MSI Press, 2017
It could be easily argued the default emotional state for many citizens of the United States over the last year hasn’t so much been outrage as it has been anger. A cursory glance at nearly any social media platform reveals a large and growing contingent of people who never seem to be anything but furious. Their anger comes out in trolling, in needlessly cruel comments, in the willful disregard of others, and in the insistence they’ve somehow been wronged or harmed by nearly everyone and everything around them. It seems that now is the perfect time for a book like Dennis Ortman’s Anger Anonymous, a guide to confronting and overcoming anger in yourself and others.
Many of us, if we think of it as something that needs addressing in ourselves or others, think of anger as an intense but ultimately fleeting emotion. It is an emotion with a profound momentary impact but rarely anything lasting or harmful in the long term. However, anger is something that can eat away at a person and poison all their relationships. What Ortman works to show us is just how anger negatively manifests and how we attempt to manage it–usually poorly.
Ortman applies the now common and well-accepted methodology of Alcoholics Anonymous to suss out and mitigate our anger addiction, “Alcoholics Anonymous offers many slogans for recovery that provoke an alternative consciousness and way of living. They affirm that you can change your life by changing your thinking.” The first step is a self-diagnostic. He asks us to ask of ourselves:
- Do you often feel overwhelmed by your aggressive impulses and unable to control your temper?
- Do you consider your anger excessive, even crippling at times?
- Do you feel a secret pleasure in the sense of power your anger gives you?
- Does your preoccupation with the unfairness of life and being wronged interfere with your happiness?
- Does your need for power and control seem excessive, interfering with your relationships?
- Has your life become unmanageable because of your anger?
- Do you feel hopeless about finding a cure for your anger?
If the answer to any of this questions is a ‘yes,’ then we can conclude we are in the grip of not just an anger management problem but an addiction. Ortman’s variation on AA’s 12 Steps gives us a valuable tool towards improved emotional and physical health.
Using a combination of case study stories to illustrate his points and offer us clear diagnosis, pragmatic practices, and, of course, a variety of mindful measures, Ortman patiently takes readers through not just causes but potential cures. Anger isn’t unnatural; it is neutral. Like in all things, Ortman shows us why and how we ought to strive for sustained moderation. While not quite a self-help book or clinical guide, Anger Anonymous succeeds in providing readers with an immensely beneficial emotional health handbook.