We all feel anger at times. Anger is a natural, human emotion. Sometimes we pout, withdraw, or perhaps just mutter to ourselves. Other times, anger can spur us into constructive problem solving. It is only about 10% of the time, for the majority of people, that anger can leads to aggression in the form of verbal or physical attempts to hurt the person with whom we are angry. The purpose of this mod is: 1.) To help make the arousal of anger a less frequent occurrence and 2.) To provide the means to learn self-control when anger is aroused. Remember, we can increase personal power through self-control. Let us begin.
Each conflict situation has three steps. Let’s call them the A-B-C’s of Anger:
A= what triggered the problem? (What led up to it)?
B= what did you do (the actual response to the problem)?
C= what were the consequences (to you and the other person)?
Examples of these steps are:
A = I was blamed for throwing a pen at the teacher, that I didn’t throw.
B = I got angry inside because I was blamed for something that I didn’t do (or) Without getting angry, I tried to explain that it was the person behind me that threw the pen, not me.
C = I got out of trouble by the teacher (or) the other person got the appropriate punishment for throwing the pen.
The emphasis of Anger Control Training (ACT) is that we increase our personal power by having control over our reactions to others. Remember each conflict situation has an A, B, and C. Let’s identify these steps as: Triggers (A), Behaviors (B), and Consequences (C).
Triggers are things that arouse anger. There are two types of triggers, external and internal.
External triggers are things that are done by one person that make another person angry. They may be verbal or nonverbal. A verbal trigger could be calling someone a name. A nonverbal trigger could be pushing a peer or making an obscene gesture. Almost always, it takes more than just an external trigger to lead to anger arousal and aggressive behavior: Internal triggers are what we say to ourselves when faced with an external trigger.
Internal triggers are crucial to whether or not we become angry. Youngsters often say things to themselves such as “That S.O.B. is making fun of me”; “He’s making me look like a wimp”; or “I’m going to tear that guy’s head off.” These distorted self-statements are the internal triggers that combine with external triggers to lead to high levels of anger arousal and aggressive behaviors. If we can identify our internal triggers then we can learn to replace them with positive self-statements or reminders that reduce anger in conflict situations.
Anger can be felt even when others don’t see it. Anger is defined as an intent to preserve (1) personal worth, (2) essential needs, and (3) basic convictions. Let’s examine each of these purposes separately.
Preserving Personal Worth
In many cases, anger is ignited when the person perceives rejection or invalidation. Whether or not that is the message intended by the speaker, the angry person feels that his or her dignity has been demeaned. The message received by the angry person is: your worth is not my concern.
Preserving Essential Needs
In the animal kingdom, survival is the name of the game. Little else is of true importance. Humans also have basic survival needs, but ours are much more complex. The angry person demonstrates a weariness of having to live without his or her basic needs being noticed by others. The resulting anger is a type of protest: Can’t anyone understand who I am? I’ve got legitimate issues that you should care about!
Preserving Basic Convictions
A conviction is a strong belief. It is difficult to know how to manage feelings of anger when our convictions are violated. For example, let’s say a youth firmly believes that no one should insult his family and that he will fight anyone who does.
All people have physical signs that let me know they are angry. Some examples are, muscle tension, a knot in the stomach, clenched fists, grinding teeth, or a pounding heart. We have to understand our physical signs to know we are angry before we can use self-control to reduce the anger. Once we begin to identify the anger warning signs (cues), we can make use of anger reduction techniques to lower our arousal levels and increase the self-control and personal power when we notice ourselves getting angry.
Anger Reducers can be the first step in a chain of new behaviors that give you greater self-control and more time to decide how to respond effectively. You will start to notice sequences that are being created to help give you self-control. Triggers (the things that arouse anger) + Cues (the warning signs that we are getting angry) + Anger Reducers (the way to help us to be calm down) = Self-control.
Taking a few slow, deep breaths can help make a more controlled response in a pressured situation. In basketball, before taking a foul shot, you will notice the player typically takes deep breaths. Deep breathing can reduce tension by relieving physical symptoms of tension.
A second method of reducing tension and increasing personal power in a pressure situation is to count backward silently (at an even pace) from 20 to 1. If being provoked, we should turn away from the person or event (if appropriate) while counting. Counting backward is a way of simultaneously lowering arousal level and gaining time to think about how to respond most effectively.
A third way to reduce tension in an anger-arousing situation is to imagine being in a peaceful place (e.g., “You are lying on the beach. The sun is warm, and there is a slight breeze.”) Think of scenes that you find peaceful and relaxing.
Reminders are self-instructional (or self-talk) statements used to help increase success in pressure situations. An example of a “Reminder” (that could be used during a pressure situation such as standing at the free through line in a basketball) might be to tell yourself: “Bend your knees and follow through.” Reminders can also be very helpful in situations in which you must remain calm (i.e. confrontations with a parent, talking to the police, speaking during a court appearances, etc.). Examples might include such self-instructional statements as: “Take it Easy,” “Relax,” “Calm Down,” “Chill Out,” or “Cool Off.” Another reminder could be a re-interpretation of an anger-arousing internal trigger. For example, if someone ran into you in the hall, you might us a reminder such as: “He didn’t bump me on purpose. The hall is really crowded between classes.” Think of the difference a reminder can have by the way you chose to phrase your “self-instruction”. There is a difference between saying “Cool It” versus “I’ll kill him”. One acts to minimize the aggression in the situation, the other promotes more anger.
We have now added to the chain of self-control: “Triggers + Cues + Anger reducers + Reminders = Self-Control.”
We must use an ongoing evaluation to see if the steps we are taking are actually working. Self-evaluation is a way for us to: 1.) Judge how we have handled a conflict, 2.) Reward ourselves if we have handled it well (Self-rewarding), or 3.) Help ourselves determine if we could have handled it better (Self-Coaching.) Basically, self-evaluation is conducted by using a set of reminders relevant to feelings and thoughts after a conflict situation. Statements can be used as rewards when we handle a conflict situation well (“Wow! I did a really good job of not blowing up there.”). We must also coach ourselves if when we fail to remain in control in a conflict situation (“I need to pay more attention to my cues.” Or “ I should have walked away.”)
Thinking ahead is another way of controlling anger in a conflict situation. This can be done by judging what the likely future consequence would be for a current behavior. Using the A-B-C model, thinking ahead allows us to figure out what the C (consequence) will be before what we decide what to do (B). There is also a difference between short-term and long-term consequences. Always consider the long-term results over the short-term. (e.g., short-term: “If I slug him now, he’ll shut up” versus the long-term: “If I slug him now, I’ll be put back in jail.”) There is also a difference between the internal and external consequences of being aggressive. For example, external consequences might include going back to court or having to serve a week of ‘in-school suspension’, whereas internal consequences might be feeling terrible about oneself or losing self-respect. There are also social consequences, such as losing friends or being excluded from a group.
Until this point, the focus has been on what to do when other people make us angry. We will now focus on the Anger Behavior Cycle (or what we do to make other people angry with us). Calling someone a name, making fun of a person’s appearance, etc. are examples of things we can do to make someone else angry. What are some things you do that make other people angry? Changing even one behavior may prevent future conflicts and lead to better relationships, and more friends.
1. Each conflict situation has three steps:
A = ____________________________________________________________________
B = _____________________________________________________________________
C = _____________________________________________________________________
2. Triggers are: _______________________.. External triggers are: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________Internal triggers are: _______________________________________________________________________.
3. Cues are ____________________________________________________________________________
4. Name three anger reducers: 1_ _________________________________
5. Reminders are ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
6. Self-evaluation is a way for us to: a. ____________________________________________
7. Thinking ahead is : ________________________________________________________________________
8. The Anger Behavior Cycle is : _______________________________________________________________________