It’s difficult to treat addictions of any kind, and anger addiction adds its own layers of complexity. The complications are easy to see: Anger is both an individual and group phenomenon. A subculture of anger-merchants has worked for decades to insert anger into the way this society functions. Fuel for continuing anger is easily accessible, so those addicted to anger may not seek help. Politics and religion have been added as legitimation for anger addiction. Effective solutions, mitigations or therapies are hard to find, and they require intense personal engagement with those afflicted by anger addiction.
Hope and courage can work together to counteract helplessness or despair. The positive context for being hopeful includes these elements:
This is personal for many of us.
Anger and anger addiction are all around us—people we know and love. Many organizations, enterprises and events are bound up in anger’s grasp. Those of us who are addicted will eventually want to break away from our distress. These facts can create a strong motivation for change.
Anger addiction is out in the open now.
It’s been named and framed as a personal and societal problem. There’s no hiding this plague of disfunction and disintegration.
Anger addiction is a neurobiological matter.
Brain chemistry and functions are now better-known, and promising scientific research continues. What’s generally true about addiction recovery most likely applies here, too. Brains can change and be changed.
The solutions depend on relationships.
Pharmacological fixes may not be as important as approaches based on our ongoing presence in the lives of anger addicts.
Because there are always courageous people, there’s always hope. In reviewing current literature about anger addiction, I’ve found the following ideas about how we might be able to diminish anger addiction:
What to avoid
Some therapists suggest that seemingly helpful treatments may actually be triggers—the initial impetus or permission for addictive behaviors. Some ineffective approaches: condemnation; reciprocal anger; over-intellectualizing; punishment; isolation/deprivation; quick-cures; guilt/shame; acquiescence to violence of any kind. In each case, these actions can create, allow or reinforce resistance to changed behaviors.
What to try
Treatment regimes, techniques or mindsets that seem to have promise include: changing lifestyle contexts or settings; showing patience; removing recognizable triggers (e.g., social media); substituting other enjoyable pleasures; rewarding positive changes; modeling expected behaviors; strengthening our relationship with an addict and deepening that person’s spiritual core.
A summarizing principle
Positive personal relationships can gradually decrease the amount of anger in an addict’s life. Those addicted to anger still need others’ trust, love, honesty, respect and humor. The values and virtues that bond people to each other remain necessary to the addict’s well-being.
A hopeful observation
Some paths to helping anger addicts seem possible because they rest on ways of thinking and acting that most of us already know well. That’s why we can see ourselves as courageous, capable and powerful healers for those who want to escape the destructive influence of anger in their lives.
There is hope….
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