Almost everyone knows what it is like to feel angry. Anger is a very common emotion. In a lot of ways, having the capacity to feel angry is part of being human. In fact, although there are major differences between people and cultures all around the world, recent research suggests that the capacity to feel anger is something that is shared by people worldwide. Anger is part of the fight-flight response that is built into us to ensure our survival as a species. It provides us with energy and motivation to change things that either prevent us from getting what we want, cause us pain, or violate our sense of right and wrong. It is also something that is learned over the years through our interactions with others.
What we do know for sure, as funny as it may sound, is that having the capacity to feel anger can at times be very useful. For instance, anger motivates some to take appropriate action and perform at a higher level then would otherwise be possible. It gets people to stand up for what they value and serves as a way of getting taken seriously by others. At other times, anger provides the necessary courage and energy so that people can protect or stick up for themselves. In certain amounts and situations, being able to experience anger is effective and useful.
Unfortunately, we also know that when anger is too intense, frequent, misplaced or shows up at inopportune times it makes life more difficult for us and for those around us. For example, anger can get in the way of those personal relationships with family and friends that are most important to us. At work, it can make it harder to keep a job or perform as well as might otherwise be possible. For some, it leads to health concerns such as high blood pressure and stomach problems.
Many of us have been taught that it is bad to "hold in anger" and that we need to express it or something bad will happen to us psychologically or physically. This is called the "catharsis theory." Interestingly, many studies have been conducted about this theory and they all reach the same conclusion: acting angry increases anger. It is true, though, that when we try to ignore our anger, it sometimes gets expressed in ways that perplex and hurt both ourselves and the recipients. For example, if we have a lot of frustrations and stresses at work, we may be able to act appropriately there, but take it out at home by being irritable, critical and mean there.
At our Center we offer a type of cognitive behavioral therapy called Anger Management Training that has been shown to be highly effective in the treatment of anger problems. It is a relatively short-term treatment that usually requires approximately 12-16 sessions. For those already involved in a different type of treatment outside of our Center, this particular therapy may serve as a useful, temporary addition.