Taming the Rage Within: A Brief case study

By November 20, 2016Health, Stress, Work

Managing anger can be overwhelming until you figure out what the anger is trying to tell you

 If you’re reading this, then you or someone you know has probably struggled with anger at some point. That’s because coping and making sense of anger is hard, especially since it often shows up when we least expect it.

When we feel angry, it is an indication that something around is not how we want it to be. For example, we get angry when someone doesn’t behave as we had thought they would, or someone says something we don’t like, or a situation turns out to be something we didn’t want. This can leave us feeling out of control and unhappy. In an effort to regain control of the situation, we often respond with reactive anger and make things worse. Consequently, we start disliking “anger”.

However, to prevent anger from taking control over us, it’s important to not look at it as the enemy, but to make an effort to understand it instead.

Case study:

 Rohit said he had an anger problem. He reported shouting at his wife and mother often, and verbally abusing his driver almost every day. He had stopped driving because he found himself getting into fights on the road. Rohit said that anger was ruining his relationships and he no longer knew when and with whom he would lose his cool. He wanted to stop feeling so angry all the time and make things better.

Rohit’s coach explained to Rohit that anger cannot be just “turned off” like a switch. He then asked Rohit to note which situations were most likely to trigger an angry outburst. He was also asked to start keeping a diary to record his angry thoughts. Rohit was also asked to think about what was going in his life at that point in time.

Over time, it became clear that Rohit’s anger problem was growing because he was undergoing stress at work. Rohit was not getting adequate sleep and was skipping meals because he was always worrying about work. All of this was affecting his ability to deal with the other areas of life, namely relationships. In short, his inability to cope at work was converting into anger at home.

Once Rohit understood this connection, he started working through the issues at his job. With time, his work stress reduced and so did his anger. Of course, he did feel angry every now and then, but Rohit was now able to manage it better and stop it from escalating to dangerous levels.

 If Rohit had not paid attention to his anger, he might never have recognised that part of his life (his job) needed attention. The stress could have built up to chronic levels, and severely affected Rohit’s mental and physical health.

Similarly, we need to keep in mind that anger (just like all other emotions) is an important feeling because it gives us more information about how something affects us. This knowledge can be a powerful tool to understand what changes we need to make in our life to make it more joyful and stress-free.