MensLine Australia Changing for Good caught up with Ken Nathan recently, to talk about how we can help people to manage anger. Ken is the Founder and Director of Interventions Plus, who offer counselling, dispute resolution, workshops, seminars and courses for adolescents – including anger and depression management, in addition to treatment programs. Ken, and co-creator Carol Musgrave, developed the award winning RAGE (Re-navigating anger and guilty emotions) program; a six week anger management course for adolescents aged between 11 and 17.
Helping others manage anger – Ken Nathan interview
Changing For Good (C4G): Can you tell us about the RAGE program?
Kenneth Nathan, Interventions Plus (KN): RAGE was written by Carol Musgrave and myself when we were both working as Family Support Workers for Richmond Community Services in 2006. Most of the clients seeking our help were single mothers escaping domestic violence and had kids acting out at home. Schools in the area were also seeking our help to manage angry and violent behaviour by some students. So we created an anger management course to address this gap in community services.
We take a holistic approach to managing anger – looking at different types of anger, the 4T’s anger cycle, healthy expressions of anger, getting through the guilt of anger – as well as relaxation, exercise and diet.
C4G: Can you tell us about the 4T’s anger cycle?
KN: The 4T’s anger cycle stands for, “triggers, thoughts, tantrums and trouble.” It’s illustrated using a racecar track with the 4T’s at every corner showing young people that anger starts with a trigger then moves to negative self-talk (thoughts) and then onto tantrums, which is the explosion of violence before ending with troubles as consequences. This is a cognitive behaviour approach that allows participants to visually see the RAGE cycle and encourage them, using a strengths-based approach, to take a, “pit stop” in expressing their own anger and navigating themselves out of this destructive cycle. Young people have to choose their own pit stops – these are healthy expressions of anger – and are congratulated for it and shown they can control their own anger using this strategy.
There is plenty about this model we can all use to show people the stages that lead to violence, and how they can control their anger before there are consequences. Reward them for making pit stops that navigate them away from trouble. Consequences are also a big part of our model and should be part of your conversations with people too – we need to show them what can happen when anger is not controlled.
C4G: How do anger and guilt interact?
KN: Guilt is a big part of uncontrollable anger. When anger is not kept in check and results in violence, what can follow are feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings are natural but can lead to depression and result in self-destructive behaviours. So in RAGE, we show people that guilt is a natural possible outcome of explosive anger and look at how to express that guilt in healthy ways – as we do for anger.
C4G: What might be some healthy ways to manage anger that we may not have heard about?
KN: There are a myriad of ways to manage anger that include mindfulness or meditation, and simple things like breathing exercises or going for a walk to cool off when triggered, or other distractive activities like drawing or writing, or playing sport. It’s best to explore as many healthy ways as possible, and find what fits you best. Then start practicing so it becomes a habit. One of the best ways to manage anger is to express it in assertiveness. This method allows the person to not lose face, and releases all the negative energy that is stored within the body.
It’s also important to recognise that anger in and of itself is not a negative emotion. Anger is labeled as a negative emotion today and this conveys the thought that one should never get angry. But anger is a normal human emotion, and just needs to be expressed in non-violent healthy ways. It’s important people know this can be done, and learn ways to do it.
MensLine Australia counsellors can provide tools and information to help with anger. MensLine Australia is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call us on 1300 78 99 78 or access free video and online counselling.