Anger is a basic human emotion that signals a problem. Depicted here as stormy waters, anger is a range of negative feelings that builds over time and in certain situations. Infants communicate their needs for comfort, reassurance, and basic care through crying and anger. Similar to other emotions, anger may grow into a habitual response. In these situations, people begin to respond to almost every situation with negativity and anger. Everyone experiences anger. In general, it is unpleasant and hard to be around on a regular basis. It is often easier to identify anger in others than it is to identify it in ourselves. The clinical work involved in helping people to regulate their own anger and to co-regulate the anger of family members, children, and teens can be intense. Similar to other emotions, anger is contagious. It is common that one person’s angry feeling sets off similar reactions in people around them. An assertive response that helps to reduce anger in the moment is to gently label the feeling that you are sensing when with the angry person. For example, “it sounds like you are angry” or “it seems that something is making you angry”, or “are you feeling angry with me about something?”. Assertive statements are effective anger reducers that clearly draw a boundary around who the anger belongs to and where it might be coming from in session. Both research and practice experience shows that anger is likely to reduce through the mere act of talking about it. When we externalize angry feelings by labelling them as a stormy emotions or feelings for instance, people are able to immediately feel a sense of relief. Where trust grows in a caring climate over time, clients will freely discuss problems of anger with you without fear of reprisal or judgment. Anger in and of itself is not the problem. The real problem activates angry emotions and requires some work to uncover. Try externalizing your problems with anger today and think about what you learned from this exercise.
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