What we can all learn from anger management therapy

Hello all!

Summer is a wonderful time for many things: ice cream, the beach, marathoning eight seasons of your favorite Netflix show, etc. However, it also happens to be the most violent season of the year- this is especially shown in the US but others say this is a global phenomena. As I read in my psychology textbook last year, it is important to highlight the fact that while this has only been proven as a correlation rather than a cause-and-effect phenomena, the idea that hotter temperatures is linked to greater violence could be also linked to the frustration aggression principle of psychology which states that the frustration (in this case by the heat) leads to anger.

Asides from giving a rich understanding of emotions like anger and how they might come about, psychology also gives us helpful tools for dealing with anger. While these tips and techniques are usually aimed at people who have what we call severe “anger-issues” or bad ways of coping with their anger, it is easy to use and implement this therapy technique to calm down any individual who feels angry, stressed, or panicky. And what better time to implement than in the summer?!

The main therapy for people with bad anger coping mechanisms is called dialetical behavioral therapy. The therapy itself has many different components to it but today I’m going to emphasize one of its main components that is especially helpful for dealing with emotions in anyone’s life- emotion regulation. (This is usually the component that is most actively used to help people calm down during the actual frustrating or distressing situations.)

To properly cope with distress it is important to first take a step back and think internally about the emotion you are experiencing (DON’T suppress your feelings or emotions. Then it is helpful to understand exactly which specific type of emotion you are experiencing (emotions are nuanced: even envy is not the same as jealousy) and realize that the reaction you are having is not your own idea but some poor coping mechanism associated with the emotion that many people fall prey to.

Next it is important to find the root of your frustration and either walk away from the situation or stop fighting and utilize the idea of radical acceptance of your situation and emotions in order to move forward. If the situation involves other people it is important to communicate your frustrations and emotional state before walking away. Many therapists also add that you can avoid the situation in the first place by calming yourself down in a way that is best for you and not hurtful to others or by distracting yourself from your emotions (rather than suppressing them) by switching conversation topics or doing some other activity.

My favorite technique with the emotion regulation part of this therapy is practicing “opposite action” which seems very simple and could be implemented very easily into our everyday life yet most of us don’t really think about it. It simply means finding your negative thoughts that either put yourself down or fuel your anger or maladaptive emotions and questioning and analyzing them yourself rather than blindly believing them and then doing the opposite of what they say or what your negative emotions make you feel like doing in that situation.

Kate Northcott of Mindfulness Therapy Associates illustrates through the example of an overly shy and lonely person. If this person constantly puts their self down and avoids social situations as they feel no one would want to talk to them, they can use opposite action to analyze their thoughts and prove these negative thoughts wrong by forcing themselves to engage in social behavior. This way the problem is reduced a lot by exposing people to a maybe not-so-pleasant but healthier approach which in the long run has been shown to significantly reduce feels like social anxiousness and anger.

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone enjoys a frustration-reduced summer!

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