Anger is an emotion that is useful and necessary as well as harmful. We teach anger management skills as well as interventions for resolving the underlying reasons for an individual’s anger
BEHAVIORAL TECHNIQUES FOR RELEASING ANGER
Dealing with anger therapeutically is a tricky business. Physical expressions of anger may be very helpful, especially for those who have been unable to be angry enough to empower themselves, in order to set and keep boundaries and to keep from being re-abused.
However, it may also be counter-productive, especially if anger comes easily for you and serves to keep yourself or others away from what is beneath the anger. Anger, in itself, is a normal feeling like sadness or fear. However, expression of anger can be healthy and productive, or it may be harmful to yourself and others.
Society (and your own safety) forbids violence. Friendship or other interpersonal relationships (such as husband/wife, employer/employee) make explosive verbal expression ultimately self-defeating. Just saying “That makes me angry” or “I do not like it when…” may not be as satisfying as bashing someone, but is far more satisfying than saying and doing nothing. There are, in reality, a few situations in which it is in your best interest to delay expression, but none in which you can afford to delay recognition or owning.
Physical activity rids the body of some of the energy of anger, particularly suppressed anger. Problems grow when we suppress that energy or hold in our feelings when we have been angered or hurt. Some constructive releases of anger might be: walks, swimming, cycling, bowling, jogging, and pillow pounding.
Learn to recognize when you become angry. The “anger energy” is produced even if you are unaware of your anger.
The safe and healthy expression of our angry feelings through active, emotionally provocative techniques helps us to regain function, assertively and rationally. We are then able to get our needs met assertively without hurting others, while protecting our rights when we feel violated.
To handle anger in a healthy, healing way, we can use active behavioral strategies to channel and release our hyper-aroused energy into healthy, productive behavior. Forgiving and forgetting is possible through therapeutic expressions of one’s emotion.
Below are some recommended, behaviorally based methods for expressing and managing anger in a safe and appropriate manner. Learning an array of techniques can help you deal with situations where some options are not available.
First, foremost, always acknowledge your feelings. You’ll probably not be successful, in trying to suppress your feelings anyway. Anger demands expression. If you recognize and own your anger, you will have a choice of when, where, and how you may express it.
Typical Unhealthy Anger Cycle
The open expression of anger out by one person on another person is almost always followed with guilt or shame. Immediately after expressions of anger the person may feel some elation for having “gotten it out,” but, frequently, a normal response is guilt. Guilt then will lead to remorse that the person had been so hard or mean to the person upon whom the anger was vented. This remorse will function in two ways. It may act like a “self-checking” device, resulting in suppressed anger which can lead to anxiety, physical problems or depression.
The second way leads to projection. If we feel guilt, in order to make ourselves feel okay, we will need to make the other person wrong. We will build a case against the other person to justify our behaviors.
This “anger in” and “building a case” over time will lead to a “resentment mass” towards the original person towards whom the maladaptive angry expression was delivered. If this person down the road begins to irritate the “angry person.” Over time, the anger person will not hold in any more and the anger cycle begins all over again, leading to a repeat of the anger cycle of guilt, remorse, projection, anger in, resentment, irritation and anger out expression. This is a maladaptive model of handling anger.
Dr. Paul Standal teaches his clients the ANGER process as a tool to help them overcome this unhealthy anger cycle.
The ANGER Process Tool
First, you need to accept that what you are feeling is anger. There is often a tendency to deny this powerful emotion because your experience with anger in the past has been painful, hurtful, or disastrous. Don’t deny your anger. Facing it head on for what it is also gives you an opportunity to get clear about what other emotion may be under the anger, like fear or hurt.
Second, you need to name and identify what is getting you so angry. You need to name what it is about the stimulus that is triggering your response. Analyze and think out what is going on to get you angry. You need to identify not only the current anger but also the old unresolved anger, hurt or fear that the stimulus may be provoking.
G: Get It Out
Third, you now need to get it out of your system by an expressive, emotional release of anger workout. Get yourself in a private place (if you can) to use behavioral activities to aggressively ventilate your anger on inanimate objects rather than on people. After completing a behavioral release of hyper-aroused energy, you have the ability to more rationally resolve your anger. You can then more easily relax yourself by using deep, natural breathing and muscle relaxation. By taking deep breaths and silently repeating the words “relax,” you are more able to calm down. By not saying or doing anything until you are calmed down, you have avoided words or actions in the “heat” of the moment.
By using behavioral release techniques you may be more able to recognize what arouses or provokes your anger, whether a situation, an event, a person, or whether real or imagined, justified or not. By first getting the hyper-aroused energy out, we are more able to use a rational approach to “rethink,” “reframe,” and reason in your mind what was going on and why you became angry. Is this a trigger event bringing up old unresolved anger or resentment in me? How is what is happening to provoke my anger a product of my past?
Fourth, once you have aggressively ventilated and experienced emotional release of the anger, you will energize yourself to feel calmer, more relaxed, less anxious, less tense, or less stressed. Aggressive anger work enables you to get the adrenaline and cortisol out of your system, allowing you to be more rational, realistic and self-conscious and better able to promote effective communication.
Fifth, once you have released anger energy, you are more able to hear and communicate rationally, with the other being better able to resume conflict resolution, problem solving and negotiation skills with the person who was the stimulus of the anger, and assertively confront the person with how you feel in a calm, cool, rational manner. Harnessing anger into a productive force in your life will assist your emotional growth.
Recommended Active Behavioral Methods for Safe Expression of Anger
1. Higher Power Box: This is a container into which you can leave notes or letters of things you are angry about or are having difficulty letting go.
2. Draw: Draw what the anger looks like inside.
3. Yell: Yell or scream into a pillow.
4. Stomp: Write the situation or the name of the person you’re angry with on the bottom of your shoe and stomp on it or scratch it off by shuffling your feet on pavement.
5. Clay: Use modeling clay to illustrate the anger, or simply squeeze it to release the anger.
6. Physical exercise: Walking, bicycling, swimming, rope-jumping, rowing machine, running, throwing or kicking a ball against a wall, or going to a baseball batting cage.
7. Assertiveness: Practice being straight and honest about your feelings.
8. Breathing: Take ten long, slow, deep breaths. With each breath, allow your body to relax more from toes to head.
9. Explore other feelings: Behind other feelings may be hurt, rejection, fear, vulnerability, etc. These are often more difficult to access.
10. Quiet Room: Give yourself 15-30 minutes of quiet, listening to relaxation or meditation tapes. Allow each agitated person inside to feel the calm, and to enjoy the moment of serenity.
11. Anger Letter: Write an uncensored letter expressing your anger to one person about whom you have angry feelings. Do not mail or show this letter to that person. Bring the letter to your therapist to process the feelings that have surfaced.
a. Purchase an “encounter bat” or “bataca” (a foam bat available in most sporting goods stores) or use a plastic bat or old tennis racquet. Place a large pillow before you on the floor or position yourself on or next to your bed. Get on your knees, lift the bat directly over your head, and come down hard in a swift thrust. You can envision the person you are angry with, but, as you hit, make sure your eyes are wide open and focused on a spot on the pillow or bed.
b. Punch a punching bag or punch the air as in shadow boxing.
c. Pound pillows with your fists. Lie down on your back on the ground or on your bed. Place pillows at your sides, directly under your hands.
d. Hit a piece of furniture with a rolled-up towel, newspaper or magazine.
e. Play a sport that requires a hitting action, such as tennis, racquetball or volleyball. Focus on releasing anger while you are hitting.
f. Sock or punch clay, dough, or any other pliable material.
13. Kicking and Stomping:
a. Stomp on old egg cartons or aluminum cans.
b. Kick a large pillow or ball.
c. Take a walk; each time you take a step, imagine you are stomping on the person you are angry with.
d. Practice karate kicks.
e. On a bed or mat, do scissor kicks.
a. Place two large pillows against a wall. Lie on your back. Using your feet and legs, kick and push the pillows as hard as you can against the wall.
b. Facing a wall or door, stand with your arms straight out in front of you, an arm’s length from the wall or door. With feet planted firmly on the ground, start pushing as hard as you can against the wall.
c. Say out loud, “Get away from me,” or “Leave me alone.”
a. Throw unwanted dishes, raw eggs, or water balloons against your garage wall, back fence or garbage can.
b. Throw pillows against the wall. Make sure to let out sounds like “No!” or “Get away!” or “Take that!” as you do so.
c. Throw balls or darts.
d. Throw rocks into a river or into the ocean.
a. Tear an old phone book or newspapers into pieces.
b. Tear up old pillows, sheets, or rags.
17. Screaming and Yelling:
a. Put your face into a pillow and scream as hard as you can.
b. Yell and scream in the shower.
c. Turn the TV or radio up loud and scream.
Anger is resolvable. Rage may be unbounded.
Caution: If you have been suicidal, have a history of severe emotional problems, or have been hospitalized for such difficulties, have your therapist or a friend present when you release anger through any of these physical techniques. They can give you any reassurance or assistance needed.
Use this form to find things you need on this site