Many of my clients come in with anger problems (and even depression is often anger turned inward), so I’ve been doing some research on healthy ways of dealing with anger. While there may be other fine workbooks on anger out there, the two I stumbled across and am very impressed with are The Pathways to Peace Management Workbook by William Fleeman (2003) and The Anger Workbook For Women by Laura J. Petracek (2004).
The Pathways to Peace Anger Management Workbook was developed by William Fleeman based on twelve step programs for addictions. Fleeman has an anger problem of his own (as with other addictions, anger is something you control, not eliminate), and devised this system as a way to overcome his anger addiction. However, these techniques have been “road tested” with a variety of people, and is beyond the “if it worked for me it can work for you” variety of self-help book. It includes some very practical, cognitive based exercises that are simple to follow and apt to be effective. I was very impressed with his technique for controlling memory cues, and find myself wondering if they will also work on triggers for other strong emotions, such as the reactions experienced by people with PTSD. Am toying with reworking some of his exercises to use with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Fleeman has borrowed ideas from other areas, and brought them together in a workbook that is readable and understandable. I’ve used his chapter on being assertive versus being aggressive with clients. Apparently there are also Pathways to Peace anger management groups based on his workbook (much like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous), but when I checked their web site, I could find none in California or Oregon. Fleeman seems to be based on the East Coast, so am guessing they may be more prevalent there.
The second book I found and have been using is The Anger Workbook For Women. Petracek suggests the triggers for women’s anger may be different than those for men (often more relationship oriented). Also, women are often socialized to believe anger is not appropriate, so they stuff it inside (depression) or manifest it in a more passive-aggressive manner, or feel guilt over expressing it outwardly. Women are just as apt to get angry as men, but often don’t even realize it. Petracek has chapters on boundaries, self-esteem, anger and our children, abuse, and the positive functions of anger. I am especially impressed with her chapters on communication and self talk (the latter dealing with cognitive distortions), and have used them to help clients gain better communication skills and awareness of how their thoughts control their emotions.
Both these workbooks are inexpensive, and both can be used without being part of a group or in therapy (though it may help to have someone to talk with while completing some of the exercises). If you suspect you may have a problem with anger, whether it is controlling it or learning to express it in a healthy way, one or both of these books may be of help.