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Why Am I So Damn Angry?
anger? Most of us get angry from time to time, but some of us work hard to control our anger. It can rear its ugly head too many times beyond what is acceptable—not just by other people’s standards, but by our own.
I don’t consider myself an irritable person, but lately I’ve noticed that my fuses are getting shorter and shorter. What’s really starting to worry me, though, is how I react to my 6-year-old daughter at night.
For some reason, instead of being the loving, caring and nurturing mother I was so proud of, I turned into some kind of she-villain at night and my fuse wasn’t short but totally non-existent .
The other night my daughter had a nightmare. After waking up twice at 12:30am and 1:00am, it’s 2:00am and I honestly don’t have an excuse to buy a nightmare.
I thought the crying and screaming “mummy” should have confirmed the said nightmare, but for some reason I didn’t feel sympathy.
At first I tried to reassure her by cuddling and covering her back, but when I started getting back into bed, it all became a mess. She started screaming and crying, saying she couldn’t close her eyes because her dreams kept coming back.
My 17 year old stepson is sleeping downstairs and I do my best to keep my daughter from waking him up as he has an HSC exam the next day. Now there is no reason for my daughter to settle down and I officially “lose it”!
Every time I try to leave her room, the screaming gets louder and more desperate…now it’s me and not her. I’ve never spanked my daughter, but it scares me to feel so close to it.
In the morning, I felt very remorse for the way I reacted and vowed that if this happened again, I would be more patient and understanding.
But why am I so angry?
Many of my clients have been telling me that anger is one of the big issues in their relationships. Sometimes the anger is directed at the relationship, and sometimes the anger is directed outside the relationship.
Interestingly, both seem to have the same negative effects.
Anger is a primal emotion that helps ward off enemies. It also has the ability to manipulate and denigrate those who are not “angry”, often interpreted as power.
Research has even shown that anger can increase perceived social status by pretending to matter.
No wonder, so many of us think the only way to express it is to be angry. We are wired to think that anger is more powerful, more knowledgeable, and superior, and we are more likely to give in to someone who is angry at us.
Underlying feelings of frustration, insecurity, hurt, worry, embarrassment, or fear can be the cause of this anger, and anger is a way of expressing these feelings.
The problem with anger is that it doesn’t really solve the problem without causing more residual negative emotions.
Anger occurs 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 starts after something “makes” us angry.
The real problem with anger is that, if not managed properly, it can have a profoundly negative impact on personal and professional relationships.
People with anger-management problems are more likely to experience verbal or physical conflict, low self-esteem, anxiety or depression, and alcohol or drug abuse problems.
The strange thing about anger is that not everyone acts out in the same way.
Some people will take the initiative to express. Yelling, screaming, destroying property, bullying, threatening, showing off, ignoring the needs of others, and committing violence are examples of this.
Anger, on the other hand, may be expressed in a passive manner. Avoidance, “coldness,” the use of psychological manipulation, cover-ups, withdrawal, or self-blame are all forms of this anger.
These may not be the stereotypically “cinematic” type of rage we’re used to seeing in the media, but that doesn’t make them any more acceptable or less dangerous.
In fact, I think sometimes these can be worse because they usually last longer than the brute-force type.
OK, so how should you (and me) handle anger?
As with everything, different people will find different strategies that work for them. The most important thing is to heed the warning signs and act immediately so you don’t escalate your anger and lose control.
If you feel your body temperature rise, your face turn red, your palms sweat, your mouth dry, your muscles tense, or you can’t hear what the other person is saying, you’re probably experiencing the warning signs of anger.
Once you are in a state of anger, then you may become irrational, illogical, impulsive, overwhelmed, or out of control. This is when your decision-making process is skewed and you will be more likely to engage in risky behavior and violence, whether passive or aggressive, will follow.
When these warning signs appear, here are some simple tips to help you reduce your anger:
- Take a deep breath and count to 20. Close your eyes if possible, and exhale slowly. Repeat this a few times, and if someone in front of you still wants to fight, explain to them what you’re doing.
- Take “timeout”. Removing yourself from the situation can instantly reduce your anger. Give yourself time to lower your heart rate. Do this for at least 20 minutes, 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 build a favorite place in their memory when things get tense. It’s best to imagine where you feel comfortable, safe and secure, but even fun places can be useful. I love snowboarding, so that’s always been my happy place. Take it to heart, suddenly the situation in front of you is not as bad as you imagined.
- Use scripts to control your mind. When you feel your body temperature rise, start having positive self-talk with yourself. Saying “This may upset me, but I can handle it,” “I’m calm and in control,” or “I’m capable of controlling my emotions” over and over in your head until you believe and restore your Thought control.
- Communicate differently. Instead of blaming the other person or situation, try to find out why you’re angry before moving on. If it takes a few minutes to do this, so be it. Ask yourself, what other feelings do you have besides anger? Be depressed, lonely or sad. Then figure out what are your unmet needs? This will give you time to calm down and be able to express your anger 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 to calm the mind and heal the body for centuries, and it’s as relevant today as ever. Our fast-paced life leaves little time for quiet thinking, we are often so busy “doing” that we forget about “living”. There are a lot of great meditation courses online, and it would definitely benefit you if you could attend a live class.
- Write down everything that makes you angry or upset. Some people like to keep a journal to re-read their feelings, some like to take that paper and burn it. I’m a diary keeper, but I can totally see the benefit of destroying those feelings in writing. Clients who use the technique often report that they feel an instant sense of relief and the ability to move away from what is bothering them. Do both and see what works best for you.
- Get more exercise or play contact sports. I have to admit, there’s nothing more satisfying than beating life out of a punching bag, especially when you’re angry. Boxing was my lifesaver when I was going through a pretty tough time. Twice a week, I take all my anger and frustration out on my bag and gloves. Just getting outside for a walk, jog, bike ride, horseback ride, surf, swim, or whatever you enjoy will help fill your brain with positive hormones and make you feel better about life. Plus, you’ll be too tired to be angry. There are big benefits there!
- Learn to communicate more effectively. Sometimes the reason we get angry is because we don’t feel understood. I know that when I feel neglected, I get very upset and very angry with my daughter. Learning to communicate using nonviolent communication helps us a lot. We talk about how we feel, our needs, and what we want from each other, and while it can feel boring at times, it actually ends up being more productive in the long run.
- Learn to relax. It sounds so simple, yet many of us simply cannot relax. With smartphones, tablets, laptops and the internet shutting down in front of us 24/7 is becoming a real problem. Find something you enjoy doing, or better yet, try doing nothing. I realized about a year ago that I miss dance, not just dance, but ballet. So I found an adult class and started over once a week. I like it! It was a break from my work and I was so busy remembering the choreography that I completely forgot what was waiting for me when I got home or the office.
So the next time my daughter wakes up in the middle of the night and I start throwing a tantrum, I know I have some tools in my belt to handle it. I will take a deep breath and remember that I am a loving, caring mother.
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