There’s an old adage that anger is the only poison we take ourselves and expect another person to get sick. The wisdom in this statement is twofold: Angry thoughts and feelings are toxic to our well being. Holding on to anger doesn’t harm the person or situation we’re upset with, it harms ourselves. Secondly, prolonged angry thoughts can be self-induced. We might not be able to stop the automatic anger that arises from circumstances, but we do have a choice of whether or not we’re going to hang on to it and let it continue to affect us, or if we’re going to do something to resolve the problem in a healthy manner. Anger management isn’t about pretending we’re not angry, or trying to “just get over it”, it’s about understanding where it comes from, and finding helpful ways to express it so that issues can be can be resolved.
Causes and Treatment for Anger
We all get angry from time to time, and not all anger is bad. If it helps to motivate us to take appropriate action to stand up for ourselves or others, or to make needed changes in our lives, then it’s serving a positive purpose. Unhealthy anger, however, is usually a symptom of another issue, rather than the primary problem. For example, people who are depressed or anxious can often feel “on edge”, irritable, hopeless, defeated and insecure. These feelings, if not dealt with effectively, can build up and lead to anger control problems. Another possible cause for anger issues is unresolved trauma. Trauma doesn’t always have to be life threatening. Painful experiences in relationships can be traumatic as well.
If a person has an intense, negative response to something seemingly small, an old traumatic memory may have been triggered. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can assist people attain more helpful and realistic views of the event, person or circumstance that causes anger. CBT can also treat an underlying depression or anxiety that may be driving the anger control problems. This results in a decrease in negative mood, and ability to handle the situation effectively, or move beyond it. If someone’s anger is rooted in past trauma, EMDR is a highly effective treatment that addresses and neutralizes the triggers to anger. Please see our EMDR page or call to speak to a therapist for more information.