Although we may operate with the mindset, we control our emotions. In most instances, instinctively, we maintain our emotional reactions. Still, we are likely to lose control of our emotional responses due to perceived threats to our wellbeing. These emotional reactions are evident in our facial expressions and body language. So, without explanation, others can tell when we are frustrated.
Unfortunately, anger is often characterized as a negative emotion. Anger is helpful when defending oneself and reducing or eliminating environmental threats to personal safety. Because of the negative characterization of anger, some of us learn early to suppress our anger to demonstrate how poise we can be under pressure. Anger is even described as a "secondary emotion" or an "umbrella emotion." Consequently, we learn and practice myths about anger that inhibit our ability to process anger.
There are several schools of thought on anger management. This post does not challenge any of those perspectives. The purpose of the post is to share myths about anger management:
The way anger is expressed cannot be changed. This myth suggests people cannot learn to modify their behaviors or self-regulate.
Anger automatically leads to aggression. There are constructive ways to express anger that does not lead to destructive behaviors. Recognizing your triggers and warning signs for angry outbursts is one way to prevent the escalation of anger. This way, you can select an intervention such as conflict resolution when possible or remove yourself from the anger-provoking situation until you can reasonably address the problem.
You must be aggressive to get what you want. This misconception may be a misunderstanding of the difference between anger and aggression. It is necessary to differentiate between anger and aggression. Reilly and Shopshire distinguished anger from aggression. Anger is a "feeling or emotion that ranges from mild irritation to intense fury or rage. Aggression is a "behavior that is intended to cause harm to another person or property." Therefore, learning to communicate persuasively to get what you want is more beneficial than being aggressive to get what you want. Be mindful of the consequences of unjustified aggressive behaviors.
Venting anger is always desirable. Venting is not to be confused with yelling, screaming, and punching holes in walls. These are aggressive behaviors and inappropriate ways of expressing anger. Appropriate venting of anger involves proper self-regulation and the use of assertive communication to solve a problem.
Anger is inherited. Anger is a normal healthy emotion, but the expression of anger is a learned behavior. How anger is modeled for us by the influential people in our lives is what we tend to practice. The live models we observed may have displayed poor attitudes and values when they were upset and got results. Hence, we learn that expressing anger in specific ways has benefits.
It is best to suppress anger. In the short term, suppressing rage may work, but it is an insufficient anger management strategy long term. The suppression of anger may support passive-aggressive behaviors or the inappropriate discharge of vexation when the proverbial straw breaks the camel's back. Suppressed anger may also lead to resentment.
Anger management does not work. At first, you may find it challenging to change how you previously expressed anger. However, with continued effort to change/modify your maladaptive expressions of anger, you can learn new ways to settle disputes.
There is always an alternate view to most situations but try to be pragmatic when it comes to anger management.
Stay Naturally Curious
Reilly PM and Shopshire MS. Anger Management for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Clients: A Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Manual. DHHS Pub. No. (SMA) 02-3661. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health Services Administration, 2002.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1997). Educational psychology. St. Lucie Press.