Thursday, October 1, 2009

Anger Management and Asperger's Part 1: Understanding Anger

Anger management is an problem for many individuals, whether or not they have Asperger’s or an ASD. It’s one of the topics that gets searched for most frequently by readers of this blog. In an earlier post I referenced an Anger Management article I wrote for Autism Asperger’s Digest Magazine, but until now I haven’t written anything on anger management specifically for this blog. Because anger management is such a big topic, I’m not going to attempt to cover it all in one post.

We’ve all had that feeling of anger growing, and getting out of control. Sometimes when we lose our tempers, a part of us may even know it’s happening, but the anger still seems to have taken on a life of its own. Anger management techniques can help us manage before the situation gets out of control.

With my therapy clients who are dealing with ADHD, autism, or Asperger’s and anger, I start by exploring what anger is. Most important: anger is not a bad emotion! Anger is powerful, strong and it drives people to make changes in situations that just aren’t working. So the point is not to eradicate anger, but to control it. To manage it.

Another important fact about anger is that the emotion often exists concurrently with other emotions. People may react with rage when what they’re really feeling is disappointment, shame or guilt, fear, or sadness. All of those other emotion can have an aspect of weakness and powerlessness. It may feel safer and more empowered to shift that helpless feeling over to the power of rage. I often ask clients to reflect on what the emotion behind the anger is. What’s the uncomfortable feeling the anger covers?

Next we’ll explore the physical sensation of anger and how important that knowledge can be for managing it. Please check back for further posts !