Inside the Criminal Mind

Understanding the dark side of human conduct

"Channeling" versus Reducing Anger

Poor advice from "Dear Abby"?

In a recent newspaper column, “consumed by anger in Herndon, Virginia” writes for help with her “anger problem.”  She speaks of being unable to concentrate after one of her roommates was “mean” to her. The writer inquires of Dear Abby, “Is it normal to get this mad?”  She commented that the last time she became so angry, she punched a wall and bruised her fist.

Abby’s response to the person “consumed by anger” suggested finding a way to express anger that is “productive” and “channeling [it] in the right direction.”  A far more helpful approach in this situation (and applicable to many others as well) would be to help this individual become aware of cognitive processes (errors?) that gave rise to the anger.

  1. What did the meanness entail?  What really transpired?
  2. Did she get angry because something did not go her way?
  3. Are her expectations of her roommate realistic?
  4. Was she angry because she was not in control of the situation?
  5. Why did she internalize what was said to her?  How important was it?

Anger arises largely out of fear (e.g., of not being in control) or from disappointment emanating from expectations that are unreasonable to begin with.

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Instead of being consumed by anger, did she attempt to discuss the matter with the roommate if it was so important?   One can be assertive and firm without being angry.

And perhaps she could ask herself why she attached such significance to the “insult” to begin with. Knowing her roommate, she can perhaps expect more of the same in the future.  The issue may not be the roommate but her own perception and reaction to what her roommate says and does?  In any event, she has a choice to channel or to work on becoming a less angry person to begin with.

Stanton Samenow, Ph.D.,is a clinical psychologist practicing in Alexandria, Virginia and author of Inside the Criminal Mind.

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