Dr. Ray's Apt Advice for Managing Anger

BOOK PICK: EWTN radio and TV host and Register columnist gives advice on keeping cool and calming anger in Fighting Mad: Practical Solutions for Conquering Anger.

Editor's Note: Dr. Ray will appear on EWTN's Bookmark on Nov. 9 at 9:30am and 11:30pm Eastern.



Practical Solutions for Conquering Anger

By Dr. Ray Guarendi

Servant Books, 2013

160 pages, $15.99

To order: franciscanmedia.org


Anger can get the better of us. It can explode or be stifled, motivate or damage, but one way or another, it's going to happen. Harnessing it is the key, for failure to do so has consequences.

“Managing anger is best viewed as a choice,” Dr. Ray Guarendi writes in Fighting Mad: Practical Solutions for Conquering Anger.

He often helps people deal with anger as a clinical psychologist, host of EWTN's radio program The Doctor Is In and on the EWTN TV show Living Right With Dr. Ray. His book looks at the many faces of anger and makes a convincing case that anger really can be managed. 

As a psychologist, Guarendi had his share of nature vs. nurture theories in graduate school, but as he moved further into the practice of therapy and became the father of 10, he concluded that nature had not been given its due.

“It's not all in the genes, but enough of it is,” he writes. Although we are not blank slates at birth, Guarendi contends that, in spite of the intricate dance among genes and circumstances, disposition is not destiny, because, ultimately, free will reigns supreme. 

By disseminating this thing called anger, Guarendi shows that much of it is predictable, preventable, controllable; and when all else fails, recoverable. 

According to him, anger is two-faced, slow or rampaging, wordless or wordy, but there are emotional triggers that can be managed. For instance, a slow boil need not bubble over once one recognizes a pattern. “If you find yourself in a stew, don't ask, 'What are others doing to me to cause this?'” he writes. “Ask, 'What am I doing to me?'”

Gaurendi says that, often, it is the circumstances that shape conduct. This leads to the rule of emotional proximity: Those closest to us can rile us the most. 

“It's a matter of the more communication, the more chances for miscommunication,” he writes. Some people bring out the best in us, while others the worst; so, knowing that, Guarendi says that we need not react to behavior that should be expected, nor should we take it personally.

In the parent/child relationship, it is a common cycle for kids not to respond until parents lose their cool. Rather than follow the pattern of repeating requests that are ignored until the parent ramps it up with anger, it can be dealt with before the boiling point. This also prevents future anger by setting a new pattern.

Often, yielding to anger seems warranted, even desirable at times, yet Guarendi takes the high road, explaining that because something is a right doesn't make it right. Instead, he states that turning the other cheek and forgiveness are not just biblical; as one survey concluded, doing so can lead to greater contentment.

Guarendi does not believe that venting anger is either necessary or good. Instead, he suggests a moment of silence for regaining control, thereby avoiding embarrassment and regret. In cases where unexpressed feelings well up, rather than erupting with blistering words (with the odds being zero to none of being accepted), he suggests a more effective route of calm, diplomatic communication.  

Readers are shown scenarios where anger seems to be the logical response, then they are offered better ways to process such events to avoid or reduce anger.

Guarendi puts the responsibility on readers' shoulders and challenges them not to let others control their emotions. For instance, by considering that one cause for anger is frustration defined by the difference between the way we want things to be and the way they are, one can reduce anger by lowering expectations to match reality.

Anger is not entirely a bad thing either, according to him. If reined in, he says it can lead to good by providing resolve, propelling one to accomplishments and overriding other negative emotions, such as fear and anxiety. “The key to using anger for benefit and not detriment is to moderate it by the will,” he writes. 

“Allow just enough pressure to provide motivation and not enough to overwhelm self-control.”

Is it ever possible to free oneself of anger altogether? Unlikely. But Guarendi suggests using it like a spice: If not overused, it can add flavor to your message.

“Anger must answer to us, not us to it.”


Patti Armstrong writes from North Dakota.