What is anger?
Everyone more or less has felt the feeling of being angry. It is one of the most basic emotions experienced in the first few months of life. Anger is a normal, usually healthy emotion and is necessary for protection and survival. It is divided into three processes: expression, suppression (repression of emotions) and calmness.
It can have different variations depending on the frequency, behaviour and intensity of anger. If it reaches the threshold it can lead to aggressive behaviours and can have a profound effect on the person's life. The person experiencing it might not feel pleasant but it is important to understand the "special" work that anger accomplishes. It can be good and if expressed in a calm and clear way it can, for example, communicate a negative feeling that has been kept hidden for a long time.
Anger can be expressed in three ways :
- With a calm and assertive expression of emotion. For example. It can act as a driving force to find a solution to a problem.
- With aggressive behaviour. E.g. By physical or verbal violence.
- With passive aggression E.g. By not showing that we are angry but asking to punish the other person who has hurt us.
What can make us angry?
They can be specific external stimuli concerning persons, objects. E.g. We get angry because we are stuck in traffic and late for work.
A combination of external stimuli and previous experiences. E.g. We react with anger to a touch because of a trigger from a traumatic experience (abuse) in the past.
Internal conflicts with memories and feelings (rejection-humiliation) that create discomfort and may have hidden and unconscious causes. E.g. We get angry when we think of negative comments someone said about us.
What happens in our body when we are angry?
When we are angry our heart rate and blood pressure goes up and affects our hormones, noradrenaline and adrenaline. The common symptoms of anger are similar to stress and are: muscle tension, palpitations, dry mouth, shortness of breath, etc. All of these symptoms affect our cognitive activity making it difficult to think clearly when we experience intense anger.
When our anger is a problem?
When anger is intense and has become a frequent emotional state that cannot be calmed, then we realize that anger has become the master of itself. It can lead us to lose control over our behavior, becoming destructive and aggressive to ourselves and/or others. This results in tremendous difficulties in personal , social and professional life.
How is it treated?
The therapist first helps the client to express and become aware of his/her feelings (negative or positive). Then he listens to his anger and work with him to find out where it comes from and how this internal conflict is triggered. Most of the time the repressed emotions e.g. anxiety, fear that create anger are not distinct and the causes may be hidden and unconscious.
During the course of the psychotherapy, the therapist suggests cognitive tools and relaxation techniques to ease the tension of the client and offer a calmer view.
Then, he works on empathy for the actions and consequences of uncontrolled outbursts of anger, for himself and for those close to him. Psychotherapy helps him to regain control of his life, to accept his existing circumstances and his self. With the ultimate goal of reducing or eliminating the anger outbursts and creating a manageable anger in functional ways so that he can cope with life's difficulties.