On the last track we discussed three interpersonal costs of anger. These included raising defenses, losing a sense of well-being and isolation.
On this track, we will discuss Four Implications of Choosing Anger. These include that there is nothing inherently right or legitimate about anger, anger is an expression of stress, displacement and anger is a choice.
Four Implications of Choosing Anger
Implication #1 - There is Nothing Inherently Right or Legitimate About Anger
First, as you are aware, there is nothing legitimate about anger. Have you found, as I have, that a client’s anger might not have a legitimate basis because the trigger-thoughts that generate the client’s anger are false or, at best, very debatable? Flora, age 45, described to me a scenario in which she was making dinner.
At the same time, her son Gabe, age 16, was watching television. Flora asked Gabe, "Is your homework done yet?" and Gabe replied, "Not yet, Mom." Flora insisted that Gabe do his homework, and the conversation escalated into an argument. Flora shouted, "You’re lazy, you let you let your work go to the end, and then it’s slipshod crap!"
Gabe retaliated, "You can’t stand it when I relax!...I guess you want everybody to be as crazy and screwed up as you are!" I explained to Flora, "Triggering statements, like these, are false or distorted versions of reality. Therefore, the emotional storm that erupted did not respond to the real issue." I then stated to Flora, "Expressing pain is very important, but anger is destructive. Likewise, it is not the anger that needs to come out, but the pain beneath. It is hard to find something legitimate about anger."
Do you have a client who believes he or she deserves to be angry? Would your Flora benefit from this information about questioning the inherent right of expressing anger?
Implication #2 - Anger is an Expression of Stress
Secondly, as you know, it is not anger that builds, but usually stress. I felt Flora needed to know that failing to express anger does not build up more anger or increase stress. I stated to Flora, "Choosing not to express anger merely means that the arousal will continue at painful levels until you find a way to reduce it."
I asked Flora, "What are some ways you could have reduced your stress with Gabe?" Some stress-reduction strategies she came up with were that she could have eaten dinner at a restaurant to escape the house or she could have asked Gabe to do some homework at the time and some later. Do you have a client who builds up stress until he or she has an angry outburst?
Implication #3 - Displacement
In addition to the fact that there is nothing inherently right or legitimate about anger and anger is an expression of stress, displacement is not a healthy alternative to expressing anger to the appropriate person in the appropriate setting. As you know, anger is a response to stress, and its function is to block awareness of that stress.
Flora responded to Gabe angrily out of her stress about fixing dinner. Flora’s stress was not really about Gabe watching television and not doing his homework, but about dinner. Flora might have asked herself, "Did I express my pain in a way that might lead to a solution?" Do you have a client who does not direct his or her anger at the source but at a less threatening target?
Implication #4 - Anger is a Choice
Fourth, anger is a choice. As you are aware, oftentimes the choice to be angry is unconscious. When Flora felt her stress, she could have consciously made an effort to turn away from anger-triggering thoughts, such as her son ignoring his homework. I asked Flora to study her own process and develop an awareness of how her anger works. Do you have a client who chooses to be angry unconsciously?
Technique: Write in an Anger Journal
I asked Flora to write in an anger journal. I use four questions in particular that can help a client more fully understand each circumstance of anger:
1. What stresses preexisted my anger?
2. What trigger thoughts did I use?
3. Was I angry or was I feeling some other kind of stress before the trigger statements?
4. Was some of my preexisting stress blocked or discharged by the anger?
On this track, we have discussed Four Implications of Choosing Anger. These include that there is nothing inherently right or legitimate about anger, anger is an expression of stress, forget displacement and anger is a choice.
On the next track, we will discuss Four Areas of Understanding That Assist in Helping Your Client to Take Personal Responsibility for Anger. These four areas include understanding how to state your needs, understanding that others know their needs, understanding inevitable collision of needs and understanding strategies for satisfaction.
What are four implications of anger?
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