Is Your Anger A Problem (For You or Others)?
by Dave Decker M.A.
Sometimes it feels like anger is everywhere. Take a moment to imagine some scenarios you may have seen or experienced in your own life. The parent who yells at and jerks her child by the arm in the grocery store. The driver who screams at you and "flips you off" when he thinks you're going too slow. Or couples who verbally abuse and humiliate one another, all in the name of communicating their feelings.
But is this really anger? My answer to that question is an emphatic "no," after working in the mental health field with men, women, couples, and families for the past thirty years. In truth, anger is an emotion that everyone experiences. It's a fact of life and a normal and natural human response. The behaviors noted above are, in reality, distortions and perversions of anger.
Anger as an emotion often serves as a "warning signal" that something important is happening that needs to be attended to. It might be that you are feeling threatened. It could be that you are unable to control someone or something. It might mean that your wants, needs, and rights are not being adequately addressed or respected. Or it could mean that an old hurt from the past is being reactivated by a person or situation in the present.
Anger as an emotion is a part of being human. How your anger affects you and others depends on the way it is handled. Your anger can build self-confidence, self-respect, and self-esteem and enhance your relationships with others. Or it can create guilt and shame and destroy trust and intimacy with the people around you. It all has to do with how you experience and express it. When expressions of anger become shaming, punishing, abrasive, vengeful, and abusive or when you don't express your anger at all (withdrawing and "stuffing" it), the distortions of anger begins to take a toll on your emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being and on your relationships with others.
What are some signs that anger may have become a problem in your life? Take a look at the list below and see if what is discussed triggers any concerns for you about your own or someone else's anger.
When it occurs too frequently.
When it lasts too long.
When the intensity is too great.
When it disrupts relationships.
When it interferes with getting things done or creates
problems for you on the job.
When it restricts your ability to have fun and relax.
When it begins to create physical symptoms.
When it leads to guilt, remorse, shame, and low self-esteem.
When it leads to throwing, hitting, or breaking things.
When it leads to emotional, verbal, physical, and
When it leads to legal consequences.
Think about your own anger. Do you see yourself or others you care about in the list above? If you do, consider the option of attending an anger management workshop or seeing a counselor . In a workshop or in counseling, you can learn what anger is and is not, how and where you developed your attitudes and beliefs about anger, how to be more aware of your anger triggers and your escalation process, and what you can do to slow down and begin to address anger that does arise in a more respectful and productive way.
Anger does not have to be a "dark side" that
comes in and takes over, ruining your life and destroying
your relationships with others. If disrespectful anger
has been a problem for you, take the risk and the time to
try something new and different in this area. Learning how
to handle your anger more effectively really can change who
you are, how you feel about yourself, and how others (especially
the people most important to you) feel about you.