Anger is a powerful emotion. Anger management techniques can keep things under control, but can anger resolution training take things a step further?
In one capacity, the anger sparked from feeling wronged or treated unfairly can be exactly the push needed to make a positive change in the world. When something challenges our values, and we decide enough is enough, these feelings of anger can be effectively channeled to create wonderful change which benefits huge numbers of people.
Think of some of the biggest social movements in recent times. Many of these started because of feelings of anger towards the unfair or unjust treatment of certain social groups. But the key phrase here is ‘effectively channeled’. When anger gets out of control, it negatively impacts health, relationships, and overall wellbeing.
Controlling anger is not always easy. One of the reasons for this is how the brain works.
We would love to think that we experience something, we think about it, we make a decision, and then we act. But the research points to a different story. Scientific research indicates that our brains respond to the stimuli in our environment between 200-800 milliseconds before conscious awareness occurs.
In other words, the brain starts a chain of chemical reactions about 1 second before you can even think about it. By then it’s often too late for many people, rage has taken over, they’ve ‘seen red’, and anger is in the driving seat.
The Mayo Clinic (2021) defines Anger Management as ‘the process of learning to recognise signs that you’re becoming angry, and taking action to calm down and deal with the situation in a productive way.”
It acknowledges that anger is a normal, human emotion. We do not want to try and hide or bottle up feelings of anger, but instead learn to manage them and develop the skills to stay calm and communicate feelings of anger in a healthy way. Anger Management often consists of several key practices:
- Breathing exercises. Hatha Pradipika, a renowned yogi, states “When the breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so is the mind still”. This quote shows us how when we use breathing exercises, we can change the chemistry of our bodies and remain calm and in control.
- Cognitive Behavioural Techniques. These exercises help us to become more aware of the thinking styles and thinking patterns we use on a day-to-day basis. This allows us to recognise warning signs, explore feelings, and manage our thoughts more effectively – all curbing those feelings of anger.
- Practical strategies. Proactively using relaxation techniques, using exercise to release pent up emotion, and learning how and when to walk away from a situation can be crucial in disrupting the old patterns of anger and helping us to maker better choices.
In recent times, the approach to anger management has evolved. Instead of placing all the emphasis on trying to manage the symptoms of rage and uncontrolled anger, a move towards resolving these anger issues has steadily been gathering pace.
Anger resolution training looks to identify the root causes of the feelings of anger and to help the individual process and resolve them. The theory behind this approach is to clear the emotional triggers in the brain that cause the feelings of rage and therefore give the individual a much greater chance of channeling their feelings effectively. To do this, we need to explore the 7 causes of anger.
The 7 causes of anger
- Fear. The brain is the most advanced piece of equipment found anywhere in the universe, but it’s still steeped in millions of years of evolution. As well as our more advanced brain centres, we still have the same emotional circuitry as many animals. As a result, when we feel threatend, unsafe, or vulnerable, this can trigger a fear response. The consequences of this is we have an animalistic urge to defend ourselves, commonly known as the ‘fight or flight response’. When we move into fight mode, we use anger as a protection/defence mechanism.
- Trauma. Adverse childhood events (ACE) are childhood experiences that include a wide range of neglect, abuse and dysfunction. The more ACE’s an individual has in their past, the poorer their ability to regulate their emotions effectively. Anger is a very common outlet for these previosuly stored pains and emotional charges. As we move into adulthood, other traumas such as accidents, deaths, relationship breakdowns, and much more can cause emotional trauma leading to anger.
- Learned behaviour. Humans are social creatures who learn extensively through modelling. This is the process where we observe those around us and mimic their behaviour. If an individual grows up in an enviroment where their parents readily used anger as a means to communicate, these behaviour patterns can be learned and practiced over many years. Long-term exposure to anger in the family leads to it becoming normalised, and becomes a part of our normal daily life.
- Stress. The world is becoming more and more stressed, with mental health challenges at an all time high and showing no signs of slowing down. One of the key challenges is high stress levels. When we are stressed, circulation in the brain changes. It moves away from our rational, calm, objective brain, and moves towards the emotional centres. This shift in blood circulation prevents us from thinking clearly, communicating effectively, and talking things through. The result is rash, exaggerated responses which result in uncontrolled outbursts of anger.
- Challenges to values. Every individual has their own set of values; the things that they see as being the most important in their life. We are very strongly biased by our values and when something important to us is challenged, we respond by boldly standing up for what we believe in. This is true for everyone, but the lower the awareness we have of other people’s value systems, combined with our own biases, leads to an exaggerated and uncontrolled show of anger.
- Unrealistic expectations of self. When we listen to mothers, fathers, preachers, and teachers across our social circles, we can allow ourselves to get bogged down with how we think we should be. We try to live up to unrealistic world views, where we only behave in certain ways and only do certain things. These skewed models of the world set us up for failure because they’re very often unachievable. When we inevitably fall short, anger at ourselves follows, which impacts those around us.
- Unrealistic expectations of others. When we expect other people to behave the same way we do, we get very quickly bumped back to reality. The more we expect people to all live by our standards, the more we will be disappointed. This creates a conflict, we become self-righteous and believe our way is the best way, and when someone does soemthing against that, the puffed up self-righteous part of us gets angry.
Using these 7 causes of anger is a powerful way to identify where the main challenge is, and to use the skills and tools of anger management to resolve them. Everyone can break free of anger issues with the right tools.
Anger Resolution Training
Using the Anger Management techniques helps us to create a personal toolbox of strategies we can use to keep calm and stay in control. When we combine these with an understanding of the 7 causes of anger, we can start to pinpoint what the root cause of the anger is, and take steps towards resolving the triggers.
The results are increased and expanded self-awareness, skill, and experience in implementing a toolbox of techniques, and a greater understanding of how the mind works. All of which allow for anger to be channeled effectively and help create positive social change.