Unresolved anger is an increasingly common issue in my practice with clients attracted to the concept of ‘managing anger.’ However, should anger be managed as if it were an incurable illness of some kind? Certainly, inappropriate outbursts of anger need to be contained, but in my view anger needs to be resolved more so than managed.
In theory, we only become angry if we feel threatened in some way. Therefore, the pathway is; threat > fear > anger. In other words, we feel threatened in some way, then we become afraid, and finally anger follows as a means of defending against the perceived threat. In primitive times, this system allowed to survive in a hostile environment.
In modern times, anger can be an over-reaction and threats are not necessarily physical. Bullying is very threatening to a person’s self-esteem, even when the bullying consists of social exclusion, i.e., being left out. Rumours about one’s reputation can be threatening. In these cases excessive anger is not always helpful, yet anger must be released somehow or other.
In counselling, you can learn to understand your susceptibility to anger more clearly, see if it links to past experiences, find safe appropriate ways to release your anger, and learn how to cope with anger as it arises rather than let it build up. Anger management is, as you can see, only one part of a long-term solution.