Because of a few high-profile individuals, anger management and aggressive outbursts have been in the public spotlight recently. They’ve spurred conversations about what anger is, what it means to lose control, and how to deal with anger. In some cases, people are also beginning to talk about the fact that anger, in and of itself, is not always a bad thing. What is anger? Mayo Clinic describes it as “a feeling of displeasure or hostility.” It functions as an alert that something is not right. People may become angry when they feel threatened. The problem with anger is not that it arises, but rather how it is handled.
The fact that anger arises at all is not the issue: but often, when a person is in a place of anger or hurt, they react with generalized accusations (“You never do what I ask!”) or aggression (slamming doors, yelling, antagonizing). Losing control to anger can change the way you think and how you feel, both physically and emotionally. This can be difficult because it takes an already volatile reaction and moves it farther away from a place of calm and control. When a person becomes angry, they can then become upset at this lack of control, which only makes them angrier.
How a person handles anger is exactly what anger management therapy is about. Reactions to anger can generally be broken into two categories: expression and suppression. Suppression is generally unhealthy, as it just bottles up the energy; it’s likely to come out later in a worse form for not having been dealt with. Expression can be done in a healthy way (calmly addressing the problem) or an unhealthy way (yelling and losing control). In anger management counseling, clients work not to avoid anger, but to understand where it comes from, why certain situations are so personally upsetting, and how to better respond without losing control.
Anger is a natural part of the human condition, but it isn’t always easy to handle. And when people don’t handle it well, the harm they do can be both visible and invisible.
Some people mask their anger. Others explode with rage. For still others, anger is a chronic condition, a habit of resentment that surfaces over and over again.
There are Ten Anger Styles:
Anger Avoidance: These people don’t like anger much. Some are afraid of their anger, or the anger of others. It can be scary and they are afraid to lose control if they get mad. Some think it’s bad to become angry. Anger avoiders gain the sense that being good or nice helps them feel safe and calm.
They have problems, though. Anger can help you to survive when something is wrong. Avoiders can’t be assertive, because they feel too guilty when they say what they want. Too often the result is that they are walked over by others.
Sneaky Anger: Anger Sneaks never let others know they are angry. Sometimes, they don’t even know how angry they are. But the anger comes out in other forms, such as forgetting things a lot, or saying they’ll do something, but never intending to follow through. Or, they sit around and frustrate everybody and their families. Anger Sneaks can look hurt and innocent and often ask, “Why are you gettting mad at me?” They gain a sense of control over their lives when they frustrate others. By doing little or nothing, or putting things off, they thwart other people’s plans. However, Anger Sneaks lose track of their own wants and needs. They don’t know what to do with their own lives and that leads to boredom, frustration, and unsatisfying relationships.
Paranoid Anger: This type of anger occurs when someone feels irrationally threatened by others. They seek aggression everywhere. They believe people want to take what is theirs. They expect others will attack them physically or verbally. Because of this belief, they spend much time jealously guarding and defending what they think is theirs – the love of a partner (real or imangined), their money, or their valuables. People with Paranoid anger give their anger away. They think everybody else is angry instead of acknowledging their own rage. They have found a way to get angry without guilt. Their anger is disguised as self-protection. It is expesive, though. They are insecure and trust nobody. They have poor judgment because they confuse their own feelings with those of others. They see their own anger in the eyes and words of their friends, mates, and co-workers. This leaves them (and everyone around them) confused.
Sudden Anger: People with sudden anger are like thunderstorms on a summer day. They zoom in from nowhere, blast everything in sight, and then vanish. Sometimes it’s only lightning and thunder, a big show that soon blows away. But often people get hurt, homes are broken up, and things are damaged that will take a long time to repair. Sudden Anger people gain a surge of power. They release all their feelings, so they feel good or relieved. Loss of control is a major problem with sudden anger. They can be a danger to themselves and others. They may get violent. They say and do things they later regret, but by then it’s too late to take them back.
Shame-Based Anger: People who need a lot of attention or are very sensitive to criticism often develop this style of anger. The slightest criticism sets off their own shame. Unfortunately, they don’t like themselves very much. They feel worthless, not good enough, broken, unloveable. So, when someone ignores them or says something negative, they take it as proof that the other person dislikes them as much as they dislike themselves. But that makes them really angry, so they lash out. They think, “You made me feel awful, so I’m going to hurt you back.” They get rid of their shame by blaming, criticizing, and ridiculing others. Their anger helps them get revenge against anybody they think shamed them. They avoid their own feelings of inadequacy by shaming others. Raging against others to hide shame doesn’t work very well. They usually end up attacking the people they love. They continue to be oversensitive to insults because of their poor self-image. Their anger and loss of control only makes them feel worse about themselves.
Deliberate Anger:This anger is planned. People who use this anger usually know what they are doing. They aren’t really emotional about their anger, at least not at first. They like controlling others, and the best way they’ve discovered to do that is with anger and, sometimes, violence. Power and control are what people gain from deliberate anger. Their goal is to get what they want by threatening or overpowering others. This may work for a while, but this usually breaks down in the long run. People don’t like to be bullied and eventually they figure out ways to escape or get back at the bully.
Addictive Anger: Some people want or need the strong feelings that come with anger. They like the intensity even if they don’t like the trouble their anger causes them. Their anger is much more than a bad habit – it provides emotional excitement. It isn’t fun, but it’s powerful. These people look forward to the anger “rush,” and the emotional “high.” Anger addicts gain a sense of intensity and emotional power when they explode. They feel alive and full of energy. Addictions are inevitably painful and damaging. This addiction is no exception. They don’t learn other ways to feel good, so they become dependent upon their anger. They pick fights just to get high on anger. And, since they need intensity, their anger takes on an all-or-nothing pattern that creates more problems than it solves.
Habitual Anger: Anger can become a bad habit. Habitually angry people find themselves getting angry often, usually about small things that don’t bother others. They wake up grumpy. They go through the day looking for fights. They look for the worst in everything and everybody. They usually go to bed angry about something. They might even have angry dreams. Their angry thoughts set them up for more and more arguments. They can’t seem to quit being angry, even though they are unhappy. Habitually angry people gain predictibility. They always know what they feel. Life may be lousy but it is known, safe, and steady. However, they get trapped in their anger and it runs their lives. They can’t get close to the people they love because their anger keeps them away.
Moral Anger: Some people think they have a right to be angry when others have broken a rule. That makes the offenders bad, evil, wicked, sinful. They have to be scolded, maybe punished. People with this anger style feel outraged about what bad people are doing. They say they have a right to defend their “beliefs.” They claim moral superiority. They gain the sense that anger is for a good cause. They don’t feel guilty when they get angry because of this. They often feel superior to others even in their anger. These people suffer from black-and-white thinking, which means they see the world too simply. They fail to understand people who are different from themselves. They often have rigid ways of thinking and doing things. Another problem with this anger style is crusading – attacking every problem or difference of opinion with moral anger when compromise or understanding might be better.
Hate: Hate is a hardened anger. It is a nasty anger style that happens when someone decides that at least one other person is totally evil or bad. Forgiving the other person seems impossible. Instead, the hater vows to despise the offender. Hate starts as anger that doesn’t get resovled. Then it becomes resentment, and then a true hatred that can go on indefinitely. Haters often think about the ways they can punish the offender and they sometimes act on those ideas. These people feel they are innocent victims. They create a world of enemies to fight, and they attack them with great vigor and enthusiasm. However, this hatred causes serious damage over time. Haters can’t let go or get on with life. They become bitter and frustrated and their lives become mean, small and narrow.
Anger is a tricky emotion, difficult to use well until you learn how. It is a real help though, as long as you don’t get trapped in any of the anger styles aforementioned. People who use anger well have a healthy or “normal” relationship with their anger. They think of anger in the following characteristic ways:
Anger is a normal part of life
Anger is an accurate signal of real problems in a person’s life
Angry actions are screened carefully; you needn’t automatically get angry just because you could
Anger is expressed in moderation so there is no loss of control
The goal is to solve the problems, not just to express anger
Anger is clearly stated in ways that others can understand
Anger is temporary. It can be relinquished once an issue is resolved
When you practice good anger skills, you never need to use your anger as an excuse. You can take responsibility for what you say and do, even when you are mad.
The more you know about your personal anger style(s), the more control you will have over your life. You can learn to let go of excessive anger and resentment.