Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Anger: Working through it

In the moment, I feel like I’m having an anxiety attack that has come on quickly. My arms and legs feel numb, my heart rate increases, I feel like I can’t breathe deeply. I have trouble speaking, and I usually get tears in my eyes.
Later, when I’m reliving the moment, I feel agitated and hyper, and my mind fills with the words I wish I’d thought of saying.
I keep reliving the moment, day after day, and sometimes, month after month, year after year.
That’s what anger does to me.

I don’t handle anger very well. I tend to feel guilty about feeling angry.
I also don’t like conflict and avoid it when the better choice might be to face it. When I avoid it, I sometimes end up angry over situations that I could have attended to sooner, if not for my fear of conflict.

I’m holding on to a lot of anger, some from years ago.
My goal this year is to let go of what I don’t need in my life, and that includes harmful emotions. Anger that I hold onto, that turns into grudges and resentment, is something that I want to let go of.
From a health standpoint, I know anger that I keep stuffed down inside can aggravate my OCD and other anxiety.
It affects my depression, too. I tend to feel helpless in my anger, and the helpless feelings are directly related to chronic depression.
But I want to let go of anger for a bigger reason. From a moral standpoint, I don’t want anger and resentment to ever get in the way of having compassion for others.
So how do you let go of anger?

I talked with my therapist about this recently, and he told me it’s not really a matter of letting it go.
It’s a matter of working through it.
It’s a matter of being assertive and friendly and expressing myself honestly and completely so that I don’t feel helpless.
Because when I tell myself I’m helpless in the face of conflict, my brain shuts down and I stay mired in the chronic depression.
I’m practicing this friendly assertiveness in therapy, reviewing situations that have come up in my interpersonal relationships, thinking about and talking about what actually happened and what would have been the best outcome.

I’m not going to wake up one morning and not feel any anger anymore. But I will gradually get better at working out anger and conflict so that I don’t feel helpless. And with that, I will get better at not carrying around anger.

How do you work through anger so that it doesn’t interfere with your peace of mind?

36 comments:

  1. I think by avoiding it or holding it in, we let is fester and then it can build up into something more than it was to begin with in the first place. By confronting is head-on immediately and maintaining our composure while diong so, I feel we can confront is healthily. Or at least that's what I have found works for me.

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    1. Keith, I think your way is a very healthy way to deal with it. I agree that avoiding it/stuffing it only does us harm.

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  2. Oh I used to struggle terribly with anger, Tina. It's so funny because I was literally just thinking about this a few hours ago. For me, a lot of my anger was tied into my anxiety. Once I got control of my anxiety, a lot of my anger dissipated like the air out of a balloon. The remaining anger I've chosen to let go. It's a process. Once I "came out" about my OCD to a lot of friends and loved ones, that also freed me to really be me, so I think that also helped get rid of the anger. I also find that a lot of anger is rooted in expectations that are not met. I also try to focus on those types of things and work through those too. I'm not too good with confrontation either. Wish I was because I think that would help me work through some stuff too. But I am getting a little better at it. Hey, one day at a time, right?

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    1. Sunny, thank you for so many good points. That's good news that as your anxiety became better controlled, your anger lessened. That gives me hope! And I like to think of it as a process, too--one day at a time, as you say!

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  3. Hi Tina, holding the anger in is not a good thing, as you have mentioned. As for myself, I try to confront each situation as it comes so that it doesn't build up. For example, if I am angry with someone I tell them that I am angry and why. However, I pray about it first so that I do this in a constructive and kind way. I also use the "I" word a lot so that the other person doesn't feel hurt or threatened. For example, I might say, "I am feeling very angry right now about something you said". Then I tell them what it was that they said, but I say it in an assertive, non-aggressive way. It really helps to be able to talk about it and then to let it go. Kind of like a weight coming off me that might otherwise be harmful to my physical health as well as my mental health. I hope this helps you, and I will be praying for you. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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    1. Thank you, Linda, for your kind words, and thank you for sharing the way you deal with anger. I think that's a very healthy way to go about it!

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  4. Tina I completely close up in a conflict situation and don't know how to react or what to say at all. I hate it with a passion!
    It used to make me feel very helpless and angry afterwards.
    Now my feelings are kind of "flat-lined" by the medications I have to take for both the OCD and Bipolar disorder. I don't feel real anger anymore, or any other emotion for that matter.
    Not a nice way to live, but I feel there is no choice as there is a very real risk of suffering a psychoses again. And that is simply worse.
    I hope you can work through your anger issues with your therapist, I'm sure it will make your life a lot easier!

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    1. Thank you, Klaaske, it really is helping to work on these issues with my therapist. Dealing with the effects of your medications must be hard at times. I'm sorry you're having to deal with that.

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  5. Anger is so tricky. I like the way you've connected it with the feeling of helplessness. Often, when I am feeling angry, it's because I didn't take care of myself in some way -- whether that means speaking up, getting enough rest, making time for fun, or whatever.

    With our bully neighbor situation, I've felt a lot of anger -- and helplessness. We've taken action by getting a lawyer involved, but we're going through a brutal process right now. All I can do is get up each day, work with my self-care program, and remind myself to live in the present, where he can't hurt us. I can't say I've figured it out -- I just do my best each day. Whenever I have a day when I live my life fully in spite of everything that's going on, I feel victorious. On days when I don't, I try to just love myself through it.

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    1. Nadine, I wish I could make that situation go away for you! I'm sorry you're having to deal with it. It sounds like you are handling it so wisely, remembering self-care and trying to live in the present. Those are important things for us to do anytime, but especially during hard times. I'll be thinking about you!

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  6. Logically, I would say feeling anger is not wrong, but I feel bad about it when I feel angry too. Most of my anger is past related resentments and I guess I could go back and try to resolve some garbage in my past but I have an idea people will think I am nuts bringing stuff up from thirty years ago. Stewing over the past is not healthy for me and I do reasonably well going the forgiveness route until one of the family members that made me angry thirty years ago does something in the present to irritate me and then everything from years past comes flooding back. So I stink at this. Please share your techniques because I would love to learn. One thing I have resolved myself to doing is to speak up more on the spot, not in a confrontational way, but putting my feelings out there when it happens and then hopefully I won't have to deal with having repressed feelings from now on.
    Tina, have you ever heard the notion that at the root of anger is really fear? There is a lot of reading material on that and it has helped me understand more why I get angry in certain circumstances and also it helped me understand why some of my family members were such angry people..it has even softened my resentment because I realized how full of fear they were.

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    1. Krystal Lynn, thank you for sharing your experiences. It sounds so familiar to me because most of my anger, too, is related to the past--years ago--and sometimes it comes flooding back. I really want to learn to speak up on the spot more, also. Is there any particular book that you read that helped you see anger differently?

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  7. Whew, anger is a tough one. Don't you wish there was a magic switch to turn it off?

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    1. Lisa, oh, yes, wouldn't a magic switch be wonderful!

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  8. Sometimes I feel really insecure and unable to say anything negative. But yes, hanging on to things like anger and unforgivness can be harmful. I think the obsessive mind makes it all the harder to let go of things. It's also true that it's not always about just letting it go. There are definitely things to let go but there are also things to deal with.

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    1. Kristina, you make a good point about the obsessive mind. My OCD probably makes it easier for me to hold on to things and ruminate about them to a harmful degree.

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  9. When I'm angry, I try to verbally tell people what I am feeling at the moment, without lashing out. For example, "I'm feeling agitated at the moment." I let those words sink in and then I come back to how I'm feeling inside and back to my breath. Meditation and yoga have been extremely helpful to me in dealing with anger. All the best to you Tina. It sounds like you also have some great tools to work with.

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    1. Thank you, Katherine. It sounds like you deal with anger in a very healthy way. Coming back to the breath can make a difference in so many situations--if I remember to do it! :-)

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  10. I don't like conflict and I avoid it always! I don't get caught up "in the moment", I often just remain silent and therefore I don't get angry!

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    1. Debbie, Sometimes it's hard for me to know when to remain silent about something and when to speak up.

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  11. I don't do well with anger or conflict either. I'm trying to learn (in therapy) ways to deal with people who upset me rather than giving myself anxiety over it. I try to speak up in the moment now because that is supposed to help with the anger and anxiety but because I don't do well with conflict, I may speak up 1 out of every 20 times I could.

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    1. Elizabeth, I don't always speak up in the moment, either, but I remind myself that it's a process. We'll get better at it!

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  12. Tina, I've just read all of the comments and great advice you've received and don't have much to add except that, for me, dealing with anger seems to become easier as I get older (and I'm older than you , so that's good!). I used to think it was "not nice" to express myself if my feelings might make people uncomfortable, but I now realize how important it is to be "real." Hiding or surpressing our feelings only makes things so much worse down the road. Good luck as you work through this!

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    1. Thank you, Janet. You're written some wise words. I believe it's important to be "real" too. I'm working on following through with that. And it has gotten easier as I've gotten older.

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  13. I tend to allow my anger and validate waht is absent but implicit in it. I find working through it this way helps so much!

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    1. Jodi, thank you for reminding us that it's important to validate and recognize our anger and look at what it's showing us.

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  14. I try to confront the source of my anger by communicating with the source. It's really the only way to put it behind you. :)

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    1. Nancy, that sounds like a useful way to deal with anger. I am trying to learn better ways to deal with it.

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  15. Tina, this post could not be more timely for me. I have decided that the next step I need to take in my spiritual journey is to let go/work through anger. No idea how to, and I don't even know what/who I'm angry at! This post is comforting and hopeful.

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    1. I'm glad you got some comfort and hope from this. I think my work with anger will definitely affect my spiritual life. Good luck on your journey and know that I and many others are on a similar journey!

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  16. Anger is a hard one for me too I usually hold it in and make myself sick. B

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    1. Buttons, it really can make us sick, can't it!

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  17. I have difficulty expressing anger too. I'm always afraid of "losing control" (my mind's idea of "losing control" is speaking with a higher tone of voice, one that expresses that emotion, and "not thinking before speaking") if I express it. At times I feel guilty for just using a higher tone of voice or even for expressing anger in a calm way. I rationally know using a higher tone of voice or expressing your emotions doesn't mean losing control, but to my perfectionistic mind feels like it. I've discussed this issue in therapy and I'm definitely dealing with anger better than in the past. I still need to work on accepting this emotion, though.

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    1. My tone of voice tends to get higher when I am upset, and I get anxious about that. I think perhaps some of my fear of anger is wrapped up in fear of losing control, too. Thank you for your comment!

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  18. Recently, I saw someone (we waved, didn't talk), and I was afraid of a conversation with him, but I wasn't all upset like the time before that I saw him, feeling like that person had betrayed me/let me down/whatever. So I guess somehow I am moving on, mysteriously. I think you are right, that when we stay feeling helpless, we can get stuck. I wasn't specifically trying to work on not being angry at this person (except maybe sometimes trying to forgive him), but I think I am working through some of the stuff that went wrong that he and I both happened to be in the middle of. I think that when I stop feeling condemned by him or something like that, then the anger/upsetness might go away.

    I have trouble expressing anger, but my counselor didn't seem so concerned that I express my anger as that I look behind the anger for the pain that caused it. I think it is that pain that we have to address.

    I wish you well in your journey to let go/deal with anger.

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    1. Abigail, you've made some really good points. I think we can work through some of our more difficult emotions sometimes without being conscious of doing it. It's all in the process of becoming more comfortable with our emotions and feelings and accepting them more. And looking at what's behind the anger is a good way of dealing with it.

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