May 17, 2009
Curb that RAGE
If you blow up easily over small things and are always angry, seek help, experts say
By Cheryl Tan
It is not just violent people who lash out physically who need anger management counselling. Those who bottle up their feelings may need help too.
Experts say these seemingly non-violent people allow resentment to build until eventually it is too much and they explode.
'Help is needed if excessive anger becomes a constant and if there is a tendency to frequently blow up over small things,' says Eagles Mediation and Counselling Centre (EMCC) therapist Jessie Koh.
She adds that venting anger in public 'without a care or respect for people around you' is also a sign that you need help.
Just like local football player Noh Alam Shah, 28, who was given the red card and slapped with a seven- month worldwide ban for violent conduct on the field during an S-League match last week.
The fiery Tampines Rovers striker, who was supposed to be undergoing anger management treatment for his bad temper, elbowed England-born Singapore Armed Forces FC defender Daniel Bennett as they fought for a high ball in the last 10 minutes of the game.
And it was not the first time Alam Shah was involved in a field brawl either.
He kneed Bennett on the head during a match in 2007 and was sent off the pitch during a game in 2003 for abusing an assistant referee.
Such aggressive behaviour might be the cause of a more 'short-fused or hot-headed temperament', said Changi General Hospital clinical psychologist Constance Png.
'These people are more easily provoked and can become more easily aggressive than others,' she added. But apart from character and personality influences, family background may play a role too.
Ms Png said people with anger problems may be from 'families that are disruptive, hostile and not skilled at communicating emotions'.
As for learning to control explosive natures, whoever suggested taking deep breaths to calm down knew what he was talking about.
Simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and learning how to ease muscle tension are taught during counselling sessions.
Clients are also helped to identify triggers that escalate their anger and taught how to express their irritation to the other party calmly and constructively.
The negative stigma of seeking help for anger management seems to be waning too.
Ms Koh said people have been more forthcoming about seeking treatment in the last two years.
She used to see only three patients in a year when she started her practice in 2001 but now has nearly five patients a month.
Each session costs between $100 and $160 and lasts between an hour and 1 1/2 hours.
A 28-year-old manager who declined to be named said he decided to seek help after he felt that his anger was getting out of control.
The man described his frequent tantrums as times when he would get so blinded by anger that he would pound on the bed or tables. The last straw, he recounted, was when he kicked one of his girlfriend's cats because it hissed and scratched him while he was bathing it.
That was when his girlfriend suggested that he seek help. After four sessions of counselling, he found that he got angry easily when he was hungry, tired or if someone invaded his personal space.
He now exercises regularly, gets enough rest and keeps snacks on hand to curb tiredness and hunger.
He also lets his girlfriend know when not to bother him if he is not his usual cheery self.
He said: 'I used to blow up at my girlfriend and close friends easily. But now I know my outbursts affect them emotionally as well.'
Apart from treating individuals, Eagles Mediation and Counselling Centre also organises anger management courses for companies.
Their client, SingHealth Polyclinics, has organised four anger management training sessions for close to 100 staff since December last year.
Apart from helping their employees deal with personal issues, the course is also meant to improve patient service.
Clinical and corporate services director Dr Adrian Ee said: 'We hope to train our staff to better understand anger as an emotion and to use the knowledge to better handle angry patients.'
Rich or poor, anyone can lose it. It is just that if you are famous, your angry outburst can end up in the news. Here are some celebrities caught in the anger trap.
Noh Alam Shah
Local football player
2003: Abused an assistant referee during an S-League game against Woodlands Wellington. Was later counselled by a mental-skills trainer from the Singapore Sports Council.
2001: Given the red card for taking part in a mass brawl in a World Cup qualifier after the Lions lost 1-2 to Bahrain. He was banned for six matches and fined $4,800.
2008: The husband of Faye Wong slapped a member of the paparazzi after his pleas to stop taking pictures of their two-year-old daughter, Li Yan, were ignored.
2009: Unleashed a fury of expletives at the crew on the Terminator film set after a cinematographer walked into his line of sight - a film-set no-no.
2008: Allegedly pushed and shoved his mother and sister at the London Dorchester Hotel.
American R&B star
2009: Allegedly beat up singer and then girlfriend Rihanna during a spat.
2008: Assaulted two police officers and verbally abused a flight captain after she lost her temper on a Los Angeles-bound British Airways flight when she heard someone call her a 'Golliwog supermodel', after the black ragdoll in children stories.
2006: Allegedly assaulted her Romanian maid when she could not find a pair of Stella McCartney jeans.