Do you find yourself losing your rag with people?
Is anger interfering with your relationship?
Anger is a natural response to either external events or internal thoughts and memories. Usually triggered when people think that they have been let down or hurt in some way or when they consider a deeply held belief, value or ‘rule’ has been deliberately broken by someone. It is important to remember that sometimes anger is helpful in that it can spur people on to do things, such as set up a charity to change an inequality in the world.
The type of anger I’m discussing today is that which can become destructive.
Anger can be displayed in different ways:
- Verbally or physically. When someone gets extremely angry and either shouts and/or hits out at others.
- Holding onto their anger by suppressing it. This can cause physical and psychological problems as they turn in on themselves.
As mentioned earlier, we usually get angry when we think we’ve been treated unfairly in some way. People may be
- feeling fearful
- feeling hurt
- feeling frustrated
- feeling loss
- feeling betrayed
or have had past traumas or have physical or psychological problems. Alcohol or drug use also need to be taken into account as they can lower inhibitions which mean people can become aroused more quickly.
There are many different types of talking therapy which can be helpful for those who experience anger. Under this umbrella term I would include CBT, Mindfulness based techniques, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and hypnotherapy. There are others too.
Anger is often only present when with specific people or in specific circumstances. A good way of identifying these triggers is to keep an Anger Diary. Write down and record all the times you experience anger. This provides a useful insight for you and you can use it with a therapist to help identify the underlying ‘belief’ or ‘rule’ that has been broken or trodden on.
Record things like:
- Date and time when you were angry
- Who/what made you angry?
- How angry were you (scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being worst)
- How did you act, what did you do?
- What thoughts were going through your head at the time?
- How did your body feel?
Let’s take an example based on a client of mine.
He was in his mid-20’s and used to get really angry with his mum. It had got to the stage where this response was starting to impact in other areas of his life such as work and with his girlfriend.
I asked him to keep a diary and a pattern started to appear. He’d get angry when his mum seemed to bring everything back to the impact things had on her. As we investigated his underlying thoughts and unspoken ‘rules’, a belief arose that ‘his mum should always listen to him and because she didn’t she thought he wasn’t good enough and if that was true he couldn’t bear it’
It was this underlying ‘rule’ and belief that his mum ‘thought he wasn’t good enough’, which he hadn’t consciously realised was there, that was creating the anger response in him.
Using a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy and hypnosis we were able to change this belief into a more helpful one and his anger dissipated. He began to realise that he whilst he would prefer his mum to listen to him, she didn’t have to and that it was his assumption that she thought he wasn’t good enough and he could accept himself and his mum as imperfect people, just like everyone else. He was also better able to understand how her upbringing and life experiences had influenced her beliefs and ‘rules’.
Which of your ‘rules’ are being stepped on?
Even just recognising what you are demanding should or mustn’t happen is a start. Sometimes it can be tough to acknowledge that, Yes, people can and do do things that you get angry about, but the only way to change that is to change how you think and feel about those people and actions. A parent getting angry at a child for being messy is angry because the child is ‘breaking’ one of their ‘rules’. If that parent was able to recognise that perhaps the child doesn’t know what their ‘rule’ is it would allow them to respond in a different way.
Often anger is about past events that cannot now be changed. Perhaps your response to those events was to create a ‘rule’ that it should never happen again or that it wasn’t fair or something similar. When we experience events as a young child we don’t have the life experience to help us cope so we cope in the best way we can. What can happen is that that ‘coping’ response becomes our ‘default’ setting for any similar situations in the future. This is why sometimes when you get angry you can feel like a little child again.
Learning what your triggers are and then learning to assess your response and change it is all part of growing and developing as a person.
Other options for managing your anger response
Besides seeking professional help what can you do:
- Breathing: deep breathing into your belly. Count the in breath for 7 and out breath for 11. This can help in the moment.
- Learn to recognise your triggers and, using your powerful mind, practice changing your responses, perhaps addressing issues earlier on rather than bottling them up.
- Ripping up old newspapers.
- Writing or drawing your feelings on paper then ripping them up.
- Shout in a safe place away from others.
- Write down all the things you’d like to say to the person and then destroy the sheet. Hand writing them gets better results than typing them.
- Physical exercise – going for a run or some other form of exercise.
If feelings of anger persist and are causing you and others problems then seek professional help. Give me a ring to discuss what your options are.