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Anger Management: The Anger Hokey Pokey

You put your right word in and you pull your right word out. You shake it all about and that’s the anger hokey pokey…..well, you get the idea I hope!!!

Angry words are thrown out and then we try to pull them back in, once they are out there is not pulling them back in so we shake things up by doing hokey pokey behaviors and actions. Now lest you think I am on something when I write this, I am not, but want you to see how silly and hurtful we can be when we don’t think before we use anger inappropriately. Anger is an emotion that we were to use as part of our “fright and flight” response but was turned into “aggressive” responses instead of its intended safety response. 

Anger is one of the most misunderstood and overused of human emotions. First, anger is a reaction to an inner emotion and not always a planned action. Second, anger is easier to show: everyone has anger issues. Third, the feelings underlying the anger reaction make us feel vulnerable and weak; your anger makes you feel, at least momentarily, strong and in control. Fourth, angry behaviors are learned over the life-span and therefore can be unlearned and replaced with healthier patterns of coping . Fifth, anger can be an immediate reaction to an isolated event or it can be a response after numerous events. Sixth, anger is part of our “entitlement” response and we hold on to it to “justify” our negative behaviors which fulfill our entitlement thoughts. 

So should we repress anger? No. Hankins and Hankins, 1988, stated “to repress anger is unhealthy…..and to express it impulsively, as we often do, may give momentary relief but inevitably carry negative consequences.” 

We learn anger management from our parents. If we see them get angry and resolve the issue without negative behaviors, we are more likely to use the same approach. So anger can be an emotion that we learn how to manage if we chose to do so. If we are tired, we are prone to react angry faster than if we aren’t tired. If we hold feelings inside, rather than talk them out with “mutuality” as part of our talking process, then we are more likely to build up our anger in the “pressure cooker of rumination” and explode in an angry outburst. 

Constance McKenzie, M.Ed (995) stated that we have Anger “Styles” and created an anger checklist: 

Styles Of Anger

Each of us develops their own special style of anger: 

The “Mad Hatter” Driver: This person yells, curses, and offers gestures to other drivers when s/he is in a hurry and frustrated. 

The Sulker: This person shuts down in a chair and stops speaking and looking at others. 

Safe Haven Abuser: This person takes her/his frustration out only on the ones s/he loves. 

The Distractor: This person disregards the object of his annoyance by reading the paper, forgetting to run an errand, or playing the radio too loudly. When s/he is confronted, the response is: I didn’t know; I forgot; I’m tired. 

The Blamer: This person blames everybody for everything and rarely accepts responsibility for his own short comings. 

The Avenger: This person believes s/he has been given the right to seek vengeance in any way for anything by using the excuse: they deserved it. 

Anger Issues Check List — How Is Your Anger?

People tell you that you need to calm down. 

You feel tense much of the time. 

At work, you find yourself not saying what is on your mind. 

When you are upset, you try to block the world out by watching TV, reading a book or magazine, or going to sleep. 

You are drinking or smoking marijuana almost daily to help you calm down. 

You have trouble going to sleep. 

You feel misunderstood or not listened to much of the time. 

People ask you not to yell or curse so much. 

Your loved ones keep saying that you are hurting them. 

Friends do not seek you out as much. 

0 – 2 MANAGEABLE you could benefit from relaxation training
3 – 5 MODERATE you need to learn more about what stresses you, and learn stress management techniques
6 + OUT OF CONTROL you have an anger problem that could benefit from learning anger management techniques


Anger reactions have been likened to a train running out of control and about to derail. A little anger can motivate us to take action in positive ways. A lot of anger will make us “red with rage.” The price for your anger is that you are out of control, you drive away those whom you love the most, and endanger your employment. Our old familiar ways of managing anger are not working for us and we need to learn to replace the old with new, more positive and beneficial techniques.


Ellis, Albert, (1992) Anger: How to Live With and Without It, New York:Citadel Press Book. Hankins, Gary, and Hankins, Carol, (1988) Prescription for Anger, New York:Warner. Luhn, Rebecca R., (1992) Managing Anger, Menlo Park, Cal.:Crisp Publications. Lerner, Harriet, (1985) The Dance of Anger, Harper & Row.