Let me ask you a question, do you find yourself either getting annoyed more and more often, or that the level of the anger is starting to concern you?
Do you remember being much more tolerant than you are now?
I’ve been there myself, and it’s so hard not to feel worse about yourself after each tirade, whether it’s just going on inside your head, or especially when others have witnessed it, but it’s really important that you understand you’re not turning into a horrible person or losing the plot.
There will be some really good reasons why this is happening and it’s important to uncover and understand them.
I’m Nikki Green, a sexual/marital therapist, affairs expert and the co-founder of The Academy of Lasting Love and today I’m going to share my strategy on how to deal with anger when it starts to run the show.
Dealing with something emotional by getting angry could just be a method of dealing with things that’s been imprinted on you by people who were significant in your life, or it may just be a habituated way of responding and right now, getting pissed off about things may feel almost as natural to you as breathing.
Do you often say to yourself “Why is this happening to me?” Or, if you get up in the morning and stub your toe or spill the coffee do you find yourself immediately thinking “Oh boy, I can just tell this is gonna be a bad day.”
The sad reality is that like attracts like and you’re only going to see and attract more bad things and these will just fuel a victim mentality, giving you more stuff to feel self-righteously angry about, causing you to act even more snappy or mean.
See the catch 22?
If you can relate to any of this it’s really important to raise your awareness about it and nip it in the bud, why?
Because it’s a downward spiral and will only get more frequent and more intense.
Also it’s just plain exhausting to constantly resonate at this low frequency, continuously attracting other low frequency experiences into your life.
Studies have shown it’s also really bad for your health, the constant triggering of cortisol (fight or flight hormone) can lead to adrenal fatigue, hormonal dis-regulation and illnesses like auto-immune disease and cancer.
It also takes a huge toll on your relationships, when people feel you’re someone they need to walk on eggshells around it makes them feel cautious and self-protective,
This makes it impossible for them to be intimate with you, leaving you feeling alone, and quite possibly like there’s something wrong with you.
I don’t want either of those things for you, so let’s look at what might be causing this:
1) Conditioning –
The first place to look is either your family of origin, an ex-partner or maybe a close friend.
We are an amalgam of the handful of people we spend the most of our time with.
Have you spent a significant amount of time around people who get irritated or annoyed a lot?
If so, it’s likely you’ve become normalized or sensitized to that behavior, and it could have become hard-wired into you. It’s called habituation, it’s become a conditioned response and it’s usually subconscious.
2) Displacement or Transference –
Displacement is a term coined by Ana Freud who recognised that sometimes when people feel it’s unsafe to express an emotion to someone who maybe has power over them or could hurt them, they instead take that emotion out on a safer person. For example you had a hard time with your boss and you come home and get irritated with your kids.
Transference is also a redirecting of feelings but not due to fear. Have you ever reacted with a level of intensity that didn’t seem to correspond with what was going on at the time?
This was probably transference in action.
An example may be being mistrusting of your current partner who has never given you reason for it, because a previous partner cheated on you, or maybe overreacting to an authoritative boss because one of your parents was a bully.
3) Substitution –
Oftentimes anger isn’t the primary feeling, but we often substitute it because it feels so much stronger to feel angry than recognise emotions that make us feel weak like fear, hurt or shame.
When we can get in touch with the unmet need that’s causing the anger, we can then get in touch with the more authentic feeling that’s being caused by the unmet need, and voice that from a more vulnerable place.
For example, rather than get angry at not being listening to, talk about how painful it feels to be ignored.
4) Unexpressed Expectations and Unclear Boundaries –
Most of the time when we feel disappointed by our partners or friends, it’s because we didn’t make our needs/wishes/expectations clear enough to begin with. But what’s really interesting to notice is how justified we feel about being angry towards them, when they fail to meet our needs!
If you don’t tell your partner what you want clearly, it’s like you expect them to read your mind, and you’re unfairly setting them up to disappoint you.
Also have a look at how reasonable your expectations are, and how they’re being put across. Often an unexamined expectation can feel like an entitlement and can come across as a demand.
What motivates you more to meet your partner’s needs, an expectation fueled by a sense of entitlement, or an open-hearted request to do something to make them happy? Well, they probably feel the same way.
When you feel angry, before reacting take a few deep breaths and be willing to take some time out for a little introspection. Ask yourself “What boundary has this person crossed?”
Thinking that someone has crossed a boundary often triggers deep feelings of self-righteous indignation or anger, and I really want you to notice how it often goes hand-in hand with ascribing ill intent towards them too.
This is so important to recognise because most of the time it’s your false belief that their intention is bad that really fuels the anger, not so much that they made a mistake.
Try and separate behaviour versus intention, and instead of reacting to what you think is ill intent, assume it wasn’t, and gently explain the effect of their behaviour on you.
One thing I found really helpful to do when I learnt to resolve a lot of my anger was
when I felt angry I asked myself “What need do I have here that’s not being met?” Then I make an open-hearted request, not a demand, that the other person helps me meet it.
Anger is like any other emotion in that it’s totally up to us how we choose to react or respond to it.
Like any emotion, it can be replaced by another emotion in seconds. Also like other emotions, anger consist of three parts, a feeling, a thought and an action:
A feeling can be replaced by another feeling, like the feeling of love we get when we do the hand on heart exercise, or the feeling of good-fortune when we find something to appreciate about the person, rather than continuing to focus on something to be angry with them about.
The negative thoughts can be unhooked from, I find the question “Is this thought serving me well?” a good criteria for whether we should entertain the thought,
or just let it pass on by like leaves floating down a river.
Do it as soon as you’re aware of the negative thoughts, before they turn into ruminations and become very difficult to get rid of.
If we’re introspective and willing to work on changing our thoughts and feelings, our actions usually fall in line and we don’t react in ways we later regret.
This can all be tricky to do at first but the great news is you can develop this skill.
Until next time, keep it real.
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