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You Are Not Your Anger

By Amy Austin, RN, Psy.D., LMFT

Are we born angry? All too often, it can feel that way. A recap of a family get together might start off with the best of intentions and sometimes end with voices raised to a high-pitched frenzy over who was right regarding the topic at hand. Well, you know what you get when you’re hell bent on being right? That’s right. You just end up being right. Alone, but right.

At times, it might feel like some triggering relationships are fruitless attempts, at best, to curb the desire to overreact and act out negatively or inappropriately. No one wants to wake up with the intention to create or cause harm to anyone, but sometimes old patterns can loom large and cause emotional havoc. If all one knows is a chaotic past, the norm might be to act or react with a lack of impulse control.

Is it worth all the effort to be right? And angry? So very angry that inner rage might be a correct description of what is brewing inside?

Emotionally chaotic childhoods can greatly affect one’s childhood as well as the development of internal regulatory processes in adulthood.  Resentments (also defined as unresolved feelings or unresolved anger) that are internalized may eventually cause physical symptoms such as migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and more.  These are hot topics inside therapy rooms and in anger management courses, and subjects of a myriad of books on anger/rage.  Unfortunately, uncontrolled anger/rage can be passed on from generation to generation if left smoldering and untreated.

The following are a few concepts about anger/rage and suggestions of how to get the better of it before it gets the better of you:

Impulsivity. Hopefully, impulse control or internal self regulation is addressed, repeatedly worked through, and curbed during childhood. Some adults struggle with impulsive behaviors which can have devastating effects on the individual and meaningful interpersonal relationships.   A person  who acts as they wish, when they wish, can often feel out of control, and their families and/or significant others may not feel safe around them. The good news is this isn’t a hopeless situation. If one stops, takes a few deep breaths, calls for a time out, walks away from the situation, and talks about the wounds that have created internal emotional havoc, these options might lead to healthier outcomes. With concerted effort, successful outcomes can be achieved which can then positively affect the whole family dynamic and structure.

Reactivity. Your hand is laying on the horn of your car because you think the road belongs exclusively to you. Another example is that you think you have a permission slip to treat your loved one(s) with disrespect, disregard, and dismissive behaviors. It takes as much time to react negatively as it does to react with respect and “unconditional positive regard.” (Carl Rogers)

Remember, you are not your anger, so why let it define you? Anger should never serve as a dysfunctional cover or coping mechanism to distance youself from friends and loved ones. It takes courage and perseverance to relay your genuine and authentic self to the world.

Dr. Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC # 41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.

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