Most common beliefs about anger

Anger is linked to a perception of damage or hurt and a belief that important rules have been violated. We become angry if we think that we have been unfairly treated, unnecessarily hurt or prevented from obtaining something we expected to achieve.

It is important in trying to gain control over anger to recognise angry thoughts.

“Hot thoughts” are thoughts that flash into your mind and make you feel worse. People tend to have similar thoughts happening again and again. For example:

- He is so stupid

- He is making a fool of me

- You’re selfish

- I hate this place

- He never listens to me

Sometimes patterns in our thinking can make us feel more angry. For example:

- Taking things personally: people who are angry often take things personally and feel hurt from it. They look for and expect criticism. If, for example, someone doesn’t speak to them in a shop, they may feel that person dislikes them, when in fact it may be because that person is shy or worried.

- Ignoring the positive: people who get angry tend to focus their thinking on negative or bad events and ignore positive or good events. For example, remembering one negative event but not the rest of the time when things were going ok.

- Perfectionism: people who become angry often expect too much from themselves or those around them. If these standards are not met, then they may feel badly let down and this hurt can become anger. For example, someone cancelling an event may lead to strong anger when on most occasions the person is a good friend.

- Black and white thinking: thinking in very all or nothing or black and white ways is very common when people are angry.

It is useful to notice such patterns in your thoughts and consider if there are alternative ways of viewing the situation. This could involve writing two columns – one for angry thoughts and one for balanced thoughts:

E.g., Angry Thoughts Balanced Thoughts

They always let me down They sometimes behave badly but at times they are really ok

It can also be useful to ask yourself what are the costs and benefits of your original angry thought. Is it a huge personal failing to disregard someone’s behaviour? Are there situations where the transgression is not worth reacting strongly to and continuing to think about?

Beliefs about anger can also make it harder to control anger. These beliefs sometimes excuse anger or make it seem like the only response. These beliefs are sometimes held because of life experiences or personal values. People may have lived with these beliefs for so long that they accept them without question, but it is important to question them to help overcome anger.

Here are some examples of unhelpful beliefs and ideas on how to question them:

I can’t control my anger, my father was angry and it is something I got from him

This is the idea that anger is something you can't change - it's in your make up, something you were born with. It is an excuse that lets you off the hook in terms of controlling your anger. We know that some people are born with tendencies to be more emotional, fearful, angry or sad. The way we react to these emotions however is learned, and we can tackle our own angry behaviour by changing the way we respond to events and people.

If I don't let my anger out I'll explode

It has long been a popular belief that some emotions and drives build up, like

steam in a pressure cooker and ne