The Anger Solution

The Proven Method for Achieving Calm and Developing Healthy, Long-Lasting Relationships


By John Lee

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Discover the differences between healthy and harmful anger with John Lee’s life-changing program. Therapist Lee’s proven method will help anyone immediately tap into the causes of their own anger, allowing them to get a handle on the emotions that cause stress and pain. Without guilt, shame, embarrassment, resentment, or hopelessness, The Anger Solution offers groundbreaking information on controlling rage. Featuring the Detour Method, a practical, easy process that can save relationships, create deeper connections, and dissipate rage, The Anger Solution promises to be the next classic in anger management.


Praise for John Lee:
"John Lee is known for his immediately practical and refreshing approach to problems that we all face at work and at home."
—KAREN C. BLICHER, LCSW, CHT, Director of Mental Health Education, Mountain Area Health Education Center, Asheville, North Carolina
"John Lee is one of the greatest teachers in the United States."

Other books by John Lee:
The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man
The Flying Boy II: The Journey Continues
Facing the Fire: Experiencing and
Expressing Anger Appropriately
Growing Yourself Back Up:
Understanding Emotional Regression
The Missing Peace:
Solving the Anger Problem for
Alcoholics/Addicts and Those Who Love Them
Recovery: Plain and Simple

For my wife,
who is my inspiration, editor, fan, best friend, and one of the least angry people I've ever known.

Anybody can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not easy.
The past isn't dead. It's not even the past.

Anger is a universal emotion that has touched all of us. You wouldn't have picked up this book if anger has not been pervasive in your life. I began exploring, experiencing, and explaining my feelings, ideas, and approach to the most misunderstood emotion called anger over twenty-five years ago, when I published my first national best seller, The Flying Boy: Healing the Wounded Man. Since then, I have spoken in over fifty cities a year all over the world and counseled and coached thousands of men, women, couples, co-workers, CEOs, counselors, and therapists.
The material here has been perfected over these many years; prior to now, it's been presented piecemeal. The Anger Solution pulls all this information together into a cohesive and easy read. This is the only anger book that not only sheds a positive light on this emotion, but it also gives hope to anyone who will practice these exercises and processes.
Anger is a fact of life that affects everyone, some more than others. We all have been angry or been around those who are angry, and most of us have thought that the world would be better off without this emotion. But here's the real truth: Anger is not your enemy. In fact, it can be your ally—one that can save your relationship, your job, and your peace of mind. Anger can heal relationships of all kinds, creating greater closeness and intimacy.
Once you learn how to express anger appropriately you will see that it can "clear the air," tear down walls of misunderstanding, and, most of all, not hurt anyone (including yourself). Perhaps you have had very little, if any, experience with appropriate expressions of anger. You may even believe it isn't possible. The Anger Solution will help you navigate this path to healing.
We all know holding it in, bottling it up, or denying this powerful emotion does not work. Neither does exploding. What does work is expressing anger appropriately. The word appropriately is the key because what most of us have seen is anger or rage expressed in a dysfunctional and toxic manner and not in a way that works for all involved. As those who have attended my workshops, seminars, and private sessions have found, it is not anger that causes people pain. The truth about anger is it can be healthy, positive, productive, and pivotal in helping or creating communication and cleaner conversation, and is not a "negative" emotion as many claim it is.
In addition to discussing anger, this book will delve into the topic of passivity. One of the main reasons for putting this material in an anger book is because all the writers of academic texts agree that one of the main ways to treat passivity is to treat it as an inverted form of anger.
My approach to anger works where most fail. It is unlike any other anger management program you've ever attended or heard of. This program includes a lot of things others don't, but perhaps one of the most significant benefits about my method is what it does not include.

The Anger Solution is free of: Guilt

Instead of feeling guilty about your emotions or your inability to conduct yourself appropriately, you will understand that you couldn't possibly do something you were never taught. If your parents, teachers, and other authority figures didn't model expressing anger correctly, then how would you know how to do it?


You are not less than, defective, or maladjusted. With the right information and tools, you can learn how to be angry without feeling or causing pain.


Freedom of choice takes away the resentment. Nobody is making you do this. You are empowering yourself by learning how to face your true feelings.


You are not alone; far from it! Most everyone struggles with anger. But in this book, you'll see your story told many times over by other people.


After you realize that your inappropriate anger has hurt those you love or work with, you may feel that you are stuck in this pattern of not being able to express or contain your emotions. But this book will show you that there's hope, understanding, and even joy when you learn how to manage your anger.
Many traditional approaches to anger offer valuable tools. However, there's one critical key that often gets neglected. Jack is an anger-management participant who "graduates" from a workshop and goes home armed with anger-blocking techniques. Jack may have learned to deal with his anger—but when he goes home or back to work, he realizes the people he interacts with every day have not taken the same course! Jack's triumphant mastery of his volatile emotions unfortunately means little when he's surrounded by people who are still experiencing anger in an unhealthy and counterproductive manner. Sadly, most people like Jack fall right back into their unwanted behaviors fairly quickly.
Employees see the boss raging, so the employee rages. We know that children's main way of learning is through modeling, so if they see a parent expressing anger inappropriately, they integrate these behaviors and actions into their own expressions of anger.
The Anger Solution does truly offer a solution: You can use it before you get angry, while you're angry, and after the anger has passed. This method is flexible, easy to learn, and easy to teach.
One of the key elements of this program is the recognition that there is such a thing as "good," healthy anger. Where most people get stuck is in distinguishing it from "bad," unhealthy anger—what we'll call rage. In this book, you'll learn what rage really is—one of the leading causes of distance, disasters, and divorces. Teenagers run away from home because of the rage, not the anger. Employees quit jobs because of raging bosses, not angry ones. Spouses leave husbands and wives due to undue amounts of rage—not anger.
Most important, this book will also show you how to work through your unhealthy anger, via understanding and implementing what I call "the best-kept secret in psychology"—emotional regression. In The Anger Solution, this important psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual phenomenon is crucial to working with anger and rage along with other powerful emotions such as fear, sadness, grief, and frustration. Once emotional regression is included in working with the angry or raging person, much more can be achieved and accomplished, and therein lies the gift of achieving healthy relationships.
I can't stress enough how regression is a critical element in anger and rage. Exploring emotional regression is a major factor in separating anger—your healthy, beneficial emotions—from rage, the emotions and actions that tear you up and tear up your family and friends, too. This book will help you clearly see how regression impacts upon daily life both at home and at work. It will also give you the tools to express anger appropriately.
With this book, I'm offering The Detour Method™ an easy-to-learn and easy-to-use six-step process that can literally save relationships, create deeper connections, and dissipate rage. It is a proven way to minimize, reduce, and even eliminate much time-consuming, energy-draining conflicts and confrontations. The Detour Method is a proven process that has helped thousands of people improve and enhance all kinds of relationships. It incorporates the differences between anger and rage, and couples this with the reality that overreactions (or in more simple terms, "making a mountain out of a molehill") are more about the past than about the present.
Finally, The Anger Solution is an important part of your ability to increase or enhance your EQ—emotional intelligence quotient. Emotional intelligence is the key to not only achieving successful careers but essential in achieving thriving, less stressful, and more fulfilling relationships.
I've written this book for the growing number of people who desire more rewarding relationships in all areas of their lives. Do you want deeper connection, enhanced communication, and the ability to express a full range of emotions? The Anger Solution can help, heal, and stop the hurting. As we know, the old childhood rhyme, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never hurt me," is a flat-out lie. Words wound, words hurt, and words heal. I hope the following words bring some healing to anyone who has been wounded by inappropriate words and actions.

Chapter 1
Anger: The Real Story
We all have our definitions of anger. Anger is a feeling, an emotion that is neither positive nor negative, although most clinicians, therapists, and authors have labeled it as the latter. Anger is no more destructive than sadness or loneliness. Fear is often far more destructive than is anger.
Many currently practicing mental health professionals believe that anger is simply a cover; like out-of-control ivy in a well-manicured yard. They contend that underneath anger is the real issue that lurks and hurts people: fear. They believe if they can help patients, parents, and partners pull off this cover and deal with what frightens them, then their anger will magically disappear.
Essentially stated, the message is, "You are not angry. You are afraid," or "Your anger is merely covering up your sadness or disappointment." This point of view is couched under the heading of, "You are not feeling what you say you are feeling. Let's get to the real emotions underneath your anger."
This traditional approach defines primary emotions as sadness, loneliness, fear, joy, love, and so on. But anger, say these professionals, is a secondary emotion.
However, my experience has shown that anger is a primal feeling that anyone with a pulse experiences weekly, if not daily. It is an essential emotion: You can't and shouldn't avoid anger.
Jeremy discovered his wife of five years, Samantha, had her tubes tied without discussing it with him. This was after they had both declared that becoming parents was a life goal.
In therapy, Jeremy expressed his anger at his wife half a dozen times. After hearing this, their couple's counselor said, "Jeremy, my guess is you're not really angry so much as you are disappointed and scared that you and Samantha won't stay together without children."
When Jeremy told me this story he half-jokingly said he became so angry at the therapist that he wanted to punch him. Instead he got up and walked out, saying to his wife as he left, "I'm not going to sit here and listen to someone tell me I'm not feeling what I have every right to feel."
What Jeremy experienced is what we have all felt. Anger is energy that pulses through the human body, brain, and soul. When this energy is expelled appropriately from a person, not only does the person expressing anger feel more energized, but no one is hurt or worse for the expression. However, if this life force is suppressed, repressed, bottled up, stuffed, or swallowed, there are profound negative repercussions and consequences to both the person and those around him or her. This is why so many think of anger as being solely negative—they are seeing the damage done by anger that has been held in and not expressed appropriately.
When I ask clients or workshop participants who they are most angry at most of the time, 80 to 90 percent will declare it to be themselves. In other words, they have turned their anger inward, where it has not only failed to diminish but has increased from remaining pent up. If you stay stuck in a place for too long without expressing anger, then you'll feel sadness. Although sadness and anger are two primary emotions that go hand in hand, they are not the same feeling and cannot therefore be used interchangeably.
Anger is meant to circulate like a spring. As long as that anger is about current injustices, slights, wrongs, hurts, rejections, or slanders, and given release, it will flow up and out into the world, not down and back into your body, and will produce positive results both inside and outside you.
If employed and expressed appropriately, this powerful emotion can be used to move individuals, couples, families, corporations, and nations out of dead-end or abusive situations or relationships.
The women's movement was fueled by an anger that was overdue. The outcome forever changed the world we live for the better. Rosa Parks's anger in 1955 is what contributed to her and a whole race of people from being stuck at the back of the bus. Anger is what got our country out of Vietnam.
Can you imagine someone saying this to Gloria Steinem or Rosa Parks or the Vietnam vets, for that matter, "You're not really angry; you're just scared"?

Why Everyone Tries to Avoid Anger

We've been taught and threatened with the belief that anger is bad, negative, uncivilized, rude, and unacceptable. Add these to the misinformation and misconceptions that anger leads to more anger and that expressing anger increases blood pressure and heart problems, and it is no wonder we are racked with guilt and shame, and increasingly tamp down and numb our emotions.
Everyone from parents to teachers and pastors have been telling children things like, "Good girls and boys don't get angry," for generations. And what about, "It's not ladylike." Girls have been told they are bitches, ball busters, nags, hags, and witches if they get angry. Boys have been taught to think of "angry" women that way. We wonder why women are angry—well, just look at what they are called when they express their emotions!
Most people—of all educational backgrounds, incomes, religious persuasions, and inclinations—have it in their heads, hearts, or rear ends that anger equals pain.
When someone got angry in our childhood, we felt the slaps, hits, silent treatment, and icy stares. We were punished by being sent to bed without supper or exiled to our bedroom or boarding school. In other words, when someone got angry, someone got hurt.
Somewhere in our subconscious, we decided early on that if anger equals pain, then the best way to keep from causing pain to others or incurring pain by others would be to bust a gut, get a migraine, numb our body and soul, and just try with all our might to never get angry.
The big question is: How's that working for you?
In my experience, not well.
Most human beings get mildly or massively angry at the very least once a week, if not more often. Yes, even nice people. It's what they do with that emotion that makes all the difference.
To recap, here's how anger relates to pain: Healthy/constructive anger has not, will not, and cannot cause pain; quite the opposite. If anger is expressed appropriately, it equals energy, intimacy, and peace of mind. But unhealthy/destructive anger is what causes everyone pain. The one experiencing and expressing destructive anger, and whoever is within the near vicinity of this contagious behavior, is going to feel small or serious amounts of pain.
The first step toward getting a grip on rage is to know what it is.

Chapter 2
Rage: The Real Culprit
Pain, violence, and punishment have nothing to do with constructive anger and everything to do with destructive anger—which is really a poor disguise for rage.
Rage is as different from anger as night is from day; as apples are from orangutans. Remember, anger is a feeling and emotion. Rage has the ability to cover other feelings, but it is not a feeling or emotion in itself. It is an action or behavior used to disconnect us from any and all emotions. Rage is a negative coping mechanism that numbs peoples' feelings.
Cocaine, alcohol, heroin, and sugar numb us. Too much of anything numbs us, too—too much television, too much time at the computer, too many hours at work; all are ways to numb our feelings.
Rage is like a huge dose of morphine. It is a drug that is legal, plentiful, readily available, and can be addictive.
Rage creates more rage. It is more contagious than the flu, cancer . . . or compassion. Rage spreads like the wildfires in California, destroying everything and everyone in its path. It is a huge factor in divorces, delinquency, and the dissolution of families, friendships between individuals, and business partnerships.
At fifty years old, Burt is prematurely gray but his face and body look like they belong to a man half his age. In my consultations with him he discovered—what many men I've worked with have—that when his construction company is making much less money than he needs, rather than feeling afraid or like a failure, he rages at his employees and even his own family members (especially his brother Bill, who is his onsite foreman). Burt realized that on the surface rage looks more potent and powerful than does being a scared businessman who shakes in fear when viewing the bottom line. To Burt, rage feels temporarily empowering, but here's the rub: It is only an illusion. Rage weakens both the person who is raging and the person who takes the brunt of the rage.
Sandra is an attractive stay-at-home mom who is sad and lonely most of the time because she is married to a workaholic, alcoholic husband. He is rarely home, but when he is, he's unbearable. Sandra refuses to sleep in the same bed with him and goes on retail therapy binges that maxed out their credit cards. Is this healthy anger? No, Sandra's actions are examples of rage. When I asked her if it was time she felt her anger and extricated herself from this painful partnership she actually said, "How can I get angry at him? He works hard for us and his drinking isn't really that bad." Not only could she not see how her rage was throwing them both into financial, not to mention emotional, ruin, she was in complete denial about having any anger, healthy or unhealthy.
If destructive anger is identified and understood, seen for what it is, and dealt with, all kinds of feelings, emotions, memories, hurts, slights, abandonments, and other issues that have been locked inside (perhaps for decades) will surface. Following, you'll find a list of traits and examples that further distinguish healthy anger from destructive rage.

How to Tell the Difference between Anger and Rage

A woman called me the other day for help. When I asked her what the problem was, she didn't hesitate: "I am living with the angriest man in the world."
I said, "Tell me how he expresses his anger."
After four or five descriptive sentences, I said, "I hate to interrupt, but everything you've said so far is rage." And she said, "What's the difference?"
Anger is about the "here and now"; it is a response to issues and situations occurring at the present time. You feel anger because of what your boss said to you this morning or because your spouse incorrectly balanced the checkbook this week.
Rage is about the "there and then"; it is about our past. Rage is a reaction to what your boss has said to you every morning for the last year. What you've stuffed and bottled up all this time, suddenly comes gushing out like a geyser. Likewise, rage occurs because the checkbook has gone unbalanced for two years, seemingly warranting a deafening silence to correct or punish your spouse's behavior. Rage can also be fueled by a seemingly over-and-done-with matter that has never really been resolved, such as being unable to trust a spouse who strayed once, years ago.
Anger lives in the present and so takes minutes, at the most, to be felt and expressed. It gets to the point and moves on. When Jerome's wife was late for a special luncheon they'd planned, Jerome said, "I'm angry. Now I only have forty-five minutes left for lunch before I have to return to work. Let's eat and make the most of our time."
Rage lives in the past and takes a very long time because it is grounded in our personal life history. Once it is unleashed, it wants to remain where it is, unresolved. In contrast with the above scenario, in a rage situation no one wants to eat with anyone because no one has an appetite left: When Sandy's chronically late boyfriend was late once again, her response was, "I'm tired of you always putting everything before me. Didn't your mother teach you it is rude to keep people waiting? I got here on time. I can't see why you can't!" . . . and she was just getting warmed up. Clearly, there was more than anger going on.
Rage is what constitutes most marathon arguments. You know, the ones that begin at eight o' clock after dinner after the kids are put to bed and that are still going strong at one in the morning until someone cries uncle and says, "Does anyone know the original point of this?" or attempts to just share some feelings.
Is a feelingIs a reaction
Is a primary emotionStifles or masks emotions
Is neither positive or negativeIs negative and inappropriate
Provides energyDrains energy
Is meant to be given awayIs meant to be given up
Doesn't hurt anyoneHurts everyone involved
Clears the airClouds communication
Increases understandingAdds to confusion
Helps communicationIncreases conflicts and misunderstandings
Rights injustices and wrongsIs an injustice and wrongs people further
Increases intimacy and peace of mindCreates or increases the distance between people and causes discord
Is contained and controlled until directed at the proper time, place, and/or personIs pervasive, out of control, and misdirected
Concerns the presentConcerns the past
Is about "me"Is about "you"
Anger is about "me" and rage is about "you": If I express anger, I am telling you about me, stating my immediate feelings. Anger is revealing. If I am raging, I'm telling you about you, rehashing your past behavior(s), and thus I am concealing what I am really feeling and going through right now.
Rage perpetuates when two parties use it habitually to avoid meaningful discussion. One spouse tells the other what he or she didn't do and shouldn't have done; why what he or she said or did is wrong, crazy, sick, or messed up; or that he or she "always" commits a perceived offense. When this party finally finishes the diatribe, then it's the other spouse's turn to tell the first how it is all that person's fault, and how what was said doesn't apply and "there you go again," and if the first speaker had only read more self-help books the words wouldn't have been said at all. After that, then it's the first speaker's turn again, and then the second, and we affectionately call this marriage and then very often we call it adversity or irreconcilable differences and grounds for divorce.


On Sale
Aug 11, 2009
Page Count
240 pages

John Lee

About the Author

Johanna Lane was born in Ireland, studied English Literature in Scotland, and earned her MFA at Columbia University. She teaches writing in New York City.

Learn more about this author