What causes anger and how to deal with it
Anger is an aroused state in which the mind's attention is focussed on a potential threat and the body responds by getting ready to run or fight. Adrenaline and other stress hormones run round the body, heart rate and blood pressure rise, breathing gets deeper and faster, blood is diverted from the organs to the muscles, and the whole organism gets ready for action. At the same time, thinking becomes more primitive and modern intelligence, a significant part of what makes us human, disappears. It is a primal, energised state, similar in many ways to sexual arousal, so it can be quite addictive.
Why combat anger?
Many angry people will die before their time, of cardio-vascular complications brought on by the continuing periods of high physical arousal. Life may be dangerous and unpleasant, for themselves, their relatives and friends and the people they meet. The rising levels of angry behaviour in society are making whole communities more stressful, intimidating and depressing places to be.
What can be done?
The first step is to find out what is causing the angry behaviour. Anger doesn't just happen, it is a response to something in the the environment. So, what is triggering it? Is it related to previous traumatic events that need to be de-traumatised? If not, what elements in the angry person's life need to be re-interpreted? The Human Givens therapist will do this, and use guided imagery to help the angry person learn how to manage emotional states once they begin, rehearsing staying calm in situations which previously caused angry outbursts. The patient will also be taught how to become generally calmer.
How can people become calmer overall?
Anyone, not just those who are reacting angrily to their environment, will benefit from learning how to reduce their general emotional arousal level. People who regularly relax, for example, tend to have fewer illnesses and a longer and happier life. And there are other things that almost anyone can do which will have a profound effect on mood and well-being generally, reducing stress by attending to unmet emotional needs.
Emotional needs and stress
Reducing or cutting out over-stimulation from television, DVDs, computer games, drugs, and other unbalancing elements of the modern lifestyle will help; learning calming techniques and new ways of responding to stressful situations is very useful; but the main improvement will come from meeting the essential emotional needs in the patient's life. For a fuller explanation see 'what are the Human Givens?'
To find out whether the way you live is making you angry, nervous or sad, why not take the ENA questionnaire — it could change your life.
If you or someone you know suffers from anger outbursts or excessive rage, there are many things that people can do to help themselves. Useful information can be found in the best-selling book Release from Anger: Practical help for controlling unreasonable rage and CD, Effective Anger Management, by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell.
Explore our articles and interviews
Denise Winn talks with Professor John Ratey about the brain as a social organ, and the need to be alert early to inept social skills.
We all take sleep for granted until we have problems with it and then we quickly remember how desirable a good night's sleep is.
Social work should be about helping people yet, bogged down in bureaucracy, it has lost its way. Jan Little shows how the human givens approach can put it back on track.
Self-harm is still a taboo subject. Angela shares her experience of self-harm and the impact it had on her life before taking the first steps to recovery.
The final version of the Emotional Needs Scale resulting from Brett Culham's research into emotional needs.
An article about the human givens approach that appeared in the major American publication, Family Therapy Magazine.
Joe Griffin talks with Professor Ian Robertson about the role of experience in the sculpting of our brains, and why certain types of counselling may do harm.
Mark Evans describes how working imaginatively with rewards and punishments has helped his clients achieve very swift change
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