, but avoid blaming others for the anger you feel. It is also important to communicate with the person who is directly involved in the issue of concern, rather than taking out your frustration on others (e.g. if your boss’ behaviour is leading you to feel angry, do not take it out on your partner or children when you get home).
When communicating assertively, use confident body language, rather than appearing aggressive. This involves making direct eye contact, having an open and relaxed posture and an even voice tone.
Here is a useful sentence structure to use when communicating assertively:
“When you — [insert action] — I feel angry because — [insert your interpretation of the action]. I know that you probably feel — [acknowledge their perspective] —, however, what I would prefer you do in the future is — [offer suggestion that better meets the needs of both people]”
It is then important to listen to people’s responses, let them know that you have heard them, and ask questions for clarification. Being assertive aids in developing trust and equality in relationships. It enables you to ask for help when needed and it allows those who care to assist you in more useful ways.
Write it down
Sometimes it is not possible to communicate directly with those involved in the situation that is upsetting you. However, it is still useful to reflect on your current situation and your feelings about it. Writing about this can sometimes help to create distance and perspective, assist you in understanding your feelings and determine options for changing your situation.
Mindfulness involves the ability to notice your inner and outer world without ‘fusing’ with it – this occurs by noticing that you are separate from your thoughts and feelings in the same way that you are separate from an object in the room. Mindfulness meditation slows things down so that you become more self-aware. This opens up more choices about how to react to various feelings, thoughts and situations that arise.
For instance, you may be aware that you went from Point A (totally calm) to Point Z (totally enraged). Mindfulness enables you to notice the subtle shifts from Point A to point B (mildly aroused), C (thinking ‘I can’t cope with this’) etc. Time will slow down as you notice each individual point from A to Z in the moment in which the shifts occur. This offers you new points in time in which you can choose different ways of reacting to your anger before you reach ‘totally enraged’ mode.
Rehearse new skills
Use your imagination to rehearse these strategies – visualise yourself in a situation you usually find anger-inducing. Imagine how you might behave in the situation without becoming angry and compare it to previous instances where you did become angry.
Try rehearsing anger management strategies with a friend – act out a situation where you usually become angry and practice other ways of responding internally and externally, such as assertiveness skills.
If you live in the Canberra region and feel that you may benefit from anger management skills training, you can contact Strategic Psychology to arrange to see one of our psychologists. We can assist you in identifying the issues that are causing and maintaining your anger difficulties and recommend strategies that draw on your strengths and passions in order to achieve optimal social, emotional and academic functioning.
Australian Psychology Society. (2015). Managing your anger. Retrieved from the Australian Psychological Society website: https://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/ anger/#s5
Open Door Therapy. (2015). Mindfulness in practice: Anger management. Retrieved from the Open Door Therapy website: http://www.opendoortherapy.com/pdf/mfa_series_1to3.pdf