Anger can be like an addiction in that people are very creative in finding all sorts of rationales for their anger and why they don't need anger management. At times it can almost appear as if they are in denial about their anger management issues. Part of the reason for this is that the way our behavior looks to us on the inside can look a whole lot different to someone on the receiving end of things.
I was in denial about my anger management problem, thinking that other people were too sensitive and that they were the ones with the problem. Sometimes people are too sensitive but when you think that pretty much everyone in your life is too sensitive (as I did) you may be in denial about the need for anger management.
Two things happened that woke me up about my need for anger control.
The first occurred about 18 years ago when I was working with a couple and all of a sudden the wife just went off on her husband. It was just like looking at myself - she used the same tone of voice, the same language, had the same look in her eyes and the same body language that I used. I was absolutely shocked at how powerful and scary her reaction was. But that wasn't enough for me to realize that I had an anger management problem.
Several days later I was on the phone with a friend of mine and raised my voice, not in anger, but just because of the story I was telling him. All of a sudden my dog jumped off the chair and ran under the bed. It was then that I realized I had an anger management issue. I mean if your own dog is scared of you things are pretty bad. So, with that in mind, lets quickly review some of the stories people with anger management problems tell themselves to minimize or justify their anger.
1) Venting, or taking it out on others, decreases anger. This actually reinforces the neural networks associated with anger. Becoming angry actually makes it more likely that you will get angry again.
2) Strong anger is necessary to get people to listen to me. Do you like it when others treat you with scorn? People may go along with you in the short term just to get you off their back in the end anger only produces bitterness and resentment.
3) If I don't get angry, I don't care. Anger certainly shows that you're paying attention. But does anger really get the job done any quicker or show that you care about a problem or them? Care can be shown with by being firm and patient. You can be strong without being having anger control problems.
4) Someone who makes me angry is worthless and deserves what they have coming to them. When you make mistakes do you feel like you deserve to get blasted? Treating someone as if they have no value by calling them names or saying they can't do anything right just makes it easier for you not to feel bad yourself. People with anger management problems often have low self esteem and will put someone else down to feel better about themselves. This is sort of akin to having a drink to solve your problems - it makes you feel better in the moment but does nothing to help with the real problem.
5) Showing less anger means I think the other person is right. Or, using anger management means that you are learning ways to deal with others more coolly, constructively and in the end, more effectively. Again, who do you respect more - someone who blasts you or someone who treats you with respect?
6) Every day brings all sorts of problems for me to deal with. This is true for all of us. Every day also brings a lot of good things too. The problem is what we focus on and what we tell ourselves about it that causes anger management problems.
7) Depression is anger turned inward. Actually for many depression is anger turned outward. Depressed people often show higher levels of anger and anxiety. They often struggle with anger management because its just so uncomfortable to be in their skin or because their coping resources are so depleted all they are capable of doing when stressed is lash out in anger. People struggling with anger management issues are two to three times more likely to have a psychiatric illness such as depression than those who do not struggle with anger.
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