Talk About Anger

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Anger is one of the "basic" emotions[1] that some researchers suggest are universal. The good news is that anger is normal, healthy and occurs in a variety of situations. The bad news is that unmanaged anger can become a problem and is the root of many acts of physical and emotional violence. Linked with self-esteem[2], stress[3], and sadness[4], anger is also a common symptom of underlying issues such as depression and anxiety.

Talking about anger in open and productive ways with children and youth is helpful and a key part of developing healthy anger management. The following 10 questions can be used to explore anger in:

  • an individual conversation with a child

  • a circle[5] with a group of children 

  • journal prompts for individual writing or art.

  1. What is anger? (use all five senses to describe it)

  2. How can you tell if someone is angry? (what are the cues and clues)

  3. When is anger a good thing? When is anger a bad thing?

  4. What kinds of things make people angry?

  5. What makes you angry?

  6. What do you usually do when you are angry?

  7. What is the best thing you ever did when you were angry? Why was it a good thing?

  8. What would it be like if nobody got angry?

  9. Talk about a time you dealt with your anger (at home/in school) in a way that everybody won?

  10. How could you help other people deal with anger (at home/in school) so everybody wins?  Talk about a time when you did this.

Paul Ekman, known for his research on facial expressions and scientific advise on the popular tv show Lie to Me, first identified six basic emotions including:

  1. anger,
  2. disgust,
  3. sadness,
  4. happiness,
  5. fear and
  6. surprise.

Since the original research was published, he has added amusement, contempt, contentment, embarrassment, excitment, guilt, pride, relief, satisfaction, sensory pleasure and shame to the list. He argues that these emotions are marked by distinctive changes in the face, voice and physiological processes such as heart rate. 

A study looking at anger styles found that those with lower self-esteem surpressed their anger because they believed that they had no one to talk to. Internalizing anger is often results in social withdrawl.

"The inability to effectively manage chronic stress and negative emotions can instill a sense of hopelessness in children, which has in turn been linked to impulsive, destructive and socially inappropriate behaviors," as cited in a study on the impact of emotional self-management skills with stress in middle school children.

In a study of 385 urban youth, those with an inability to cope with sadness were more likely to engage in relational aggression. 

Circle Sharing can encourage students to feel secure and calm.  It encourages healthy relationships amongst youth in their classrooms and schools.