A few years ago Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler made history with another great movie: Anger Management. In that movie Mr. Nicholson plays the part of an odd therapist who helps people with anger problems. He explains to his protagonist client played by Adam Sandler that anger is not just something you experience episodically, but an illness that one may or may not have. In fact the movie compares anger to diabetes.
There is no doubt that anger serves an evolutionary purpose by boosting strength through what has come to be known as the fight or flight response. In extreme situations of danger or injustice, anger can get one to act in adaptive ways that lead to survival.
The utility, or perhaps the unavoidability of this type of episodic anger is well recognized both in therapy and in the legal system. In the therapeutic context you may hear terms such as justified anger or situational anger. In the legal context there are instances where temporary insanity by virtue of presumably unavoidable anger leads to crimes that are met with reduced or attenuated sentences. These situations are, however, rare.
The most common consequence of anger is that represented in the movie, where a person simply “has anger” as in an illness. While the explosive type of anger we are all familiar with makes the “diagnosis” of anger obvious, the much more insidious, systemic anger experienced by most people leads to profound loss of quality of life.
During our many years of therapy, we have identified three types of situations presented by clients that can be explained by the presence of systemic anger. More importantly, we have observed that when systemic anger is resolved, the original situation for which the client came in is also resolved.
The three types of situations involve a client who:
A common suggestion in our metaphysics classes is that you contemplate your life deeply and ask yourself whether one or more of the above applies to you. If you identify at least one of them, consider that some anger may linger within you. Addressing that anger and healing it completely will most definitely improve the quality of your life.
Dr. Flavio Ballerini
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