Everyone experiences anger. Anger is normal and is an essential emotion for survival.
Anger tells us there is something wrong that needs changing. It can be a signal to assist us in protecting our physical and psychological boundaries and assertively defending our sense of self-efficacy. It can be a motivator, and a powerful source of psychological energy, for behavior change and a source of creativity in solving problems and seeing things with new eyes.
Anger can often be a secondary emotion defending us from the vulnerability of feeling fear or hurt. Anger becomes dysfunctional when we are unable to identify, express and appropriately resolve the real feelings that underlay the anger. Our interpretation of the situation, the degree of our arousal and our past learning, personality and temperament are all factors that influence how and if we deal with our feelings effectively.
Excessive, frequent, prolonged expressions of anger can cause consequences like physical altercations or violence, threats, verbally abusive comments and sexual abuse. Maladaptive anger creates relationship problems at work, home and with intimate partners. Inappropriately expressed anger is a symptom of mental and emotional problems, often leading to legal problems. In general, inappropriately expressed, aggressive anger ultimately causes lowered sense of self-esteem and self-control.
It is important for the growth and development of humans to learn to feel and express a wide range of emotions, including anger. Many people confuse the concept of anger with fighting, yelling, screaming, striking, and so forth. Anger is an EMOTION, a feeling within us like hurt, sadness, happiness, loneliness, etc.
Common triggers for anger are experiences where we feel frustration (goal or need blocked by an obstacle), unmet expectations, loss of self-respect, or challenges to a sense of self-respect, rejection, anxiety, disappointment, discomfort, or having a powerless feeling. Feeling hurt or discounted by another, or having one’s physical or psychological boundaries violated, can produce feelings of anger or even rage.
The anxiety that underlies these triggers interacts with the more primitive parts of our brain’s limbic system, initiating a secretion of our stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones produce a need to fight, flee or freeze as a way to deal with the unmet need, fear or obstacles. They prepare our physiology for emergency, increasing our perspiration, heart rate, blood pressure, quickened breathing, trembling, brain wave patterns, face flushing, tenseness, and depressing the rational thinking process.
After we express our anger, we experience a release of energy with a period of refractory relaxation. We will experience reduced hyper-arousal, anxiety and relief after expressing the displeasure when a need is met or the obstacle is removed. Relief is felt only after the expression or release, in some way, of the energy liberated by the body. Physical activity rids the body of some of the energy of anger. This feeling of release can become maladaptive and addictive, leading to behavioral and relationship difficulties. Problems grow when we suppress that energy or hold in our feelings when we have been angered or hurt. Some constructive releases of anger are walks, swimming, cycling, bowling, jogging, and pillow pounding, among many others.
If the release of anger is thwarted, difficulty occurs and manifests in the form of depression, negative physical symptoms, apathy, irritability and substance abuse. Anger is healthy and useful only if all four of the following steps take place:
1. Recognition in body
2. Accurate labeling
3. Understanding underlying feelings
4. Accurate healthy expression
In order to resolve unhealthy anger, Dr. Paul Standal helps you learn to recognize the feeling of anger and accept it as a normal emotion. (Everyone becomes angry. It’s okay to be angry). He also helps you understand why you are angry and upset with someone or with yourself. In many instances, he helps you identify and deal with past similar situations that are the underlying source of your anger (projections). For example, sometimes you may direct your anger towards the original source, like a father or mother. Similarly, you may project your anger towards someone who reminds you, or symbolizes to you, the original source, like a husband or wife. You might also displace your anger on objects or situations that do not resemble the original source. And, sometimes your anger may be directed inward on yourself, creating depression, anxiety or physical problems.
Dr. Standal explores and teaches healthy alternatives for expressing your anger, and getting your needs met in any situation, in a way that does not harm others or yourself. He helps you with the expression of assertive communication and alternative ways of dealing with the situation. He also encourages physical activity that rids the body of some of the energy of anger.
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