February 22, 2007


"If the only tool available is a hammer, then every problem becomes a nail."

There are five major groups of emotions: MAD, SAD, GLAD, FEAR and CONFUSED. This article will focus on ANGER. To feel angry might mean being frustrated, annoyed, irritated, furious, resentful, bitter, enraged, upset, paranoid, hostile, critical, grumpy, intimidating or just plain NOT HAPPY!

ANGER has been given a bad rap because most people associate it with an expression of violence. Behaviors like road rage, domestic violence, rape, murder, temper tantrums, assault and battery, terrorism and verbal abuse have contributed to the stigma of ANGER. ANGER need not be expressed in anti-social ways. There are ways to regulate it so nobody gets hurt.

The first step to a functional, healthy, adaptive and positive behavioral expression of ANGER is to acknowledge when we feel angry. Fill in the blank: I feel mad because _______.

The next step is to tolerate the angry energy we feel. This means learning how to develop a commitment to calmness. What was I thinking prior to feeling angry? What can I think instead? Sometimes taking a few deep breaths can help to put things in perspective. A relaxation response (positive self-talk, deep breathing) can be a preference to the fight or flight response. It is useful to learn how to breathe deeply so that we can slow down a racing pulse that is precipitated by an angry thought. I recommend practicing a few deep breaths (slowly inhale through the nose, slowly exhale out the mouth) every morning so that when it comes time to use this skill, it is automatic.

Road rage is an ugly expression of ANGER. Rather than participate in this destructive behavior, we can choose to create a positive outcome. Instead of trying to control the reckless driver who dangerously cuts in front of you without signaling (one of my pet peeves because there is a lack of acknowledgement to share the road), we can control our reaction, which is more rational. It begins with a thought (Do we take it personally?), that affects how we feel (angry), which is influenced by our actions (fight, flight, relaxation response?). In this case scenario, after reframing our thoughts and taking some deep breaths, if a cell phone is available, the next step may be to get the license number and make of the car, and call 911 to report the incident to the police.

Road rage is one example of how parts of our society can be viewed as "mean spirited." The November, 2004 presidential campaign (Bush vs. Kerry) is another one. Some republicans called Kerry a "coward"; some democrats called Bush an "idiot." Name calling may not be an explosive style of ANGER expression, but it is one way to justify resentment. Then there's film producer, Michael Moore, who is obviously angered by the views of the republican party as evidenced by his film, "Fahrenheit 9/11." Michael Moore chose to express his anger by creating a film as opposed to blowing up a building or some other destructive expression of anger, to which I give him credit.

In the end, it is up to each of us to acknowledge, tolerate and adaptively express our anger in civilized and polite ways. This could mean learning how to be assertive as opposed to being passive or aggressive in our relations with others. If you believe there is a problem with how you express anger, professional counseling may help.

Counseling can identify our specific anger style, teach us different approaches to anger management and encourage us to be less rigid and more flexible in choosing a style to use for a given situation.

Based on the research of Ronald T. Potter-Efron, MSW, PhD, there are at least 10 ANGER styles:

HIDDEN STYLES: (flight response): Anger Avoidance, Sneaky Anger and Paranoia.

EXPLOSIVE STYLES: (fight response): Sudden Anger, Shame-Based Anger, Deliberate Anger and Excitatory Anger.

CHRONIC STYLES: Habitual Anger, Moral Anger and Resentment/Hate.

A specific treatment approach is used in counseling to address maladaptive expressions of ANGER when the style is identified.There is more of an emphasis on humanity and equality when we choose to express our anger in creative rather than destructive ways.

Written by,
Mark S. Rogers, LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor

Taking a moment from a busy day at work to say, I support Stooltime Counseling. Thanks, Courtney! I appreciate it.

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