Is anger ruining your life? Do you harbor so much anger that you are lashing out at those you love the most? Look…we all feel anger sometimes. But when it takes over your life, it’s time to take a closer look.
Maybe you hold a grudge against an ex…things didn’t end well, they broke your heart, you’re in a difficult co-parenting situation, etc.
Perhaps it’s old childhood issues festering…your dad was an abusive alcoholic and you thought you’d moved past it, but now he’s sick and dying and it’s bringing up old wounds.
It could even be your boss that you harbor anger towards, but can never express it because you need to keep your job.
Whatever the case may be, anger is a powerful emotion and can destroy relationships. Don’t get me wrong; a certain amount of anger in certain circumstances is healthy and normal. There are healthy ways to deal with anger, which I will get to later.
Most important, though, is to understand what anger really is, where it come from, what is it’s purpose, and how to recognize it before it destroys you.
According to Oxford Dictionary, anger means “that which pains or afflicts, or the passive feeling which it produces; trouble, affliction, vexation, sorrow.” So in essence, anger stems from pain. When we are hurt, we feel pain. It our brain’s way of signaling to us that something is wrong here; this doesn’t feel good. ‘This person should not be treating me this way, and I don’t like it’…or ‘This situation is not good and I need to get out of it’.
We’ve all had the feeling before. It could be triggered by anything from a bad grade, a mean parent, an argument with your partner, etc.…
Somehow, anger gets a bad wrap. We are conditioned to believe that anger is a “bad” feeling and should be avoided at all costs. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Human beings are designed to experience and feel a wide range of emotions, including happy, sad, scared, frustrated, angry, and so many others.
When we don’t allow ourselves to experience pain and anger, and somehow resolve it and/or move past it, it can become destructive. And when we don’t deal with our anger, it can lead to depression, rage, and even violence.
Here are some tips to help you recognize and deal with your anger in a healthy way:
- Listen to your body. That shudder that runs through you, that shaky feeling or gasping for air are all sure signs that anger is brewing.
- Tell yourself, “I’m getting very angry now” and, if at all possible, remove yourself from the situation, even if only temporarily. If that’s not possible, breathe slowly and deep at least 10 times to help stay calm (I know it sound silly, but it’s proven to really work).
- Decide whom you are angry with and what you are angry about. This is not always as easy or obvious as it seems. You might have just yelled at your kid, but really you are angry because you just found out that you didn’t get that promotion that you’d hoped for.
- Allow yourself time to process this and “cool off”. This could take 5 minutes or 5 days. Either way, you can’t deal with this rationally until you have cooled off.
- Get outdoors and get some physical exercise. Oxygen and endorphins are very helpful. Call a friend or relative to “vent”. Put on some calming music. Take a hot bath.
- If it is safe, tell the person exactly what you’re feeling and why. Such as, “When I ask you to do something and you ignore me, I feel hurt. Today I asked you to clean up the kitchen. Instead, I came home and found dirty dishes all over the kitchen, and now I’m very angry.”
- Do not blame the other person for your anger. Own it. They didn’t make you angry. You became angry in response to something they did. Not everyone would necessarily feel anger in that same situation, so it is not true that the other person made you angry. Do say, “I’m getting very angry right now”. Do not say, “You’re making me angry”. It is not the same.
- Try to find a resolution to the problem so it doesn’t keep on happening over and over. (Note: good luck on this one if you have teenagers!). Engage the other party in finding a solution.
- If your anger is stemming from a toxic relationship or childhood trauma, or if you believe your anger may turn violent, seek help from a licensed professional. They will guide you through techniques that will help you move past it.
- Apologize when appropriate. If you yelled at the kids because you were angry with your boss, you need to tell them you are sorry. And then don’t do it again.
What do you get angry about? What have you found calms you during a rage? Are you very good at apologizing?
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photo by Pixabay
Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas. Contact Lori at lorifresontherapy.com or call/text 818-514-LMFT