Anger is not a “bad” emotion. In fact, there is no such thing. Painful, yes. Difficult, yes. But Bad? No.

Anger is a natural, evolutionarily successful, adaptive response to threat; it inspires powerful feelings and behaviors, and activates physiological mechanisms that allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger is necessary for survival. At the best of times, anger can motivate a person to act, it can clarify your position on something, can serve to help you define limits, ethics and values. It is often through anger that we discern our own sense of justice. These are all good things.

Unregulated anger, on the other hand, or anger acted upon carelessly, can be terribly destructive. One problem with anger is that it can arise quickly, with a felt imperative to act now. We all have our hot buttons — things, people, and situations that seem to rob us of our ability to process information rationally and assess situations with our full cognitive capacity. This can get us into trouble, and lead to harmful situations. When a person expresses anger in an aggressive or harmful way and is not able to reel him or herself in, it causes great damage to relationships. Fear and mistrust become part of the emotional landscape. In a couple or a family, this can be very harmful.

Learning to manage anger effectively — to be responsive, not reactive — is a concrete skill set anyone can master. Expressing anger in an assertive, non-aggressive way is a highly effective form of communication; yelling, swearing and name-calling is not. This requires being able to calm yourself down enough to clearly articulate your needs and feelings without hurting others. Learning to recognize your own patterns of anger — to be aware you are triggered – can buy you precious time to intervene in your own habitual cascade, from feeling to word and deed.

This is deep, gritty, intra-psychic work, most effectively done with the guidance of an experienced anger management therapist who can walk you though each step, from becoming aware of your feelings sooner, to calming yourself effectively, to shaping an appropriate response, to communicating in a way that facilitates trust and cooperation rather than fear and doubt.  Our expert Madison therapists are ready to start this process with you whenever you feel ready to being the process.