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Anger and Aggression

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Anger and Aggression Works Cited Not Included The emotion of anger and the behaviour of aggression can be easily
misunderstood. Anger is a highly speculative issue as psychologists
and philosophers have been debating the origins and causes of it for
centuries. It seems to have become more important to find a cure or
treatment for anger as violent crimes are rapidly increasing
(Grieger,1982).

The many social, emotional and physiological problems anger can cause
are countless. There are many different theories and treatments
devised in an attempt to eradicate, or at the very least, lessen the
grip anger and anger related crimes have on our society. One of the
most well known is cognitive behavioural therapy. It is interesting to
discover the psychological concepts underlying cognitive behavioural
therapy and other anger management treatments and determine how they
can assist in the prevention of aggression and violence. The more
educated we become as a body of people, the better equipped we will
become at maintaining angry violent crimes in our society.

Anger can be described as a strong feeling of displeasure or hostility
that can lead to hostile or destructive behaviour otherwise known as
aggression (Reber & Reber, 2001). Because anger is seen as such a
disparaging emotion, it is imperative for psychologists to understand
and possibly treat it’s effects and causes. Anger and aggression can
create more problems than what one might think, for example, cardio
vascular disease and mental disorders have been strongly linked to
people who have high levels of anger (Howells, 1998). It has also been
known to have unfortunate effects on people close to someone who has
an aggression problem. Domestic violence and violent crimes against
children have shown to have devastating consequences on the individual
involved and the community. Homicide and anger related crimes are on
the increase with no evidence of improving (Hodge, 1997). This is why
it is important to identify the treatment that is most effective in
reducing the amount of crimes relating to anger and aggression in our
society.

There are many different theories and techniques used to treat anger,
but it depends on where the anger originates from and what the
triggers are. Moyer (as cited in Averill, 1982) believes that anger
stems from our animal ancestors and can be passed on genetically
implying that anger is a biological process. He also claims that anger
can only be treated with a biological approach; by removing certain
genes and parts of the brain that are believed to be linked with anger
and aggression. His theories have little support from the
psychological community as treatments are poorly documented and have
insufficient success rates (Averill, 1982).

The pioneer of the clinical or environmental approach to anger and
aggression is Raymond Novaco (1975). He believes that anger is
triggered by environmental stimuli such as temperature, relationship
problems or physiological complaints, and can be treated effectively
with cognitive behavioural therapy. This is one of the most popular
theories as there have been marked improvements in anger and
aggression levels after treatment in many studies (Watt & Howells,
1998).

Cognitive behavioural therapy is the psychological approach to anger
based on scientific principals. It is where the client and therapist
work together to identify and understand what triggers their anger in
terms of the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviour
(Hazaleus, 1986). The therapist and client then work together to
create a treatment plan based on the clients individual problem with
anger.

Many different studies have been conducted to evaluate the
effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy. A study conducted with
violent offenders followed Novaco’s (1975) theory of anger. The main
focus of the study was on the individuals input into their treatment.
Participants were trained to identify their own anger provoking
situations and to deal with them appropriately, as previously
established. Social skills’ training was then introduced so the
participants could address the changes in their reactions to anger
provoking situations. This particular study found a significant
decrease in the participants reaction to situations that previously
caused an aggressive response (Rokach, 1987).

Similar findings with university students who volunteered for anger
management treatment have also been discovered, although the problem
with these types of studies is the findings don’t depict the offender
populations who have serious behavioural problems. Often these types
of offenders are coerced into treatment and do not perceive themselves
as having a problem (Watt & Howells, 1998).

In another study, cognitive–relaxation training was provided to 36
inmates that were identified as having aggression problems. Treatment
was in a group format of six session lasting one and a half hours
(McDougall, 1991). A significant decline in the groups overall
destructive behaviour was noted, but this does not necessarily
indicate improvements in angry or aggressive behaviour.

Some of these studies can also be misleading, as incarcerated
participants tend to have long histories of anger and violent
behaviour which has been functional for dealing with aversive
situations in the short term. Furthermore, cognitive behavioural
therapy is likely to be ineffective for offenders whose violent
behaviour is unrelated to anger arousal (Hazaleus, 1986). It seems
that pre-treatment assessment for trait anger may be important to
identify which offenders will benefit most from treatment programmes.

This suggests that although cognitive behavioural therapy is effective
in treating anger, more research and study needs to take place in
perfecting the technique.

As well as behavioural therapy, there are also many different
treatments and theories available for managing anger.

The concept of catharsis, or talking it out, has shown to have
different effects on an angry person. This is the belief that venting
your anger to a sympathetic person can be quite therapeutic. A study
was conducted with employees of a company that had recently downsized
and were forced to fire a majority of their workers. Psychologists
encouraged separate groups of people to vent their anger out at
different things, eg, the company supervisors, the company itself or
the individual. A report later concluded that ‘ventilation’ of the
anger did not act as a catharsis in any way, it actually caused the
workers to increase their angry thoughts and towards the target they
had discussed with the psychologist (Tavris, 1989). This shows in this
case that the act of pinpointing the cause of anger causes emotional
arousal which in turn can cause increased anger towards the situation.
One the other hand, some people find it extremely beneficial to vent
their anger as they believe that it can lead to practical solutions to
their issues. These findings suggest that venting is not appropriate
for all types of people and can prove harmful in certain situations.

Intervention has shown to be an important factor in stopping violent
offenders early on to avoid more severe cases in the future.
Intervention strategies are quite similar to cognitive behavioral
therapy but the focus is more upon changing the dysfunctional schemas
associated with anger and violence rather than the triggering events
(Howells, 1998). Multiple studies of these intervention strategies
found a support for effectiveness in treating individuals who are high
in trait anger (Howells, 1998). By strengthening the individuals
commitment to change, the greater the chance they wont re-offend.
There are still certain problems associated with the intervention
theory. For intervention to be most effective, they have to be
conducted as early as possible and often the signs of high trait anger
are not easily visible until later on in adulthood.

All of these treatments, theories and strategies mentioned can help
assist in the treatment of anger, but it is imperative that each case
is treated individually to avoid an oversimplification of the problems
anger and aggression can cause.

It seems obvious that anger and aggression are a major problem for our
society. Anger related crimes are on the increase and are close to
becoming uncontrollable. There are many professionals constantly
reevaluating the effectiveness of anger management treatment such as
cognitive behavioral therapy. After numerous studies and the
collection of data, alterations to the treatments are made to ensure
higher success rates in the future. Although psychologists and
therapists are making great strides, anger and aggression are still
proving to be a problem. It seems evident that the key to this problem
lies in the hands of communities and individuals. Early detection and
intervention of persons who possess anger or aggression problems is
perhaps what we need to eradicate the problem before it becomes an
issue. By identifying and controlling these early warning signs, it
might just be possible to eventually gain control over a harmful and
reproachful emotion.

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