In April 2014, the Tampa Bay Times published a good article in which the author did an excellent job of explaining that anger, not mental illness, is at the root of violent acts.
Dr. Laura Hayes explains that it is becoming fashionable to attribute tragic, violent events to mentally ill individuals rather than focusing on the common denominator in every single case, which is uncontrolled anger. She explains that the problem of mismanaged anger is broader than mass murders, but is a part of violence toward children and spouses, and is at the foundation of rape, road rage, assault and violent robberies.
Dr. Hayes explains that anger is not abnormal, but that our management of it is lacking.
And lastly, she calls us to accept and manage the anger in ourselves.
She advocates for the practice and teaching of rational techniques and mindfulness to do so.
This is the point at which I decided to respond to the article.
While rational techniques and mindfulness are good ways to teach someone how to manage anger from a young age, or good for someone who is reasonably receptive to these teachings, two problematic issues come to mind.
- How does this help someone whose anger is not apparent to them? Or who generally manages it in rational ways?
- What are adults and children, supposed to do with the energy in their body that requires expression?
What Anger Management is Lacking
Here’s the thing about anger. It is, simply, energy in the body that requires discharge.
There is a time and place for almost everything. This includes the nearly-completely out-of-control responsible discharge of rageful anger.
Unfortunately, we are only taught to control, diminish and “think away” our anger. We are not taught that there is a time and place for the responsible expression of it. Ranting, raving, smashing, bashing, flailing, gnashing our teeth and roaring our terrible roars has a place. But typically, we are ridiculed and terrorized into containing that energy rather than taught how to express it physically. To physically express it in a way that does not harm us, those around us, or any stuff.
Sadly, we are taught that expression of anger is bad, and that if we do express it, we are bad, babyish, or stupid. This, then, exacerbates the problem.
So, what do we do?
I am by no means advocating violence toward yourself, others or any things. The practice of teaching rational control and mindfulness is a PART of anger management. However, it is our inability to express the energy of anger physically that has created our number one mental health issue; uncontrolled anger.
Instead of scapegoating the mentally ill and angry teenagers who sue their parents, we need to acknowledge, accept and EXPERIENCE the anger that every one of us has. Instead of only trying to rationally make it “go away.”
In this way, we will address the violence problem that is plaguing ourselves, our families, and our culture.
Ready to experience a new way to “control” your anger? Call me. We’ll talk.