All The Rage
Mel Gibson, Courtney Love, Charlie Sheen, Naomi Campbell and Kanye West are just a few Hollywood names who have recently become more talked about for their angry fits than for their careers. Sadly, with our short tempers, it seems the average South African isn’t too different from these quick firing celebrities. We hurl insults and then furiously give someone the finger for cutting in front of us on the road. We freak out at the guy in the express queue who has more than 10 items. And heaven help the person who asks the same question for the umpteenth time. Although our responses may be understandable (let’s be honest, it’s rude to jump the queue), the way and the intensity of how we react is becoming cause for concern.
Although anger has been around for as long as, well, humans have, Shelton Kartun, founder of The Anger and Stress Management Centre of South Africa, says it has evolved, adapted and become more apparent in modern times. ‘Every month more people come through our doors seeking help for their anger.’ He also hears more stories – from friends, family and acquaintances – of outbursts in the workplace or public spaces. And what about the increasing number of newspaper reports of road rage cases?
Shelton believes the stress and demands of the 21st century are to blame. ‘With the advances of technology, people are expected to perform faster than ever before and this leads to frustration and pent-up anger. The pressure of the recession and cutbacks can cause someone to lose their temper at the tiniest trigger,’ says Shelton. Along with this, our cities are expanding, which means the highways and roads are under constant construction and there is a rising number of cars on the road, offering more opportunities for road rage.
The Cost OF Fury
The danger with uncontrollable anger is that it affects every area of our lives. ‘Anger, if expressed inappropriately, can damage relationships, careers and, in the end, the individual,’ says Shelton. In our relationships, regardless of whether they are personal or professional, out-of-control anger leads to broken trust, a breakdown in communication and the forming of bad habits. If outbursts characterised by screaming and shouting occur too often, ‘it becomes an acceptable form of conduct between you and your children, spouse, friends and colleagues,’ says Shelton. This has many ripple effects: children base how they conduct themselves at school and with their friends on what they pick up from you; colleagues can file grievances against you, which could cost you your job.
Many angry people may also assume that, because their families or partners have accepted their apologies in the past, their rela-tionships are intact. But Shelton says that even loved ones will get to the point where they have had enough. One of the most common results is an unhealthy obsession with evening the score. ‘They may adopt a “tit for tat” attitude and keep track of when someone’s done something wrong so they can repay them later when an opportunity arises,’ says Shelton. Anger is also not good for your health. ‘Ongoing and extreme forms of anger and rage put a high level of stress on the body. This can lead to a weakened immune system, heart disease and even a heart attack,’ says Shelton.
Escape The Temper Trap
We all have the right to get upset and angry, but when does it become an issue? ‘Any time damage is caused to property or a person, emotionally or physically,’ says Shelton. Screaming, swearing, hitting and smashing objects is often physical proof of anger, whereas being preoccupied with thoughts on how to control someone or make them see your side of an argument are ways that anger has an emotional grip. ‘Frequent outbursts or when someone has become increasingly out of control are all warning signs that their anger needs to be addressed,’ says Shelton. ‘Recognising you have a problem is the most critical step to recovery. Many individuals are in denial and blame everyone else,’ he says. The next step is to accept responsibility for your temper and seek professional help. ‘Anger management is a damage prevention programme. It offers strategies on how a person can effectively and practically deal with their anger, how to identify triggers and prevent future outbursts.’ It includes one-on-one sessions with a trained counsellor who can help with your specific anger needs.
- Learn how to relax. When you feel yourself getting angry, stop and take a few deep breaths. It will help you calm down and defuse your anger. It may seem like common sense, but we often forget it when we are infuriated. Another strategy is to calmly leave the room or walk away when you feel your temper flare up, and return only once you are composed and ready to deal with the situation in a non-threatening way.
- Change your mind. When you feel yourself becoming angry or are in a heated discussion, stop what you are doing and immediately redirect your thoughts to something positive. If you find yourself thinking about ways you can take revenge or retaliate once the argument is over, focus on what the ultimate outcome will be. It will help you get your thoughts back to reality.
- Be assertive, not aggressive. Respectfully and kindly tell others what you want or how you feel; it’s possible to express your emotions and thoughts without being hostile, pushy or contentious.
If You Can Help It
It’s important to acknowledge your anger problem to your friends and family. ‘People often underestimate how much their loved ones’ support can help them and also heal broken relationships,’ says Shelton. Maybe you know people who have a raging temper but are too afraid to tell them? Shelton recommends subtly bringing to the person’s attention that you have something you need to address. Speak to them when they are at their calmest and most understanding state of mind or write them a letter. Importantly, give examples of how their anger has had an impact on your relationship and made you feel. This will help them see your side of the story. Be prepared that the relationship may come to a temporary halt. ‘Sometimes you need to set an ultimatum, which can include a trial separation – it will often help someone see the severity of their problem.’ If the person still doesn’t want to get help, it is best for you to simply walk away.
The Anger and Stress Management
Centre of South Africa
021 554 3661