The Anger Management Workbook is not for sissies. It is a complete manual to help you evaluate whether or not you have an anger problem — and then, to learn about different types of anger and how they surface, ways to analyze one’s own anger experiences, and methods to bring about change to stop them. It is a long book, but that’s because it contains many useful worksheets. These help you keep track of anger episodes and how they affect you, provide various assessments, assist with planning for discussions of potentially volatile topics, and more.
The author, W. Robert Nay, has written two other books dedicated to assisting with anger management: Taking Charge of Anger and Overcoming Anger in Your Relationship. He is a clinical psychologist in private practice as well as an academician. The book is one in the Guilford Self-Help Workbook Series.
In the introduction, Nay asks, “Why did you pick up this workbook?” It is this type of direct question Nay poses again and again to push the reader toward honest assessment and reflection. Objectivity and honesty about our behavior is critical to our acceptance of a need for change. This book gives us a chance through in-depth questions we must answer in a forthright to make the process effective.
Nay first educates the reader about the basics of anger. There are biological factors, such as stress or lack of sleep, that can make us more susceptible. We are also taught about how we think about or process our anger. What were our expectations from past experiences that were not met and caused us to respond so strongly?
Nay then explains the various ways in which we express the emotion. Some of these are quite visible and identifiable; others are more passive. And then there are degrees of each. In most chapters there are assessment worksheets and planning worksheets. One of the benefits of writing our thoughts down is that it makes us more likely to process and remember them. So, while the worksheets can seem laborious at times, they have a purpose. And in any case, racing through the book will likely reduce its impact.
Armed with self-evaluation information discovered from going through the early chapters, we move on to the “work” part of the book. There are multiple chapters with painstaking detail to help us learn to change. Some topic headings include communication, controlling anger, and problem-solving.
The STOP method is also explained, although a bit poorly. The acronym stands for Stop; Thinking about one’s cognitive distortions, Objective replacement (of the distorted ideas); and Planning how one needs to feel and act in the future. Because Nay does not do a good job explaining it, and because the explanations are spread out over multiple chapters, the method didn’t make much of an impression on me. It seems that Nay started with the word STOP and then developed words that happened to fit with those letters and the topic.
In fact, the STOP method confused me because each letter in the acronym actually stands for multiple things. For example, the “S” actually means stop-sit-breathe. Meanwhile, “T” is for think, although it really refers to three criteria about self-talk.
Still, there are several very useful features of Nay’s book. As he explains, some anger episodes can arise because a person directs anger toward us and we must choose how to react. Before using this workbook, one might have helped such an interaction escalate by responding angrily. The book gives us ideas on how to instead diffuse. It closes with tips on how to respond to these confrontations in ways that take out the volatility and allow us to avoid major situations.
In short, Nay helps readers determine what is acceptable anger and what is not. He educates us about the various types of anger and how to recognize their origins. He provides solutions for diffusing anger in potential difficult situations — and, again, offers a multitude of very helpful worksheets to accomplish all these.
So, who needs an anger management workbook? Clearly, those with anger problems that affect relationships at home, at work, or in social settings can benefit from the wake-up call and tools that Nay provides.
Of course, Nay suggests counseling for more serious issues, but posits that the workbook and honest introspection can help one make significant, lasting improvement. For those with only an occasional flare-up, it may be helpful to learn about environmental, biological, and/or personal factors that contribute. And for a reader who can admit that anger has affected his relationships, this book, despite its flaws, is worth considering.
The Anger Management Workbook: Use the STOP Method to Replace Destructive Responses with Constructive Behavior
The Guilford Press, July 2014
Paperback, 286 pages