How do I stop feeling so ANGRY all the time?

April 16th, 2016

Anger is a signal to us that we need to pay attention. It's like pain. Without it, we may not notice we have an injury. The presence of anger is telling us we should stop and assess otherwise we may continue to get hurt or we may hurt someone else.

The anger may be due to a variety of reasons:

It may be that our boundaries are being pushed.

Or that our arousal/activation level is too high from too much stress to our system.

Your anger is valid and there is a real reason for it. However, it is up to us to use it in a constructive way.

We know now that the old adage of "getting anger out" by punching something or yelling doesn't work. It can increase our arousal and make us feel more angry and out of control. What is more effective is to be aware of the anger whilst also containing it to a level that is manageable (under 5 on a scale of 0-10). We can do this by following 3 steps:

(1) The first step to managing anger is to name and normalize it.

"I'm angry. I'm human. Sometimes humans get angry. I'm normal."

(2) The next step is to notice how it's affecting your body and behaviour.

"I can't get dinner on the table because I'm so consumed with anger. My body is so tense. I'm yelling at the kids."

When we acknowledge our anger and describe what is happening to us it automatically becomes more manageable.

(3) The final step is to use skills to contain the anger. This might be doing some diaphragm breathing. Or taking a real break. Or thinking about why the person who is making your angry is acting the way they are in order to develop compassion. 

When we use skills to help us pay attention to anger while also containing it we are able to ride it out and eventually it will turn into a new emotion. Emotions are like waves; we can always trust that they will peak and come down and turn into another emotion. Often a more visceral, vulnerable emotion like sadness or fear is underlying anger. 

If these steps are not working you may need help noticing earlier on when you are starting to feel angry and apply skills as soon as you notice.

If anger is ruling your thoughts and behaviour or others are saying it's becoming a real problem you might want to get some assistance with it by coming into a counselling session.  There are often good reasons that anger is your go-to feeling; You may be protecting yourself from more vulnerable feelings like fear and sadness and counselling can help you get insight around that. It is also a safe place to practice new skills to contain the anger.

References: Najavits, L.M. (2002). Seeking Safety: A treatment manual for PTSD and substance abuse. Guilford.

Natalie Hansen
Natalie Hansen Counselling
406-555 6th street, New Westminster, V3L 5H1

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