~ I can help with Anger ~
Do you need help with anger? Looking for a quick fix? There may not be a quick one, but I can help you regulate your emotion. This page is just one of several on common problems that I see. My practice in either Colchester or Sudbury can support and help you with anger problems.
This article will help you have some insight as to what could be happening. The underlying issues of your anger may not be obvious or even conscious to you, for example, abuse, anxiety, and depression have links to anger. Everybody will be slightly different in some way. For that reason, I will cover many different points and some points may not relate to your particular experience. Remember sometimes anger is actually valid, at the right time, the right amount and for the right reason. Contact me by email or phone
The first point below is important to evaluate. The rest of the points in the article can be read in any order you choose. The points I make are not setting out to give you advice, they are intended to give you insight. You will be stronger if you work through some of these issues yourself in therapy. My role is to give you support in therapy and help you find new ways of being.
A problematic reaction – Angry at people who care?
(Note to reader: Please don’t take this example as saying ‘every angry person has been abused’, this is just one of many possibilities)
First I need to address a very significant point and this is one point that needs to be covered now or you may never get to read other parts of the article. Maybe you would like to read the following sentence.
‘ I care about you, I care about how you get angry and want to help you. ‘
Did that sentence make you a little bit angry? If it did, keep reading this section as it may contain deep insight into what is actually occurring. If it didn’t, then read the following example anyway since it’s an important point that may help you understand other people’s anger. Let me illustrate using a very simple example.
Person A – A person who received care. We are born vulnerable, so we all have experienced being cared for. We all have ‘carers’ during childhood, teens and into adult life. The people who care will be different to different people, parents, grandparents, foster parents, stepfathers, and stepmothers, teachers, partners, colleagues, etc etc.
Person C – a ‘carer’. All being well, they nurture you and connect emotionally. You grow into an adaptive caring person yourself. What if something goes wrong? What if one of your carers becomes an abuser? That is, they start off caring, but one day in some way they abuse you either physically; or emotionally; or sexually. Anger and confusion will inevitably be part of the complex response to this person and rightly so! They have now ‘crossed your boundaries’ (more on this point later). The anger at the point of abuse is valid and adaptive.
What happens next will be different for each individual case. For the sake of keeping the example simple let’s say that person A now has an unconscious angry response to people who care. This is a common scenario. The anger now leads to ‘blanket’ maladaptive actions. As they progress through life they are unaware that any caring person becomes an unconscious trigger to their anger. Lost in their developmental history is a point where something went wrong. Traumatic events become forgotten or wiped from immediate memory, this is because the event was too painful. A trauma. Their anger explosions now occur regularly and they can not really say why. They may seek therapy.
Enter the Therapist
Person T – The therapist. A therapist has a duty of care. Can you see what may happen here? Yes, that’s right, unconsciously the care, the empathy and the nurturing that the therapist offers may trigger angry reactions. It’s not uncommon for people to walk out, or stop having therapy because they are becoming angry. Being given this knowledge is not sufficient to stop the anger but can help you realise what may be occurring.
We all have various forms of ‘boundaries’. Let’s start with personal space. I am going to keep this simple since all interactions are complex. Each person has a personal space around them, an invisible boundary that changes in different ways. This depends on their environment, other people, the ‘brain-mind’ and biology (biopsychosocial model). One example of how boundaries can shift would be getting into a car to drive. Once you are driving a car your boundary and personal space shift to the outer perimeter of the car.
Types of boundary
Physical environmental boundaries, fences, signs, borders, walls, doors, rooms, zones, other people, atmosphere, oceans etc. Animals, in particular, can create boundaries. You may have a boundary in relation to it and it may have a boundary in relation to you. A therapist’s room is constructed in a manner that helps you feel safe, this incorporates clear safe physical boundaries.
Biological boundary, skin.
‘Brain-mind’ boundary, these are boundaries that come from our thoughts. Thoughts are the production of complex interactions with people, our environment and our biology. So for example, we all have different beliefs about whether something is right or wrong. We also have cultural rules that produce boundaries, these ways of being that are either acceptable or unacceptable within the culture. So I am suggesting that we can construct boundaries in our mind that seem right to us but are not shared by everybody. This can be because they are not known by others in the first place, they are not shared in their mind. We can also have thought boundaries that have been created out of traumatic experiences. Agoraphobia could be one such example, staying within a boundary, having the idea that this is the only safe boundary.
Abusers cross boundaries
Types of abuse are mental abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse (both physical and mental). All of these can lead to types of psychological problem that developed later. In a lot of cases, the anger that we exhibit later is termed a ‘secondary emotion’ because adaptive feelings exist beneath it. Not all anger is secondary, we can have primary adaptive anger at the point of abuse and this is valid. Secondary emotions mask the primary emotion which will be a different emotion, such as sadness or grief. The primary adaptive emotion, when accessed in therapy, can give new insights that can improve a person’s well-being and diminish anger through therapeutic experience.
Bullying & Social media
Words cross boundaries, both written and verbal and is heavily dependent on the context. We live in an age where it’s very easy to cross another person’s boundary of what is acceptable and what is not. Social media can foster reasonable debate, however, it can also become abusive and generate anger.
Anger in relationships
Some relationship problems reach a point where anger constantly occurs. Often there is a narrative and pattern that is not being seen clearly in the heat of the argument. Couples come to therapy with the belief that the arguments need to be resolved. The actual case can be quite different. Beneath the anger, two people are hurting and those feelings can guide you to a different place. I help couples get to the emotional roots of the problem, problems beneath the anger.
Biological link to Anger, Anxiety, and Depression
Many of us know the term, ‘fight or flight’ response. When we are threatened we have responses that are linked to ‘hard-wired’ survival mechanisms in our biology. The hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis (HPA) is at work in an angry response, the same network is disrupted in depression and anxiety. Professor Sapolsky of Standford university points out that one of the aspects of depression is that anger is being turned in on oneself. In the case of anxiety, we are living in a fearful state which again triggers the same network into disruption. However we are not just our biology, our biology interacts with our ‘mind’, with others and the environment. Therapy sets up a new interaction.
Some people seek anger management help. Emotion Focused Therapy, however, focuses on all the emotions around the anger, I do not give people rules and techniques to try. It is my experience that people tell me that anger problems are often instant. So working with anger means helping a person look beneath their anger, rules seldom work. Various psychological intervention methods change the way a person connects to anger. In most cases, people find that there are other feelings at play. Anger has a ‘fuel system’. The therapy process looks at the system and will bring change in you, we will work together to develop different responses based on the true feelings beneath your anger. This will remove the need to manage your anger. Neurological change occurs through the therapeutic relationship over time.
Anger and blame
Example, a man angrily shouts at another person ‘ Aaaargh! Look what you just did! You did that! ‘. The signal may be, don’t come near me I’m so mad at you. This is because anger is not always an attack, sometimes it’s a display to keep distance (modifying boundaries). Whilst the person may have done something that triggered the angry outburst, what is the underlying emotion position in the angry person? Well, it is said that blame comes from vulnerability, the actions of the other person have left the person feeling vulnerable and anger becomes the defense. The primary emotion could be that they are really sad that this situation happened and have been left feeling vulnerable because of it. The anger is instant and sits on top of the other feelings which are fueling it. This example is just one variation of many.
Children of parents who have drink problems can develop angry ways of relating. The anger really comes out of ‘ you are not here for me’. The psychological connection is frequently lost resulting in feelings of shame and isolation. These may be some of the feelings below the anger.