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Dr. Cotterel is a Clinical Psychologist and a Founding Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. He came up with a model for managing anger, influenced by the idea that anger is a result of a gap between expectations and reality.

The initial step to managing anger is to recognise that we have a choice over our reactions to certain situations. This could be done by conducting a cost benefit analysis of anger, which means looking at the disadvantages and advantages of letting go of the anger or holding on to it. For example, it could look like this:


Advantages of anger Advantages of control
  • Motivates me.
  • Allows me to stand up for myself.
  • Helps me to communicate with others.
  • I get to move on instead of dwelling on it.
  • I don’t hold a grudge.
  • It can contribute to my happiness.
Disadvantages of anger  Disadvantages of control
  • It can be harmful.
  • It is tiring.
  • It can hurt me or others.
  • It doesn’t solve the problem.
  • People can take advantage of me.
  • Others won’t know what irritates me.
  • I would feel like I didn’t give myself justice.



7 Steps For Anger Management



Step 1: Recognize that a ‘should’ rule has been broken


A ‘should’ rule is a rule or expectation that we have set for ourselves and others and dictates how we experience and interact with the world. These rules can be very helpful in achieving our goals if they are flexible and fit with our values.

However, we all have rules that we have set for ourselves that can be rigid and often unrealistic such as ‘I should always perform well’ or ‘if my friends don’t always stand up for me, then it means they don’t respect me’. This often leads to strong feelings such as anxiety, disappointment, frustration, anger or depression.

Once we accept that a ‘should’ rule has been broken, we can make a choice that goes in the direction of our values. Indeed, anger allows us to recognize important values for us, such as respect, cooperation, communication or understanding. We can then act based on those values by asking ourselves the following question: What would be a productive way of addressing the problem, which will allow me to get what I want in the long term?


Step 2: Identify what hurts


The second step requires exploring what really hurts when the rule is broken. For example, we may feel powerless or disappointed in ourselves or others.

At this point, we can examine the evidence that confirm or disconfirm the beliefs we have about ourselves, the world, or others such as ‘people are insensitive’ or ‘I am powerless and can’t change how others act’. For example, we can explore the latter by thinking about the reasons why we feel responsible for others’ behaviors and what it would mean to let go of this belief.


Step 3: Responding to the hot thoughts


The third step is responding to the hot reactive thought with a more reflective one such as replacing: ‘he is belittling me’ with ‘he thinks he is helping me’.


Step 4: Work with the anger


The fourth step is about calming anger arousal through relaxation and mindfulness practices, while also reframing anger and recognizing its potential as a source of energy for positive problem-solving. Techniques such as listening to music, distancing oneself from the anger stimuli, exercising, showering, or mindfulness exercises are recommended to prevent anger from escalating into aggression. Personalizing these strategies and maintaining a reference list facilitates effective anger management for the future.


Step 5: Moral disengagement


It is important to explore the beliefs that can turn anger into aggression. We can always find an excuse or a rationalization that could justify destructive and aggressive acts. At this point, it is helpful to return for the cost benefit analysis and examine the negative consequences of acting on those thoughts.


Step 6: Not giving in to the aggression


This step builds upon the previous one by focusing on redirecting aggressive behaviour. It involves empathizing with those who trigger our anger, understanding the purpose behind their actions, and considering their perspective. While challenging, achieving this step can reduce anger from both parties and enhance the chances of being heard and having constructive conversations.


Step 7: Outcome


Dr. Cotterell’s final step aims to alleviate resentment and guilt. It underscores that anger is not a setback but an opportunity for growth. Each successful management of anger represents progress, making it easier to handle in the future.


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Dr Laura Eid

Dr Laura Eid is a Clinical Psychologist at The Oak Tree Practice. Her qualifications include Psychology BA at McGill University in Montreal and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London.