Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Anger Inducement Therapy

A friend of mine has convinced her husband that he needs anger management therapy. Anger management has become a major catchphrase, probably one of the many terms introduced by the medical and pharmaceutical industry to convince us that we need their products and services. This one has become so popular that Jack Nicholson has made a movie about it.

I have some linguistic qualms about this popular term. The first is its redundancy. Anger in the legal system is now called “snapping” or, more technically, “temporary insanity”. We have lawyers and the occasional jury who think that perfectly normal people can, in the midst of a perfectly normal day, “snap”, become temporarily insane, kill someone, then snap back to normality, never to be susceptible to “snapping” again.

There may be some truth to this but until several years ago, snapping was losing control of your temper and was considered normal if uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. So my first suggestion would be to change anger management to snap management just to avoid the proliferation of synonyms.

But returning to my friend’s case, I have to wonder why we don’t offer anger inducement therapy, since the reason my friend snaps is an overly demanding wife who would drive the Pope crazy. It is funny how phrases like anger management focus our attention on one interpretation of a problem while allowing other aspects of the same problem to slip into the shadows. Maybe not so funny.

Generally, when someone loses their temper it is because someone else irritates them. Whether the fit of anger is disproportionate to the inducement of it or vice versa is a matter of degree but the focus of the therapy should be equally on both the anger or the inducement thereof. If both is offered, we need a term for anger inducement alongside anger managment. I suggest “anger inducement”.

Anger inducement therapists would make a fortune in Washington, DC.

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