Michael Freels, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, offers personal clinical insights on mental health issues and concerns that readers have. Including relationships, parenting, stress, substance abuse counseling and managing your emotional life. Questions and comments are welcome.
I counsel a lot of people who have anger problems, both young and old. People throw tantrums, scream and shout, break things, shoot. People get hurt. Too often your anger hurts others. Fortunately, a lot of people are sorry about how they may have hurt someone as a result of their anger. Unfortunately their regret typically doesn't cause them to do anything about changing it. Most often someone else (a partner, parent, close friend, or legal authorities) forces them to come for help. There is a lot that can be done to help you express your anger in a healthy, appropriate way, getting the message across much more effectively than when you might 'lose it.' Let me also say, that I help people who have difficulty expressing anger (and other feelings) at all. Maybe afraid of confrontation. Many of them end up getting taken advantage of, or holding it in and getting depressed. Or holding it in until you "explode." Let's look at learning to manage your anger so it works for you.
First of all anger is a normal emotion. So you have to be able to get angry, and acknowledge it. Become aware of the situations that tend to trigger your anger. A lot of people report that it comes over them suddenly, "before I know it..." If you learn the situations that trigger your anger you can be better prepared when those situations arise. Anger expression becomes a habit for us. If it's bad angry behavior, then it's a habit that you want to break (and replace with a good one!).
I teach RELAXATION BREATHING, breathing deeply into your stomach (see my posting of 3/11/11, Take A Moment, ..... BREATHE, and Youtube video), as a tool to help you break the bad habit, and learn to manage your anger the way you should. Your angry behavior typically occurs at the end of a chain of events. Some of which you may not even be aware of that contribute to it. If you are having a stressful day, or something at work triggers some anger that you can't express there, then there may be some unexpressed build-up that gets unleashed elsewhere. Or perhaps you're an angry person with a lifetime of "build-up," and certain situations more easily push you over the angry "edge." Learn as much as possible about your reactions, especially the chain of events and the triggers that provoke your anger. BREATHING at any point along that chain helps stop the build-up. At whatever point you actually feel yourself getting angry, BREATHE and redirect your energy towards an appropriate expression of your feelings, or towards a calming thought/memory (I sometimes suggest carrying around a picture of your grandchild, or a pet, something that brings an immediate smile to your face). If you are in the middle of a conflict that escalates to anger, BREATHE and it won't get out of control. You may have to leave the argument, and return to resolve it when you've gotten under better control. It is important to return to resolve it, or you can keep having the same argument over and over again.
If you are using your anger as a weapon in your relationships, or as a tool to control others, get help. If you are using your anger to avoid other feelings that make you feel vulnerable or weak (like sadness, fear) then learn to understand those feelings and yourself better. You'll feel better. Lastly, don't beat yourself up because you've developed some bad habits. There are reasons for the habits that we develop that often we had no choice about, because a lot starts in childhood. However, you are an adult now, and you DO have choices. Don't continue to choose to hurt your self and those around you by letting your anger make you "mad." Reprinted from 2011 Other postings by me on this subject include: Communication: Learn How To Fight (5/21/12), and What Are You So Mad About (5/12/10).