Anger management: Thermometer and Thermostat

True anger management demands that we recognize our emotions and consciously decide how we will act on those emotions. Emotions are fascinating because they are a way of communicating with the world, they give us clues about what we love, cherish and the things we have less regard for. Wrapped up in literally thousands of emotions is an emotional language that connects us with the world in meaningful ways. Who wants to be like the character Data on Star Trek–an emotionless being who lives only in the realm of logic? I certainly don’t.

It is emotions that bring the world to life, like the thermometer, they give us information regarding our reactions to life’s occurrences. Emotions have their own intelligence and are fascinating assisting humans in shaping their perception of the world. However, perceptions need to be analyzed first before making decisions. In the same way that one may feel warm and may check the thermometer to provide information on the temperature; emotions are also informational but we are in charge and responsible for our actions no matter what our emotions are.

In the indoor environment, if an individual perceives that the temperate is to hot or too cold the thermostat is a wonderful device that can be used to regulate the temperature to the appropriate level. This device gives us the control to determine if what we perceive physically is comfortable or uncomfortable. It is the same in the management of anger. When we perceive the our emotions  it is individual’s responsibility to act as the thermostat does and regulate their emotions in a manner that does not violate the rights of others or cause self harm.

In the same way that being able to make the decision to change the position of the thermostat demands full awareness of the temperature I encourage clients who attend my anger management classes to become more aware of their own emotions by developing emotional literacy. This literacy is a first step to emotional intelligence and true anger management. The opposite is an individual who acts mindlessly on their feelings without any considerations that emotions are signals and not commands. Are your emotions informational or directives?

Carlos Todd, PhD

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