Anger Therapy

Anger Therapy
"We all have our anger styles, which are the ways we express our rage," says Engel. "These are typically learned in childhood, either from watching the ways our parents coped with their anger or as a self-protective reaction to the way they treated us."

Understanding how you deal with anger--or how you don't deal with it--can help you alter any destructive role it plays in your personal and professional relationships. There are, after all, constructive ways to vent your vexation.

"Assertive anger expression means standing up for your convictions but doing it in a conscious, deliberate way that also respects the rights of others," says Dallas psychotherapist Les Carter, Ph.D., author of The Anger Trap.

People who express their anger in healthy ways are confident that what they have to say is valid and legitimate, explains Carter. They don't shy away from conflict because they know it's a natural part of any relationship. However, they maintain their composure, which takes away the emotional charge that puts others on the defensive. Their behavior allows differences to be resolved in a reasonable way.

If assertive anger is not your style, you can learn to master it with a little practice. The first step is to identify what kindles your problem episodes. The second step is to decide to do something about it.

Try these tips to handle your anger more constructively:
1. Take a break. Anger arouses us, lowering inhibitions and leading us to blurt out things we later regret. In the heat of the moment, do something to clear your head. Two methods that are easy and effective: Go for a walk or do 10 minutes of deep breathing.

2. Enlist an anger buddy. Find someone trustworthy you can call to blow off steam. Make an agreement that you can each share your most intimate thoughts without feeling judged or having the other person fix, mollify or explain your feelings away.

3. Get physical. Choose your favorite rage-reducer, whether it's taking a Spinning class or hitting a few balls at the driving range. "Vigorous exercise is the single best way to discharge aggressive feelings," says Cheryl Richardson, a Boston-based life coach and author of Stand Up for Your Life. "You'll feel more energized and clear-headed about how to solve a situation that's causing you grief."

4. Make a plan. If you've noticed that it's a particular person who sets you off, for example, consider what needs to change, then decide exactly what you want to say to this person to achieve it. Avoid accusatory statements and focus instead on how his or her actions make you feel. "A plan leads to closure," says Nay. "Otherwise, people tend to obsess and the issue is never resolved."

Most important, remember that you can't change lifelong habits overnight. "New skills take rehearsal and practice," says Nay.

Keep in mind, too, that rather than suppressing or being ashamed of your anger, it truly is something for you to embrace. "Anger is part of the fabric of all our relationships," says Cox. "When used correctly, it can fuel your success, even your survival."