How do we deal with Anger?
Generally, anger is not a feeling one wants to experience. It has its benefits, like telling us when something is wrong, when something we care about is threatened, or when we need that extra push to accomplish a challenge. Outside of specific situations, we generally prefer our usual emotional response to not be as intense as anger and at least not a prolonged experience of anger. So what’s our typical reaction to this emotion? We tend to release it, contain it, or run away from it. While these responses can be helpful, the way we go about it is not always beneficial. They may help you in the short-term but can end up hurting you in the long-run if anger is improperly balanced or if you find a hard time channeling it.
I’ll be writing in the future about ‘How to Embrace Your Anger,’ but for now let’s focus on identifying your possible manifestation of releasing, containing, or running away from anger as a starting point.
One of the most noticeable ways we see anger is a physical expression. Punching, kicking, yelling, throwing, etc… These can all be ways we deal with anger and even sadness. We do things we did not mean to do or we hurt people that we care about. In the end, we can be left with so much regret. The physical expression of anger does not have to be entirely negative. Anger can be the fuel that pushes us to overcome difficult challenges. Intense emotions tempered by a clear mind can steer us in a productive way of releasing anger.
This is like internalizing the anger. Unlike releasing by externally venting the emotion, we try to ignore the emotion altogether. Rather than visibly reacting to what we are feeling, we fight internally to stop ourselves from feeling anger. This can seem like control, but in the long run, we cannot always perfectly contain our emotions. Containing the anger is good and helpful, but what many people do is throw the container away. We need time to process what we experienced. What made us upset? Why did it make me so upset? What can I do next time? Contain it until you feel safe, and then work through it when you can.
Running from Anger
Running and containing can be similar experiences, but sometimes we can react by avoiding all situations that frustrate us. For example in spousal arguments, one spouse may stonewall and completely cut-off communication with the other. Sometimes this is necessary to defuse the situation and clear our minds. But, more often than not, after running away from the argument both partners try to stuff away from their upset feelings or placate the other and never address the anger because it is too overwhelming.
Can you see a bigger picture of how you or a loved one deals with anger? At the moment it can be hard to notice, but understanding our own patterns is the beginning to making changes. Anger doesn’t always have to be an overwhelming experience. If you or someone you care about struggles with managing anger, reach out and find support! It’s easy to feel judged for your anger, but working with someone you trust can open the door to understanding your anger rather than run from it. Understanding your anger is the first step to finding peace with it.
Written by therapist Daniel Pak
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