Anger Management and Art Therapy
Anger is a completely normal human experience. It is after all an emotion—a raw emotion that has an evolutionary basis: respond and act against danger or unfair treatment. Of course, anger varies in intensity from mild irritation to outbursts of fury and rage. And it is accompanied by physical changes in the body and energy hormones, too. Some people are more prone to anger than others; they are angered more easily and more intensely than the average person. In contrast, some people have a more temperate disposition. It takes a lot of provocation to ruffle their feathers.
Regardless of our natural temperament and proclivity towards anger, like all emotions, anger must be managed—something we master over time and through experience (read: trial and error). Learning to manage our anger requires honest self-reflection and a willingness to take responsibility for our actions. This is a big part of growing up.
Anger Management Art Therapy
It is not enough to teach children how to play nicely with each other. Our children also need to learn to face their emotions and to channel feelings of anger, and even hate, constructively. This includes the need to process their curiosity and fascination with violence—that urge to find out what happens should they inflict pain or injury on others. Often, a question of insecurity lies at the root of such musings: “Are you still going to love me?” At other times, they’re searching to find out where the boundaries lie.
Art therapy can help young and old give expression to these sorts of emotions. It can help us become conscious of our inner ‘shadow’. As Paracelsus taught us a long time ago: the symptom carries the cure.
In the same way, violent movies or violent games don’t necessarily make us violent. In the right setting, the effect can even be contrary. We become conscious of our innate tendencies towards violence and start to reflect on our own motivations. In so doing, we gain a better understanding of what provokes us and the reasons behind it.
This is the goal behind all art therapy interventions for anger management. In art therapy, we aim to integrate the shadow as it finds expression within a safe context.
Robert GrayDirector and Senior Lecturer at CECAT
Registered Art Therapist and Psychologist
MA A. Th., AThR; B. Soc. Sc. (Psych.) (Hons.), MAPS.; BA. Theol. (Hons), MA Theol.
A highly regarded art therapy lecturer from Germany, Robert Gray has become a much sought-after art therapy lecturer and practising art therapist in Australia. His unique approach spanning psychodynamic, humanistic, spiritual and cognitive behavioural frameworks has distinguished him as a thought leader who is frequently invited to present at conferences in Australia and abroad.
Trained overseas and multilingual, German-born Robert shares the benefits of his international affiliations and access to cutting-edge research published in various languages with his students and readers. Robert is a professional member of the Australian and New Zealand Arts Therapy Association (ANZATA) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS).