I am Ryan Fuller. I am a clinical psychologist. I have done anger research and I treat a lot of angry clients in New York City. I’ll talk to you a little bit about the top causes of anger. So oftentimes when we’re talking about the causes of anger, we refer to them as anger triggers. And frequently, triggers are the external events, usually other people that, in fact, precede an anger episode. Continue reading →
Frequently, when we talk about anger, we’re really talking about the emotional experience of an anger phenomenon. But with that, there are also certain action tendencies and behaviors that go along with it. Continue reading →
So there are a number of different anger theorists who have talked about different kinds of anger styles. But the one I’ll mention breaks anger styles into three forms of expression. So there is “anger out”; and “anger out” typically looks like the kinds of behavior we see with someone that we consider to have a temper. So they become very angry and then they are going to be doing things like yelling, they may be using profanity, they may smash cell phones or pound their fist on a desk, or something along those lines, destroy property. Continue reading →
Anger is a negative feeling and when it comes in frequencies and intensities and durations that are in the normal range, it can be quite healthy. Unfortunately, when it becomes really intense or really frequent and it is paired with behaviors that are problematic that are aggressive or uncooperative, it can cause big problems and people can run into anger management issues. Continue reading →
Anger management is important year round. I haven’t seen evidence that there has been more aggression or anger outbursts this year because of a harsh winter. But there are good reasons to suspect that could be the case as our nerves become frayed.
Hot temperatures are frequently thought of as putting us at risk for violence. But there is a great deal of scientific evidence that any environmental factor that makes us uncomfortable can lead to aggression. Certainly bitter cold temperatures can do just that.
Anger is often thought to precede aggression, and many times it does. But most of us do not realize that other emotions put us at risk for aggression too. There is ample scientific evidence that any negative emotion, e.g., anxiety, guilt, loneliness, etc. make the likelihood of aggression more likely. So a difficult winter that may lead to less social contact or make us more nervous because of driving conditions could certainly put us at risk for becoming aggressive.
Another predictor of aggression is frustration. In the social science literature frustration occurs when a goal is being blocked or a desired outcome is prevented from occurring. Big snowfalls can lead to just that. People are stuck in their homes or can’t get their cars out their driveways and are prevented from completing all kinds of goals. And it is easy to see how those situations can also lead to more and more negative emotions, putting us at greater risk of becoming aggressive.
Frequently, when we talk about anger, we’re really talking about the emotional experience of an anger phenomenon. But with that, there are also certain action tendencies and behaviors that go along with it. The most obvious, of course, are sorts of aggressive anger. And really aggression is the behavior that frequently accompanies anger. And it usually has an intention to harm another individual. So this could be very direct, in the form of physical assault, it could be in the form of property damage or something like that. There are also forms that are even more direct and might even be relational. Sometimes people talk about passive anger or passive aggression and things of that nature, where I might be spreading rumors about someone at work, or simply saying negative things about them behind their back. Again, I might expect that that’s going to eventually do them harm but it’s more passive or indirect and it’s not a specific physical threat.
Anger Management – How to Control Anger with Deep Breathing
I am Dr. Ryan Fuller and I am going to talk to you a little bit about how to control anger with deep breathing. So anger is an emotion that has high levels of arousal associated with it. In fact, anger is one of two emotions that really go along with the fight or flight stress response. So in the case of a crisis or a danger, our sympathetic nervous system, that is part of our autonomic nervous system, goes into motion increasing respiration, increasing heart rate, driving up blood pressure, releasing glucose into the limbs so there is energy. All these things are really about speeding things up, so that the organism, or the human in this case, is prepared for fighting or fleeing. Now, with that said, when we’re really angry or when we’re aroused in those ways, one good way to modulate or change the anger experiences, is, in fact, to change the physiology. There are different ways to go about that, so in using relaxation techniques, one form is progressive muscle relaxation. And that doesn’t have to do with breathing techniques. But we’re going to talk today about breathing, as a form of relaxation, which makes sense in the case of anger management, because as I just said, anger has high levels of arousal in terms of physiological activation. And the research in anger management techniques has shown that relaxation skills alone are highly effective in helping people to manage their anger. So one of the skills that I like using with breathwork is very simple and easy to remember and there is scientific research to show that it really does a good job of helping to temp down the sympathetic nervous system activity. And so it’s really slowing respiration and it’s looking at a 4-7-8 ratio. What that means is we’re going to have clients inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7, and then exhale for a count of 8. Now, what’s important to know is 1, anytime you’re trying a technique like this, you do want to make sure you have spoken to your physician and to make sure there is no contraindications based on any health risk factors you have, or asthma, or heart condition. But typically, what I find is after my clients have spoken to the physician, most physicians are highly encouraging of this kind of relaxation activity. The other important thing to keep in mind is, it’s the ratio that matters the most. We don’t want people to think they have to count for 4 seconds, 7 seconds, and 8 seconds where they get a very long count and they end up passing out or straining themselves. You really want to just find the amount of time that works for you but to try to keep the ratio close to 4, 7, and 8. The main thing is that the exhale becomes much longer than the inhale. So, I will give a quick demonstration. It’s not perfectly necessary that you have to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, but that’s generally the way I teach it. So the client is going to inhale to the count of about 4, hold for the count of about 7, and then exhale from the mouth to the count of about 8. So it looks like this, inhale, hold, and then exhale. And sometimes I have them exhale from a pursed lips. So even though it is a very simple, easy-to-use breathing exercise, if you do that a number of times, say you do 5-10 rounds, you’ll likely experience a relaxation response. And oftentimes, especially if I have clients who are somewhat skeptical, I’ll ask them to take their pulse beforehand especially if they are kind of worked up, to practice the response, and then take their pulse again. Again, you want to speak to your healthcare provider, your physician or otherwise, and you don’t want to do it if you are driving or something like that. But if you practice it first with a professional, and then on your own, it is something that might help you reduce intense physiological arousal, especially if it’s an anger response.