Anger and its expression have been on my mind a long time….all my life in fact! I grew up in a house where the models for dealing with anger were: (1) sudden massive eruptions resembling the behavior of volcanoes long overdue their discharge or (2) amazing capacities of suppression followed by masterful passive aggressive attacks framed in such “niceness” that responsibility for the attack could never be accurately confronted. In retrospect, it can be said that the latter interestingly gave me an appreciation for the incredible complexity and creativity of the mind to assert and protect itself! When clear, conscious and direct means are not available a mind will find ways to express itself sometimes using tremendously distorted and symbolic means.
There are many reasons why people develop these kinds of coping skills and there are many effects of these kinds of dynamics on all people involved. Thankfully for me it has led to a life exploring the human dilemma through healing, psychology and spirituality. One of the areas that has been a challenge through this journey is that of learning about anger and its healthy purpose and expression.
Faces and Responses of Anger
Have you ever felt that red hot angry energy that builds up in you and creates the sense that you may explode at any moment? How about that seething inner burn that feels like it is frying your nerve endings? How do you know when anger is building in you?
How do you respond to angry feelings?
Maybe emotional outbursts or frustrated crying jags are your preferred style of anger management (actually those ARE a bit healthier than more passive responses).
We may know what different kinds of anger feel like, but we often don’t realize that there are very definite and possibly long term serious effects on our bodies and minds—never mind on our relationships and lives if we do not channel anger properly!
With so many stressful symptoms or negative feelings we can simply endure and wait for time to pass for relief from negative experience. This gives us the illusion that we are “over it”. What in fact generally happens is that the emotion has been granted the favor of time to sink down into the recesses of our minds and bodies –only to come out and play another day or to sneakily wear away at our health, temperament and maybe even relationships.
Toxic VS Healthy Anger
Imagine a continuum with toxic anger on the negative end and healthy anger on the positive end. Examples of toxic anger are easily seen in newspaper headlines reporting events that result when people or countries maintain worldviews of hatred and negativity. Further along on the continuum is a less volatile type of anger that is characterized by injustice collection. The predictable companions of this form of anger are resentment and bitterness. Another mode of anger, usually accompanied by profound silence, is the type that is turned inward contributing to a core of self-loathing and hatred.
For some people anger and its accompanying chemistry becomes addictive and helps them to feel alive, important or protected. Fortunately, anger does not develop into an extreme toxic, addictive or permanent state for most of us. However, since it is something that we all experience, it is helpful to understand, manage, and learn from and about this powerful emotion.
Nervous system imbalances, hormonal disruptions and stress related biochemistry can be involved in both the origin and maintenance of anger. Red flags for these situations are: compulsive features, too much intensity for the situation at hand, and out of control qualities.
Psychological and cognitive understanding alone does little if anything to release a person from this kind of turmoil. The physical reactions/states must be addressed along with deeper insight and new learning to manage anger in a healthy and balanced way.