Summary of The Anger Habit

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The Anger Habit book summary

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This short book offers a solution to a difficult and dangerous problem: habitual, uncontrollable anger. Such anger, explain authors Carl Semmelroth and Donald E. P. Smith, is a bad habit, and other habits may trigger it. Just as smokers get the urge for a cigarette at certain times, such as after a meal, while having a drink or while socializing, angry people assert their anger according to repetitive patterns. They may explode, for example, in response to inconsiderate drivers, disobedient children or perceived slights from employers. They stoke their tantrums with feelings of frustration and negative interpretations of the conduct of others. They fantasize frequently about how they will get control over those they see as their antagonists. Semmelroth and Smith do not tell anger addicts to temper their outbursts. Instead, they believe angry people must break the habit altogether, by replacing rage with reason and trying to understand the deeper side of their own feelings. Although this idea has merit, the authors offer their prescription with, perhaps, less than fair warning of just how difficult it is to change habits as deeply rooted as those that nourish anger. With this caution, suggests that people whose rages have become uncontrollable – or those who have to work or live with them – may benefit greatly from the ideas in this book.

About the Authors

Carl Semmelroth, Ph.D., has been a mental health practitioner in Michigan for more than 25 years. Donald E. P. Smith, Ph.D., is emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Michigan. He is the author of six books and numerous journal articles.


Replacing Rage with Reason

Anger is destructive - in fact, it may be the most dangerous of all emotions, because it deprives people of their ability to reason. People in the grip of anger often deceive themselves about their own and others’ motivations and actions. They live in a fantasy world, surrounded by a stockade of anger that they unconsciously hope will protect their fantasy from outside threats.

Angry outbursts can cause terrible professional and personal problems. Enraged drivers may get into deadly collisions or fights. Angry spouses may stifle communication between themselves and their children, or even destroy their marriages. Habitually angry people may lose their friendships, their jobs or their health.

Those who hope to heal their anger habit need to know that trying to reduce the intensity of their outbursts, moderate their temper or conceal their feelings won’t help. Instead, the best solution is learning to replace rage with reason. Once people learn to interpret their feelings rather than succumb to them, their emotions can provide important signals about their angry state of mind. Feelings can become important sources of personal insight ...

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