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Anger and Rage

Anger and Rage

Anger and Rage

We know what anger is because we have all experienced it, whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-blown rage. 

In general, we may become angry or frustrated whenever we are not able to achieve a goal.  Life is full of frustrations from minor irritations to something really big.  When we use our frustration and anger to motivate us to change something in our life, anger and frustration end up being good and helpful.  But for many people anger and frustration result in irritability, rage, wrath, stress, resentment, loss of confidence, depression and other negative behaviors. While anger and frustration are not the same, so many of the clients I have helped have so much combined frustration and anger that the distinctions between them are lost and meaningless.

Understanding Anger and Rage

Anger is an emotional response to a real, felt or imagined grievance. It may have its roots in a past or present experience, or it may be in anticipation of a future event. Anger is invariably based on the perception of threat or a perceived threat due to a conflict, injustice, negligence, humiliation and betrayal among others.

Many words in our vocabulary describe various forms of anger that differ primarily by their intensity of passion and arousal. A partial list includes: irritation, frustration, annoyance, miffed, sulking, offended, indignation, exasperation, incensed, pissed, outrage, wrath, rage, fury, ferocity, and livid.

Anger can be an active or a passive emotion. In case of "active" emotion the angry person lashes out verbally or physically at an intended target.  When anger is a passive emotion it characterized by silent sulking, passive-aggressive behavior, and hostility.

Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person or event (a traffic jam, a canceled event), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.

Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you're at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

Physiological Aspects of Anger

Like other emotions, anger is accompanied by physiological and biological changes.  When you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline, your rate of breathing increases and your body's muscles tense up.

While anger has a physiological preparation phase during which the body resources are mobilized for a fight, it also has a wind-down phase as well. The body starts to relax back towards its resting state when the target of the anger is no longer accessible or an immediate threat. It is difficult to relax from an angry state very quickly. The adrenaline-caused arousal that occurs during anger lasts a very long time (many hours, sometimes days), and lowers the anger threshold, making it easier for the person to get angry again later on. It takes a rather long time for the body to return to the resting state.

Expressing Anger

People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. Expressing your angry feelings can be done in violent destructive ways or in an assertive, but non-aggressive, manner. Hopefully, the person who is angry has learned, or will learn, how to make clear what their needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others.

Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The danger in this type of response is that if it isn't allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression. Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven't learned how to constructively express their anger.

Anger can make us blind to the truth and unable to accept what’s sensible and correct. When anger is the primary emotion being felt, we become less able to think and act rationally and in some cases, even our senses do not work properly because of extreme anger.

Anger is often followed by depression When we feel particularly irate, we tend to express ourselves verbally or physically.  Afterwards, when we recognize such outburst as atypical of ourselves and we end up feeling depressed with the reality of what we have just done.

Treatment of Anger and Rage

Anger is a fundamental emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. From a very early age, people learn to express anger by copying the angry behavior they see modeled around them, and by expressing angry behavior and seeing what they can get away with.

If you feel that your anger is really out of control, if it is having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might consider counseling to learn how to handle it better. I, or antoher psychologist or other licensed mental health professional, can work with you in developing a range of techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior.

Remember, you can not eliminate anger. In spite of all your efforts, things will happen that will cause you anger.  Life is filled with frustration, pain, loss, and the unpredictable actions of others. You can't change that; but you can change the way you let such events affect you. Controlling your angry responses can keep you from making yourself even more unhappy in the long run.

You can learn how to control your frustration and anger so that they do not control you. Traditional types of therapy like psychotherapy, Reality Therapy and Cognitive Therapy, and Behavioral Therapy have shown positive results with frustration and anger. The following is a brief overview of some of the many types of anger management that have proved helpful to clients in understanding and controlling frustration and anger.

  • You can learn to control and then convert or redirected these emotions. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior.
  • You can develop strategies for changing both your thinking and behavior.  You can develop safe and appropriate emotional and physical techniques to release anger, develop alternate good communication skills, and engage in cognitive restructuring.
  • You can learn simple relaxation skills as deep breathing and relaxing imagery to help calm down angry feelings. Breathing deeply, from your diaphragm, will help you relax while breathing from your chest will not. Non-strenuous exercise, like yoga, can relax your muscles and make you feel calmer.  Certain kinds of vigorous exercise can also help reduce angry feelings.
  • You can learn to accurately assess your abilities and to alter situations so that you do not prevent yourself from solving your problems and reaching your goals. 
  • You can learn to distinguish between what you hope will happen, what will probably happen, and what actually happened.

New ways of thinking and acting will help you to be more content and happy which, in turn, will help you to more easily overcome anger and frustration. If you are angry, sad, anxious, or depressed you will have less patience and tolerance for everything and everybody. Therapy can help you recognize your frustration and anger, achieve awareness and control, and develop new and healthy ways of thinking and behaving.

Individual and Group Therapy for Anger Management

For some people, the easiest way to change the way they handle anger is to work with a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional in an individual or group therapy setting. A therapist, who can observe your behavior from an impartial perspective, can help you with your reality testing.  An anger management therapist knows many effective anger management strategies and will be able to help you develop a personalized set of strategies for changing both your thinking and behavior.  Depending on your needs, your therapist may work with you on breathing or meditation exercises to reduce anger arousal, safe and appropriate emotional and physical techniques to release anger, communication skills, or cognitive restructuring (a method for disputing and changing the way you think).

Anger Management Classes

Anger management classes may be available through your employer, or through a variety of organizations serving your community. Anger management classes vary in length and quality. While some stretch across multiple weeks and begin to approximate the therapy approach described above, others span a single weekend.

Relaxation and exercise

Simple relaxation tools such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery can help calm down angry feelings. Breathing deeply, from your diaphragm, will help while breathing from your chest won't relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your "gut".  While breathing, you can slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "calm down" or "take it easy." Non-strenuous exercise, like yoga, can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.  Strenuous and vigorous exercise to help "work off" angry feelings may also be a helpful technique.

Self-Study

Video and audio recordings and online classes allow you to complete programs in your spare time and work at your own speed. Some of these programs offer email or phone support, and online message boards or chat groups. There are also many books available today that address anger and anger management from a variety of perspectives.

Additional Information

For more information about anger, rage, and other mental health problems, please click on the linked websites listed below.

 Anger management strategies
 Mentalhelp.net on Anger and anger control
 American Psychological association on anger control

Would You Like My Personal Assistance?

If you really want help dealing with your feelings and emotions, changing your behavior, and improving your life and the approach and office hours of typical therapists and counselors do not fit your life style or personal needs, I may have a solution.

By using very flexible office appointments, telephone consultations, email, teleconferences, and the willingness to travel and meet with you personally in your home, office, or other location,  I can be available to help you anytime and anywhere.

Feel free to contact me now for your free initial consultation. Once you become an existing client, you will be given a  pager  number where you can reach me whenever you need.

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