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Why Am I So Damn Angry?
anger? Most of us get angry from time to time, but some of us struggle to keep our anger under control. This can rear its ugly head far too many times than is considered acceptable – not only by others, but also by our own standards.
I don’t consider myself an angry person and yet lately I’ve noticed that my fuse is getting shorter. What really started to worry me is my reaction to my 6 year old daughter at night.
For some reason instead of being the loving, caring and nurturing mother I pride myself on being, at night I become some kind of she-devil and my fuse is not short it is completely non-existent.
That night my daughter had a nightmare. After already being up twice at 12:30 and 1:00 in the morning, it was 2:00 in the morning and honestly I didn’t buy the excuse of the nightmare.
I suppose the crying and screaming ‘mother’ should have confirmed said nightmare, but for some reason I felt no empathy.
At first I tried to calm her down by hugging her and covering her back up, but all hell broke loose when I started to go back to bed. She started screaming and crying that she couldn’t close her eyes because her dream kept coming back.
When my 17-year-old stepson was sleeping downstairs, I tried my best to keep my daughter from waking him, as he had an HSC exam the next day. No rationale has fixed my daughter now and I have officially “lost it”!
Every time I would try to leave her room the screams would get louder and more desperate… now not her from me. I never hurt my daughter and yet I felt so close to her, it scared me.
In the morning I incredibly regretted the way I reacted and vowed to be more patient and understand if it happened again.
But why am I so angry?
A number of my clients have told me that anger is one of the biggest issues in their relationships. Sometimes the anger is directed at the relationship and sometimes the anger is directed outside of it.
What is interesting is that both have the same negative effect.
Anger is a primitive emotion, useful to repel enemies. He also has the ability to manipulate and discredit those who are not ‘angry’ and is often interpreted as a strength.
Studies have even shown that anger can add to perceived social status by asserting importance.
No wonder, then, that many of us think the only way to be heard is to get angry. We are bound to accept anger as more powerful, knowledgeable, and superior, and we are more likely to give in to someone who is angry with us.
Basic feelings of frustration, upset, hurt, worry, embarrassment or fear may be the cause of this anger and anger is the way these feelings are expressed.
The problem with anger is that it has an inability to actually fix a problem without causing more negative emotions to arise.
Anger occurs when we feel that something has been ‘done to us’. It’s an emotion that usually has an external component. Even when we are angry with ourselves, the anger starts after something has happened that ‘makes’ us angry.
The real problem with anger is that if it is not properly managed, it can have far-reaching negative effects on both personal and professional relationships.
People with anger management problems are more likely to get into verbal or physical fights, have low self-esteem, suffer from anxiety or depression, and have alcohol or drug abuse problems.
The strange thing about anger is that not everyone shows it the same way.
Some people express it aggressively. Yelling, screaming, destroying property, bullying, threats, showing off, ignoring the needs of others and using violence are all examples of this.
On the other hand, anger may be expressed passively. Avoiding, giving the ‘cold shoulder’, using psychological manipulation, being secretive, withdrawing or self-blaming are all forms of this type of anger.
It may not be the stereotypical ‘movie’ type of anger we’re used to seeing in the media, but that doesn’t make them any more acceptable or any less dangerous.
In fact, I think sometimes these can be worse because they often last a lot longer than the violent aggressive kind.
OK, so how should you (and I) deal with anger?
Like anything, different people are going to find different strategies that work for them. The most important thing to do is to pay attention to the warning signs and take immediate action so that you don’t cause the anger to escalate and get out of control.
If you feel your temperature rise, your face is flushed, your palms sweat, your mouth is dry, your muscles tense, or you are unable to hear what is being said properly, you are likely experiencing warning signs of anger.
Once you are in an angry state you may become irrational, illogical, impulsive, overwhelmed or out of control. It is when your decision-making processes are skewed that you are more likely to engage in risky behaviors and violence, whether passive or aggressive will result.
Here are some simple tips to help reduce your anger when these warning signs appear:
- Take a deep breath in and count to 20. Close your eyes if possible and then breathe out slowly. Repeat this several times and if there is someone in front of you who still wants to confront, explain to them what you are doing.
- Take a ‘time out’. Removing yourself from the situation can immediately relieve your anger. Give yourself time to lower your heart rate. At least 20 minutes are needed to do this, so go for a walk, read a book or watch a movie. Remember to breathe deeply to return your blood well.
- Try creating a ‘happy place’. Some people find it helpful to have a place they love already built into their memory to go to when things get tense. Visualizing in a place where you feel comfortable, safe and secure is best, but even a fun place is useful. I love snowboarding, so this is always my happy place. Go there in your head and suddenly the situation in front of you is not as bad as you thought.
- Use a script to control your thinking. When you feel your fever rising, start a positive conversation with yourself. Say something like “This might upset me but I can handle it”, “I am calm and in control” or “I have power over my emotions”, over and over in your head until you believe it and you are back in control.
- communicate differently. Instead of blaming the other person or the situation, try to find the reason for your anger before you move on. If you have to spend a few minutes doing it then so be it. Ask yourself what do you feel other than angry? Is it frustration, loneliness or sadness. And then understand what is your unmet need? This will give you time to calm down and you can express what you are angry about, instead of just being angry.
Ongoing anger management may also benefit from doing some of the following:
- Try meditation. This ancient practice has been used for centuries to calm the mind and heal the body and is as relevant today as ever. Our fast-paced lives leave little time for quiet reflection and we are often so busy ‘doing’ that we forget ‘life’. There are tons of great online meditation programs and if you can get to a live class it will definitely help.
- Write down everything that makes you angry or upset. Some people like to keep a journal to reread what they feel and some like to take the piece of paper and burn it. I keep a journal, but I can totally see the benefits of getting those feelings down in writing. My clients who use this technique often claim that they immediately felt a sense of relief and an ability to let go of what was bothering them. Do both and see what suits you best.
- Increase your physical activity or do contact sports. I have to admit that there is nothing more satisfying than knocking the life out of a punching bag, especially when you are angry. When I was punched pretty hard he was my savior. Twice a week I would take out all my anger and frustration on the bags and gloves. Just getting outside and going for a walk, run, bike ride, horse riding, surfing, swimming or anything you enjoy will help flood your brain with positive hormones and make you feel better about life in general. Plus you’ll be too tired to be angry. Big bonus there!
- Learn to communicate more effectively. Sometimes the reason we get angry is because we feel misunderstood. I know I get very frustrated and very angry with my daughter when I feel ignored. Learning to communicate through non-violent communication helped us a lot. We talk about our feelings, our needs and our requests from each other and although it can sometimes feel drawn out, it actually ends up being more effective in the long run.
- Learn to relax. It may sound simple and yet many of us have a complete inability to relax. With smart phones, tablets, laptops and the internet in our faces 24/7 switching off becomes a real problem. Find something you enjoy doing or better yet, try doing nothing. I realized about a year ago that I missed dancing, not just dancing but ballet. So I found an adult class and started again once a week. I like this! It’s my time away from my responsibilities and I’m so busy trying to remember the choreography that I completely forget what’s waiting for me when I get home or to the office.
So the next time my daughter wakes up in the middle of the night and I start to lose my temper, I know I have a few tools under my belt to deal with it. I will take a few deep breaths and remember that I am a loving and caring nurturing mother.
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