Over the years I have seen many clients who have presented with ‘anger issues’ – either they come saying they have anger issues or they have been told they must ‘go and do something about their anger’ by someone else. What is common is that each person sees anger as being something bad, something to be ashamed about, and something they need to learn not to have.
But anger is an emotion like other emotions we experience, for example sadness, joy. Anger lets us know that something does not feel right, or is not right for us. The problems arise because many of us do not learn how to express anger in a constructive way, and it becomes destructive.
Many of us, as children, were told that it was not ok to get angry, and we were often told this in an angry way. So a double message my have been received – it is not alright to show anger, and anger is something to be feared. So we can grow up learning to squash down our anger, but the problem is the anger is still there, rather like a pressure cooker simmering away, until a trigger makes us blow, and hence anger can then be quite aggressive and is perceived by others to be frightening. It is often the little things, frustrating things which ‘tip us over’, and once we have tipped, it is too late to stop, even though we may feel remorse afterwards and wonder why we get so angry.
If we could learn to express how we feel about things as we go along, then this pressure cooker situation would not arise, as we would have been able to express, in a healthy way, our feelings of anger without the situation becoming confrontational.
Destructive ways of expressing anger can be both passive (e.g. depression, apathy, withdrawal) where perhaps we fear any form of confrontation, or aggressive (shouting, breaking things, hitting someone) where we cannot control our outbursts – neither is healthy because no-one’s needs are being met and much hurt and pain is caused.
It is ok to express how we feel in a loving way. Taking the time to learn how to do this can be life changing – both on an individual level and in relationships,
NHS Choices website has some useful tips about managing short term and long term anger http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/controlling-anger.aspx#managing – .
And a useful book is Managing Anger by Gael Lindenfield.