If you take the two books I’ve written on anger management, the three books I’ve written on giving criticism, and mix them with more than a thousand presentations that I’ve done on anger and criticism, and the fact that I was one of the first practitioners of anger management (1976), and I think it’s fair to say that I qualify as an “anger management critic.” So here’s my critique of Charlie Sheen’s new show, Anger Management.
Story line: Charlie is a former baseball player whose anger beat him into a self-inflicted career-ending injury, prompting him to go back to school and become a therapist specializing in anger management. Whether the show is funny or not is up to you, but as an anger management critic, I’d say the batting average of the starting line up was pretty good. Here’s my scorecard beginning with lead-off “hitter.”
[Warning: Spoilers ahead.]
1. Show opens with Charlie hitting a punching bag, explaining to his “patients” that this is a good way to take out frustration if you need to “physicalize” your frustration. While it is good to do a physical activity to reduce frustration, it is better to do a productive physical activity such as exercising or cleaning your house. Hitting a punching bag might reduce some frustration but it reinforces hitting — so “safe” on an error.
2. Fines his patients a dollar for making “inappropriate hostile comments.” I’ve used this strategy and find it helps patients increase their awareness to how they verbalize their thoughts and reduces hostile comments. A “single here,” but I practiced in Beverly Hills so the fine was a C note.
3. Patients share their “anger stories.” This helps patients become comfortable in sharing their feelings, learn from each other and puts their own experiences into perspective. A definite “triple.”
4. Charlie points out that mismanaged anger took something away from him that he loved (baseball) and he doesn’t want that to happen to his patients. A very accurate message about the negative effects of anger, as it can destroy relationships and help you lose your job. “Home run.”
5. Charlie recognizes his daughter’s non-verbal anger cues and talks to her. Recognizing when your child is angry and attending to their emotional landscape is an excellent parent skill. “Home run.”
6. Working with prisoners, Charlie tells them that hitting another person is never justified. When anger tuns to aggression, it is a problem. The message here is another “home run.”
7. Charlie loses his temper and later discloses to his patients that he too has an anger problem. I think it is permissible for a therapist to share his experiences with his or her clients — many disagree. I think it builds authenticity but acknowledge this decision is scored as a “fielder’s choice.”
8. Charlie goes to a therapist, who points out that a lost of “control” over his daughter is a contributor to his anger experience. People often get angry when they perceive they are not in “control” of their lives or of someone else. While you can control your own behavior, accepting you cannot control others can be a powerful anger management helper. Solid “double” here.
9. Charlie shows sensitivity and awareness to a lady he hurt years earlier. He apologizes from the heart. Being tuned to the feelings of others, acknowledging your wrong and hurtful actions, and a genuine apology reduces anger and hurt in others and helps anger pass. “Home run.”
For me, Anger Management is a definite win, and if you give it a chance, I think it will provide plenty of laughs — a great way to manage your anger!