When a toddler has a meltdown because they didn’t get the Skittles they had to have, they are seeking autonomy and a sense of independence by stating, “I am me! I am here! Listen to me!” However, an adult losing it with a loved one, impulsively reacting with insults or sarcasm, can be a sign of repressed anger. When this occurs, the core adult self, in that moment, takes a back seat to the wounded inner child that is essentially saying the same thing as the toddler, “I am me! I am here! Listen to me!” And when that wounded inner child takes over, watch out.
One of the most fundamental needs of a human being is to be heard. To be prized, cherished, loved, affirmed and cared for is the cherry on top, but to be heard is essential nourishment for the soul. If a child’s emotional needs are not met, a person’s life can be negatively impacted by a myriad of maladaptive behaviors such as anxiety, depression, addictions, difficulties with interpersonal relationships or other mental health challenges.
Andrew Shatte, PhD, research professor at the University of Arizona School of Medicine and co-author of The Resilience Factor, has done extensive research on the profound advantages of resiliency. Shatte´ posits, “Emotional control – our ability to stay calm under pressure, to remain goal-focused” is imperative for optimal and adaptive functioning. He goes on to state, “Impulse control is the behavioral companion to emotional control. It is our ability to stay focused on a goal and avoid distractions.” When referring to anger management, it is imperative to not get lost in historical relationship triggers. Stay focused on what you are feeling and how you can take better mental and emotional care of yourself in that moment.
Here are some suggestions to tame the beast within:
Increase your self-care. Rabbi Josh Zebberman, LMFT states, “Self-care means to actively care about the self. Active self-care challenges us to develop a sensitivity and openness to getting to know and care about our real selves, values and beliefs, a part of ourselves that isn’t always obvious.”
Lighten your emotional load. Stuffing resentments is like sitting on lit dynamite. Try to resolve where you can and/or let them go.
Set healthy boundaries. When you set healthy emotional boundaries, you are letting people know more about you, what you want and need, what is okay and what isn’t. Use the “When you (do this) I feel (this)” format instead of pointing fingers and/or placing blame.
Make amends where you can. And remember, if you apologize and keep repeating the same hurtful behaviors, trust can be lost.
Did you really want to die on that hill? Stop, take a breath and decide if an issue can wait 24 hours before you address it.
Remember, you are not your anger, and working to overcome the cause can create a happier and healthier future. As 101 Meditations author Rabbi Tzvi Freeman says, “As long as you’re holding on to where you were yesterday, you’re standing still.
Dr. Amy Austin is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFC#41252) and doctor of clinical psychology in Rancho Mirage. She can be reached at (760) 774.0047.