The counselling required to establish and sustain effective anger management is two-fold. The first part is simple and relatively easy. It consists of establishing a few strategies to contain the explosive anger as soon as we start to feel it. Deep or diaphragmatic breathing is one such approach that many people find effective for momentarily keeping the anger from getting out of hand. Removing ourselves from the situation that is triggering our anger is another. These strategies are meant to get us, and the other person out of harm’s way. With a bit of practice most people can learn to use these techniques when needed. But they are only addressing the symptom. They are like aspirins when we have a headache. Very useful at the time, but they do nothing to prevent our headache returning next week.
Counselling in support of anger management requires we go deeper. What is causing us to lose our temper in ways that we later regret? Most commonly it points to experiences in the past when we felt mistreated and, for a variety of reasons, were unable to express our hurt or anger. The interaction has not been completed. It becomes a piece of unfinished business that gets stored away in our bodies. If other such experiences are added they will accumulate. Eventually, the accumulation of experiences in which we felt wronged will burst out of their container. We explode. Sometimes at people whom later we realise did nothing wrong. Often at people we love. Sometimes at people who cannot fight back. Ultimately, counselling for anger management will ask us to explore what is underneath our difficult-to-control temper. What are the things we are truly angry at? When we discover those things, we frequently discover our anger, at the time of its origin, has justification. We may be directing it at the wrong people. We may be expressing it in a disproportionate or inappropriate manner. But buried in it is a hurt asking to be attended to.