By Jenn Bovee LCSW, CRADC, CCHt, EMDR Trained, The Mental Wellness Center
For some people, anger has always been a taboo topic. Many people associate anger with violence or abuse and struggle to separate the two. More recently, I suspect people may even associate anger with powerlessness. The bottom line regarding anger is that it is always a secondary emotion. Let me give you some examples that will better illustrate what I’m attempting to explain. If I stomp on your toe, your initial response is going to be pain or shock and then anger. If I call you a bunch of names that either are or are not true, your first response is going to be confusion (because this is out of character for me) and possibly overwhelmed and then anger. Our initial response is rarely ever anger.
In my years of clinical experience, what I have witnessed is that anger becomes a layer of protection. Those initial emotions are often not as forceful and protective the way anger is viewed as. Let me ask you a question. When you are really mad, who’s going to mess with you? When we ask our clients this question, they typically laugh and easily answer no one, because anger is designed to protect them. But what starts out as a way to protect them, quickly ends up isolating them. Some people who have anger management issues have come to rely on anger as their only coping skill.
I want to give you some safe and effective ways to cope with anger, especially in light of things going on in the world around us:
- Eliminate the Survival Energy: Survival energy often feels similar to anxiety and is better served being released from the body. Some common ways to release survival energy include yoga, running, deep breathing, shaking, or even power walking. The goal is to release the pent-up energy/anger from your body and your brain in a positive, healthy way.
- Physical Relaxation Skills: We are seeing an increase in people that are not able to relax, which is correlated with an increase in anger. While it may be a coincidence, much of the research talks about how relaxation helps eliminate anger issues. Some examples of relaxation skills include meditations, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, hypnosis, and even something as simple as taking a long walk or a hot bath.
- Use Humor: Laughter is truly healing medicine. Many of us could benefit by not taking things so seriously, but when is the last time you really truly belly laughed? Do you know the kind? The kind where you lost your breath for a moment? Have fun, let go, and just be carefree for a few moments. Schedule in some downtime and enjoy life even if it’s only for a half-hour. Pick up a hobby, watch a television program, google babies laughing, find something that brings you joy.
- Let It Go: This sounds so trite, but one of the best things we ask our clients is: How important will this issue be a year from now? How important will it be ten years from now? Often times, they realize that it will have no relevance at all. And in those cases, we are left with the decision that we must let go of the issue. We recommend taking a breath, giving yourself a
moment to work through the situation, while honoring your feelings and emotions in the process. But also, recognize that holding on to something like anger often creates toxicity inside of you—which is never the desired outcome.
There’s no quick fix for anger. It’s more of changing a habit and way of thinking. However, once you begin to implement the new way you respond to anger, the benefits definitely multiply. My personal approach to anger is as it comes up, I recognize it, I honor it, and then I let it pass. Maybe that’s a philosophy that will work for you as well.
For help with any mental health issue, contact The Mental Wellness Center at 309-807-5077 or e-mail info@TheMentalWellnessCenter.com. Their office is located at 205 N. Williamsburg Drive, Suite D, Bloomington. They are invested in empowering you to return to—or achieve, possibly for the first time ever—a state of complete mental wellness.