Unmet Needs and Anger Management

Posted on: May 10, 2007

  Unmet Needs and Anger Management  

I was working with couple the other day and the discussion turned to the issue of unmet expectations. As they discussed how anger arose in their marriage, it appeared that for them the source of their conflict was not communicating expectations.  This got me to thinking about the role of expectations in anger management.

If one accepts the prevailing idea that anger is a secondary emotion that is 100 percent driven by emotions like fear, disappointment and confusion, it will be easy to see how not being aware of our own expectations or not communication these expectations to significant persons in our lives, may play a major role in anger outbursts.

 Let’s take a simple example. As a young girl, Mary is used to having huge celebrations at every birthday. In her first year of marriage her husband buys her a card and says happy birthday day-THAT’S IT. Mary in an automatic reaction flips out on Bill, her husband accusing him of not taking her birthday seriously. An argument ensues which leaves both Bill and Mary at the opposite edges of their king size bed.  This simple example illustrates a complex problem. Mary’s expectation was that she would have been thrown a huge surprise party—especially in her first year of marriage.  She expressed rage but at the core of this was disappointment. Unfortunately she was not able to truly communicate this need to Bill in an appropriate manner. If Mary was clear about her expectations, at the very least she would have been able to communicate this to Bill and they would have been able to reach a compromise on how to celebrate birthdays.  

 Well designed anger management should take expectations into account. So many times an individual’s expectations are not met and what follows is disappointment, sadness followed by anger and aggression as apposed to assertive communication and constructive dialogue.

The Anderson and Anderson anger management model is designed to not only address anger management but stress management, communication skills and emotional intelligence which is where the issue of expectations can be address.  To find a certified provider in your area who can help address anger management challenges visit . 

 Carlos Todd, LPC, NCC, CAMF 

President of the American Association of Anger Management Providers 

Carlos Todd is an Anderson and Anderson Anger management provider in North Carolina


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