Like any other emotions, anger has a positive aspect (expresses what is not working for us) whilst also having the potential to be destructive – unhealthy anger. Left unchecked, it can become destructive and harmful to our lives and those around us.
When people speak of accepting our anger as a ‘good’ thing, it is in the light of understanding it as an instigator for change, a warning signal that you or others are being treated badly, being taken advantage of, or mistreated in some way.
Being consistently anger is usually a result of emotional neglect or having repeated negative relationship experiences e.g. being controlled or invalidated as a child, being abused or exploited by others, having a punitive parent or career – constantly criticizing, shaming or being verbally abusive. It may also come from emotional deprivation – in the areas of nurture, empathy, protection or in role-modeled behaviors (how communication was expressed in our families of origin for example).
Unhealthy anger may include the following symptoms:
- Angry outbursts followed by feelings of regret and shame
- Obsessive angry thoughts and harsh judgments about people or situations. Such judgments usually involve a belief that people are not living by our rules or values and “should” be!
- Passive-aggressive behaviours, e.g. distancing ourselves from others or ignoring their needs – to control others and gain energy from their attention. (This is different to the ‘healthy’ removal of oneself from a threatening situation or unhealthy relationship)
- Overestimating the intention of the other person to cause us harm or break our rules
- Being verbally (generalized and specific put downs), physically or emotionally abusive and controlling
- Gathering allies in the professionally or personally to let other people know how “bad” the other person is in their behaviour or approach to life. The intention is to isolate the other person
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy & Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction supports anger management by:
- Working with thought records to explore the way the individual interprets their specific anger inducing experiences
- Understanding where our approach to anger was learned and highlighting the triggers
- Understanding and changing lifestyle factors that contributes to symptoms of anger, e.g. misuse of alcohol
- Establishing healthy communication styles in relationships
- Establishing assertiveness (not demanding!) skills for increased self and situational fulfillment
- Mindfulness based stress reduction to support an awareness and reduction in physical symptoms of anger
- Working with thought records to understand the thinking that produces difficult feelings e.g. shams, frustration, anger which we react to – emotional and/or physical outbursts
- Mindfulness based stress reduction to increase a sense of wellbeing and reduce emotional extremes
- Exploring core beliefs about ourselves, others, life (e.g. “I can’t trust anybody because I was let down so badly by others”.) and establishing more self-affirming beliefs about others and ourselves (e.g. “people may be trustworthy and untrustworthy and I can build up healthy relationships with trustworthy people based on my actual experiences with them.”)
- The way you think about yourself/others
- What you think about the situation or problem you are experiencing and
- How what you do and feel is influenced by what you think and believe. It includes a solution-focused approach to problems and supports positive change with CBT worksheets
Mindfulness Therapy is beneficial because Mindfulness supports the body and the mind.
- Integrating Mindfulness improves mental and physical health
- It helps to relieve stress and improves clarity of mind
- Mindfulness is supportive in the treatment of depression, low mood, anxiety and stress reduction
- Mindfulness also helps people to manage painful emotions (Harvard Medical School)