STAY COOL: ANGER MAN­AGE­MENT

COS­METIC SURGERY IN­NO­VA­TIONS

201 Health - - Front Page - WRIT­TEN BY LAURA HER­ZOG

Any­one who has dealt with a pas­siveag­gres­sive col­league or a scream­ing­prone rel­a­tive can at­test, anger man­age­ment can be a prob­lem here, just like any­where else.

There is a cru­cial fact about typ­i­cal unchecked anger: It’s not usu­ally in pub­lic, but at home, lo­cal men­tal health ex­perts say, that un­nec­es­sary ag­gres­sion rears its ugly head.

Sadly, it’s also in­side the home where un­con­trolled anger can do the most dam­age. That’s be­cause people can be so com­fort­able at home that they let their guards down – and for­get that their fam­i­lies can only take so much, ex­perts say.

It’s called “in­ti­mate anger,” says Ho-Ho-Kus- based clin­i­cal so­cial worker Joyce Woll, and it is “a spe­cial kind of anger that is re­served for the people that you love most.”

And some­times it’s the nicest people. “You would just be dumb­founded to find that when they get home, they are out of con­trol,” Woll says.

Clearly, the costs of unchecked anger for a fam­ily can be enor­mous. In fact, a re­cent study in the jour­nal Pe­di­atrics said that for chil­dren, psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse is “just as harm­ful as other forms of mal­treat­ment.” And that’s in ad­di­tion to the shame lo­cal ex­perts say their clients feel fol­low­ing out-of­con­trol out­bursts, as well as their jeop­ar­dized jobs, health and mar­riages.

People throw around the ad­vice “com­mu­ni­cate,” but that’s not nec­es­sar­ily help­ful, says Al­len­dale­based clin­i­cal so­cial worker Loretta Wein­berg, who has fo­cused on cou­ples’ ther­apy in re­cent years. “What’s more im­por­tant is how you com­mu­ni­cate,” she says, and as­sertive­ness (not ag­gres­sive­ness) and com­pas­sion are key.

Of course, unchecked anger can also man­i­fest out­side the home. Ex­perts re­call clients who ran af­ter the tar­get of their anger for sev­eral blocks, as well as people who have punched walls and de­stroyed cell phones. One pa­tient, now remorseful, an­grily fol­lowed an­other driver, de­sir­ing a phys­i­cal con­fronta­tion – only to even­tu­ally learn that that er­ratic driver’s wife was in la­bor.

“I think people tend to dis­play their ir­ri­tabil­ity at home first, then the workplace,” Hack­en­sack psy­chi­a­trist Dr. Diane Thomas says. “They tend to keep a good face in the workplace un­til it spills over.”

Most of Woll’s clients are court-or­dered or sent to her by their com­pa­nies, some­times af­ter one large, very un­healthy ex­pres­sion of anger. When her pa­tients try to blame their cir­cum­stances – “But it only hap­pened one time!” – she’ll tell them “most of us don’t even have that hap­pen to us ‘one time.’”

All over, im­proper anger man­age­ment is a “very com­mon” prob­lem – and one that ap­pears to have be­come even more com­mon over time, says Kathryn Ca­pawana, a River Vale clin­i­cal so­cial worker and li­censed al­co­hol and drug coun­selor whose spe­cial­ties in­clude anger man­age­ment.

Ca­pawana points to re­cent try­ing eco­nomic con­di­tions, in­clud­ing un­em­ploy­ment and un­der­em­ploy­ment, as well as the “sand­wich gen­er­a­tion” of adults car­ing for both their ag­ing par­ents and their chil­dren.

An­other cause of many anger-man­age­ment needs to­day is tech­no­log­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion, ther­a­pists say.

“I’ve seen so many people just get so up­set about things that are posted on Face­book,” says clin­i­cal so­cial worker Alexan­der Her­zog, who teaches a 12-class anger-man­age­ment course in East Rutherford. “It’s so easy for mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion to oc­cur through tex­ting. You can’t get tone of voice. You can’t get any of the non-ver­bal. If you’re dis­cussing some­thing im­por­tant, try to do it face to face.”

Of course, what’s re­ally caus­ing people to be­come an­gry is not usu­ally the Face­book posts or fel­low driv­ers by them­selves. Anger-man­age­ment is­sues, Ca­pawana says, are gen­er­ally a “mask for un­der­ly­ing feel­ings,” like fear, pow­er­less­ness, shame, guilt or the feel­ing of be­ing overwhelmed.

“Some­times there’s de­pres­sion,” she says. “When you start to ex­plore on a deeper level, there’s al­ways other feel­ings.”

In ad­di­tion to con­sid­er­ing ther­apy, those who have dif­fi­culty man­ag­ing their anger should con­sult with their doc­tor, Thomas says; at­ten­tion deficit hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der, bipo­lar dis­or­der and thy­roid is­sues can also cause anger-man­age­ment is­sues.

Ul­ti­mately, what­ever the cause, ther­a­pists em­pha­size that it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that anger in it­self is not bad. It just needs to be prop­erly ex­pressed.

“Anger is a nec­es­sary and healthy hu­man re­sponse we all need,” Woll says, “be­cause anger is al­most sort of a gift to us. It’s our in­ter­nal alert to us, let­ting us know some­thing is wrong.”

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