Anger Management: Essential Concepts and Strategies

by Shlomo Radcliffe, MACP, RP

An Anger Model

Anger situations can be broken down into 3 parts: what precedes an anger situation, the anger situation itself, and what follows an anger situation. Behaviour scientists like to refer to this break-down as the ABC model (or antecedent, behaviour, and consequence). If you like you can use that, or if you want something catchier we can also call this Build-Up, Anger, Make-Up (or not)... (BAM! If you’d like an acronym!). Understanding and working with each of these three phases of anger is essential for dealing with and reducing related problems.

Build up

Anger is not usually 0-100

Clients often tell me that their anger is 0-100! It just comes out of nowhere… However, when we spend time discussing things further, it becomes clear that anger is rarely actually a true 0-100 proposition. It is true that in the moment it can appear that way as in the case of someone who punches a wall when asked to wash the dishes. Yet, anger build ups usually involve a long process that can sometimes take place outside of our awareness. ​ Some of the factors that contribute to a build-up of anger can have occurred on the same day as an anger moment. These include factors like having a bad day at work/home, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, sleep deprived, and anxious. These can also include things like having a number of small anger moments or frustrations during the day before the “big one”. Other factors can include general life context: those dealing with chronic stress, difficulty, or hypothetically… a global pandemic can find themselves experiencing low frustration tolerance and a propensity to react poorly to triggers! ​ Factors can even go back much further in history and include developmental history… including your experiences of adverse events in your life and your learning of how those around you dealt with anger. Of course, it’s important to note that while an understanding of the greater context around an anger problem, including your learning history may give you a greater understanding of why a problem is there - it does not diminish one’s responsibility in learning how to more effectively deal with the problem that is certainly there. Anger hurts, whether there are good reasons for anger or not.

So anger is rarely a 0-100 proposition. More often you’re already walking around at a 60/100+ a lot of the time and by the time you get triggered, it can be hard to cool things down!


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