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Anger Management in Crisis Situations

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

In the wake of the terrorist attack this week, shock, sadness and anger have pervaded the lives of many Americans. In the coming weeks, as Americans deal with their grief and accept the aftermath of the events, it becomes more important for people to learn about anger and anger management. Dr. Redford Williams, division head of behavioral medicine at Duke University Medical Center, has some helpful messages for the public.

"When the provocation is great enough, people reach a breaking point in what they can handle," says Williams. "It's important for people to understand their anger, to know that it's normal and acceptable to feel anger, and to find appropriate ways of channeling their anger."

Williams says it is perfectly normal to be angry about the terrorist attack on the United States. It's also very normal to feel scared, depressed or numb.

The most effective action is assertion, he adds. "Angry feelings can be useful in making changes to a "wrong" situation that needs to be made right. As a nation we need to make sure that this kind of event never happens again," says Williams. "An assertive action would be to do something to get the other party to change their behavior. In this case, our government needs to work toward eliminating terrorism."

As an individual, you must decide if there is anything you can do personally to change the situation. For example, what can you do to prevent this situation from happening again? Examples include supporting the President and the United States government in the action they decide to take against those responsible for recent events. Another example would be accepting and bearing without complaint any safety measures being put in place at the nation's airports.

Some good ways to deflect the anger, says Williams, are through aerobic exercise, talking about your feelings, praying or meditating, and being mutually supportive of one another.

"Together, we must act to make sure this type of event never happens again," Williams says. "There are things we can do collectively, as a nation, to manage our anger. There are things we can do individually as well."

Williams emphasizes that people should not turn their anger on anyone who appears to be of Middle Eastern decent.

"Research shows that when you show anger as aggression, you enhance your own anger and make it worse, and you don't prevent the situation from occurring again. If one acts purely for revenge, we've allowed the people who did this to cause us to act like them," he added.

Dr. Redford Williams is available for interviews.

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