Anger is an emotion that is useful and necessary as well as harmful. We teach anger management skills as well as interventions for resolving the underlying reasons for an individual’s anger
RECOGNIZING AND OWNING YOUR ANGER
To feel angry does not mean you have to act on your anger. Everybody has his own bodily signals indicating current, on-the-spot anger. Look for yours; friends and relatives might be helpful, since they may be aware of your irritation before you are, and may be able to tell you how they can tell when you are “upset.”
Common Signals of Anger & Upset
• Yelling, screaming
• Shortening of breath
• Drumming with fingers
• Foot tapping, shaking, or twisting
• Laughing when nothing amusing is happening
• Patting or stroking the back of the head
• Clenching jaws or fists
• Tucking a thumb inside a fist
• Yawning or getting drowsy
• Suddenly refusing eye contact with another person
• Apologizing without a request for an apology
• Pain in the neck, gut or back
• A rise in voice pitch
• Clamming up
The list of signals is interminable; try to discover your signals.
If you find yourself depressed or blue and don’t know why, think back over the past twenty-four hours and try to figure out who did something to anger you. (Depression is usually the result of suppressed anger.)
Forget you are a nice guy/gal for a moment. Instead, imagine yourself to be the touchiest, most unreasonable, childish person on earth. From this place, review your day and look for an incident wherein this imaginary person might have gotten angry. When you find the incident, ask yourself why you didn’t get angry. Chances are you did and didn’t realize it. Next, remember what you actually did and said in that situation and try to relive it. You may learn some of your own internal anger signals. If you do not acknowledge anger, you let your anger control you by creating physical manifestations like ulcers, obesity, and flare-ups.
The anger is yours. The other person may have said or done something that punched your anger button, but the button is yours, and so are the feelings it triggers. You cannot make someone else responsible for your own feelings. Blaming does not help. Nothing the other person does will help, unless it is in response to something you do.
Accepting anger as your own is easier if you discard the idea that feelings need to be justified. They don’t and frequently cannot be. “Should” and “feel” are words which do not belong together. It is senseless to say that someone “should feel” some way. Feelings are simply there in the same way your skin, muscles, and vital organs are just there. In fact, it is downright harmful to worry about what your feelings “should be”. Such worry will only get in the way of finding out what your feelings are. Knowing your feelings is the best start in determining your next move.
Many of us can find anger difficult to express in a direct and healthy manner. Consequently, it becomes a key issue in all our relationships. Adults who have grown up in angry or raging families often respond as adults with rage, blaming, resentment, guilt, and even physical abuse as a result of repressed anger. Many of us have learned to avoid any expression that even remotely suggests anger in order to “keep the peace.” This anger inevitably becomes cold and resentful. Resentment can and will ultimately threaten our peace and personal well-being. The denial of or lack of healthy expression of anger, not the feeling itself, is what undermines our relationships and self-esteem.
The awareness and healthy assertive expression of anger is a natural part of being human. We’ve often heard the term passive-aggressive used to describe people who feel one way but act another. When they are angry, they work very hard at looking comfortable to con us into believing they are happy. Rather than frown, they smile; rather than tense their body, they intentionally swing their arms and legs. Their anger isn’t expressed warmly or directly. These people, more than most, suffer from feeling what they “should not” feel. Their anger, when it arises, is expressed with mild, “sugar-coated” remarks. Any time we use the terms should or shouldn’t in regard to other people’s feelings, we are participating in this passive-aggressive behavior. This same denial motivates more aggressive people.
Here is a checklist to help you determine if you are hiding your anger from yourself. Any of these is usually a sign of hidden unexpressed anger.
Checklist for Hidden Anger
Procrastination in the completion of imposed tasks.
Perpetual or habitual lateness.
A liking for sadistic or ironic humor, sarcasm, cynicism, or flippancy in conversation.
Over-politeness, constant cheerfulness. Attitude of “grin and bear it.”
Smiling while hurting.
Frequent disturbing or frightening dreams.
Over-controlled, monotone speaking voice.
Difficulty in getting to sleep or sleeping through the night.
Boredom, apathy, and loss of interest in things you are usually enthusiastic about.
Slowing down of movements.
Getting tired more easily than usual.
Excessive irritability over trifles.
Sleeping more than usual—maybe 12 or 14 hours a day.
Waking up tired, rather than rested or refreshed.
Clenched jaws—especially while sleeping.
Facial tics, spasmodic foot movements, habitual fist clenching and similar repeated physical acts done unintentionally or unaware.
Chronically stiff or sore neck or shoulder muscles.
Chronic depression extended periods of feeling down for no reason.
Being unaware of your anger does not mean you are not angry. It is the anger you are unaware of which can do the most damage to you and to your relationships with other people, since it does get expressed, but inappropriate ways. Freud once likened anger to the smoke in the old fashioned, wood burning stove. The normal avenue for discharging of the smoke is up the flue and out the chimney. If the normal avenue is blocked, the smoke will leak out the stove in unintended ways—around the door, through the grate, etc., choking everyone in the room. If all avenues of escape are blocked, the fire goes out and the stove ceases to function. Likewise, the normal human expression of anger is gross physical movement and/or loud vocalizations. For example, watch the red-faced, hungry infant sometime. By age five or so we are taught that these expressions are unacceptable to others and lead to undesirable consequences such as being beaten and even withheld affection at times. Our job is to be able to regain our voice without hurting or being hurt by others.
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