When anger is experienced as a normal human emotion it can be useful. For example, in the face of adversity it can energise you to take corrective action and facilitate perseverance. It can serve to protect your self-esteem, help you to redress grievances and boost your determination in the pursuit of what is important to you.
When is anger a problem?
Simply put, anger becomes a problem when it gets out of control. It can lead to aggression and assault. It can ruin family, work, or social, relationships. It can lead to serious accidents in cases of road rage. It can have negative affects on your body such as increased blood pressure and increased levels of cortisol which depresses your immune system. It does more harm to the heart than any other emotion. In those prone to anger outbursts, it is three times more predictive of death by cardiac arrest compared to more even-tempered people.
Anger is a form of high emotional arousal. It makes you stupid in that it cuts off access to your rational thinking brain. In this highly aroused state stupid behaviours and decisions typically ensue. It can be a useful servant but it is a very poor master.
What causes excessive anger?
Anger can be addictive. When you’re angry you typically believe your position is the right one and when you don’t get your way you may try and exert power and control through anger. This can result in distancing from you the angry person which compromises your needs for emotional connection and intimacy. From the Human Givens perspective, mental health problems arise when your innate emotional needs are not being met (see emotional needs audit).
Myths about Anger
There are certain myths about anger and its management, many of which stem from the psychoanalytic field. In certain treatments, patients were encouraged to vent their anger on inanimate objects such as pillows and toys in the belief that it would be cathartic. Instead of being cathartic it simply reinforced the anger pattern. Another myth is that suppressed anger causes depression. It was commonly assumed that men get angrier and more aggressive than women but, in a study, conducted by psychologist Don Fitz it was found that the frequency of anger for men and women did not differ. He found that there, were sex differences in the expression of anger with respect to where it happened, whether the target was male or female, and the nature of the relationship. Men and women were more likely to suppress their anger at work but in the home, the opposite was the case.
Anger is a trance state in which you consider your feelings as perfectly valid and your point of view as the correct one. Have you ever found that when you calm down after an anger outburst there is a sense of embarrassment at how wrong you were? The goal of Human Givens therapy is to help you use your resources more effectively so that you can get your innate emotional needs met. This may involve learning ways to relax at will so that you can think straight, use your imagination more effectively to widen your perspective, live a more healthy lifestyle, and separate yourself from your anger so that it becomes the servant, not the master. You may need to learn how to handle criticism or unreasonable demands more effectively thereby reducing your stress levels.
Past traumas can affect your present life in the form of intrusive memories, nightmares, and constant unidentified anxiety. Many trauma victims are prone to anger outbursts. The good news is that effective help is available. As a Human Givens psychotherapist, I can employ an evidence-based psychological technique to enable you to recode any traumatic memory as a low arousal memory.