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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. It can rear its ugly head too many times beyond what 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 and shorter. What really started to worry me though is my reaction to my 6 year old daughter at night.
For some reason instead of being the loving, caring and nurturing mother I am proud of, at night I become something of a devil and my fuse isn’t short it’s completely non-existent.
The other night my daughter had a nightmare. After already waking up twice at 12:30 and 1:00, it was now 2:00 and frankly, I wasn’t buying the nightmare excuse.
I guess the crying and screaming “mummy” should have confirmed the aforementioned nightmare, but for some reason I didn’t feel empathetic.
At first I tried to calm her down by petting and covering her back, but all hell broke loose when I started walking back to bed. She started screaming and crying that she couldn’t close her eyes because her dream kept coming back.
With my 17-year-old stepson downstairs sleeping, I tried to prevent my daughter from waking him as he had an HSC exam the next day. No amount of reasoning has calmed my daughter down now and I have officially ‘lost it’!
Every time I would try to leave her room, the screams would become louder and more desperate… Now from me not her. I never hit my daughter and yet I felt so close to it, it scared me.
In the morning I was incredibly remorseful for the way I reacted and promised to be more patient and understanding if it happened again.
But why am I so angry?
Some of my clients have told me that anger is one of the big problems in their relationships. Sometimes the anger is directed into the relationship and sometimes the anger is directed outside of it.
What is interesting is that both seem to have the same negative effect.
Anger is a primitive emotion, useful for driving away enemies. It also has the ability to manipulate and slander those not so “angry” and is often interpreted as power.
Studies have even shown that anger can add to perceived social status by feigning importance.
It’s no wonder, then, that many of us think the only way to be heard is to get angry. We have a hard time accepting anger as more powerful, knowing and superior and we are more likely to give in to someone who is angry with us.
Underlying feelings of frustration, upset, hurt, anxiety, embarrassment or fear can be the cause of this anger and anger is the way those feelings are expressed.
The problem with anger is that it has an inability to actually fix a problem without causing more residual negative feelings to emerge.
Anger happens when we feel that something has been “done to us”. It is an emotion that usually has an external component. Even when we are angry with ourselves, the anger begins after something has happened to “make” us angry.
The real problem with anger is, if it is not managed properly, 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, suffer from low self-esteem, have anxiety or depression and problems with alcohol or drug abuse.
The strange thing about anger is not everyone shows it the same way.
Some people express it aggressively. Yelling, shouting, destroying property, bullying, threatening, pointing, ignoring others’ needs and being violent are all examples of this.
On the other hand anger can be expressed in a passive way. Being evasive, giving the “cold shoulder”, using psychological manipulation, being secretive, withdrawn or self-blaming are all forms of this type of anger.
These 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.
Actually I think sometimes these can be worse because they often last much longer than the violent aggressive type.
OK, so how should you (and I) handle anger?
Like everything, different people will find different strategies that work for them. The most important thing to do is notice the warning signs and act immediately so you don’t end up escalating the anger and spiraling out of control.
If you feel your temperature rising, your face turning red, sweaty palms, dry mouth, tension in your muscles or unable to hear what is being said correctly, then you are probably experiencing the warning signs of anger.
Once you are in an angry state, then you can become irrational, illogical, impulsive, overwhelmed or out of control. This is when your decision making processes are distorted, you are more likely to engage in risky behaviors and violence whether passive or aggressive will follow.
Here are some simple tips to help reduce your anger when those warning signs appear:
- Take a deep breath and count to 20. Close your eyes if possible and then slowly exhale. Repeat this a few times and if there is someone in front of you who still wants to be confrontational explain to them what you are doing.
- Take ‘time’. Removing yourself from the situation can immediately ease your anger. Give yourself time to reduce your heart rate. It takes at least 20 minutes to do this, so go for a walk, read a book or watch a movie. Remember to breathe deeply to get your blood flowing again.
- Try to create 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 stressful. Visualizing somewhere you feel comfortable, safe and secure is best but even somewhere that’s fun is useful. I love snowboarding, so that’s always my happy place. Go there in your mind 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 temperature rising, start a positive self-talk conversation with yourself. Say something like “This might upset me but I can handle it”, “I am calm and in control” or “I have the power over my emotions”, over and over in your head until you believe it and you regain control.
- Communicate differently. Instead of blaming the other person or situation try to find what the cause of your anger is before you move on. If you have to take a few minutes to do that, so be it. Ask yourself, what do you feel other than angry? Whether it is frustration, loneliness or sadness. Then find out what is the need in you that is not being met? This will give you time to calm down and you can express what you are angry about instead of just being angry.
Your 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 it is as relevant today as ever. Our fast-paced lives leave little time for quiet reflection and we are often so busy with ‘doing’ that we forget about ‘living’. There are many great online programs for meditation and if you can get to a live class that would definitely be beneficial.
- Write down everything that makes you angry or upset. Some people like to keep a journal to read back about what they’re feeling, and some like to take the piece of paper and burn it. I’m a journalist, but I can totally see the benefits of getting those feelings out in writing. My clients who use this technique often claim that they immediately felt a sense of calmness and an ability to let go of what was bothering them. Do both and see what works best for you.
- Increase your exercise or take up a contact sport. I have to admit, there is nothing more satisfying than punching the life out of a punching bag, especially when you are angry. When I was going through a pretty rough time boxing was my savior. Twice a week I would take out all my anger and frustration on the bags and drops. However, just getting outside and going for a walk, jog, bike ride, horseback riding, surfing, swimming, or anything you enjoy will help flood your brain with positive hormones and make you feel better about life in general. Besides, 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 we are not understood. I know I get incredibly 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 sometimes it can feel drawn out, it actually ends up being more effective in the long run.
- Learn to relax. This might sound simple and yet many of us have a complete inability to relax. With smartphones, tablets, laptops and the internet in our faces 24/7 switching off becomes a real problem. Find something you like to do or better yet, try to do nothing. I realized about a year ago that I missed dancing, not just any dance but ballet. So I found an adult class and started once a week again. I love it! It’s my time away from my responsibilities and I’m so busy trying to remember the choreography I completely forget about what’s waiting for me when I get home or to the office.
So 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 in my belt to deal with it. I will take a deep breath and remember that I am a loving, caring nurturing mother.
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