Anger – why it’s sometimes good and how to manage it
So anger…you’ll find a lot written about it, along with rage, aggression, violence. It’s one of the most difficult feelings to experience and be around. In fact, anger management is the most searched for term in relation to counselling which also tells us it’s on a lot of people’s minds as something they may be struggling with.
You could say it’s at the root of a lot of harmful actions, from aggression to out-and-out violence towards self or others at the individual level through to mass acts of anger and rage, such as mob rule, terrorism and war.
I was looking at some statistics available on the British Association of Anger Management’s website http://www.angermanage.co.uk/pdfs/boilingpoint.pdf
While the data is getting a bit old, I don’t imagine there has been a massive shift in these trends since 2008. The sample data was from a 2000 strong YouGov poll. Here are some of the headlines that stood out for me:
Almost a third of people polled (32%) mentioned they had a close friend or family member who had trouble controlling their anger.
12% said that they have trouble controlling their own anger.
28% said that they feel worried about how angry they sometimes feel.
20% declared they had ended a relationship or friendship with someone because of how they behaved when they were angry.
And thinking about the trends, 64% either strongly agreed or agreed that people in general are getting angrier. Finally, fewer than one in seven (13%) of those people who said they have trouble controlling their anger sought help for their anger problems.
So what about you?
We all tend to have different anger buttons that get pushed, and different levels of tolerance which buffers against the anger.
For some, anger gets triggered because they feel ashamed; a comment or an action takes us back to a place where it wasn’t ok to feel that way. Sometimes, bereavement or grief can bring up anger too. For others, it’s injustice or unfairness, a feeling that something has taken away their power or right to their views or identity, for example. Or perhaps it’s that personal boundaries have been attacked; our sense of self or the self we want to project in the world has been injured or mis-represented. Powerlessness can also be a trigger for anger, when we feel we have no control over a situation or how another is behaving towards us.
Of course, anger can be directed outwards towards others or equally inwards towards ourselves. While anger can be all consuming, leaving you with feelings of rage, physically shaking, tight in your chest, sweating or ‘fit to burst’, I’m always interested when someone says say they feel no anger.
While that may well be their experience, it may also be that in their life they experienced a powerful message that it’s not ok to feel anger. With that, the feeling is buried deep to the point where it no longer becomes accessible. The tricky thing is that it’s difficult to be selective in filtering out feelings; when we dial down the volume on anger, we often dial down the volume on other emotions too.
And here’s where it gets interesting. Anger is a vital energy. Think of the fire burning that is at the heart of your life. When we find it difficult to accept our anger or to have any relationship with it, we risk turning our back on vital energy. So that’s the work of counseling: to help you get into a relationship with your anger; to meet it face on. Not to reject it, squash it, fear it. Nor to become owned by it.
It can be a scary, tentative journey. At times, it can feel the riskiest thing you have ever done. But with the support of your counselor and a safe way of working, you can start that process and experience anger as another healthy emotion amongst all rich range of emotions we can feel as human beings.
Along the way, you’ll also learn about some effective, simple anger management techniques that can help you feel more in control of your anger when it rises up.
I work with mindfulness techniques, anger management strategies and other counselling approaches to help you understand why anger comes up and how to manage it better.
If you’re struggling with anger, and would like to discuss how you can get some help in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbott, please get in touch.
Author: Matt Fox Counsellor in Totnes, Paignton and Newton Abbott