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Handling Anger Management Relapses

Harry Mills, Ph.D.

While you are working to overcome your anger problem, you are likely to experience times when you relapse back into earlier anger habits and find yourself becoming inappropriately angry, aggressive and beligerent. If you do experience a relapse in your behavior, the most important thing you can do is to REFUSE to give up your gains.

Don't let a lapse turn into an excuse for quiting your anger program, or forgetting all you have learned. Instead, treat a relapse as a learning experience. Examine your lapse carefully after it is over and try to learn how it occurred, and what part of your anger plan was insufficient to prevent that lapse. Use the information you gain from this analysis to fix your anger management program so it will work better for next time.

For instance, if you encountered an anger trigger, and your strategies for handling that trigger successfully (without blowing up) didn't work, make note of that. Think about what you could do differently next time so that if you encounter that anger trigger again, you won't lapse again. If some new thing has succeeded in triggering your anger, it is time to add that new thing to your list of triggers, and to include it into your anger plan and contract. Thinking out in advance how you can anticipate and avoid problems helps you to prevent them from occurring. Remember, you have much to lose by giving up your anger program, and much to gain by continuing it. Don’t give up!