Staff writer - Maureen Gordon

This week I want to talk about the issue of anger.  I know it is not a comfortable subject to tackle and people rarely want to admit to having a problem with anger. However researchers who have been studying 21st century societal changes, believe that in the Western hemisphere people are getting angrier, and despite economic growth which should signal better outcomes for society, we are no happier.

Anger is an emotion that impacts us all, sometimes on a day to day basis. Some people experience anger frequently and intensely and it interferes with their thinking, feeling, behaviours, relationships. Research in the U.K found that 1 in 5 people say they have ended a relationship or friendship with someone because of how they behaved. In fact in regards to physical health intense anger has been linked to coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and common illnesses such as colds and flu’s.

It is said that Anger alone is not a problem but it is a powerful and vital tool for survival; Anger has been used as a means to bring about lasting change in nations, people like Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela come to mind. It was their anger at injustice which helped to pull down the dehumanising and oppressive systems in their countries.

The bible says be angry but do not sin, it also admonishes, do not let the sun go down on your anger, meaning sort out your issues before you go to sleep.

I have been involved in running groups with students over the years about understanding this emotion and looking at strategies to deal with it. It certainly is not something that can be fixed by attending a group as I have discovered. The comments I often get is “I have tried to control my anger but sometimes I don’t know what comes over me.”

Incredible Hulk. Photo courtesy hulkpics.blogspot.com

People often say to me, I think I have an anger management problem, however the real issue is not anger, it is what lies beneath that causes the angry outburst.  What are the emotions that bubble under the surface; it could be jealousy, resentment, frustration, sadness, guilt the list is long. Being angry and blaming someone else helps to cover these feelings. I believe that in our society we are taught from a young age not to shout and scream, express our rage, so often our anger is buried pushed down or displaced, waiting for an opportune time to explode. The problem is that we rarely express our hurt to the people who hurt us or express it in the right place. People are often left wondering: What did I say? Or what did I do, why was he/she so angry with me.

Remember what David Banner used to say talking about his alter ego the incredible hulk. Don’t make me angry you won’t like me when I am angry. Are you like that? I often read newspaper headlines which describe a motiveless and mindless attack on another person. There are no reasons given for the attack, but that person has lost their life or been seriously injured.

Then there are those people who use their position to manipulate and control through their anger. People become afraid of them. That is the desired effect. Interestingly it is said that women are slightly more likely to report an anger problem of their own. Whilst men may worry about how angry they sometimes feel, but they are less able to recognise and talk about the angry behaviours in themselves and others.

My experience of supporting young people with this issue has helped me to look at what are the triggers for me, what makes me angry, and why I am angry about that particular issue and can I deal with the situation I am facing in a different way. I realise that it is something that we have to make a choice about almost every day and it is our attitude to it that decides whether we allow anger to control us or we learn to control it for own sake and those we influence.

I look forward to your feedback.