You probably found your way here because you or someone you care about is having difficulty regulating their anger. Perhaps you're a parent who wishes to change the way you react to your child. Or a company director who knows in your heart that the way you are communicating is deeply ineffective, possibly even counterproductive. Maybe you’ve found yourself angry most of the time - raging left, right and centre, knowing in your heart that this is not the way you wish to be or behave.
Difficulties regulating anger
Having issues regulating anger can wreak havoc in one’s life. I've seen it jeopardise blooming careers, create a wedge in marriages, destroy friendships and create very deep feelings of shame, guilt and even symptoms of depression with this. I have seen firsthand how individuals get trapped in vicious cycles of anger not knowing how to get out of it.
Anger that's coming from nowhere
For many these episodes of anger can feel as if they come out of nowhere. Suddenly it is just there, and it comes out in an explosion. Maybe you yell. Maybe you create a scene in the supermarket. Maybe you threaten people. Maybe you drive recklessly shouting through your window. Maybe you rage for days creating long imagined scenarios in your mind about how you will get your revenge on someone/something that has angered you.
As humans we are wired with two systems. The sympathetic nervous system which helps us to deal with threat, (real or imagined). It allows the body to react through a very well-rehearsed repertoire. It pumps out adrenaline, increases our heart rate, makes us sweat, dilates our pupils and keeps us extremely alert to threat. It helps us to get ready for fight or flight. When you’ve been angry and had an outburst this system is more easily triggered.
A moment of calm is rare when the parasympathetic nervous system rarely gets a chance to come online. This is the system that allows us to calm down; it slows down our breathing, our heart rate and produces a range of hormones that makes us feel calmer. It tells us to slow it all down as there are no longer any threat around. I often come across individuals who rarely experience the parasympathetic nervous system. The feeling of being soothed, calm and collected is a rare one. For them, therapy is about finding ways to experience this and to find ways to react constructively.
Anger towards self
Maybe you're an imploder rather than an exploder. Maybe you silently rage in your mind most or even all of the time. Maybe this anger is turned inwards because you've been taught that anger is dangerous or been made to feel bad when you express any negative emotion. So you walk through life, never letting anyone know when you feel anger. Instead you resent silently and pretend and act as if nothing is wrong. Sometimes even to the point where you believe it yourself. Only when you are extremely sure that everyone else would have reacted in a similar way you allow yourself to set boundaries. But even then you walk around in a fog of shame for days afterwards. The treatment for these individuals would look at how to express healthy anger and learning ways as how to have a constructive conflict. Dependent on your unique symptoms the treatment may also include components of compassion-based therapy and the practice of self-forgiveness.
Treatment for anger/anger Management
In general we can’t ‘treat’ feelings/emotions. Anger is a feeling, just like any other feeling, it is neither good nor bad. It just is. Just like happiness, sadness, anxiety, shame and guilt. It is the behaviour that is created out of the feeling that we will work with during a course of treatment. Because we can’t remove emotions, they are there, and they have once been very adaptive for us. When on the savanna being chased by a very hungry lion it was not adaptable to contemplate and discuss internally how to persuade the lion not to eat us. What saved us was our ability to fight back. Or to run. Therefore, we will work on the following;
- We will investigate your personal situation with anger
- We will explore your triggers
- We will look at your personal relationship to the emotion and how your past may have affected the way you feel today
- We will look at healthy anger and ways to express it safely
- We will distinguish between aggression, rage, anger and a whole lot of other emotions
- We will learn how to sit with anger – without acting on it
- We will learn how to sit with anger – and act wisely and responsibly on it
- We will investigate how distorted thinking may affect how you deal with the emotion of anger
If you wish to learn strategies as how to manage your anger or if this text has left you with further questions, don't hesitate to get in touch.