Anger is an emotion everyone has felt at times. There will always be moments (and people) in life that push our buttons and try our patience. There is nothing wrong with feeling anger. It is how we react to it and express it that gets us into trouble. We hurt the people we love most with our words and behavior. We hurt ourselves, physically and emotionally, by holding on to these angry feelings. These feelings, if not appropriately managed and expressed, can lead to bitterness and resentment, which makes for an unhappy life.
The good news is that it is quite possible to learn how to manage your anger, and it begins with examining your thoughts. Examining the relationship between your thoughts, moods, and behaviors will help you understand your triggers, how you tend to respond to these triggers, and the repercussions of your typical response. By practicing new reactions, you can begin to incorporate more effective responses into your daily life.
How does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy treat anger?
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, the therapist will help you identify “hot” and “cool” thoughts. Hot thoughts are the thoughts you have when your anger is at its peak. Therapy will offer a safe environment to challenge these hot thoughts and adapt them into more balanced and effective (“cool”) thoughts. CBT will also help you identify possible distortions in the way you are thinking about a situation, challenge you to determine the validity of these distortions or perceptions, and then reframe the thought into something more adaptive.
- Help you understand the situations and interpretations of those situations that have led to your feelings of anger
- Help you modify the interpretations and underlying beliefs that led to your feelings of anger
- Teach you how to identify prompting events that trigger your anger (for example: relationships, work situations, minor irritations, financial problems, high expectations that haven’t been met, etc.)
- Assist you in determining new behaviors and responses in situations that trigger your anger.
This will be done using several techniques:
- Thought Records: Using a written technique called a “thought record”, you will write down your hot thoughts and work with the therapist to modify them into cool thoughts. There are common distortions in thought that are connected with anger, including labeling (“He’s always such a jerk”), mind-reading (“She thinks I’m inadequate”), and magnification (“I can’t deal with this!”). You will learn which one(s) you tend to rely on and how to adjust them.
- Skills Training
- Emotion Regulation Skills: It is important to understand the emotions you are experiencing – to understand what purpose they serve. Emotion regulation training will help you learn how to decrease the negative emotions and thoughts and increase the positive emotions and thoughts.
- Mindfulness Skills: Mindfulness refers to what we pay attention to. Mindfulness techniques will help you harness your awareness rather than allowing it to wander around or get out of control, which often happens when we are upset. Mindfulness will teach you to focus on something other than your thoughts, which will then naturally calm your emotions.
CBT techniques for managing anger are extremely effective in helping clients understand and modify reactions and underlying beliefs that have caused their anger. The effects of this understanding have wide-ranging benefits, including better communication with others, healthier relationships, and higher self-esteem.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a newer form of CBT that focuses on your behavior to a greater extent than thoughts. Thoughts, emotions (such as anger), memories and sensations are accepted rather than evaluated. Attention is turned towards moving your behavior to the life that you want.