Managing our anger can be a difficult task; as with most emotions, there are costs and pay-offs to expressing it. Behavioral skills training can help us to manage both the intensity levels and the frequency with which we convey this powerful emotion.
What is Anger?
Much of the time, we can recognize anger within ourselves and others fairly easily. Clenched fists, angry faces, swearing, or acting out can all be expressions or anger, as can the soft, sinister voice that some people master.
The Costs of Anger
In addition to its cost to your relationships, anger can also be bad for your health. Think of a garden hose. Let’s say you have two sizes: a ¼ inch and a ½ inch hose. If you hook the ½ inch hose up to the outside water faucet, you get a stream of water. However, if you hook up the ¼ inch hose, you get a much stronger stream of water because the pressure has been raised. When we get angry, our blood vessels constrict and it’s just like we switched from a ½ inch to a ¼ inch hose.
It’s clear that we need an outlet for anger. Some of us keep our anger locked up inside us and deal with it by not thinking about it. Other people tend to explode when they are angry. Neither outlet is very constructive, so we want to find other ways to deal with this powerful emotion.
What Are Your Anger Pay-Offs?
Could there really be a payoff to anger? Yes! There is usually some sort of pay-off for us: people do what we ask them to do, our tension is released, and for a brief moment we feel better, or we feel we’ve gotten revenge. Some examples of pay-offs for expressing anger include:
- Reduce stress
- Hide emotional pain
- Get attention
- Punish and get revenge
- Change the behavior of others/get people to do what you want
At least in part, our anger is learned. We’ve learned how to cope with our frustrations and our hurts this way, and it has worked, at some level. In some cases, we’ve learned that being angry and aggressive is not appropriate, and we’ve learned that expressing anxiety or depression are more acceptable. Either way, we’re not managing our anger or channeling it in a healthy way and behavioral skills training should be considered. Sometimes we learn angry reactions, too. If our families are disruptive, chaotic, rude, or troubled, we can have a difficult time learning how to communicate our emotions.