Q: I have been reading about road rage lately and it has made me wonder. Sometimes I get angry and I feel guilty about it. Any comments?
A: Anger is an emotion just like any other. It acts as a signal to us that something is wrong, much as physical pain tells us that something is physically amiss. It may be saying that your rights are being violated or it may be telling you that your emotional needs are not being dealt with. It may come from the past or the present. It may be a sign that you are under too much stress. Whatever the source, anger is much like a pot on the stove that begins to bubble and with time, reaches the point where it boils over. Anger is nothing to feel guilty about, because it is normal. It is what you do with your anger that can cause problems. When appropriate, anger is very useful as a motivator. It can push us to make necessary changes. We can express anger in healthy ways by communicating it clearly, without blaming or accusing. But some people vent their anger verbally by being spiteful and abusive, or physically by hurting themselves or others. Sometimes anger that is not dealt with directly comes out in physical ailments such as headaches or stomach problems. In any case, anger that is bottled up will come out in someway and will be out of control. In these cases, anger management is needed.
Anger management involves finding the source of the anger and dealing with it. It also would include stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, exercise, relaxation training, hypnosis and possibly some lifestyle changes. Writing, talking and gaining understanding, with the right guidance, are also useful. In the case of road rage, you will notice that often it occurs in times of extreme heat. The driver is hot and traffic may be heavy and frustrating. They get angry because they have no control over their situation and this, added to whatever other anger they are storing, pushes them over the edge and results in the incident you read about. Anger can be useful, but it needs to be under control.