Anger management usually advises stopping anger in its tracks.
And calming down.
So that anger doesn’t get expressed.
But what anger needs is your attention.
So that you can learn from it, and use that information to be more response able to your life.
Anger is just the messenger, signaling to you that something is not right.
That thing may be a dysfunctional belief that you have, some unrealistic expectation that is causing you a lot of pain, or a boundary violation which you have allowed and cannot bear the brunt of any more.
Anger has value
Anger is a logical response in that it alerts you of a problem that does exist; if the problem didn’t exist, you wouldn’t have gotten angry.
The problem may be:
- External – Someone or something gives you cause for upset (e.g. your brother whacks you in the head, a Mercedes cuts you in traffic and causes you to miss the light, it starts to rain on your only day of the month to visit the beach)
- Internal – Something you believed, allowed for, did not know, failed to respond to, etc. gives you cause for upset (e.g. you think your neighbor despises you because of the nice cars in your driveway, you keep lending money to people who don’t pay back, you don’t hear back from your best friend in ages and assume they don’t care anymore when in reality they’ve been bedridden)
- Combinatorial — The problem is hard to identify as being solely, or at least predominantly caused by, external or internal factors. It’s a blend.
Without the signal of anger, you wouldn’t be aware of these problems. Anger acts as your information filter.
1. Anger management devalues anger
You can’t understand, let alone identify the problem that you anger is signaling, until you muster up the courage to follow the anger back to its underlying message.
When you experience a lot of anger, it doesn’t mean that your anger is the problem. Or that your anger needs to be corrected through anger management.
When you experience a lot of anger, it means that there are a lot of problems due to internal and external factors — that you need to attend to now, before the problems get further out of control.
Anger’s value is that it alerts you of problems. If you “manage” your anger instead of listening to it, you miss the message, and problems don’t get resolved.
2. Anger management is driven by anger-phobia
It’s popular belief that anger management is healthier than venting anger. That it’s better to “cool off” than to “spew out.”
This popular belief reflects a fear — of the anger itself being too intense, too violent, to irrational, or too unfounded, to be acceptable.
But when you learn how to really get in touch with your negative emotions, such as anger.
And I mean really get in touch with them…
I’m serious here. There’s no sugar-coating, rationalizing, intellectualizing, or staying at the surface-level allowed. Only crass, crass, and more crass. Only your genuine feelings. That you get in touch with through honest, mindful, courageous emoting.
…then, you have absolutely nothing to fear, because you realize that anger is your ally.
It’s there to alert you of danger — that you need to be aware of so that you can avoid pitfalls and fix problems. Again, these problems may be externally or internally triggered.
3. Anger management irresponsibly links anger to rumination
Anger management proponents use rumination as one big reason why expressing anger — fails. They try to scare you by saying if you vent, you’re only going to exacerbate the problem. By dwelling on your anger, and ruminating for days.
What they don’t see, is that honest, mindful, courageous emoting does not lead to rumination.
It leads to mobilization.
Ruminating is repeating the same content over and over. It’s counter-productive because it keeps your perspective “stuck,” usually in helplessness or victimhood.
Actually integrating all your negative emotions and letting them blast at full force is a totally different process.
You don’t censor, you just say it how it feels, no matter how unprofessional, ugly, aggressive, or yucky it may seem. And then work with your anger constructively.
Meaning, rumination is out of the picture.
But once that anger is listened to, its job is done. Once it’s been heard and accepted by you — and thus validated — it doesn’t fester in your body like a deadly toxin.
Because it’s already surfaced — to your conscious awareness.
And you have no choice but to act on the information you gained from following your anger back to its cause.
You can’t go back to “not knowing” why that external or internal factor makes you upset. You can’t go back to blindly raging — because you are mindful of the “why” behind the upset.
And if you’re still raging, you know it’s because you haven’t responded optimally to the situation.
4. Anger management is not response able
Anger management is aimed at avoiding anger. Getting rid of it.
That’s based on the assumption that anger needs to be eradicated, instead of juiced.
Which is driven by the fear of anger-as-being-far-too-intense to handle.
Anger management is supposed to be the responsible thing to do. The mature, civilized, adult, loving thing to do.
But finding ways to safely and appropriately express your anger, and later on constructively work with it — is the response able thing to do.
And response ability is much more productive than responsibility.
What say you?
Do you think anger management is an outdated way to view anger? Or spot on?
How do you “manage” your anger? Or work with it?