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Section 12
Effective 5-Step Self-Control Technique for Anger

Question 12 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed the three negative un-productive ways of managing anger: suppression, open aggression, and passive aggression.

In this section, we will examine various causes of anger: ignoring need to be loved; feeling controlled; and creating your own anger.

♦ #1 Anger as a Result of a Neglected Need for Love
As you know, one of the primary, basic human needs is the need to be loved. When this need is not met or is thoroughly rejected or hurt, anger is experienced through distress. Travis, age 13, was a client of one of my colleagues, Dr. Hartford. Travis had been abused by his neighbor at an early age, but his case went deeper than that. Travis' father was an alcoholic and died when Travis was 11.

His mother was so busy paying bills that she didn't have time to spend with him. Because of this, he spent a lot of time at the neighbor's house, who he thought was his friend. But when the abuse began, Travis went through even more distress because, again, his basic needs were not being acknowledged. He wanted a parent-figure, but he only received mistreatment and abuse.

Travis stated, "Sometimes, I just feel really sad. Like no one really loves me and that I just annoy the rest of my family. I wish my dad were alive, cuz then I know those things wouldn't have happened to me." Because of his family structure, Travis felt, through depression, the pain of anger more acutely than other clients due to the fact that his needs had never been met.

♦ Technique: The Grieving Process
To help Travis with his feelings of depression the "Grieving Process" exercise was used. Dr. Hartford then explained to Travis the varied degrees of the process and explained them in words that Travis could easily understand:

-- 1. Denial-To explain denial, Dr. Hartford told Travis, "Denial is the very first thing you feel. It doesn't really feel like the person is gone at all, so, you don't believe he's gone. Did you feel this when you found out your father died?" Travis responded, "Yeah. When my mom took me to the hospital, I still felt like there would be a miracle or something."
-- 2. Anger-Dr. Hartford stated, "Anger happens in a lot of ways. Sometimes you're angry at the lost person because they should have been more careful or you're mad at God or at the world." Travis said, "I was mad at my dad, I know that. I thought, 'this is what he deserves because he was drunk. All the time."
-- 3. Bargaining-To explain bargaining, Dr. Hartford stated, "This is the moment when you tell yourself..."
-- 4. Depression-Dr. Hartford explained to Travis, "This is the stage you're going through now. You feel sad and worthless, but you don't know why."
-- 5. Acceptance-Dr. Hartford explained, "This stage, Travis, is the stage we're aiming for. This is where you adapt to the loss and finally move on."

Through this educational exercise, Travis could better understand why he felt depressed and why, when he thought of the abuse, his mind immediately brought up his father.

♦ #2 Anger as a Product of a Fight Against Apparent Oppression
Another source of anger is the feeling many boys get when they feel controlled. Jeremy, age 15, was in one of my sexual abuse therapy groups. Jeremy was an angry youth. He despised conformity and believed it was his right to do whatever he wanted. His mother and father, when he was young, had tried to keep him in line too strictly by telling him who his friends could be, by telling him what clothes were appropriate, and by refusing to let him have a girlfriend until he was well into college.

In response, Jeremy would sneak out of his room at night and go with his friends to buy drugs. One night, at a crack house, Jeremy was brutally raped by one of the drug addicts. Once his parents found out, they referred him to me. Jeremy stated, "My life has always been controlled. Whether its by my parents or my teachers. And you know how you said that rape is a matter of power? That's how it felt. Like the guy was trying to control me. I can't seem to get away from it."

♦ #3 Clients Who Create their own Anger

In addition of need to be loved, and feeling controlled, many times, I find that angry boys actually create their own anger. Have you ever noticed this? Many times, this self-inflicted anger is the result of bad personal choices and can negatively affect a sexually abused client's road to recovery.

Eighteen year old Kenneth was one of my sexual abuse clients that had this problem. He reported having headaches and feeling chronically fatigued. Kenneth had been abused when he was 12, but had kept that fact hidden. Kenneth explained that he never really kept a job and that he'd rather go drinking or partying. I asked him if he'd ever had a girlfriend.

He said he'd had a lot. He was a very popular young man, but had never had a girlfriend longer than a month. I asked him about this and if he had any idea which of his many girlfriends he liked the best. He stated, "There was this girl, Kim. She was really hot, but you know, smart. She, uh, she really thought I could make something of myself."

I asked him, "What happened to that relationship?" He said, "She caught me fooling around with another girl at a party and dumped me." I then asked him, "Why did you fool around with the other girl?" He replied, "I liked being the center of attention." As you can see, Kenneth was creating his own problems by always bending the rules to fit his momentary craving.

♦ Technique: Self-Control
Both Jeremy and Kenneth acted out their frustration. Jeremy through his drugs and Kenneth through his promiscuity. To help Kenneth and Jeremy in resisting acting out, I suggested they try the "Self-Control" exercise.

I gave them a list of five things to review and to consider:
-- 1. Try to become aware of those times when you're reacting to an impulse. Make a point of counting those number of times.
-- 2. In the morning, promise yourself to be in the moment and to look for every opportunity to respond positively rather than react immediately.
-- 3. Become highly aware of the negative repercussions of reacting negatively.
-- 4. At night, review your day. Accept whatever you did as reality. Play back the tape of your day in your mind. You can turn a negative into a positive by becoming aware of when you started to react negatively and considering how you could have responded.
-- 5. Commit to letting that trigger be your reminder in the future.
Through this exercise, Jeremy and Kenneth were given the tools to manage their maladaptive decisions.

In this section, we discussed various causes of anger: ignored need to be loved; feeling controlled; and creating your own anger.

What are three causes of anger?
To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 13
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