In my experience, anger is almost like an addiction in that people are very creative in finding all sorts of rationales for their anger and why they don't need anger management. At times, it can almost appear as if they are in denial about their anger management issues. Part of the reason for this is that the way our behavior looks to us on the inside can look a whole lot different to someone on the receiving end of things.
I was in denial about my anger management problem, thinking that other people were too sensitive and that it was more their problem than mine. Sometimes people are too sensitive, but when you think that pretty much everyone in your life is too sensitive (as I did), you may be in denial about the need for anger management classes.
Two things happened that shook me out of my blindness to my anger control problem. The first occurred about 18 years ago when I was working with a couple and all of a sudden the wife just went off on her husband. It was just like looking at myself - she used the same tone of voice, the same language, had the same look in her eyes and the same body language that I used and I was absolutely shocked at how forceful and frightening her reaction was. But that wasn't enough for me to realize that I had an anger management problem.
A couple of days later I was talking on the phone with a friend of mine and I raised my voice, not in anger, but just because of the story I was telling him. All of a sudden my dog jumped down off the chair and ran under the bed. It was then that I realized I had an anger control problem. I mean if your own dog is scared of you things are pretty bad.
So, with that in mind, lets quickly review some of the stories people with anger management problems tell themselves to minimize or justify their anger.
1) Venting, or taking it out on others, decreases anger. This actually reinforces the neural networks associated with the anger response. Becoming angry actually makes one more likely to get angry again. Anger feeds anger.
2) Strong anger is necessary to get people to listen to me. Do you like it when others treat you with contempt? While someone may go along with you in the short term just to get you off their back in the long run anger breeds resentment and rebellion.
3) If I don't get angry, I don't care. Anger certainly shows that you are paying attention. But does anger really get the job done any quicker or make someone else feel like you care about them? Care can be shown with patient, disciplined attention as well as by firmness and giving of time. You can be firm without being having anger management issues.
4) Someone who makes me angry is worthless and deserves what they have coming to them. When you make mistakes do you feel like you deserve to get both barrels? Dehumanizing someone just makes it easier for you not to feel bad about hurting someone's feelings.
5) Showing less anger means I think the other person is right. Or, using anger management means that you are learning ways to deal with offenders more coolly, effectively, and constructively. Again, who do you respect more - someone who blasts you or someone who treats you with respect?
6) Every day brings all sorts of problems for me to deal with. This is true for all of us. Every day also brings a lot of good things too. The problem is not as much the world's imperfections as it is what we focus on and what we tell ourselves about it that causes anger management problems.
7) Depression is anger turned inward. Actually for many depression is anger turned outward. Depressed people often show higher levels of anger and anxiety. They often struggle with anger management because its just so uncomfortable to be in their skin or because their coping resources are so depleted all they are capable of doing when stressed is lash out in anger. People struggling with anger control issues are two to three times more likely to have a psychiatric illness such as depression than those who do not struggle with anger.
Take a different look at anger and denial by checking out our free anger management introductory class.