In parts one and two, I looked at how using Breakwell's model of anger can help to understand anger better, and work out how to respond more constructively when we are angry. However, some people have a pattern of anger, which feels very different to the one suggested by the model. Often described as 'bottling' anger. The person may have an awareness they are holding onto anger, and have times when they suddenly explode, often over seemingly trivial things. However, sometimes the person can feel completely calm, before exploding. Until I went through the intensive personal development that accompanies becoming a counsellor, I had a pattern very much like this.
In part one I looked at a model of anger, and how it can help understand anger better. It suggests that people get angry because of the meaning they make of events. The efffect of these events can build up until the person explodes into a crisis, or they can happen with a single event, if there is enough going on in the background. After an explosion the person gradually calms, and can explode again if something else happens, until eventually they begin cooling off. There is often a dip during cooling off when the person can feel tired, tearful and remorseful. In the rest of this article, I am going to look at using this model in more detail using a real example of anger, and look at how you could use this with yourself to look at your own anger.
Anger management is an often used term. One of the misunderstandings about anger management is that it is about the teaching of various techniques to control it, such as using breathing, mindfulness, or ways to openly express it. And while these techniques can be useful in helping to manage anger, they are a bit like putting a plaster on a cut - they help to make anger less painful and distressing. The two key elements to managing anger are 1) becoming more aware of when you are angry, and 2) understanding how you respond to anger. In this three part article I will be looking at understanding anger based on Breakwell's 5 stage model (1), and how you might use these insights to gain more control over anger.
In Dean Burnett's article, Cruel Summer: how hot weather makes people angrier, he looks at the psychology behind why people are more angry when it's hot. He says that one reason might be because when it's hot, higher temperatures increase heart rate, testosterone, and stimulate the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for our fight-flight response. Another reason he suggests is due to discomfort. When people have no control over their discomfort this tends to make them angry, and usually they then displace this anger onto something else, like the person driving the car in front. It might also be due to something called cognitive neoassociation theory, which says that when people experience something negative, like being hot and uncomfortable, they tend to have a similar predisposition to anything they associate with it. So a person might also associate traffic jams, crowded beaches and shopping centres with being hot, and so have a similar negative feeling about them. Dean also notes that there are 'numerous theories' which also handily creates room for me to look at this from a counselling perspective, using some of the principles of formative psychology developed by Stanley Keleman.