The First Rule of Anger Management

I chose for my first “clinical” blog the topic of anger management because I feel that our society is suffering in many ways due to an increase in violent behavior.  Perhaps there is no true increase however we read and hear about reports of shootings, murderers and all kinds of violent acts occurring throughout our nation every day.  Of course, by the time it reaches that level it is much more difficult to stop because violence tends to increase over time without intervention and getting a handle on it sooner than later is crucial.  I want to be part of the solution.  I want to share what I know about peace and nonviolence.  I want to give people something tangible that can be used immediately.

There are many complicated reasons why people turn to violence that may take years of therapy to understand; however there are many useful tools one can implement without a deep understanding of why they behave violently so long as they have a desire to stop the behavior.  In my experience working with teens who had been incarcerated for domestic violence, it became clear to me that most of them do not want to be violent but simply do not know how not to be, and through an intensive anger management program were able to act less violently and feel more peace within themselves.

So, what is the first rule of anger management?  It’s the 24 hour rule and it’s very simple. Once you start to recognize that your frustration or anger level is increasing and you’re feeling more and more out of control, it is critical at that moment that you take a timeout, you literally have to STOP doing whatever is making you feel this way and for 24 hours make no decision or express any behaviors relating to the issue causing your negative emotions to increase.  Now you have just given yourself a gift of an entire day to not react, to not say something or behave in a way you will regret.  Furthermore, you now have sufficient time for the angry emotions to de-escalate and allow your cognitive functioning (vs. emotional) to make decisions and choose the action(s) that will not do harm to yourself and others.

Yes, it is a very simple idea and that’s what I love about it!  It is a small change in behavior to not act that can have powerful positive consequences.  Once you have 24 hours, or even more if you choose, there are many other things you can do to help resolve your angry feelings and gain better outcomes for yourself.  One definition of conflict is “an unmet expectation” if this is true then looking for and discovering what the expectation is can give you great insight into how to move forward by asking for what you want in a way that respects all parties involved in the conflict.

If you find anger to be unmanageable and causing you harm by doing damage to your relationships I would love to talk with you more about specific ways you can work on this and move forward through these uncomfortable emotions.  I encourage you to make an appointment with me today if anger is blocking you from living the life you deserve.