Do you find yourself upset for no apparent reason? Do you grit your teeth? Do you catch yourself in simple or “dumb” arguments? Are you easily annoyed by others? Do you find yourself in tense moods? Ever get frustrated or impatient with others on a regular basis? Do you get mad at yourself for mistakes you’ve made or fear of ones you might make? Do you anticipate having stressful situations or interactions at work or home? Do you get angry over the “smallest” things? Ever blow things out of proportion? Are there times when you snap at the ones you love and care about? Are you known to “blow your stack”? Do you find yourself “keyed up” or on edge throughout the week?
If you find yourself answering “yes” to some or many of these questions, you are not alone. In our experience as counselors, we see anger as one of the most common feelings our clients identify with as they go through counseling. Being angry, feeling “out of control”, “blowing up”, angry outbursts, and anger management have been terms used in our society for quite some time to point out the intense feeling. Yet for you and others around you, your story is your own and is worth being understood. Let’s start with some core causes and then some signs when it comes to anger in your life.
Causes of Anger
There are many reasons or situations that may prompt anger in people and each person is different in their understanding of anger and the causes. However, for a moment recognize the triggers or causes are from your internal perspective and many times how you interpret the person or persons and the context of the situation and/or relationships. Let’s take a look.
Fear – One of the core triggers to anger is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of success, and other fears may prompt the anger within you which may cause you to act or react in a certain way. For example, if you are meeting someone for the first time you may have many unknowns about this person. You may wonder what they look like, what their personality is like, what kinda mood will he/she be in, how will they react to you, or if they’ll like you or not. Another example may be that you are having your mom (who has a critical nature) over for dinner and you were asked to make her favorite dish. Another example of fear is feeling the high expectations of others to succeed as a parent or team player at work or in various activities. These are just a few examples. You may identify with some of these as well as have a few of your own.
Shame – Shame is another emotion that triggers anger in people. You may find yourself with low self-esteem, feel a bit inadequate, or that you don’t “measure up”. Maybe growing up you were told that you were not good enough or worthless or continually criticized for your work, or put down for how you looked. These are some examples of shame and how out of this shame you may with or without knowing react toward others or in certain situations or settings. You may also interpret others’ responses towards you through the “lens” of shame which may cause conflict, frustration or confusion.
Guilt – When you have caused harm to another, when you feel like you have failed someone or something, you feel like you may have done something that someone may feel bad about, you may be feeling guilt. There are generally two types of guilt…perceived (or false) and actual (or true). Actual guilt is when you have really done something wrong such as “violated” a law or rule (in society or at work for example) whether written or socially understood (like social or family norms). Perceived guilt is when you take on other people’s feelings as your own and feel bad for them…in that feeling for them as to whether you actually did or said something toward them or not.
Emotional or physical pain – Pain can trigger anger for different reasons. Physical pain may prompt an angry response due to anguish. However, emotional pain may prompt an angry response due to past trauma, abuse, ridicule, a combination of shaming interactions with others, or a combination of any of painful events. Many times most people want to cover up their pain and ignore or avoid it. This may last for a little while but then anger may seethe out.
Learned Coping Strategy – You may have grown up in an environment where angry expressions were common and acceptable in the family. It also may be a way in which you deflect others from approaching you on an emotional level or if you don’t want to “talk” or if you just want to be left alone. Angry actions may also be a form of manipulation, intimidation and control of others to get them to do what you want. Either way, it is a sign that the anger may have a significantly negative impact in your relationships with others.
Now that we have looked at some core causes to anger and angry actions, let us consider some signs that may be telling you that you may be angry.
Signs of Anger
There are various signs and symptoms that may tell you that you are angry. Many that are physical may also be linked to medical conditions that need to be evaluated by a medical professional. Please consult a medical professional about your physical symptoms first and then consider how there may be a connection between your body and mind. For example, physical symptoms may be a result or manifestation of what you are feeling and thinking about a situation or relationship in your life.
Physical — Sleeplessness, poor appetite, headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, irritability, upset stomach, and gritting your teeth to name a few. Here is an example of the mind/body connection. According to the National Library of Medicine, “emotional factors including anxiety, fear, frustration, and anger play a significant role in the etiology (cause or reason) of TMJ disorders, in that they elicit muscular tension and oral habits” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/775369).
Mental/emotional — Depressed mood, sadness, grief, bitterness, unforgiveness, faulty beliefs, pessimism about the present or the future, grief (over the loss of a loved one or health or relationship change), reliving the past or past failures (the shoulda, coulda, and woulda’s of life). Many times it’s what you may be telling yourself about a particular situation or relationship that may be causing these signs and thus adding to confusion, frustration and anger.
In action – Many times the anger may come out in various ways in your day to day life. For example, being continuously critical of self and/or others, complaining about many things, procrastination, relentless sarcasm, excessive profanity (especially when not necessary or appropriate); slamming things, yelling, arguments, “fights”, or drinking alcohol, or using drugs…any or a few of these actions may be a sign of unresolved anger.
You may be wondering if there is any resolution to your anger or if you need any counseling help at all. “What can I do about it?”…you may ask. In our experience as counselors, we have found many people have put off getting help until something bad or tragic happens (such as in yelling matches, domestic violence, relationships separate or end, friends stop speaking to each other, and other such things events). If you or someone you know struggles with anger, you can be assured that many of our clients have recognized, learned and grown through their counseling experiences.
We here at Pathways Counseling Services are private, compassionate, and supportive ready to help you address your anger. Our counselors are educated and experienced with diverse backgrounds, styles, and approaches to meet your counseling needs. You are worthwhile to be valued and understood by an empathetic, accepting and caring professional.
Feel free to check out other articles here on the site or give us a call at 520-292-9750 or email Joel@pathwaystucson.com for more information or to set up a confidential appointment.