I HAD a client some time ago who wanted to learn how to control his anger.
He had a very short fuse, especially with people close to him, but also in situations such as driving on the road.
He came for counselling, not because he really wanted to, but because his partner was leaving him and he was desperate to save his marriage.
For the first couple of sessions, I didn’t say much.
I just listened to his story, and made empathic noises.
This was a guy who was used to telling others what to do, and he wasn’t keen on having some stranger telling him what to do.
He was also in a vulnerable state, which made him very uncomfortable.
As he got used to the idea that I wasn’t going to be a threat, he started to relax and open up more.
Slowly a rapport developed between us, and some degree of trust. Within that context, it became possible for us to start examining the causes of his anger, and come up with some strategies for controlling it.
Generally, a person who has regular angry outbursts, does so without much awareness of what’s going on.
Their anger is triggered by some outer event, and also by their internal reaction to that event. They think that anger is the best way to deal with whatever is going on.
The healing process involves bringing awareness to each situation as it arises.
Firstly, to note the emotion itself, as a burning or fuming sensation in the body.
To identify clearly to yourself that ‘right now, I am angry’, and to take responsibility or ownership of this emotion, i.e. to recognise that the anger is coming, not from something outside, but from within yourself.
We do this by identifying the external and internal triggers for the emotion.
An external trigger may be a perceived shortcoming in another person, or a situation not turning out as you want.
The internal trigger may be your judgment or lack of tolerance for other people’s shortcomings, or an inability to accept the fact that situations don’t always turn out as you wish them to.
The next step is to bring some awareness to the effect that your anger has on others and on yourself.
The result of bringing awareness to our anger can be quite dramatic. We see that anger rarely produces the outcome we expect—it never changes the behaviour or attitude of the person we’re angry with.
In fact, anger is mostly destructive to our relationships and to ourselves.
Seeing this prepares us for the final step on the healing journey.
by FRANK VILAASA
Anahata Wellness Centre