November 29, 2023 Nov 29, 2023 8 min read
Anger is one of the natural and essential emotions that everyone experiences. Anger alerts us when we are being threatened or mistreated, and to injustice. We can channel that anger into constructive action that can help us set boundaries, correct unfairness, and stop harmful acts.
With healthy anger, we stop and think before speaking or acting. We look for a way to react without harming others or ourselves and seek a solution to a situation that has upset us. Healthy anger subsides relatively quickly.
The problems arise when our anger overwhelms us, becomes chronic, and escalates into uncontrollable rage. In these situations, the part of our brain that thinks and reasons is inactive, and the emotional part of our brain takes over.
Extreme or chronic anger is a reaction to something that has happened. There are always reasons why you feel angry, and you can learn how to control and master your feelings so they don’t consume you and cause suffering for you or others.
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When you feel intense anger and rage, you may have been triggered by memories of long-past events that overwhelmed you and left you with the trauma of an unhealed wound. This is a common reaction to childhood abuse and neglect by parents or other caretakers. As a child, you could not stand up for yourself or express anger without suffering more abuse. The normal reaction of anger to being victimized physically, sexually, mentally, and emotionally does not resolve or go away. It festers within you, staying alive in mind and body.
When you carry this kind of anger, even a small event, a mean word, a sound, a smell, and many other things can remind you of your past trauma and can trigger fury and rage. When this happens, it is a signal to stop and take care of yourself. This is not a time for you to judge yourself for being angry or to reject your feelings. Recognize that you are having an emotional flashback that has engulfed you in past feelings that you had to suppress.
The major immediate reactions to overwhelming negative experiences are Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn. When you are having an emotional flashback, these reactions take over. If you experience chronic anger, you are stuck in the fight reaction. Many situations can trigger your anger, and it becomes difficult to see what is happening objectively, to calm down, and to make a rational decision about how to react.
You may have been neglected, shamed, and humiliated as a child. This can cause abandonment rage that can flare up when you feel left out, ignored, rejected, teased, or put down because these connect up with the past and cause emotional flashbacks.
Many children were never allowed to express anger and felt that they had to be perfect to receive the love and attention that they needed. This creates impossible expectations of perfection in oneself and others. When these unrealistic perfectionistic standards are not met, what psychotherapist Pete Walker calls the Inner Critic and Outer Critic attack within and without. The Inner Critic destroys self-esteem and any positive sense of self; the Outer Critic turns against the world and judges everyone through a negative, condemning lens.
All these reactions are attempts to survive a situation where you are unable to act or to express yourself. Don’t judge yourself for doing what you needed to get through challenging situations that you didn’t ask for or deserve. Forgive yourself for being angry, depressed, anxious, or whatever you feel.
Intense, chronic anger and rage are harmful to your mental and physical health. They raise your blood pressure and your heart rate and can cause chronic physical conditions.
When you can’t control your anger, it affects your relationships at home, work, and with friends. You may get isolated because you scare people away, or you can’t tolerate being around people because they inevitably say or do something that may trigger you.
So, it is so important to learn to manage and reduce your tendency to anger. The majority of people who have experienced trauma have these reactions. But many have found ways to become more aware and in control, and to ultimately get beyond these intense feelings.
There are a number of approaches to dealing with these feelings. You can start anywhere and practice the techniques that resonate with you. Different people find help in a variety of ways. Make a commitment to caring for yourself and relieving your suffering with regular practice.
Cognitive therapy approaches help you come to terms with your negative thoughts. Getting perspective on negative filters and inaccurate and exaggerated thoughts can shift your worldview. This will help you be kinder and more compassionate and generous to yourself and others. You can let go of perfectionism and develop more reasonable expectations, so you are not always criticizing yourself and others. This will help you become more open and able to have closer and happier relationships.
Psychodynamic therapy can provide a safe place to vent your anger, frustration, and grief over what happened to you. Having someone who understands and helps you look at what happened and let out your repressed emotions can make a big difference. This can clear the way for you to feel lighter, to be less easily triggered, to feel more distance from the past, and able to enjoy the present.
Mindfulness has helped millions of people find a way to develop some peace of mind. It can help you become aware of how you really feel and increase your ability to look calmly at the root of your anger and release it. When you practice mindfulness daily, you strengthen your ability to be tolerant and less reactive, so when you are triggered, you have a familiar, calm state of mind that you can access. When you practice regularly, you become calmer in general, so you react less intensely to whatever happens.
There are numerous anger management classes available that can teach you specific techniques.
It takes time and effort to overcome the tendency to anger and rage. Different techniques work for different people. Sometimes you need a combination of techniques to change. Be patient with yourself. If you have a setback, forgive yourself and keep trying. Over time, your awareness of your triggers will increase, and your reactions to these triggers will lessen. Your thoughts will become more positive as you quiet inner and outer criticism.
You will feel more in control and more able to be assertive and constructive instead of aggressive and hurtful when you feel angry. Always remember to have compassion for yourself and know that you are not your anger.
As anger fades, you will discover how much more you can enjoy and create in your life.
Anger can alert us when we need to defend ourselves and set boundaries, and it can be an important response to injustice. But chronic anger, and anger that escalates to rage, is harmful. We hurt ourselves and others if we can’t control these feelings. A common reaction to trauma and child abuse is rage and an impulse to fight. But in those situations, people are overpowered and cannot respond at the time of the event. But the feelings don’t go away. They are pushed down into the mind and body. Reminders of the past can trigger outbursts of anger and rage. It is important to become aware of these triggers, so you do not react so intensely and negatively in the present.
There are numerous approaches to dealing with anger and rage. CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can be helpful, and other forms of therapy can help you get to the root of your anger. Mindfulness practice makes you more aware of the physical and mental aspects of anger so you can get some distance from your feelings. Meditation can increase inner peace, so you react more calmly. Exercise, yoga, and tai chi can balance your emotions reduce the physical feelings that go along with anger and make you want to fight. All of these make you more aware of your triggers so you can become less likely to become angry.
Author Bio: Susan Ellis studied psychology and anthropology at Barnard College and the University of Chicago. She has worked in many aspects of publishing, including editing and marketing scholarly journals, mainstream magazines, and books on psychology and psychoanalysis.
This journal is an essential tool designed to empower you in understanding and managing your anger. Dedicate a specific time daily to explore your thoughts and emotions surrounding anger and rage. Reflect on the invaluable insights into your triggers and reactions. Create your toolkit of responses to triggering situations and behaviours. This toolkit will restore your agency. With regular use, this journal becomes a guide, aiding you in navigating anger and fostering a greater sense of calm and positivity in your daily life. Download the Managing Anger and Rage Journal