By Jan Hittelman

Recent reports of spousal assault, murder and horrific child abuse serve as a stark reminder that unaddressed anger management problems can contribute to serious consequences. Even for those whose anger management problems are less severe, the impact on family, workplace and community relationships can also be devastating. Anger is a very common referral issue for children, adolescents, and adults. The truth is that many of us struggle with anger issues within ourselves as well as family members.

Given that there are easy-to-learn effective anger control techniques, one wonders why we don’t teach coping skills in school right along with reading, writing and arithmetic.

It is important for us all to learn to express our emotions in an appropriate way. This is often at the heart of anger problems; an increasing number of unexpressed feelings that, like a pressure cooker, eventually burst. Typically the person knows intellectually that they should not act-out but it provides a needed release of those pent-up feelings. One reason that the techniques are effective is that the angry person usually feels great regret for their behaviors after they calm down, which can potentially fuel their motivation to change if provided with a way to do so.

While individuals with significant anger management problems should seek professional assistance, here are some basic strategies that can help us all to better manage our anger:

• Use the “F word” more: It is important to express and not bury our feelings. Try to be more aware of your emotions and use the word “feel” more when discussing challenging issues with others.
• Evaluate your thinking: We incorrectly assume that what others say or do results in our feeling angry. It is actually how we evaluate others’ actions that lead to our emotional response, which is good news because we can potentially assess those thoughts and make sure that they’re logical, rational and fair.
• Address stress: Everyone is stressed, some more than others. It is important to have healthy ways to reduce stress. Whether it’s meditation, exercise, or taking the time to read a good book, it is important that we take care of ourselves and make the time to relax. Otherwise our emotional and physical health are at risk.
• Take responsibility for your behavior: Anger is a normal emotion and we’re entitled to our feelings. When we take our anger out on others that’s our fault and not theirs. Don’t project blame on others for your angry behavior.

Dealing more effectively with our negative emotions can improve the quality not just of our own lives, but that of our families, community, and society as a whole.