Anger may be the most misunderstood of our basic core emotions. We were always warned, while growing up, to “watch your temper”. Sound advice indeed. While controlling anger is vital, especially in social settings, it is the elevation of anger into rage that often gets unnoticed and creates the larger issues. Anger is a natural, and quite often healthy, response but rage is never good.
What is Anger?
Anger, like most emotions, is simply a response to specific stimuli. As such, what angers you might not phase someone else. When you respond angrily to any given situation you could be simply reacting to the moment or, additionally, to a negative memory this moment has triggered. This is why we so often hear the expression “stop over reacting”.
How could any of us possibly understand what triggers someone else. Only they have that memory that causes them to react that way. A great personal exercise is, the next time you get angry, ask yourself what is really bothering you. Is it the incident at hand or something less easily defined. If your anger feels uncontrollable, chances are it is the latter. As you continue with this exercise you will start to see your own patterns emerge. Recognizing what is really causing the anger is a first step toward controlling that anger.
Understanding the Difference Between Anger and Rage
Anger can be a perfectly normal, and even appropriate, reaction to some situations. Dependent on the severity of the memory, anger can turn to rage quickly. For someone experiencing rage it can feel like a weight bearing down on your shoulders while the back of your head gets heavy and hot. The only way to feel better is to have some form of release.
Unfortunately this rage quite often manifests itself through some inappropriate verbal or physical form. Obviously this is not only self-destructive but also negatively affects everyone around you. What’s worse is your feeling afterwards of regret and embarrassment. This behavior is often seen with people suffering from addiction. So what steps can be taken to gain more self-control . . .
Why Do We Experience Anger?
Anger manifests itself as a reaction to a specific occurrence. What actually triggers this anger depends on the individual. Sometimes it is just an honest reaction to what was observed and it comes and goes in an instant. When the anger stays, or progresses into rage, it is a sign of something deeper in your subconscious. This is why, to others, your reaction to certain situations appears irrational. In reality, you are simply experiencing the moment differently than others.
There are several different camps for addressing the true core reasons for this behavior. The traditional approach is through therapy where the patient talks about their problems. The therapist helps the patient “peel back the onion” to reveal, primarily, the childhood trauma that represents the root cause. Another approach involves more of a transactional method . . . stop trying to figure out what’s wrong and simply replace all of your negative feelings with positive ones. Both methods require the afflicted person to be honestly committed to self-improvement before any progress can be achieved. Both approaches look to accomplish the same thing . . . changing the way ones brain interprets, and reacts to, the world.
As with most things in life, change starts with an acknowledgement that change is necessary. You must admit a problem exists and be honestly ready to start the journey to self-improvement. The stigma that still exists around addiction, impulse control issues and mental illness needs to be acknowledged, confronted and accepted before preparation for moving forward so you are ready for the reaction of others. Everyone involved must be open, honest and supportive throughout the process.
One of the first keys is to recognize what triggers the rage and accept it. You cannot go back and change your past but you can control its effects on your present. As Ghandi once famously said “Nobody can hurt me without my permission”. Understand that your past memories impact you only as much as you allow. Change what you can and let go of the rest. Easier said than done but absolutely necessary.
There are any number of proactive techniques you can employ that will help your subconscious mind better deal with your reactions to external stimuli. Exercise is still one of the best ways to release tension and promote positive feelings in your body. A minimum of 30 minutes of mild to rigorous exercise everyday will do wonders (it will also ward off many common illnesses). What you put into your body can be just as important. Other helpful routines you should consider are meditation, essential oils and positive affirmations.
How to Help Someone with Their Anger Issues
Helping someone you love who has difficulty controlling their anger can be a frustrating, but ultimately rewarding, experience. The key is always understanding why you are doing it and what is honestly motivating you. If you want them to change because you want to control them you will only make the situation worse. You must do it only from a place of genuine love for them. They must also have as strong a desire to change as you, otherwise you will be the only one rowing in the boat.
For your loved one who is suffering some resistance may come from simply being afraid of change, no matter how inviting the prospect. In an odd way, a damaged person holds on to their pain primarily because it is familiar. It is the classic “the devil you know” scenario. It can be frightening to enter a new realm no matter how inviting. If your loved one suffers from addiction please read this.
Be patient and always, always, always, stay calm. Maintain your emotions at a very steady and supportive level. This process will test your resolve and can be very frustrating. Be ready for a long, but ultimately, rewarding journey. Always provide positive feedback when you see any genuine progress. It can mean the world to someone suffering.
Knowing When to Walk Away
The old expression “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink it” is vital to understand here. Your desire to help someone you love is only as effective as their desire for change. You may reach a point where you are suffering as much as them. If you are doing all of the “heavy lifting” it is time to consider walking away. Only you can make this decision but recognize that it may be the only viable option left to you at some point. Hopefully not.
Finally . . .
While all of the above can work wonders for someone suffering from anger issues it is possible that they are at a point where the best alternative is professional help. The reality is we are all damaged to a certain extent and could each benefit from some level of therapy. But it is also true that we are each far stronger than we realize and have more control over, and a better understanding of, ourselves. If we truly look ourselves in the mirror, acknowledge the only way we can change is to change ourselves, stop blaming others for our shortcomings and prepare to make sacrifices in our lives . . . we can make major steps towards self-improvement.