~ Learn about anger and it’s functions
~ Explore events and cues
~ Develop an anger control plan
~ Learn about the aggression cycle and how to change it
~ Review the ABCDEs and thought stopping
~ Assertiveness and conflict resolution skills
~ Alternatives for expressing anger
~ Relaxation Interventions
~ Explore how past learning from your family of origin can influence current behavior
Session One: Learn About Anger
Anger is an emotion triggered by a threat which prompts the fight (aggression) or flight reaction.
Hostility refers to a set of attitudes, thoughts and judgments that motivate aggressive behaviors.
Aggression is behavior that is intended to protect oneself by causing harm or injury to another person or damage to property. (Fight or Flee)
Many times what we initially perceive as a threat is not currently one. For example, fire alarms are designed to warn you that there might be a problem, but sometimes they go off when someone is smoking too close to them, you burned something and took it out of the oven or there is dust on the sensors. But, like anger, you were alerted that there MIGHT be a threat and you need to check it out.
Another example comes from my foster dog, Brewster. A few weeks after he started staying with us my son and his best friend were outside sparring (Tae Kwondo). Brewster came out and thought Elias was hurting Sean and got very upset. For the next couple of months, whenever Elias came over we had to reassure Brewster that he was an okay human. The sight of Elias triggered his threat respoonse system. We had to help him evaluate the situation and realize it was okay. After several positive experiences, Brewster became okay with Elias.
Another example is for people (or animals) who are hurt by a male. This experience can be overgeneralized so all men make the person (or animal) feel threatened. In this case the person needs to acknowledge the concern and ask, “Does THIS male represent a threat.”
As a final example, if you grew up in a house in which raised voices led to violence, then when someone raises her voice, it might trigger your threat response system. There are many families and cultures in which “loudness” indicates excitement, but not necessarily violence. It may also indicate disagreement, but again, not violence, just passinately held opinions. The sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond is a great example of this. Ray and Debra frequently yelled at eachother, but it was never a dangerous or abusive situation. Another example would be “I Love Lucy.” Ricky regularly lost his temper with Lucy, but it was never emotionally or physically abusive.
Anger becomes a problem when it is felt too intensely, is felt too frequently, or is expressed inappropriately
How does anger affect you:
~ Physically: Sleep, pain, GI, immunity
~ Emotionally: Regret, guilt, feeling helpless
~ Socially: Fear vs. respect, negative impact on relationships
~ Occupationally: How you work with others, customer service
~ Spiritually: Your sense of connectedness to and impact within the world, karma
~ Environmentally: Break stuff, holes in walls, throw out things impulsively
Anger initially has apparent payoffs (e.g., releasing tension, controlling people).
~ In the long-term, however, these payoffs often lead to negative consequences.
~ What benefits/payoffs does anger have for you?
~ Habits are things we do almost automatically.
~ In what ways is anger a habit
~ How can you use mindfulness to start to break that habit?
~ I am angry?
~ What am I angry about?
~ Is this actually a threat to me?
~ What is the best response in this situation to help me achieve my goals
Identify anger control strategies you have used in the past
~ Which ones worked? Why?
~ Which ones didn’t work? Why?
Homework: Keep a log of your anger intensity the next week. Keeping a log helps you become more aware of your triggers and cues and see your progress.
On the top of the page, put the date (use a different sheet each day) and make 3 columns with the following headers: Anger Trigger, Intensity, Duration.
Session 2: Identifying Triggers, Events & Cues
When you get angry, it’s because you have encountered an something that has made you feel threatened (provoked you). This cacn be a person, situation, or even a smell. Yep, thats right. Sometimes noxious smells or an environment that is too hot can make you feel uncomfortable and out of control of your situation.
What are some general situations that make you irritable? Angry or enraged?
Many times, specific events touch on sensitive areas. These sensitive areas or “red flags” usually refer to long-standing issues that can easily lead to anger
~ Loss of Control
~ Why does each of these “sensitive areas” make you feel threatened/trigger your anger?
Cues are indicators that you are getting angry. Cues can be broken down into four cue categories:
~ Physical Cues (how your body responds; e.g., with an increased heart rate, tightness in the chest, feeling hot or flushed)
~ Behavioral Cues (what you do; e.g., clench your fists, raise your voice, stare at others)
~ Emotional Cues (other feelings that may occur along with anger; e.g., fear, hurt, jealousy, disrespect)
~ Cognitive Cues (what you think about in response to the event; e.g., hostile self-talk (“I’ll fix her little red wagon!”), images of aggression and revenge)
Review your anger log from last week and identify your common cues.
What strategies can you use to become more aware of and deal with these cues?
Session 3: Vulnerabilities
Vulnerabilities are those things that make you more likely to respond with anger. There are four main types of vulnerabilities.
~ Emotional: Overwhelmed, irritable about something else, stressed out, feeling sensitive or vulnerable
~ Cognitive: Expecting a negative outcome from a situation, person or meeting
~ Physical: Low blood sugar, alcohol, too much caffeine, pain, illness, insufficient sleep
~ Social: Being in situations that make you feel more on edge, or around people that tend to trigger anger or be negative themselves
Start identifying your vulnerabilities.
Homework from last week
~ What was the highest number you reached
~ What triggered that anger episode
~ What were the cues associated with the behavior
What strategies did you use to avoid reaching 10 on the anger meter?
Are there particular “threat themes?”
What vulnerabilities may have existed that day?
Session 4: Anger Control Plan
An effective plan should include both immediate and preventive strategies
~ Time out
~ When might you use it. How might you do it?
~ Distract with activities (doing something or listening to music),opposite emotions or taking a mental vacation
~ Block the situation from your mind temporarily (Thought Stopping)
~ What are some thought stopping statements you can use?
~ Practice mindfulness in 3s
~ Talk to a friend or journal
~ Create meaning.
~ Radically Accept—It is what it is.
What general things can you do to prevent or minimize vulnerabilities?
When you are vulnerable for some reason, what can you do to reduce the chances that you will get angry?
Review your anger log from last week. What immediate strategies could you have used?
What preventative strategies might have made a difference?
What are your vulnerabilities and how can you best prevent or mitigate them?
Develop a plan to start reducing one or two vulnerabilities each month
Session 5: The Aggression Cycle
An episode of anger can be viewed as consisting of three phases:
Escalation: Event and responses/cues/thoughts/feelings
~ What can you do when you notice emotional, physical, cognitive or social cues?
Explosion: Verbal or physical aggression urges
~ What can you do when you have the urge to be aggressive?
Postexplosion: Negative Consequences (emotional, cognitive, legal, social, physical)
Review your anger log from last week and identify the event that got you most angry or had the most negative consequences and identify what you could have done to
Reduce the escalation
Prevent the explosion
Cognitive Distortions are unhelpful ways of perceiving things. Think about a time something happened and you thought it was one way, but you turned out to be wrong.
Personalization (All my fault/All about me)
~ 3 other explanations
Minimization of the positive (Trained monkey)
~ What good happened, is happening or could come out of this?
Selective abstraction/Only seeing what you expect to see/Mental Filter
~ What are all the facts (Try taking someone else’s point of view)
Exaggeration of the negative/catastrophizing
~ How likely is this to happen
All or nothing
~ Find the exceptions
~ What parts do you have control over?
~ How is this situation different?
Arbitrary inference (Flying)
~ What is the evidence
Emotional Reasoning: I feel angry, therefore this must be a threat.
~ What are the facts?
Review your anger log and identify any cognitive distortions that were in play.
What cognitive distortions were/are common in your family?
Session 6: The A-B-C-D-E Model
“A” stands for an activating event. The activating event is the “event” or red-flag event.
“B” represents our beliefs about the activating event. It is not the events themselves that produce feelings such as anger; it is our interpretations and beliefs about the events.
“C” stands for the emotional consequences. These are the feelings experienced as a result of interpretations and beliefs concerning the event.
“D” stands for dispute. This part of the model involves identifying any unhelpful beliefs and reframing them in alternate ways.
~ Identify the FACTS for and against your beliefs (Don’t use emotional reasoning.)
~ Make sure you are not confusing high and low probability events
~ Identify and address thinking errors/cognitive distortions
“E” stands for evaluate your response options and choose the one that gets you closer to those people and things that are important in your life.
~ “Is this worth my energy?”
~ What is the best way to handle this?
Reviewing your anger log, identify the most intense anger episode from last week and apply the ABCDE model
What strategies are you currently using to:
~ Become more aware of cues?
~ Reduce vulnerabilities?
~ Deal with anger to prevent it from escalating?
Session 7: Assertiveness
The basic message of aggression is that my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are very important and your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are unimportant.
The basic message of passivity is that your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are very important but my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are unimportant.
The basic message of assertiveness is that my feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are important and your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are equally important.
What are some of the advantages of acting assertively when trying to resolve conflicts?
What might some of the drawbacks to assertiveness be?
Conflict Resolution Model
~ 1) Identify the problem.
~ 2) Identify the cues.
~ 3) Identify the specific impact
~ Own your beliefs and emotions (I felt that…, I thought that…, It caused…)
~ 4) Deciding whether to resolve the conflict.
~ 5) Addressing and resolving the conflict.
Create a win-win by expressing how changing the situation in the future will benefit that person
What are some ways you can resolve the conflict
Review your anger log for last week and apply the conflict resolution model to one episode.
What strategies are you using that seem to be helping?
Session 8: Anger and the Family
We learn a lot about how to interpret events and cope with distress by observing our family.
~ How was anger expressed in your family while you were growing up?
~ How did your father express anger?
~ How did your mother express anger?
~ Were you ever threatened with or exposed to physical violence?
~ How were other emotions, such as happiness and sadness, expressed in your family?
~ Was emotional expression limited to feelings of anger and frustration, or were many different kinds of emotions expressed?
~ What role did you take in your family? (Hero, rescuer, victim, wallflower, scapegoat?)
~ What messages did you receive about your father and men in general?
~ What messages did you receive about your mother and women in general?
~ Did you feel accepted and loved, or did you feel like you couldn’t do anything right?
~ How did your family deal with failure?
~ What feelings, thoughts, and behaviors carry over into your relationships today?
~ What purpose do these behaviors serve today?
Review your anger management plan from the past 7 weeks. What has changed? What progress have you made? What still needs to change? What strategies are working well?
Session 9: Anger Myths
Using what you have learned, dispute the following anger myths…
Myth #1: Anger is inherited.
Myth #2: Anger automatically leads to aggression.
Myth #3: You must be aggressive to get what you want.
Myth #4: Venting anger is always desirable.
Myth #5: Anger is a negative emotion.
Myth #6: Anger is all in your head.
Myth #7: Venting or ignoring your anger makes it go away
Myth #8: Men are angrier than women
Men and women get angry over different things and often express it differently. Men are more likely to be aggressive and impulsive in their expressions of anger, women are more likely to use an indirect approach, like cutting someone out of their lives, or stuff it and keep it in
Myth #9 The older you get, the more angry you are. The data show that the angriest people are 14-year-old boys. As you go from 14 to 22 or so, it levels off and stays low, through adulthood. As you get into middle age, in the 50s and 60s, it starts to go up again, but it never gets to the level it was when you were 14.
Myth # 10: Anger results from human conflict. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. People can get irritable by being exposed to foul odors, aches and pains, and hot temperatures — none of which involve (or can be blamed on) the actions of others. Then they may react to something with unnecessary anger.
Anger is a natural emotion. It is designed to alert people that there MIGHT be a problem. When people are vulnerable or learned maladaptive ways of dealing with anger or simply never learned healthy coping skills they can experience anger management problems. Excessive anger negatively impacts people emotionally, mentally, physically, socially, occupationally, legally and spiritually. Effective anger management involves preventing vulnerabilities, being aware of and working on “sensitive areas” or “threat areas,” preventing anger whenever possible and developing immediate coping responses to deal with it when it occurs.
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