Classes can help prevent anger's destructiveness
March 6, 2009
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- It may have made Darth Vader more powerful and Bruce Banner the Ultimate Hulk, but for those living in this reality, anger tends to cause more problems than it solves.
"We know that how we think about things determines, to a larger degree, what we experience, and this is particularly true about anger," said Kelly Walters, anger class instructor for Army Community Service (ACS).
"Sometimes when you are angry, your thinking becomes distorted." Walters said the most common ways thinking gets distorted are: magnifying, destructive labeling, imperative thinking and making assumptions about what other people are thinking.
When a person magnifies something, they avoid it by making a realistic assessment by turning the consequence of a negative event into a catastrophe.
When magnifying how bad things are, be precise and accurate in the language you use to describe the situation and look at the whole picture not just the annoying part.
Destructive labeling is the overgeneralization or broadening of one or two qualities into a negative global judgment; imperative thinking is when you have a list of inflexible rules about how you and others should act; and making assumptions creates self-fulfilling prophecies because assumptions are rarely confirmed, Walters explained.
No matter how thinking is distorted, Walters said people need to look at their behavior and become aware of the thoughts that trigger anger.
"Using anger to deal with feelings does not make the feelings go away," Walters said. "They come back stronger."
This also applies to stress. While Walters said acting out in anger does reduce stress temporarily, anger creates more anger, and blowing up makes it more likely that a person will blow up again.
The goal of the classes is to provide education to prevent these blow ups from sparking anything serious, Walters said. Jocelyn Coleman, ACS chief said that anger is not a problem on the installation.
However, the program continues to run because like other ACS sponsored programs, the goal is prevention, education and crisis management.
"The reason for this program is to prevent incidents, so we can address the issue before it gets out of control and escalates to the next level," she said.
For those who do suffer from serious anger issues, Coleman said it is important to get professional help that is not offered at ACS.
"We do education and prevention. We don't do counseling," she said. "If someone has a real issue we'll refer them to behavioral science services."
As coaches, the ACS educators can teach various coping mechanisms to prevent anger issues from becoming something more, Coleman said. Methods include exercises to control breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body, meditation and guided imagery, among others Walters said.