People get angry for one of two reasons says psychologist Joel Friedman: "They perceive a threat" or "someone or something doesn't live up to their expectations."
In his "Coping With Anger" workshop at Annandale's Woodburn Center for Community Mental Health, Friedman offers this "cognitive behavior approach" to problem anger:
1. Body Awareness. Learn to recognize the physiological cues that precede anger--increased heart rate, tense muscles, etc. Counter excessive arousal with a relaxation technique.
2. Labeling. Each time you feel angry, write down where you are, what you are doing, who you are with. Rate the anger on a 1 to 100 scale. What patterns emerge over time?
3. Inner Dialogue. Write down what you said to yourself about the situation. Often this "self-talk"--such as "Buses always intentionally cut in front of me"--is unconscious and unrealistic.
4. Coping Thoughts. Replace anger-inducing self-talk with more realistic reactions such as "Anger won't get me there faster. I'll use this time to relax."
Among the best anger antidotes:
1. Physical Exertion. Engages the sympathetic nervous system to burn up some of the physical remnants of arousal.
2. Relaxation. Activates the parasympathetic nervous system--or "quieting response." (One reason exercise to music is so popular, he speculates, is that it can activate both systems.)
3. Funny Thoughts. "Humor is a mental set incompatible with anger. A nurse who was having trouble with a demanding doctor imagined that his clothes disappeared whenever he started yelling. She visualized him standing there naked, screaming, with a chicken on his head."
* For information about Friedman's Coping With Anger workshops call 573-0523.
* The Metropolitan Psychiatric Group will offer a free "Dealing With Anger" lecture April 13, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in their downtown office, 466-6736. For information about similar programs at their Rockville office, 279-5726.
* The Psychiatric Institute of Montgomery County in Rockville features "Coping With Anger" lectures as part of their free community education series, 251-4676.