Mastering Anger/Anger Issues

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Question
Hi there,

I need help in ways to fix my anger problem. Let me start by saying, I was NEVER an angry person growing up, I never got mad at any friends or family (other then your normal anger towards siblings or mom not letting you out past curfew, the "you suck" anger).

I've become angrier and violent over time, lately it's been towards the new dog in my home and I feel so unbelievably horrible. By no means do I ever redirect anger onto something else, work made me mad and I take it out on anything or anyone kinda deal. I'm talking about when someone does something directly to me or around me and I get normally frustrated and irritated, then it turns into this insane RAGE, where my heart races and I'm flushed in the face (basically red), I scream, curse, throw my arms everywhere and with the dog I will drag him by the collar and yank on the collar. My energy level goes from nothing to 100 in a few seconds, it's scary, but also the problem is when I get like this, everyone listens to me and it reinforces me to do it again, it's like a drug that I don't want.
I don't want kids because I'm so afraid I'd hit them! I have absolutely no control over my anger in my personal life.

I know it stems from my childhood (cliche right?) but I know my issues are because my dad use to take his anger out on me (verbal and emotional abuse), I use to cry so much and be angry why my mom would never step in or leave him if he was so mean to his daughter. Then when I was 16 or 17, after self mutilating myself for 3 years and constant thoughts of suicide, I just told him off, I confronted him and told him I hated him, and yelled back at him when he was yelling at me. At the same time my boyfriend was cheating on me all the time so I left him and verbally told him off too (leaving him in a campground actually, lol). I just snapped and finally took control of my own life, enjoyed it for the first time and didn't live in constant fear of when the next hurt was coming from. My anger grew from there and now it's at this. I have no idea how to handle my emotions, I use to cry when I was upset, then I cut myself, then I smoked (which helped) but now I've quit, so now it just blows up.

I think I'm so afraid to lose control and wind up back where I was that I'm trying to control everything and when I can't control something I lose it. And I know I'm doing it when it happens, I'm concious of it but I cannot stop myself.

How would I go about fixing this? I've tried to count to ten but that does not work, I can't focus enough. I can't leave the situation all the time because I have so many responsibilities that if I don't finish what needs to be done at the moment when I'm mad, everything will fall apart and more chaos will erupt.

Thank you!
Kris

Answer
Hi, Kris,

I apologize that I didn't get to answering your question yesterday. Thursdays are my long day (radio show script writing starting about 5 am, then the radio program, then going to my office to see clients). Radio program is Full Power Living aired on emotionalpro dot com. I didn't know how to write you to tell you I'd answer today without messing up the process!

The issue you have with anger is MUCH greater than any "count to ten" activity will master. This is a long-standing issue and involves anger that's been bottled up for years. Now it has started coming out, there's no stopping it. Overall, that's a good thing. (The anger I had in me took 2 years to come out---not necessarily true for you, but I want you to know I've had this level of anger in me, too, and have been able to successfully release it and move on to other things! There IS an end to all of this!)

It is my understanding that our earth is a "giant school" to which we all come in order to learn and evolve. As children, we get our "homework assignments" for our lives, based on our experiences. We then work on these "assignments" in our adult lives, until we complete them (or leave/die). The good news is that the DESIGN of this earth school is that we each CAN learn the lessons we've been assigned. It may take some work, but we can do it!

The not-so-good news is that, until you complete an assignment, it keeps coming up over and over again. Each subsequent time it comes up, it is a harsher lesson. This serves to motivate us to get on with the work we need to do. One of your BIG lessons, obviously, is dealing with abuse and its inherent hurt and anger. I think this has happened for you, now!

During your childhood years, you were being repeatedly hurt, insulted and angered. However, you did not believe it was safe to let your emotions show, so you held them inside. Emotions are energy. When we hold them inside, they grow. The energy of the anger and hurt you held onto has now grown to epic proportions. It's become like a "monster in your closet." Once you took your power and told your Dad and your boyfriend off, you "opened the closet door." That big "monster" (long held-onto anger) started pushing its way out of your closet, gaining strength. Now, it shoves its way out at every opportunity, seemingly gaining power at every outburst.

Clearly, you need to get in charge of the anger. Right now, the anger is in charge of you. I advocate doing this, not by learning to "manage" it, but by learning to master it. Here are some things you can do to master anger:

1) Recognize that emotions have been given to human beings in order to signal them what actions to take. They are not "good" or "bad" in themselves. They appear to be "bad" when they go out of control (as yours has), due to having been held onto over a length of time.

2) Realize that the anger in you IS going to come out, so plan for it. What can you do to get the energy of anger out of you, but not onto others?

You can yell into the wind at the beach, throw rocks into tall trees somewhere while yelling all the things you're angry about. You can write out the things you feel angry about. You can sit down each day for about 15 minutes and do the "I'm angry" exercise. You just say aloud "I'm angry, I'm angry, I'm angry...." over and over in a cadence, not stopping. If something comes to mind you feel angry about, say that out loud, and then return to the cadence. Keep doing that until you run out of steam. While you're doing it you may feel MORE angry. Allow that to be. If you do this every day--even if you do it 2-3 months, you will eventually release the built-up anger.

3) Under anger is hurt. Do the "I'm angry" exercise for hurt, repeating "I'm hurt, I'm hurt...." This will likely address some of your feelings toward your mother, who did not save you from the actions of your father.

4) Begin to think about forgiving both of them (you will not be good at doing this until you've released a lot of the anger that has built up). "To forgive" means "to let go." Anger held inside is enormously destructive. It ruins the way we see reality, destroys our self esteem, blocks our success in the world, and can make us sick--or held in long enough, it can kill us. This means that when we don't forgive, we keep this destructive energy inside of us. It never stops "working", so it is busy destroying US! A lot of times people don't want to forgive because they don't want to let the other person off the hook. Really, forgiveness lets YOU off the hook. When I learned this, I realized that the people who had violated me--so long as I had not forgiven them--were busy getting me TWICE (at the time of the hurt, and now, when I was keeping all of that inside of me). I did not want them to have that power over me. You can ask for help (from your subconscious mind, God, an angel, etc.....whatever you believe in that is bigger than you) to let go, to forgive. Do this every day for 3 weeks and you will get some relief.

5) You can speed movement of this energy by learning about and practicing EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Google EFT. The originator gives a lot of his material away for free, and sells it for low cost, last I connected with his site. This is what is known as "tapping" and helps a person release stored and misdirected energy. It's easy (sometimes even fun) to do, and doesn't make you have to go back over every single hurt and transgression you ever experienced, the way some psychotherapies do.

6) You can begin to change the basis for anger in you. Anger occurs when we have an idea in our minds of how things "should" or "should not" be. (Parents should protect their children, fathers should not constantly berate their young daughters, for example). If what we think "should" happen does not, or what we think "should not" happen occurs, we'll get angry. Also, however, if our "should" were totally correct, it could not ever get violated. So the real signal of anger is for us to correct the way we see the world and the things we expect. Face Fact--look at things squarely as they are. "Some mothers don't protect their children, no matter what anyone thinks they should do," for example. Or "At least one father berated his daughter, repeatedly, so that's what he "should" do--that's who he is/was." Changing the basis for your "shoulds" allows you not to keep getting angry about the same things.

The fact is that there is nothing you can do about what has happened. Even if you believe your own abuse should never have occurred, you can't change that it did. But you CAN unhook yourself from it, by allowing those people to be who they were, do what they did, and move on into your own satisfying life, regardless. Remember, they are only 2 people. There are 7 billion people on this planet. You don't have to ONLY see life as those two people presented it to you! Move on. The BEST REVENGE is to move ahead with your own life, eventually getting yourself to the point that it's like it never happened! (I have been successful in doing this, getting past physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse I suffered at the hands of my father. I was also able to forgive him, and thank him for being my father in this lifetime, before he died. It's very freeing!)

These are things you can do on your own. If the anger you are experiencing is too great for you to feel when you work with it on your own, I really recommend you go to therapy. A good therapist can anchor you while you release, explore, heal and accept all that has occurred.

Also, read Harriet Goldhor Lerner's book "The Dance of Anger." It's a great "primer" on anger.

I'm sad you became a cutter; glad you've given that up. Cutting is a way for dealing with the energy of the held-in emotions. Once you've dealt with the held-onto emotions, you'll not be pulled to cut yourself.

Congratulations! You have begun (in a BIG way) to release the anger you stored for years. You are actually on your way to getting free. It is possible to GET free. You have my full support!

Please rate this response before leaving the site. Contact me again if you have questions or don't understand something I've offered here.

Warmly,

Ilene  

Mastering Anger

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Ilene L. Dillon, M.S.W.

Expertise

As a "Recovering Angry Person" and psychotherapist, I have thoroughly explored Anger and its related emotions, hurt, fear, depression and guilt. I'll give a free half-hour of coaching to anyone who can ask me a question I cannot address!

Experience

36 years as a family, individual and group psychotherapist. 15 years of teaching for California Probation Officers and Psychotherapists. Author of "Exploring Anger with Your Child" (now "The ABCs of Anger in its updated version). Personal, clinical and group work with anger, including in the parenting arena.

Organizations
C.A.M.F.T. (California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists) N.S.A. (National Speakers Association) Professional Member since 1984

Publications
Magazines: Woman's Day, Personal Excellence, Care Notes Newspapers: Marin Independent Journal, The FAX, San Francisco Chronicle, in-house publications for therapy organizations Books and CDs: Total of 17 published works (www.emotionalpro.com/)

Education/Credentials
M.S.W. from University of California in Berkeley Two California Licenses: Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker Lifetime Jr. College Instructor License in California Host of Internet radio program (since 2004)Full Power Living, focused on "awakening the world to the power and importance of human emotions" http://www.emotionalpro.com/

Past/Present Clients
Write me for a partial list; or look on my web site, www.emotionalpro.com/

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