David Boudreaux is a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Southern Mississippi, working with Dr. Eric Dahlen. For his dissertation, he is further validating a measure he created in earlier research which is intended to assess attitudes toward anger management. He is also developing a questionnaire designed to assess an individual’s level of intended engagement in controlling his or her anger (i.e., Reading self help books, viewing a video documentary on anger, investigating anger on the internet, seeking out professional therapy, etc.). He is pursuing a career as a psychologist at a Veterans Affairs Hospital.
1. What motivated you to want to study anger in the first place?
I could have easily joined our nation’s armed forces as a career path, but life took a different direction. Being that I still maintain a deep respect for the men and women serving our country, I decided to embark on a career that would help me serve the military population. I decided to go to work as a clinician treating our nation’s veterans. Therefore, I would have to build a vita that would support being hired by the Veteran’s Health Administration. With anger playing a prominent role in the presentation of many veterans suffering from PTSD, I thought becoming an expert on anger would place me in an excellent position for my career goal.
2. How do you think that studying anger now will help you with your future career plans?
We are always looking for better objective tests to help guide our treatment with various populations of interest. By helping to do this with the college population while obtaining my education, I’m hoping to prepare myself for such endeavors with the Veteran population. Instrument development can be an arduous process, and the unique factors of assessing anger have implications that may make the process somewhat more complicated. For instance, the typical individual presents to therapy for distress that he or she is experiencing. Due to the nature of problem anger, the individual experiencing that problem may or may not experience any distress or awareness that a problem exists. Instead, he or she may perceive others as having the problem.
3. What would you say is the most important research you have done on anger?
I have worked to help develop and validate a measure of an individual’s attitude toward anger management. Research supports the idea that our attitude toward a behavior helps predict our motivation to engage in said behavior. The literature also tells us that, despite the need for anger management, very few individuals with that need present to anger management. If we can assess an individual’s attitude towards receiving professional aid with treating their anger, we may have a better chance of understanding how to motivate that individual to engage or remove barriers to treatment.
4. What do you think are some of the most common misconceptions about anger?
I think the largest misconception about anger that I have experienced is the thought that a well-directed cathartic release of anger is somehow therapeutic. In other words, conventional wisdom may tell an individual that, when angry, punching a pillow is a good way to “release” that tension. No research on anger I have seen or conducted supports this type of behavior as a way to reduce the experience of problem anger.
5. If there was one thing you would like people to understand about anger, what would it be?
Anger is a natural emotion, and it can be a functional emotion. Just like physical pain tells us something is wrong with our body and should be addressed, anger tells us something is wrong with our cognitive and emotional experience of the world. To alleviate pain, we do not encourage the practice of more pain. Instead, we look for the source of that pain and do our best to remove it. The same could be said of anger. Practicing anger does not address the source of that anger. Anger is just an initial signal for a problem that should be identified and addressed, usually through relaxation techniques and proactive communication strategies.