Our world is filled with anger and aggression. Newspaper headlines scream about fighting all over the globe, violence in our neighborhoods and abuse in our families. Turn on the TV or go to the movies and you will be flooded with images depicting horrendous crimes, bloodshed, and brutality. We are so comfortable living in a hostile society that we spend millions of dollars purchasing violent video games for our children without realizing that we are contributing to this problem.
What is anger? My explanation is that anger results as a reaction to someone or something that gets in the way of our safety or wellbeing. How do we protect ourselves from these dangers? Some of us react aggressively retaliating with words or hurtful actions while others repress their anger, and instead of striking back, turn the anger inward, harming themselves instead of the aggressors.
Do you or someone you love struggle to control an anger problem? Most likely your method of handling anger developed early in life. When I was a pre-school teacher I saw how three or four-year olds developed angry coping behaviors that may still be troublesome in their lives today. I recall Ben, a three-year old whose parents were on the verge of divorce. He was clearly affected by his stressful home life.
Every morning during play time he would ride a tricycle around and around the play yard unwilling to go into the classroom again when it was time for indoor activities. On a really bad day he would enter the schoolroom and knock down all the toys or games I had set up on the tables before settling down. One day when Ben was playing with our pet hamster he squeezed it so hard that it died! He didn’t do it on purpose. He was a little boy who was unable to understand, talk about or control his intense feelings.
Jimmy, another angry boy, was a bully who pushed others around or grabbed toys out of their hands when he was in a bad mood. Since Jimmy was pretty big he could overwhelm the smaller, meeker children.
During parenting conferences I explained that my rule for acceptable behavior at school was: Things are not for breaking and people are not for hurting. These 2 boys were not able to comply. After informing their parents what was taking place at school I suggested ways that the families could deal with their sons’ anger control issues without punishing them.
Ben’s mom heeded my advice and bought her son an inflatable punching toy to use any time he felt overwhelmed at home. She later reported that he destroyed 3 of these! Jimmy’s parents collected small stones that Jimmy could safely hurl at their backyard wall when he felt like hurting someone.
Before you can control your anger you need to identify your anger style. Not everyone with an anger problem yells, has fistfights, or gives the object of his or her anger a bloody nose. Some of us express our anger in other ways that also lead to unhappiness. Here are some common Anger Personalities that you might recognize in yourself or others.