when anger hurts quieting the storm within a book summary


Anger can be destructive. When unleashed without due consideration for others, it can be disparaging. The negative outcome is usually irreversible. Anger may stem from different reasons which may be seen as justifiable, as in the case of being abused and the offended party gives vent to rage over the transgression; or uncalled-for, like anger in adulthood stemming from one’s past, like childhood marred by parental control, neglect, or other traumatic experiences. The book, “When Anger Hurts: Quieting the Storm Within” serves as a very useful guide for individuals  prone to bouts  or chronic attacks of anger.  It provides a step-by-step guide to empower people not to fall into the anger trap, adopt a constructive anger management plan, and enjoy happier, healthier existence with harmonious and lasting relationships with others.

When Anger Hurts:  Quieting the Storm Within

A Book Summary

The book, “When Anger Hurts: Quieting the Storm Within” by Matthew McKay,Ph.D,  Peter D. Rogers, Ph.D,  and Judith McKay brings into focus a topic oftentimes experienced but overlooked – anger.  The compelling book thoroughly explores techniques to keep anger at bay, assess and arrive at a resolution, and glean insights for a much better understanding of  rage and the many factors that trigger it and wreak havoc on relationships, careers and lives. All these are expertly presented by psychologists Matthew McKay and Peter Rogers, with nurse and co-author Judith McKay.  Peter Rogers and Judith McKay create a formidable tandem with Matthew McKay, whose wealth of experience is shown in the New Harbinger Publications, Inc. website, which indicates that he received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology in 1978;  that he became clinical director and cofounder of Haight Ashbury Psychological Services in San Francisco, California; specialized in the treatment of depression and anxiety; and “was among the first to recognize the need for research-based and clinically proven self-help books for general readers” (“matt mckay,” para. 1-2, 2004).


It will be gleaned from the very start of the book that anger, while a normal part of life, very often tends to imperil the very things that, for most people, bring joy, fulfillment and meaning to life – harmonious relationships with family, friends and colleagues, good health, rewarding career.  McKay, Rogers, and McKay (2004, p. 1) aptly stated, “Anger has enormous costs… If you are often angry, every one of your relationships may be affected. Marriage may become a minefield. Distance grows… Coworkers may withdraw or sabotage you, bosses become critical. A bitterness may grow with certain friends. And anger affects your health.” In other words, unrestrained anger can turn a sublime journey through life, punctuated by happy and meaningful moments, into a journey of scars.  “When Anger Hurts: Quieting the Storm Within” shows that this need not be the case. If anger-prone individuals make a conscious effort to keep track of their angry moments and undertake self-help techniques that the book carefully lays out, it can be a better world not just for them but for those they come into contact with.

            Very often, as may be gathered from various anger management readings, the quickest way to let out steam may be to pinpoint other people for their flaws or shortcomings and put the blame on them. That is a misguided way of dealing with anger. It may be convenient, but it does not go to the root of the problem to find out what is causing the resentment or flare-up. It does not curb the vicious cycle of getting angry again and heaping the blame on others. McKay et al. (2004, p. 5) underscored that the book is focused on anger directed towards others.  The authors express that effectively handling anger requires time,  patience, and skills, and is hinged on self-awarenesss. They propose a roadmap that may help the angry-prone to take command of their sentiments, and their lives, in general.

The anger management approach presented by the credible trio of experts may seem simplified at first look, but is actually detailed and comprehensive. The authors encourage readers to absorb and then “learn and practice crucial coping skills” (McKay et al., 2005, p. 1) and brace themselves to concentrate on the step-by-step exercises aimed at shedding light on and countering hostile, angry moments, the kind that stifles relationships and impede health and well-being.  Backing up the self-help ideas in the book are significant research material, conducted by nurse practitioner Judith McKay, on the physiological effects of anger, with special focus on  how parents can better deal with the aggravation of getting angry with kids, which are usually an exhausting and nerve-wracking exercise, and adopting healthier child rearing techniques. Separate chapters on spousal abuse, as well as on road rage, also make worthwhile reading.



The authors recommend the book “for people who are concerned about their anger, who’ve gotten tired of the emotional and physical toll that anger takes; it’s for those who want less anger in their relationships, who seek better ways of expressing needs and solving problems” (McKay et al., 2004, p. 1). Among the benefits that McKay et al. (2004, p. 2) point out are:

·           The ability to control destructive anger venting. And the chance to protect  and rebuild   relationships that have been damaged by venting in the past

·           A reduction in the frequency and intensity of your psychological anger response. There is a wealth of scientific data that anger damages your health. The less anger you experience, the longer you live

·           A change in the beliefs, assumptions and attitudes that trigger chronic anger.  As you learn to restructure anger-triggering thoughts, you’ll find that fewer and fewer things upset you

·            Identification of the stresses and needs that lie below your anger. When you’re clear about the real problem, you can move past anger to decision-making

·            The ability to cope effectively with your stress.  Instead of exploding when stress exceeds your tolerance threshold, you can employ specific relaxation tools.

·         Greater effectiveness in meeting your needs. Anger generates resistance and resentment in others. You may get short-term cooperation. But in the long run, your needs will be ignored and you will be avoided.  Problem solving and communication tools can help you get what you want without your anger

In effect, the book advocates that individuals will do well to be in command of reining in

their feelings of resentment and anger, instead of letting the latter hold sway over them.


The book’s first section concentrates on the presentation of key concepts, including circumstances when anger helps, such as when it provides the energy to resist emotional or physical threats (McKay et al., 2004, p. 2) to one’s person or to one’s immediate and protected family members. The importance of keeping an anger journal is highlighted. The authors stress: “Rather than passively reading about stress, you will explore the patterns of tension in your body. Instead of absorbing abstractions and concepts, you will learn about your own trigger thoughts and anger imagery” (McKay et al., 2004, p. 6).  A sensible advice offered in the book:  “Each day record in your Anger Diary the location(s) where your tension seems to concentrate” (McKay et al., 2004, p. 108)

Common myths are also debunked in the early chapters. Coping mechanisms for frustration are offered by the expert authorities who also clue in readers on how to recognize pre-existing conditions that trigger stress and lead to angry instances.  The authors persuade readers to think ahead and be personally accountable for the repercussions of anger. Among others, McKay et al. (2004) suggest:

1. Learning to set limits

2. Learning about your own needs

3. Learning to negotiate assertively

4. Learning to let go

By the time the reader reaches Chapter 6 (McKay et al., 2004, p. 43), it becomes ingrained that anger is always a choice. Behavioral choices accrue to an effective anger management plan. The ensuing chapters deal with taking responsibility for one’s stresses, hurts and frustrations, and raise the need to build skills to counteract destructive anger by combating provocateurs and counteracting destructive anger.  Chapter 12 interestingly focuses on stopping rage or anger from escalating to dangerous proportions. “Irritable exchanges often appear to be relatively trivial in the early stages. In fact, the beginnings of an aversive chain are often overlooked because they seem so unimportant. … ” (McKay et al., 2004, p. 131).  Cited as specific instances whereby anger may escalate to undesirable conflict situations are couple interactions, relationships between co-workers, and between parent and adolescent kids.


            Dealing with anger, it is learned, requires foresight and the ability to nip the triggers in the bud. In the discussion of “aversive chains,” the authors point out that instead of finger-pointing who is to be blamed for conflict or tension, identifying points in the process when anger could have been defused had participants refrained from saying something or behaved in a different manner may be quite useful. McKay et al. (2004) cited several behavioral tendencies that are bound to heighten or provoke angry moments, among them: giving advice, global labeling, criticism, blaming, abrupt limit setting, threatening, using expletives, complaining, stonewalling, mind reading, teasing, uttering humiliating statements or profanities, dismissing comments, being sarcastic, flinging accusations, evoking guilt, and making ultimatum.


            Chapter 13, Coping Through Healthy Self-Talk (McKay et al., 2004, p. 149) is an eye-opening chapter, especially for couples who normally think that during their angry tirades, they are justified to let off steam.  The truth is, adopting a self-righteous stance and narrow-focused judgments can be poisoning to relationships and one’s overall well-being, especially when continually resorted to.

The book’s final chapter on Spouse Abuse by clinical psychologist Kim Paleg Ph.D adds

greater substance to the book, offering conflicting couples a way out of their ruffled, agitated states and hopefully reconnect in due time. The chapter may well form a separate book, which is actually the case as authors Matthew McKay, Ph.D and Kim Paleg, Ph.D have written about couple issues and distortion.

            Oftentimes, people who fail to see trouble while these are still brewing over the horizon end up expending greater effort to battle or counteract the negative effects of uncontrolled anger, or suffer the repercussions greatly. Authors Matthew McKay, Peter Rogers, and Judith McKay take much of the guesswork in dealing with anger and enjoin readers that preparation is key to preventing maddening onslaughts and the irreversible damage of unrestrained anger.


Matt McKay. (2004). Retrieved May 18, 2008, from New Harbinger Publications, Inc. website:


McKay, M., Rogers, P., & McKay, J. (2003). When anger hurts: quieting the storm within (2nd

ed.). Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.


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