Overcoming Destructive Anger, by Bernard Golden, Ph.D., Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins, ISBN: 987-14214-1974-9, 2016, 214 pages, $19.95.
Anger becomes a problem if it is too intense, if it occurs frequently, if it lasts a long time, or if it is hard for you to let go of. Bernard Golden, a practicing psychologist for 40 years, has written Overcoming Destructive Anger to help people manage their anger better through reflection, mindfulness, and self-compassion. This book integrates contemporary insights from neuroscience and Buddhist psychology to help readers “recognize and control triggers that lead to anger.”
The author believes that anger is a cry for help when uncomfortable feelings have been aroused. Part I of the book helps readers to understand where anger comes from and why it can seem uncontrollable. The author explains how mindfulness decreases the need to act on anger, and self-compassion helps reveal the roots of our anger. Part II shows readers how to analyze their anger from basic needs through unrealistic expectations and triggering events, and underlying hurt feelings, which in turn lead to faulty appraisals of situations and aggressive actions. Part III shows readers how to move beyond anger to compassion for self and others, which leads to healing.
Overcoming Destructive Anger is written for many kinds of clients social workers might see. It is easy to read and practical in its approach. Each chapter includes practical exercises and reflection questions. Golden includes a journal format for thoroughly debriefing each incident of disruptive anger. Social workers will find the mindfulness exercises helpful to use with clients. These exercises include mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, acceptance of feelings, focusing, and compassion enhancement.
Whereas many books have been written on “anger management,” Overcoming Destructive Anger includes unique elements such as “wisdom perspective,” compassion, and understanding basic needs and motivations that lead to excessive anger.
Golden does not include socio-political analysis of male control over women, which some social workers feel is essential to ending interpersonal violence. Nor does this book address the extensive trauma that occurs in chronically abusive relationships. Instead, Golden approaches destructive anger as a disruption of our own inner peace that can be healed through scientifically sound and spiritually grounded practices.
Overcoming Destructive Anger naturally follows on contemporary positive psychology books such as Rick Hanson’s Buddha’s Brain. This makes Golden’s book very approachable, compassionate, and helpful for social work clients who continually experience intense, or destructive, anger.
Reviewed by Samuel W. Gioia, MSW, LCSW, Assistant Professor of Social Work Practice, Portland State University.