anger anger
ABC's of Anger Control


Dennis Gersten, M.D.

Perhaps the greatest plague of mankind, greater than the black plague and greater than AIDS is the plague of rage. America is the most violent country in the world. Murder, rape, spousal abuse, and child abuse have become so ordinary we merely watch the body counts as we grow numb to the reality that each man has but one life to live-and one life to die.

Without subjecting the entire population to years of therapy, how can we begin to help the masses deal with anger? We'll take a look at some very general principles as well as techniques that can be used in a psychotherapy context.

The very first question that must be asked, regarding a given person, is: Do we have to work at taking the lid off of his anger, help him express his anger...or do we need to put the lid on, and keep it on? For those of us who carry suppressed or repressed anger, we need to practice taking the lid off, blowing off steam, expressing anger in appropriate ways. Other patients I work with, can explode on a moment's notice. They may tell me that they need to feel their feelings and express their anger, but they’re wrong. At a certain point, anger feeds on itself and the explosive, always angry type just gets angrier and more out of control with time. So first figure out if your patient needs the lid taken off....or put back on and screwed on tight.

anger For those who can't seem to keep the lid on, whose rage is at a dangerous level, I advise the ABC'S of Anger Control.

A. Avoid loud speech.

B. Breathe.

C. Curtail Swearing.

The logic here is simple. Loud speech and swearing are like gasoline thrown on the fire of anger. They cause an explosion rather than resolution. And by taking a series of deep breaths, you'll begin to cool down. These ABC'S are so simple, one might think they couldn't work, but imagine what would happen if everybody in the world practiced their ABC'S of Anger Control? Now let's continue with our alphabetical treatment.

D. Drink a glass of cold water. It actually will help cool you down.

E. Exercise. Burn off the anger. Run, walk, swim, bike, dance.

F. Find a Friend and talk it out.

What else can you suggest your patient do?

1. Sit quietly and collect your thoughts.

2. Practice buying time. Find a space between the feeling arising and the mouth or fists expressing that feeling. Live with the feeling for one or two seconds. Expand that to sixty seconds. Live with the anger and just experience it.

3. Lie down until the anger passes.

4. Look in the mirror. When you see what you look like when you're enraged, you will want to change and let go of the anger. It's not a pretty sight.

5. Beat on a pillow.

6. Roll up the windows in your car, go for a drive-and scream.

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