The Institutional Gaze in Anger Management


  1. Panopticon – this term underscores an architectural manifestation of the surveillance and power dynamics applied in any town or area where there was a plague infection. Jeremy Bentahm came up with the diagrammatic equivalent of this system of surveillance and discipline by sketching and annular tower surrounded by prison cells and perceived by the prisoners to be occupied by an authority at all times. As such, all prisoners were visible to the surveillance authority, but it was not possible for the prisoners to spot the surveillance personnel always (Foucault, 1995, p.96). Consequently, at times, the surveillance would be absent, but the prisoners would still think that it was present, which would keep them in submission. This element is Foucault’s dynamic of power and surveillance (Foucault, 1995, p.8).
  2. Visual culture – looked at from several standpoints including the social learning theory, visual culture comes from the overwhelming presence and effect of visual media and communication in the contemporary world (Mirzoeff, 1998, p.46).
  3. Institutional gaze – this term is better understood when ‘gaze’ is truncated and dissected separately. Gaze is a translation by Sheridan of Foucault’s French le regard to mean glance or look, but this direct translation moves from the intended connotation in French and so in short, it suffices to state that the term ‘gaze’ depicts the fact that when ‘looking’ occurs (Foucault, 1984,p.200).

Choice of Institution and Norm

For this particular assignment, the selected institution is a self-help book titled “Getting Control of Your Anger: A Clinically proven, Three – Step Plan for Getting to the Root of the Problem and Resolving It” by Robert Allan and Donna Blass.

From the title of the book, the norm that shall form the axis of discussion in this paper is anger management, which hinges on the broader topic of self-control, but due to the prescribed dimensions in the present assignment, one of the finer aspects of self-control, viz. anger management, shall receive an exhaustive analysis.

Norms used in the book to judge subjects as deviant

The most cited norm used to judge subjects as deviant is lack of self-control. The author begins by recounting an incident that occurred in his youth when he spoke harshly to his counselor when he himself was in the process of studying psychology, but had discovered that he had anger issues. He notes that he was not even aware that he was portraying the same antisocial traits that he had seen his fathers depict and had sworn not to follow in his father’s path countless times because he knew the pain that such temper caused to the family members. Therefore, besides a loss of self-control, the issue of cyclic occurrence of rage also comes up and the author goes on to explain how children who grow up with angry parents and suffer due to this during their childhood may also become angry parents in their adulthood, if they fail to take the requisite measures to break the cycle. Finally, the concept of socialization also comes in for the subject only identifies the problem of anger or rage after several bad encounters with others in his or her vicinity and this failed interaction often forces individuals to seek help to deal with their anger.

How the book trains subjects to conform to these norms

The book presents a three-step ladder to anger management. At the bottom rung is the identification of the ‘hooks’, which are simply situations that spark one’s anger and learning how to avoid them. The second rung suggests that the victim identifies the needs that are not being met, thus causing angry explosions and an example of such a need would be the invasion of personal space. Finally, step three notes that the individual comes up with productive ways of fulfilling these needs, preferably independently, and in deed replace angry responses with need fulfillment responses (Allan & Blass, 2007, p.86).

Institutional gaze: Surveillance and Judgment

Criteria of identification of deviant subjects (self-regulation)

Since this text is a self-help book, an unuttered presumption is that individual subjects shall personally recognize a problem in the way that they relate with those around them and feel the need to normalize their tempers, which should lead them to seeking material such as this book (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, p.75). Consequently, the criterion of identifying deviant subjects is via self-regulation, as individuals are prompted from within to seek for help. Nevertheless, the regulation of the treatment remains an individual subject’s responsibility.

Evidence collected about individuals to determine abnormality

After the introduction, the book goes on to define what anger is and prescribe what levels of temper are problematic. Additionally, it is notable that the authors lean towards the idea of unbroken cycles of anger across generations and so other evidence that they adduces is that of a history of rage or angry outbursts in the family. Secondly, they address myths that people have regarding anger and in this section, they place the issue under a microscope for further dissection, which leads to the acknowledgement of having anger issues whereas in the past one may have preferred to blame others or claim that hat is just who he or she is (Allan & Blass, 2007, p.75).


Description of disciplinary method (Bordo, 1989, p. 31)

Three rules assist one in starting to manage anger and the first rule is to avoid reacting when angry, but instead respond. This assertion means that when angered, it is wiser to take a step back from one’s emotions and analyze the situation objectively then respond to it, rather than simply reacting (Allan & Blass, 2007, p.77). Reactions in anger may superficially seem to be the way to solve a crisis, but in reality, they are a way of worsening the situation. Suggestions on how to implement this rule include taking a walk away from the annoying situation or mental counting until one cools off.

Rule number two underscores the aspect of disassociating oneself from the myth that if one does not express his or her anger he or she will explode. This rule exhorts subjects to treat their anger as they would their babies, with gentle nursing and care instead of venting it recklessly, thereby throwing out babies with their bathwater. The authors state that unexpressed anger has no reservoir in the body because no organ is created to cradle anger. Rather, when the stimulus causing the anger is removed, the anger disappears with it (Tagg, 1998, p.89).

Rule three it to accept that anger management is no piece of cake, but it has its own vicissitudes. This understanding helps subjects in sticking to the cause regardless of how difficult it may seem at times, which requires an understanding that management is a process and not an overnight achievement. This understanding should help them not to beat themselves up or despair when at times they still ‘lose it’ and revert to old habits, which is to be expected (Allan & Blass, 2007, p.87).

Discussion of expert’s perspective on anger management

Among others, the authors mention Dr. Aaron Siegman of the University of Maryland who holds that when reliving an angry moment, the heart rate and blood pressure increases (Allan & Blass, 2007, p.82). However, Dr. Siegman makes a clear distinction between experiencing anger and reacting in an overt way because the latter leads to dangerous physiological effects. The progress report of an individual stands out to the “abnormal” individual in view of interaction with society (Tagg, 1998, p.78). After several weeks of repeated administration of the suggestions of managing anger, subjects start to notice that other members of the community are taking note of their effort and are appreciating, which in turn encourages them to work harder to improve on their temperaments.

How to maintain the reformation or improvement after subject’s adequate “disciplining”

The formula suggested in this book requires a systematic process of identifying a need that is not being fulfilled and finding ways to fulfill that need in order to avoid getting angry. Consequently, the tips granted on how to maintain the self control attained upon observance of the procedures set out is to accept and expect to fall off the wagon every once in a while. By fulfilling the basic needs that were creating the hooks for anger, people insure themselves from anger (Foucault, 1995,p.209). Finally, an acknowledgment that anger management is a tough task shall equip subjects with the requisite stamina to work diligently towards managing their anger (Allan & Blass, 2007, p.122).

Power relations

Values associated with anger management (Block, 2007, pp. 72-93)

These include aggressive vs. submissive, collected self-control vs. humiliating loss of control, and social aptitude vs. alienation.

How these norms are ideological, viz. how they reinforce dominant systems

Anger management is a tricky issue because society’s perception of anger is relative, which in itself makes it difficult for subjects to gauge whether they have exceeded the acceptable threshold. Additionally, society seems to associate anger with power and so people that are known for angry outburst are often feared greatly, which can cause confusion as to the wisdom in learning to manage one’s anger. Similarly, people who are not prone to angry outbursts concede that they would be perceived as weak or ‘abnormal’ because maybe they are slow to react (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, p.66). Consequently, anger management may be said to be in its budding stages, and thus it depends on an individual’s disgruntlement with his or her reaction to situations, events, or people leading to seeking anger management pointers.


The issue of a disciplinary gaze in anger management is obvious and clear because the book establishes the three steps to anger management and they are each discussed in detail. Additionally, the authors have punctuated the book with various vignettes that provide a real time explanation of obtrusive concepts as well as procedures. The issue of power is present and it is both visible and invisible. The power in this case is emanating from both within and without. When the individual realizes that he or she cannot fit in society with his or her current temperament, he or she exercises power to conform to the societal norm. Alternatively, the society requires individuals to maintain their temperament at a particular threshold to exercise power over subjects.

Reference List

Allan, R., & Blass, D. (2007). Getting Control of Your Anger: A Clinically Proven, Three Step Plan for Getting to the Root of the Problem and Resolving it. New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill Companies Inc.

Block, B. (2007). The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media. Burlington, Canada: Elsevier.

Bordo, S. (1989). The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity: A feminist approach of Folocaust. In A. Jagger & S. Bordo (Eds.), Gender/Body/Knowledge: Feminist Reconstructions of Being and Knowing (pp. 13-34). London, UK: Rutgers University Press.

Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Foucault, Michel. (1984). The means of ‘correct training’ and ‘Panopticism’. In P. Rabinow (Ed.), The Foucault reader (pp. 188-213). New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Mirzoeff, N. (1998). The Visual Culture Reader. New York, NY: Routledge.

Sturken, M., & Cartwright, L. (2001). Practices of looking: An introduction to visual culture. London, UK: Oxford University Press.

Tagg, J. (1998). The burden of representation: Essays on photographies and histories. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.