As long as I’m not physically hurting anyone, there’s nothing wrong with my anger, right? I mean, life wouldn’t be life without those little irritants that push our buttons. And when our buttons get pushed, it’s completely natural to feel angry. In fact, anger is a normal emotion that can facilitate better communication and positive change when expressed appropriately. So why do we have to worry about “anger management?”
For some people, managing their own anger is challenging. Usually these people are the last to know they even have what others may describe as “toxic” or “out of control” anger. That’s because their loved ones have gotten used to regulating their anger for them by hiding their own feelings, choosing their words carefully, and walking on egg shells, all in an effort to “keep the peace.”
The downsides to this is we don’t realize that our anger is actually a problem, we may start to get angry more quickly because we aren’t learning to regulate it, or our anger reactions may actually intensify.
Not only does avoiding anger cause problems in our relationships, but it also causes problems in our day-to-day lives as more and more things become irritants to us and we haven’t learned to regulate our emotions.
As you’re reading this, maybe you are wondering if your anger has gotten out of control. Or maybe you are living with a loved one who’s anger is increasing and you need resources for yourself or them.
At first it may not have seemed like a big deal. You always knew you had “anger problems” but it’s just who you are. And you don’t lash out physically, so you didn’t see it as a problem.
Or maybe your loved one didn’t used to be this way. They are more angry now than they used to be. Maybe they still aren’t lashing out physically, but it’s become harder for you to feel safe and happy in the relationship.
As anger reactions build, and emotions are not regulated appropriately, it will eventually end in a way nobody is happy with.
Eventually, it causes a riff in the family. It causes more arguments, more withdrawal, more stress.
The truth is, many people have problems regulating their anger. Many people know they have a problem with anger, but do not know how to fix it as it seems to happen before they realize it.
It’s true that you are struggling with managing your anger reactions, but did you know that there are different reasons for intense anger?
Keep reading for 3 common reasons for intense anger
MY ANGER IS CAUSING PROBLEMS IN MY RELATIONSHIPS
The biggest downside to your anger is the impact it has on your relationships. You may be noticing that your family is walking on egg shells, or avoiding talking to you about certain things. You may notice that your friends don’t want to do certain things with you anymore, or they are more quiet when they do those things with you.
At the very least, you don’t feel good after you overreact. It is impacting your relationships and you are fully aware of this. You find yourself getting angry at yourself for getting angry, which puts you into a downward spiral.
Living this way feels helpless. You know you over react, but it happens before you can stop it. You don’t like who you’ve become and you’re upset with how it’s impacting your relationships.
YOU ARE READY TO NOT HAVE ANGER INTERRUPT YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Although you struggle with angry outbursts, you have the potential to reel it back in. You do not have to let anger control you and your relationships.
When we choose to take control back, we have the opportunity to improve our lives in so many ways including with our friends, family, at work, and during leisure/down time.
3 common reasons for intense anger
Right now it is true that anger feels like it is controlling you instead of the other way around, but you are fully in control of your actions and reactions.
The key to achieving this change is recognition. Knowing why you are over reacting is the first step is making changes.
Making these changes is not as difficult as you may think because you already look back at your reactions. You are just going to start looking at it from a different angle.
Take a look at these 3 common reasons for intense anger
If you are uncertain whether or not you may have anger issues, read the following common reasons for intense anger and see if any nof them ring true for you.
- Anger as a way to self-soothe
Self-medication, as a way to deal with life’s pain, is very common. For those with anger issues, there is a biochemical explanation as to why you may fly off the handle and often.
One of the hormones secreted by the brain during a fit of anger is called norepinephrine, which acts as an analgesic, or pain reliever. When we are triggered, often that trigger digs up deep wounds and past hurts, whether we are aware of it or not.
Becoming angry in the moment releases a powerful brain chemical that numbs our emotional pain so we don’t feel vulnerable, ignored, unimportant, rejected, or worthless. But as with any drug, a person can become addicted to their own anger because they become addicted to the chemical reaction of it.
Feeling angry is less hurtful than feeling vulnerable, ignored, unimportant, rejected, or worthless. So when norepinephrine is released, the more hurtful feelings are dulled.
This is what people talk about when they say anger is a secondary emotion. Often anger is covering up another emotion.
As you look back on your anger and reaction, ask yourself: Am I covering up another emotion in this instance? If so, what is that emotion? What is the “real” emotion I am feeling? It is amazing how just asking yourself this can bring the anger down.
Another chemical released by the brain during a fit of anger is called epinephrine. While norepinephrine acts like a pain reliever, epinephrine acts like an amphetamine, allowing us to feel a sudden surge of energy throughout the entire body.
This adrenaline rush counteracts our feeling of powerlessness in the moment, or maybe in our life in general. How seductive is that? Many medical experts will tell you that epinephrine is every bit as addictive as alcohol and cocaine, so it’s no wonder so many people are addicted to their own anger.
When we are triggered by something, the amygdala responds because it doesn’t know whether you are actually in danger or not; all it knows is “something” is bad/wrong. The amygdala sends out the chemicals we need to survive this moment. When we are acting intensely, we are no longer feeling powerless.
Take a deep breath (actually 3-5). This gives your brain time to turn logic back on and think about the situation. After those 3-5 breaths, ask yourself, “Am I safe, right here right now?” What is the best action for me to take which will not cause physical, emotional, or other forms of harm to the other person or situation?”
- “Safe” attachment
Some of us don’t feel safe in a relationship without a safe bit of distance. This is typically a response to a parent or caretaker being unavailable, unresponsive, or untrustworthy in our past. The adult children of these types of parents feel the need to cultivate a certain emotional detachment in their relationships, and anger is a very effective way of doing this.
When we grow up “knowing” that other people will hurt us, it is safer to keep a distance, so if they do what we “know” they will, it will not hurt us as badly.
A solution to this is similar to the first reason for anger: as you look back on your anger and reaction, ask yourself: What emotion am I covering up? When was the first time I remember feeling this emotion? Where is it coming from?
These are three reasons why anger is so powerful and so hard to manage. We are avoiding feeling more vulnerable feelings, the brain doesn’t know whether you are in danger or not, so chemicals are released making you feel more powerful (this works well with numbing the vulnerable feelings), and we may be trying to avoid getting hurt by keeping a safe distance from others.
Bringing your anger under control is a very freeing feeling. You absolutely can get control of your anger, even if you aren’t 100% sold on it yet. Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC can help as I work with many adults dealing with intense anger reactions.
Bonus: Tips for managing anger
- Recognize the problem – as with a substance addiction, it’s important to recognize and admit you may have a problem
- Monitor your behavior – keep an anger journal and log behavior you noticed or you were accused of by others. Note the incident, trigger, and the intensity of the anger from 0-10. Often just seeing your anger o paper will offer some insights into where it is coming from.
- Feel your anger but don’t act on it – bottling up emotions is never the answer. It’s important for us to feel our feelings. ALL of them. But it’s equally important to regulate our actions. Walk away form potential fights and don’t send that angry email.
- Get some help – speaking with someone about your anger can often help. By uncovering the emotions underneath the anger, you can diffuse it and begin to heal from past trauma.
If you feel you may have an issue with anger and would like to explore therapy, please call me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help. 941-462-4807.