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Monday, June 7, 2010

Don't Lose Your Head

A brief overview of the feeling, anger with some ideas about how to handle it.

 "Aggression begets aggression."  We now know that the old 'beating the pillow' theory doesn't work.  The idea was that by taking your anger out on an inanimate object or in a harmless way---such as on a punching bag, or banging on your spouse with batacas in a (well-meaning but, ill-informed) therapist's office is an ineffective strategy.
In fact, this kind of activity can actually escalate your anger.  If you are pacing around and feeling pent up, it won't hurt to use up some of that adrenaline-produced energy in a run, for example.  But trying to release your anger by pretending to act it out will only make it worse.  We now know that instead of the hoped-for release, this exercise actually increases the fury.

Not that anger in and of itself is a bad thing.  After all, it's just a feeling.  Human beings are equipped with a variety of those---I think they give our life experience, color and richness.  I would encourage you to experience all of your feelings, subtle and powerful, fleeting and enduring, positive and negative.  But when it comes to anger, what you do with it makes a difference.
"Do not confuse the feeling of anger with the expression of anger.""Practice saying to yourself when you feel angry:  "I am angry.  What do I want to do with this?  How can I feel okay with my anger?"  This is a choice point;  you have given yourself permission to have the feeling, you've identified what it is, you've acknowledged it, now you get to choose what to do:
  • In some cases, you will decide that the most productive course is to express your thoughts and feelings about the issue.  
  • Maybe you want to write in your journal about it, or talk it over with a friend.  
There are many ways to proceed.  Impulsive action on an angry emotion is usually not the best.
Physiologically, emotions are also in our bodies.  There are a number of physical changes that occur in an angry person such as immune suppression, decrease in blood flow to the extremities, etc.  Some people find this aspect to be a 'rush' and develop a sort of addiction to anger---they feel strong and powerful under the influence of the physiological changes.  Of course, we all know stories of individuals performing super-human feats under these natural chemical influences.  Conversely prolonged anger makes some people experience a kind of sick feeling.
Some years ago we had a psychology fad about Type A people (there were frequent articles about this personality style in magazines and other media); these individuals make anger such a habit that they ultimately contribute to their own demise by developing cardiovascular disease.
Alcohol and anger do not mix well as alcohol is a disinhibiter.  So, alcohol in the system of an angry person effectively eliminates the choice step I outlined above.  Most experienced therapists know that domestic violence or even venomous verbal fights in couples usually include alcohol.
On a positive note:  Anger CAN be re-directed to fuel productive activity.  A good example of this is, MADD.  I think we can safely assume that these women were, at some point in their grief process, not just angry but enraged.  Look at how they turn that into a wonderful contribution to society that we all benefit from!

A reader gave this post a +1.  So appreciated!!!

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