STAY COOL: ANGER MANAGEMENT
COSMETIC SURGERY INNOVATIONS
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.”