Anger management book

Solve your anger management problems:

Overcome resentment and learn to forgive and accept

Front cover2Your anger can help to protect you from the aggression of others; but it could also cause you to lose face; to lose relationships; to lose a job; to lose your freedom (through imprisonment); or to lose your life, in an aggressive confrontation.

Whether your anger serves you well, or works against your best interests, all depends upon how you manage it!

Are you struggling with problems managing your anger?

Are you getting into trouble, or losing face, or relationships, or jobs, etc., because of your anger?  If so, then this book can definitely help you to get back on the high road to a better life.

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Anger, resentment and forgiveness:

How to get your inappropriate anger under reasonable control

By Dr Jim Byrne

Published by the Institute for E-CENT Publications, in cooperation with KDP-Amazon. 2019

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Preface

Dr-Jim-photo-cover002The emotive-cognitive theory of anger says that anger is one of our basic emotions.  It’s innate.  It was selected by nature for its survival value.  We would not survive for long without an innate sense of angering in response to abuse or neglect.  We also would not survive for long if we did not quickly learn how to moderate our anger as young children.  My anger is a two-edged sword.  It can help to protect me, and it can attract hostile reactions from others.

My basic emotion of anger is elaborated into a higher cognitive emotion through modelling by my mother and father and significant others in the first few years of my life. And also through my successful and my unsuccessful experiences of engaging in conflict with others.

I may become an exploder, who erupts in the faces of others.  I may become an imploder, who keeps his anger inside. Or I may hide my anger from myself (repress it) and then project it into my environment where it may frighten me.

So anger is a socialized emotion, and if you grew up with angry people, you are likely to be prone to angering yourself when provoked; or you might feel fearful of your own anger, or the anger of others.

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Front cover2Healthy anger is present-time defence of your legitimate rights in the face of inappropriate behaviour by another person. Healthy or reasonable anger is the fuel that drives our assertive behaviours.  It pushes us to engage in constructive conflict, when that is necessary!

To ask for what you want, which is legitimately yours to request, requires a certain level of ‘fire in your belly’.  If you lack that fire (that reasonable level of anger), then you will tend to ‘wimp-out’; to act passively and let other people control you, or intimidate you, or deny you your reasonable share of the social stage.

Unhealthy or unreasonable anger is an over-reaction to a frustrating or insulting stimulus from another person or external force. Unhealthy or unreasonable anger leads to aggressive actions and destructive conflict.

We teach the following eight insights to our anger management clients:

  1. You were born with an innate capacityto develop angry, anxious and depressed responses to your social environment – in response to frustrations, threats and losses.
  2. You then encountered your mother, who already had a ‘style of relating’, based on her attachment experience of her own mother and father.  She would inevitably have shaped your emotional expression by:

(a) Modelling an approach to relationship and emotions; and:

(b) Rewarding and penalizing you for your daily emotion expressions, including your angry outbursts in the first couple of years of your life.

  1. Your father’s approach to relationship, including emotion expression, especially his way of expressing (or suppressing) anger, would have been the next major influence on the development of your emotion expression, including your way of being angry – implosive or explosive; appropriate or inappropriate.
  2. If both of your parents had a secure attachment to their own parents, they would have had a warm but assertive approach to relating to you.  From them you would have learned to be secure in your relationship with them, and, by extension, in virtually all subsequent people-encounters.  You would have learned to express healthy or appropriate anger in an assertive way – to ask for what you want, and to say no to what you do not want.  You would not have any significant problems with anger.
  3. However, if one or both of your parents had an insecure attachment to their own parents, they would have had an insecure attachment to you, and been either explosively or implosively angry with you when you frustrated them or broke their personal rules.  From them, you would have learned to engage in unhealthy or inappropriate anger expression of an explosive or implosive type, or a mixture of the two, varying from situation to situation. (Or you might have learned to be passive in those situations in which you felt frightened or fearful of reprisals, but aggressive in those situations where you felt no constraint of fearfulness!)
  4. If you want to change your relationship style today, you need to experience secure relationship with another person – possibly a romantic partner, or a good therapist who understands how to build a secure relationship with you.  You need to learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate anger.  And also that explosiveanger – (like shouting and using aggressive body language) – costs you, in terms of damage to relationships and careers, for examples; and that implosiveanger – (like sulking and stewing in your own angry juices, or withdrawing aggressively) – damages your ongoing happiness, your relationships at home and at work, and ultimately your physical and mental health.
  5. You can improve your relationship and attachment style by studying and applying new ideas from emotional literacy and self-assertion. And I can teach those ideas and skills to you.
  6. But you are also a body-mind, and so your approach to managing your diet, physical exercise, self-talk (inner dialogue), and relaxation/ meditationare also important. And it is easier to develop a secure attachment styleif your romantic partner is already secure.
  7. See Appendix A for specific dietary guidance and advice. And see also Section E12 of Appendix E.

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When an E-CENT counsellor works with an angry client, they may work on

– deep, emotional and attachment issues from early childhood; or on

– present-time assertiveness skills,

– and/or advice on important dietary changes,

– and/or recommendations regarding regular physical exercise,

– plus consideration of sleep hygiene issues,

– and/or teaching the client how to reframe their anger-inducing experiences,

– and/or changing some elements of their philosophy of life (as they show up in their inner dialogues about anger-inducing situations)

– and/or to change some (controllable) aspect of their social or physical environment with which they have been putting up!

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Managing anger with diet and nutrition

Back cover 2In her appendix (E) on diet and nutrition, Renata Taylor-Byrne explored – among other things – the key ways in which diet can influence anger.  Some of the key findings were as follows:

Firstly, (unlike in the case of depression) there is at least one study which supports the idea that there is a link between low serotonin levels and the expression of anger, annoyance and irritation (specifically, low serotonin was linked to a reduced ability to self-manage rising levels of anger). She also presents evidence which showed that 5HTP, a natural nutritional supplement (from a West African medicinal plant called Griffonia simpicifolia), can be effective in restoring serotonin, an important neurotransmitter within the brain, thus reducing the expression of angry and hostile behaviour, as evidenced by Julie Ross’s (2002) case study example.

The levels of copper and manganese in the client’s body can have an effect on levels of anger; and the link between violent offenders (in prison) and the condition known as ‘reactive hypoglycaemia’ (where blood sugar levels fall to low after eating high carbohydrate meals) has been established, by research which has been conducted into extremely aggressive behaviour. This points to the need to investigate further the connection between fluctuating blood sugar levels and anger management problems.

Research has also established a definite link between a reduction in the consumption of sugar and refined foods, (on the one hand), and anger and anti-social behaviour, (on the other). In a similar vein, reductions in diets containing trans-fats, mainly involving hydrogenated fats in processed foods, led to a reduction in impatience, irritability and aggression in research participants.

Conversely, the link between pro-social behaviour and a healthy diet has also been evidenced by research. Dietary changes which increase the nutritional content of people’s diets result in improvements in pro-social behaviour, and better emotion and mood control.

Finally, anger levels declined in prisoners whose diet has been supplemented with fish oils, vitamins and minerals: and it has been shown that omega 3 fats have a rapid and significant impact on aggression in children and adults.

For further information, please see Appendix E for specific dietary guidance and advice.

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How anger can be reduced by exercise:

Dr-Jim-photo-cover002According to the British National Health Service website, anger is effectively reduced in intensity by exercising, including walking, swimming and yoga. Research studies have supported this view, and here are some examples which have provided valuable evidence in the role of exercise and anger reduction:

Research conducted by Joseph Tkacz, et al., (2008), found that aerobic exercise regimes reduced anger expression among obese children. It was the first study which had been conducted to assess the value of having structured aerobic exercise sessions for overweight children, and the findings pointed to the value of exercise sessions after school.

Also, there was a study which investigated levels of anger amongst undergraduates at the University of Georgia. It was entitled: “Phys Ed: Can Exercise Moderate Anger?”(Reynolds, G., 2010) and was reported in the New York Times magazine. The 16 students selected were regularly oversensitive and their anger was easily triggered. After experiencing different research conditions designed to arouse their anger, and experienced firstly without the benefits of exercise, and then after they had exercised, it was apparent that there was a change in their levels of anger linked to the exercise program.

After the exercise they were able to show composure and self-assurance in the face of emotional provocation. The results of this experiment did reduce their levels of anger, prompting the lead researcher, Nathaniel Thoms, a stress physiologist, to say:

“Exercise, even a single bout of it, can have a robust prophylactic (therapeutic) effect against the build-up of anger…it’s like taking an aspirin to combat heart disease. You reduce your risk”.

This result is echoed by the advice of the Mayo Clinic Staff, who have written that the higher the levels of stress a person is experiencing, the more likely they are to have high levels of anger, and that these effects can be diminished by vigorous and pleasurable exercise.

For further information, please see Appendix F for more specific information on research into different forms of exercise.

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Dealing with the deep roots of anger in childhood

Front cover2According to Mike Fisher (2005, page 158) much of the emotional pain that drives inappropriate, aggressive anger “…is connected to early traumatic experience”.  Childhood trauma can cause us to ‘act out’ (the old, incomplete, dramas) in the present moment, with the wrong people!

“Whenever there is a disproportionate amount of anger in response to an event, it is more than likely that unprocessed traumatic experiences from the past are manifesting themselves in the present”. (Fisher, 2005, pages 159-160).

Fisher recommends working through the ‘trauma cycle’ with a trauma counsellor to overcome childhood distress that is driving current aggressive anger problems.

Lindenfield (2000) has a chapter about dealing with the backlog of unresolved anger.  She points out that early childhood wounds may be inaccessible to you because:

  • You have (consciously) forgotten the pain, because you repressed it in order to cope with the hurt and get on with your life.
  • You might not think you have the right to feel wounded by hurtful experiences.

Gael Lindenfield’s own childhood experience included having an alcoholic mother “…who lied, cheated and irresponsibly neglected and abandoned her children in order to indulge her own needs and wants”. (Page 94).

If you have a backlog of unresolved anger from your childhood, adolescence or young adulthood, you can process that by keeping an anger management journal; attending an anger management group; or seeing an anger management counsellor.

In your anger management journal, write about anger problems in the present moment, and what they could be related to in your past.  (See Byrne, 2009a[i]; and Byrne, 2010a[ii]).

Write the story of your childhood, and try to describe what happened to you – or did not happen to you, which should have happened – which was clearly unfair, unreasonable, or hurtful.  Visualize yourself going back and confronting those situations.  Write of yourself as if speaking to the people who treated you badly.  Assert your reasonable rights with them.  Take your journal to a counsellor, and talk through your issues.

For more on resolving childhood sources of anger, by completing your experience in the here-and-now, see Appendix D.

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Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Hebden Bridge, February 2019

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[i] Byrne, J. (2009a) A journey through models of mind.  The story of my personal origins.  E-CENT Paper No.4.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.

[ii] Byrne, J. (2010a) The Story of Relationship: Or coming to terms with my mother (and father).  E-CENT Paper No.10.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.

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