I’ve recently been dealing with a number of clients who have anger management issues and as a result have spent a lot of time trying to identify the most effective ways of defusing their anger.
Some people, of course, are just hardwired to have a short fuse, they are often very manipulative and turn violent if they don’t get their own way. These are best left to proper psychiatric care.
For a lot of people though, anger is a natural emotional response to events or issues which have shaken their world, creating issues which remain unresolved for years after the event and which gradually fester into a habitual sense of impatience and intolerance with the world around them.
Anger presents itself in sudden flare ups and inappropriate aggression towards to everyone from partners and children to shop staff and call centre operators. Sufferers have an extremely low tolerance threshold of anything which requires them to deal with an issue, however trivial.. Those who are tolerant by nature suddenly become intolerant. Those who have always had enormous patience suddenly start throwing things around in frustration or threatening others with violence. Frequently this violence is only verbal but sometimes it can go further.
By the time they reach my consulting room sufferers are usually at a cross-roads in their relationship – their partner has told them to get treatment or the relationship will be at an end. Sometimes, their partner has already found someone else, having been driven away by the frustration and fear induced by walking on eggshells every time Mr Angry is around. At other times they might have been forced to seek treatment as a result of a restraining order or other court instruction.
When they sit down for their first consultation, sufferers are normally in a pretty poor state, feeling helpless and depressed, confused and fearful for their relationship, their family, the impact which their problems has had on their friends and colleagues at work – their entire future in fact. Some readily acknowledge their problem; other remain in denial that they have anything other than a low tolerance level for certain types of “provocation” or situation.
My job as a psychotherapist is to first establish the extent and intensity of the anger they experience and whether or not is hardwired or emotionally driven. I then identify the triggers which create the outbursts and the internal language which it generates in the client, and the people who are most likely to be the targets.
From there I need to identify the type of fuel which is powering their anger. Often it is quite apparent – the sudden death of a parent or very close friend or the loss of a child. Redundancy is another common cause – it can have a disastrous impact on someone’s sense of self-worth and identity. Men in particular seem to have very fragile egos – they are often identified by their jobs – they are their jobs. When those jobs are taken away, they become totally lost. They seem like ghosts, with no idea of who they are or what they should be doing. They become angry and frustrated at their ex-employers, their managers, the company and most importantly, at themselves for their seeming impotence, confusion and lack of direction and purpose. These feelings then combine with all the unspent energy which would usually get used up during a busy working day to create a highly volatile cocktail of anger.
In addition, being let down by a trusted business partner, being ripped off by a crooked salesman resulting in the loss of income, house and the subsequent esteem of friends and family can make a normal loving father into a seething mass of anger – ready to erupt at the slightest provocation. This time the anger is fuelled not by loss of identity but at having the very roots of his masculinity challenged – he’s been duped, made to look a fool, lost respect amongst his family and peer. His primitive instinct is to strike back, release the pent up rage in an orgy of physical violence against whoever caused him the hurt. But he can’t do that; society doesn’t allow it. And so he has to lock it up inside him where he tried to bury it, only for it to burst out in the form of violent rage and anger.
Having got to this point of understand, both for myself and the client, I will usually use hypnosis to help the client release all this anger against an individual or situation in a safe way, by helping them to create scenarios and visualisations which allow them to burn off their anger, often in just a single session. They can, in imagination, express their thoughts and feelings, rampage around, scream and yell, do whatever they feel they need to do to unlock their feelings, express them in their imagination and then emerge feeling cleansed and revitalised.
Having achieved this, they are they taught different ways of regaining control of themselves in difficult situations. How to avoid indulging in knee-jerk responses to perceived provocation and learning how to take control of a situation before it gets out of hand.
And these sessions don’t need to go on for a long time. I recently dealt with a case which was resolved in five one-and-a-half hour sessions. The final session was held with his partner to help her understand how he had undergone such a transformation in behaviour in such a short time, and to be reassured that without the fuel which drove his anger, the change she had observed was to all intents and purposes, permanent.
If you suffer from anger issues and would like to talk more please feel free to contact me via the blog or my website at www.keithjeffordhypnotherapy.co.uk