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Anger Management

Fiona Owen

Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Perth, Western Australia

"Anyone can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way ...that is not easy." - Aristotle

Anger is healthy and natural. What is not healthy is when the anger turns into uncontrollable rage. Anger is a secondary emotion used to cover up the primary core emotions, such as fear, hurt, pain and sadness. People sometimes hit out when they feel threatened as a way of protecting themselves; however the threat not be physical and may be unrealistic. The perceived threat is often based on previous experiences for example ...when you were unsafe in the past, a memory has been triggered and applied in a new situation that may or may not contain a real threat. Words/actions may not be understood by the receiver as the sender intended and this can create unnecessary conflict. In order to ensure clear understanding of intent, good communication is a great asset. Quite often people do not stop to consider whether another's words or actions are even really meant for the person who is hearing them, creating an altercation that could have been prevented.

Anger is one part of the "fight or flight" response. There are times when to be angry is valid and appropriate, however during this time maintaining perspective can be difficult, especially if someone is not used to using healthy anger and the anger spirals out of control.

Listed below are some strategies for healthy anger management;

Anger Management Techniques in a Relationship

"Time Out" Technique

The technique must be agreed upon by both partners before using. Time out is different from running away.

This is a method used to prevent violent/aggressive behaviour when arguing. There are two types of time out;

1. Crisis time out

This is used when one partner feels their anger escalating and are aware they may erupt.
That person must say firmly and clearly " I feel very angry and I need time out."
Leave the situation and do something that will bring your body back to a calmer state.
Return to your partner when you are in control and if possible return to the issue. If it is impossible, agree to not talk about the issue until you have a counsellor/mediator present.
The partner being left must respect the request for time out and not pursue the other.

2. Practise time out

In an argument when there is no emergency, practise asking for fifteen minutes time out. Ensure you stick to the time limit and use the time in an enjoyable way. Return to partner and thank them for respecting your request.

Guidelines for Fair Arguing

Arguing, like anger, is also a healthy part of a relationship. What is not healthy is when the argument becomes out of control. This is when people may say things they later regret. The purpose is to clear up misunderstandings and express feelings in order to build a more united relationship. If the purpose of the argument is clearly defined the argument has boundaries and can be entered into more safely.

Ensure you stay to the topic under discussion and don't bring in other examples.

Don't get personal or blame the other.

Don't stop until the topic is resolved otherwise it will recur. Use active listening technique. This involves listening and then repeating back what you think you have heard to ensure you have understood correctly what the other is trying to tell you. Most arguments can be resolved in 5 minutes.

Don't try to win- if one wins the other loses and resentment may build up, thus weakening the relationship.

Respect crying. This is a valid response to how someone is feeling, but don't let crying stop the argument, unless the partner who is crying calls a time out.

No violence. Physical violence, mental or emotional intimidation and the threat of violence violates the process because it eliminates equality.

Any communication requires two people who are willing and able to participate. In regard to the partner who habitually avoids discussing difficult topics the couple may need to seek help to explore what is in the way.

If you would like more information, or to make an appointment, please contact;
Fiona Owen

M Soc Sc (Counselling), B Sc Psychology, Grad. Dip. Ed.

Fiona Owen is currently on a long term sabbatical, in her absence, please contact one of the other practitioners, or leave a message on the Contact Page.

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