Are You Stuck in Your Anger?
We can all relate to getting angry. Anger is a normal human emotion. It is often triggered by a sense of endangerment by an outright physical threat or by a threat to our self-esteem or dignity. Common triggers for anger include “being treated unjustly or rudely, being insulted or demeaned, and being frustrated in pursuing an important goal.” (Goleman, 1995) Fear and sadness are commonly underneath feelings of anger.
A few key questions to explore when dealing with anger include the following:
- How often do you get angry?
- Do you feel angry most of the time or every now and again?
- Were your parents or primary caregivers angry often?
- How did they express their anger, in healthy or unhealthy ways?
- How has anger impacted your relationships?
- How do you handle your anger?
- What is your fear?
Many people were never taught how to express or handle their feelings, including anger. Perhaps, when you were growing up it wasn’t okay to be angry or maybe anger was the primary emotion that was expressed. Many of us didn’t learn how to self-regulate. In other words, we didn’t know how to identify or handle our feelings.
There is a myth that “venting” your anger will make you feel better. In reality, it often makes you feel worse because of the aftermath. “Venting” is a concept that began in the 1960s. At the time, it was believed that venting or letting it out would serve to free up the pent up feelings and somehow lead to healing.
Volumes of research studies have revealed that “venting” actually increases anger, rage, and other intense emotions. It is counterproductive. Venting is banned in most anger management programs.
Below are some key strategies to learn how to regulate your anger.
- Recognize and label your feelings.
- Understand your triggers.
- Identify your fear and where it comes from.
- Learn to use self-talk to calm down.
- Take a deep breath and count to 10.
- Ask yourself if it’s worth the price to express your anger in unhealthy ways or are you ready, willing, and committed to working on yourself and working through your anger? It’s critical you get to the root of the fear and where the anger comes from. Once we make peace with it, the anger often begins to decrease and we are able to calm ourselves down.
- Take time to learn from the times you do get angry. This might lead to a need to forgive someone else or yourself or a breakthrough to change it.
-Kristen D Boice M.A., LMFT, EMDR Trained
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