Anger Management: A Cognitive Behavioral Approach > Chapter 5 - Anger Management

How To Change the Cycle

Session 4

Instructions to Group Leaders

This session presents the aggression cycle and introduces progressive muscle relaxation. As in the previous two sessions, begin with the Check-In Procedure. Then present the threephase aggression cycle, which consists of escalation, explosion, and postexplosion. It serves as a framework that incorporates the concepts of the anger meter, cues to anger, and the anger control plan.

Outline of Session 4

  • Instructions to Group Leaders
  • Check-In Procedure
  • Suggested Remarks
  • – The Aggression Cycle
    – Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Homework Assignment

End the session by presenting a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that has been effective in reducing anger levels. An alternative to the deep-breathing exercise introduced in last week’s session, it is straightforward and easy to learn.

Check-In Procedure

Ask group members to report the highest level of anger they reached on the anger meter during the past week. Make sure they reserve the number 10 for situations where they lost control of their anger and experienced negative consequences. Ask them to describe the anger-provoking event that led to their highest level of anger. Help them identify the cues that occurred in response to the anger-provoking event, and help them classify those cues into the four cue categories. Include, as part of the Check-In Procedure, a followup on the homework assignment from the previous week’s session. Ask participants to report on the specific anger management strategies listed, thus far, on their anger control plans. In addition, inquire whether they practiced the deep-breathing exercise that was introduced in last week’s session.

Suggested Remarks

(Use the following blocked or put this in your own words.)

The Aggression Cycle

In the last three sessions, we reviewed the anger meter, cues to anger, and the anger control plan; in this session, the framework for integrating these anger management concepts is presented. This framework is the aggression cycle.

[Question #17. A framework that incorporates the concepts of the anger meter, cues to anger, and the anger control plan is:]

From an anger management perspective, an episode of anger can be viewed as consisting of three phases: escalation, explosion, and postexplosion. Together, they make up the aggression cycle. In this process, the escalation phase is characterized by cues that indicate anger is building. As stated in session 2, these cues can be physical, behavioral, emotional, or cognitive (thoughts). As you may recall, cues are warning signs, or responses, to anger-provoking events. Events, on the other hand, are situations that occur every day that may lead to escalations of anger if effective anger management strategies are not used. Red-flag events are types of situations that are unique to you and that you are especially sensitive to because of past events. These events can involve internal processes (e.g., thinking about situations that were anger provoking in the past) or external processes (e.g., experiencing real-life, anger-provoking situations in the here and now).

[Question #18. The phases of an episode of anger can be viewed as consisting of :]
[Question #19. Which phase is characterized by cues that indicate anger is building:]

If the escalation phase is allowed to continue, the explosion phase will follow. The explosion phase is marked by an uncontrollable discharge of anger displayed as verbal or physical aggression. This discharge, in turn, leads to negative consequences; it is synonymous with the number 10 on the anger meter.

[Question #20. Which point in anger meter corresponds to the explosion phase of the aggression cycle :]

The final stage of the aggression cycle is the postexplosion phase. It is characterized by negative consequences resulting from the verbal or physical aggression displayed during the explosion phase. These consequences may include going to jail, making restitution, being terminated from a job or discharged from a drug treatment or social service program, losing family and loved ones, or feelings of guilt, shame, and regret.

The intensity, frequency, and duration of anger in the aggression cycle varies among individuals. For example, one person’s anger may escalate rapidly after a provocative event and, within just a few minutes, reach the explosion phase. Another person’s anger may escalate slowly but steadily over several hours before reaching the explosion phase. Similarly, one person may experience more episodes of anger and progress through the aggression cycle more often than the other. However, both individuals, despite differences in how quickly their anger escalates and how frequently they experience anger, will undergo all three phases of the aggression cycle.

The intensity of these individuals’ anger also may differ. One person may engage in more violent behavior than the other in the explosion phase. For example, he or she may use weapons or assault someone. The other person may express his or her anger during the explosion phase by shouting at or threatening other people.Regardless of these individual differences, the explosion phase is synonymous with losing control and becoming verbally or physically aggressive.

Notice that the escalation and explosion phases of the aggression cycle correspond to the levels on the anger meter. The points below 10 on the anger meter represent the escalation phase, the building up of anger. The explosion phase, on the other hand, corresponds to 10 on the anger meter. Again 10 on the anger meter is the point at which one loses control and expresses anger through verbal or physical aggression that leads to negative consequences.

One of the primary objectives of anger management treatment is to keep from reaching the explosion phase. This is accomplished by using the anger meter to monitor changes in your anger, attending to the cues or warning signs that indicate anger is building, and employing the appropriate strategies from your anger control plans to stop the escalation of anger. If the explosion phase is prevented from occurring, the postexplosion phase will not occur, and the aggression cycle will be broken. If you use your anger control plans effectively, your anger should ideally reach between a 1 and a 9 on the anger meter. This is a reasonable goal to aim for. By preventing the explosion phase (10), you will not experience the negative consequences of the postexplosion phase, and you will break the cycle of aggression.

Note to Group Leader: Lead a Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercise

(Use this blocked or put this in your own words.)

Last week you practiced deep-breathing as a relaxation technique. Today I will introduce progressive muscle relaxation. Start by getting comfortable in your chairs. Close your eyes if you like. Take a moment to really settle in. Now, as you did last week, begin to focus on your breathing. Take a deep breath. Hold it for a second. Now exhale fully and completely. Again, take a deep breath. Fill your lungs and chest. Now release and exhale slowly. Again, one more time, inhale slowly, hold, and release.

Now, while you continue to breathe deeply and fully, bring your awareness to your hands. Clench your fists very tightly. Hold that tension. Now relax your fists, letting your fingers unfold and letting your hands completely relax. Again, clench your fists tightly. Hold and release the tension. Imagine all the tension being released from your hands down to your fingertips. Notice the difference between the tension and complete relaxation.

Now bring your awareness to your arms. Curl your arms as if you are doing a bicep curl. Tense your fists, forearms, and biceps. Hold the tension and release it. Let the tension in your arms unfold and your hands float back to your thighs. Feel the tension drain out of your arms. Again, curl your arms to tighten your biceps. Notice the tension, hold, and release. Let the tension flow out of your arms. Replace it with deep muscle relaxation.

Now raise your shoulders toward your ears. Really tense your shoulders. Hold them up for a second. Gently drop your shoulders, and release all the tension. Again, lift your shoulders, hold the tension, and release. Let the tension flow from your shoulders all the way down your arms to your fingers. Notice how different your muscles feel when they are relaxed.

Now bring your awareness to your neck and face. Tense all those muscles by making a face. Tense your neck, jaw, and forehead. Hold the tension, and release. Let the muscles of your neck and jaw relax. Relax all the lines in your forehead. One final time, tense all the muscles in your neck and face, hold, and release. Be aware of your muscles relaxing at the top of your head and around your eyes. Let your eyes relax in their sockets, almost as if they were sinking into the back of your head. Relax your jaw and your throat. Relax all the muscles around your ears. Feel all the tension in your neck muscles release.

Now just sit for a few moments. Scan your body for any tension and release it. Notice how your body feels when your muscles are completely relaxed.

When you are ready, open your eyes. How was that? Did you notice any new sensations? How does your body feel now? How about your state of mind? Do you notice any difference now from when we started?

Homework Assignment

Have group members refer to the participant workbook. During the coming week have them monitor and record their highest level of anger on the anger meter. Ask them to identify the event that made them angry, the cues associated with the anger-provoking event, and the strategies they used to manage their anger in response to the event. Ask them to review the aggression cycle and practice progressive muscle relaxation, preferably once a day, during the coming week. Remind them to continue to develop their anger control plans.

Anger Management: A Cognitive Behavioral Approach > Chapter 5 - Anger Management
Page Last Modified On: April 18, 2015, 11:57 AM