There’s a popular cultural reference about “not liking me when I’m angry.” While it may be true and appropriate when discussing oversized superheroes, it doesn’t do justice to the importance of anger. Anger is a powerful emotion but it is not always a singularly negative emotion.
What is Anger?
Anger is natural. It often arises in an organic way when we feel irritated, frustrated, or tired. If basic self-care is not maintained (eating, stress management, movement, sleep, etc.), we may more easily experience feelings of irritability and anger. Other causes of anger can be direct or secondary:
- Reacting to someone else’s opinions, beliefs, or behaviors
- Feeling threatened or scared
- Sadness or loneliness
- Unexpected, momentary conflict
Extreme anger, however, is not natural. It can be irrational. It can provoke violence and destroy relationships. Chronic, extreme anger can also cause physical damage to the angry person, e.g.
- Sleep issues
- Aches, pains, headaches—with lower pain threshold
- High blood pressure
- Problems with digestion
- Skin disorders
- Weakened immune system
What Positive Signals Can Our Anger Send Us?
We Need Self-Awareness
Anger tells us all is not well and can inspire us to take stock.
- We Lack Motivation
Often, anger is inwardly aimed. This may be due to not reaching or even setting goals.
- We’re Not Claiming Our Power
Anger can be helpful if it signals that we’re overlooked, disregarded, or maligned.
When is Anger Management the Best Option?
- You can’t take any criticism at all
This is the social media age. We all have to deal with some serious criticism and trolling. While most of us adapt and possibly even laugh it off, others can’t let criticism go. On the contrary, every slight adds to a growing sense of fury.
- Your short temper is getting even shorter
Are you the kind of person known for “flying off the handle”? If so, your temper may be getting you into big trouble. No one wants to walk on eggshells, but short-tempered people make that the norm. This is a slippery slope towards more complicated anger issues and relational problems.
- You hold grudges
Conflict is inevitable. At times, it can be beneficial for the issues it helps bring to the surface. Through healthy conflict resolution, we can learn and move forward. There’s nothing healthy about grudges. Of course, there are abuses and offenses that warrant long-term distance. However, many grudges fall into the “petty” category.
- Anger has resulted in violent outbursts, legal issues, and more
For the first three options above, there are levels and degrees to take into account. However, once your chronic anger leads to violence and/or legal action, the time for excuses is long gone. Unmanaged anger puts you and others at risk. You can damage your career, your financial security, and your reputation.
- Those close to you are afraid of you
You can often live in denial about this. If people you know fear you, they’re not likely to risk telling you. But let’s be honest, it doesn’t take much introspection to recognize when you’ve become a tyrant. When your anger reaches this level, it’s imperative that you seek help (see below). No one should ever fear for their safety around you.
How Can Therapy Help?
As you can see, anger is not an isolated emotion devoid of context. It may reflect a wide range of past experiences, present circumstances, and future fears. While it’s very important to address anger in the moment, more needs to be done. Working one-on-one or in a group with a therapist is an ideal setting for digging deeper to discover patterns and triggers. Your sessions will help you learn how to manage the immediate effects of your anger. From there, you’ll begin to map out the underlying source.
By Counseling Wise on October 10, 2017