Let’s face it; sometimes things just piss us off – even the little things. Anger is a normal reaction that can facilitate better communication and positive change when expressed appropriately.
But for some people, managing their own anger is challenging. Usually these people are the last to know they even have what others may describe as “toxic” or “out-of-control” anger. That’s because their loved ones have gotten used to regulating their anger for them by hiding their own feelings, choosing their words carefully, and walking on egg shells, all in an effort to “keep the peace.”
If you are uncertain whether or not you may have anger issues, read the following common reasons for intense anger and see if any of them resonate with you.
Anger as a way to self-soothe
Self-medication, as a way to deal with the pain of life, is very common. For those with anger issues, there is a biochemical explanation as to why you may fly off the handle – and often.
One of the hormones secreted by the brain during a rage of anger is called norepinephrine, which acts as an analgesic, or pain reliever. When we’re triggered, often that trigger digs up deep wounds and past hurts, whether we are aware of it or not.
Becoming angry in the moment releases this powerful brain chemical that numbs our emotional pain so we don’t feel vulnerable, ignored, unimportant, rejected, or worthless. But as with any drug, a person can become addicted to their own anger because they become addicted to the chemical reaction of it.
Another chemical released by the brain during intense anger is called epinephrine. While norepinephrine acts like a pain reliever, epinephrine acts like an amphetamine, creating a sudden surge of energy throughout our entire body.
This adrenaline rush counteracts our feeling of powerlessness in the moment, or maybe just life in general. Not bad, huh? Many medical experts will tell you that epinephrine is every bit as addictive as alcohol and cocaine, so it’s no wonder so many people are “addicted” to their own anger.
Some of us don’t feel safe in a relationship without a certain amount of distance. This is typically a response to a parent or caretaker being unavailable, unresponsive, or untrustworthy in our past. The adult children of these types of parents feel the need to cultivate a certain emotional detachment in the relationships, and anger is a very effective way of doing just that.
Tips for managing anger
Recognize the problem
As with any addiction, it’s important to recognize and admit you have a problem. Take ownership, accept responsibility and simply acknowledge you need to make a change.
Monitor your behavior
Keep an anger journal and log behavior you noticed or were accused of by others. Note the incident, triggers, and the intensity of your anger from 0 to 10. Often just seeing your anger on paper can offer some insight into where it’s coming from.
Feel your anger but Don’t act on it
Bottling up emotions is never the answer. It’s important for us to feel our feelings, ALL of them. But it’s equally important to regulate our actions and behaviors. Walk away from potential fights and don’t send that angry email or text.
Get some help
Speaking with someone about your anger can help. By uncovering the emotions underneath your anger, you can defuse it and begin to recover from past traumas. A well-trained therapist can teach you skills to learn how to create distance from your thoughts and feelings so you can engage in life in a more meaningful and enriching way.
Life is too short to spend it feeling angry all the time. And life gets lonely the longer you’re angry, because people don’t want to be around you. If you are having difficulty managing your emotions and anger is beginning to have a negative impact on your life, relationships, and career, anger management therapy can help.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists take control and move From Surviving to Thriving.