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Section 17
Communicating Anger

Question 17 | Test | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed Four Implications of Choosing Anger.  These included that there is nothing inherently right or legitimate about anger, anger is an expression of stress, forget displacement and anger is a choice.

In this section, we will discuss Four Areas of Understanding That Assist in Helping Your Client to Take Personal Responsibility for Anger. These four areas include understanding how to state your needs, understanding that others know their needs,understanding inevitable collision of needs and understanding strategies for satisfaction.

♦ #1 Understanding How to State Your Needs
First, let’s discuss stating your needs.  I stated to Vincent, age 51, regarding responsibility for his anger, "You are the only one who can communicate, in full, the extent of your anger." Vincent felt great resentment because his wife, Anna, rarely touched his penis during foreplay.

Vincent told Anna from time to time that "it would be nice" if she touched his genitals more often. But Anna had no way of knowing how deep Vincent’s desire was or precisely what sort of touching felt most stimulating to him. Nonetheless, Vincent blamed Anna for not really caring about his pleasure. Do you have a client who has difficulty conveying his or her own needs?

♦ #2 Understanding That Others Know Their Needs
Second, I felt Clara, age 30, needed to be aware that she rarely focused on meeting her own needs. Clara wanted her husband, Tom, to give up watching TV sports on the weekend so that they could take drives in the country. Clara was enraged that Tom wouldn’t, as she put it, "do something I would enjoy." 

The fact was that Tom despised driving because he spent long hours on the road during his work week. Clara eventually came to accept that Tom’s responsibility was to take care of his needs and not hers. Do you have a client who has a hard time letting others focus on their own needs?

♦ #3 Understanding Inevitable Collision of Needs
In addition to stating their own needs and understanding that others know their needs, there is the acceptance that peoples’ needs inevitably conflict or collide. I stated to Grace, age 34, "Every relationship must come to terms with the following basic reality.  The pursuit of one person’s needs will frequently mean discomfort and frustration for the other." Grace was angry because her ex-husband, Luke, brought their two children home late from visits. 

While Grace waited for her kids, anxiety rose as she imagined them being abducted. The fear was unnerving, so Grace pushed it away with her anger. When Grace reframed the problem as a collision of needs, she was able to work on solving her problem. Grace talked with Luke and realized that he tended to return late because he wanted to spend more time with his children.  Grace needed predictability and Luke needed more time. 

Grace and Luke were able to begin to compromise by setting later drop-off time for the children. They also agreed that Luke would call if he was going to be late. By providing Grace with the piece of information that peoples’ needs inevitably conflict, she had started the basis for resolution of the late drop-off with her ex-husband, Luke. Do you have a client whose needs conflict with those of a loved one? Would it be beneficial to play this section of the CD and explore collision of needs with them?

♦ #4 Understanding Strategies for Satisfaction
 Fourth, let’s discuss understanding strategies for satisfaction.  Consider the case of Simon, age 23, whose girlfriend said he never listened.  Simon reacted by expressing anger and withdrawing.  Simon’s strategy wasn’t effective because April only became angry in turn and intensified her criticism.  The problem didn’t lie with the criticism, but the ineffectiveness of Simon’s strategy. 

I stated to Simon, "As we have discussed, your happiness depends on how well you meet your needs and avoid pain. If you are dissatisfied with your life, you need to find a different strategy."  Eventually, Simon developed a better way of coping. Simon expressed hurt rather than anger.  April was encouraged to express the needs motivating her criticism. Both Simon and April developed more effective ways of coping, helping them start to improve their relationship. Do you have a client whose is unhappy because he or she isn’t meeting his or her own needs?

♦ Cognitive Behavior Therapy Technique:  Inner Rules
I stated to Vincent, Clara, Grace and Simon, "Every system—whether it is work, school, family life…etc.—has its rules.  When the system rules match your own inner rules, you are likely to do what others expect, even when its not in your best interest."  With Vincent, for example, I found a discussion of "inner rules" to be beneficial to facilitate him being responsible for his anger.  Vincent’s inner rules included taking the initiative and being persistent. 

Vincent stated, "I realize now that just because Anna can’t read my mind doesn’t mean she doesn’t care.  I just have to try harder to communicate what I want or need sometimes."  Do you have a Vincent who is an anger management client who would benefit from information regarding his or her inner rules?

In this section, we have discussed four areas of understanding to help your client to take personal responsibility for anger.  These included understanding how to state your needs, understanding that others know their needs, understanding inevitable collision of needs and understanding strategies for satisfaction.

In the next section, we will discuss Six Steps to Responsibility.  These include reinforcing others, meeting your own needs, finding support elsewhere, setting limits, negotiating assertively and letting go.

- Deffenbacher, J. L. (november 1, 2004). Anger-management programs: Issues and suggestions. Behavioral Health Management, 24(6), 1-3. Retrieved from
Reviewed 2023

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Abramson, L., Petranker, R., Marom, I., & Aviezer, H. (2021). Social interaction context shapes emotion recognition through body language, not facial expressions. Emotion, 21(3), 557–568.

Friedman-Wheeler, D. G., Litovsky, A. R., Prince, K. R., Webbert, J., Werkheiser, A., Carlson, E., Hoffmann, C., Levy, K., Scherer, A., & Gunthert, K. C. (2019). Do mood-regulation expectancies for coping strategies predict their use? A daily diary study. International Journal of Stress Management, 26(3), 287–296.

Graham, K. A., Dust, S. B., & Ziegert, J. C. (2018). Supervisor-employee power distance incompatibility, gender similarity, and relationship conflict: A test of interpersonal interaction theory. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(3), 334–346.

Kirchhoff, J., Wagner, U., & Strack, M. (2012). Apologies: Words of magic? The role of verbal components, anger reduction, and offence severity. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 18(2), 109–130. 

Kunzmann, U., Rohr, M., Wieck, C., Kappes, C., & Wrosch, C. (2017). Speaking about feelings: Further evidence for multidirectional age differences in anger and sadness. Psychology and Aging, 32(1), 93–103.

Sinaceur, M., Van Kleef, G. A., Neale, M. A., Adam, H., & Haag, C. (2011). Hot or cold: Is communicating anger or threats more effective in negotiation? Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(5), 1018–1032. 

What are four areas of understanding to help your client to take personal responsibility for anger? To select and ent
er your answer go to Test.

Section 18
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