Narratives of Anger Management
As a psychologist, my interest in anger grew when I noticed resentful behaviour patterns, self-defeating behaviours and tied up blocked emotions. Touching upon anger issues further reflected and highlighted the dynamics of unhealthy behaviours and relationships. Anger is often just the cover!
Many psychologists describe anger as ‘a secondary emotion’. The inability to understand, deal and express in situations that are frustrating, force us to internalise such feelings.
Anger is often a facade covering various emotions – a ‘surface’ emotion. It is a means for protecting the personality, like an easy defence. It’s easier to get angry, resentful and shout; than unclogging feelings. Un-kept promises, unfulfilled expectations, feelings of hurt and pain – they make us vulnerable. Hence, it may seem easier and empowering to get angry! A sense of injustice, a sense of loss, the fear of losing control or just the thought of being treated unfairly; can well be the underlying causes of anger.
But isn’t anger a little natural? Men or women, old or young; everyone experiences anger, right? We get angry with things/people that we disagree with, are riled by or are highly and emotionally involved in. We have expectations that people that might not meet- making us angry. Anger stems from a feeling of injustice. It is a way of expressing ourselves; a vent to our frustration. When we don’t get what we deserve or what we are getting isn’t what we deserve – that is when anger starts to build up.Truth be told: It is the expression of anger that is a matter of concern
Inappropriately expressed dysfunctional anger affects both the physical self as well as the mental self. Physically, anger is said to affect heart rate, blood pressure, causing excessive amounts of stress in the body. It can take aggressive and violent forms. Anger and irritability can be seen in the form of frequent loss of temper over small issues; frequent bickering, fighting with friends, acquaintances and family members - it affects all the people around us. Bouts of anger and displeasure are met with a lot of resistance. And most importantly it affects one’s quality of life. It takes away the peace of mind, leaving us dissatisfied and often lonely.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”. - Buddha
Anger is not a conscious act. It is a reaction…We react to things, people, situations, unfulfilled desires. It is natural, yet very harmful! What do we do in such situations?
More often than not, anger is the outburst when one is unable to put a lid on all the things stirring inside. Acknowledge that in some situations it is perfectly all right to get angry. You don’t have to fight or avoid, but need to know that it is a state of our mind.
Anger Management: Acknowledge it, express it, understand it, and resolve it!
Here are some of the common things we share with our clients:
1. When in a tight spot – take time off. You have the right to excuse yourself, get a hold of your emotions, take a few deep breaths and calm down.
2. Once calm – communicate! It is key to resolve the reason for your anger. Talk about how you felt and why you felt it. Talking always helps! Communication is speaking, listening and most importantly understanding! Understand yourself and others too.
3. Keeping a check on ourselves, our feelings and on a daily basis keeping a tab on the stress levels are easy prevention steps.
4. Also what I find helpful on a regular basis is exercise and healthy eating – keeping the anxieties worked out. Exercise lifts your mood in general by releasing the ‘happy hormones’.
5. Good food keeps the system going. I often see women dieting and starving making them ‘hangry’ (angry because you are hungry).
What’s the narrative?
Working with individuals experiencing anger and dissatisfaction; I started to explore their ‘anger’ narratives. And this gave insight into what triggers all the commotion.
We all have a story, rather a bunch of stories, narratives about our lives. We share these stories with others and we tell ourselves these stories to make sense of things around us. These narratives as a result of our experiences are formed over the years. These stories that we acknowledge and the role we play in our own stories, often become our references to deal with the world around us and our situations.
“I’m not good enough”, “I don’t deserve it”, “It’s Unfair” – are some of the common narratives that can be noticed about people who ‘struggle’ with anger issues. Their narratives revolve around the person’s expectations from themselves and the people around them. These narratives often become checkpoints for how individuals see themselves and their capabilities.
Exploring the narrative is an interpretive approach which helps in understanding the people and their experiences. The narrative approach lays emphasis on listening by the counsellor and playing the role of a ‘linguistic detective’.
Following the narrative approach helps one to get actively involved in understanding the person by listening to their narratives about certain events in their lives.
A unique feature following the narrative approach is the focus on the person. It can be noticed that when the focus shifts from the problem to the person; the ‘symptoms’ start to go down. While talking just say “let’s talk about you”. And that is the cue for getting the stories flowing. Externalizing their thoughts, stories and feelings; gives perspective to the people.
Reflection on these narratives and accepting their experiences; give way to the client to change their narrative or re-author their ideas about themselves and the world around them. In summary expression, reflection, understanding, accepting, looking at the bigger picture, coping, managing and finally moving/changing & growing! , helps people.
We all experience a range of emotions; anger being a little visible emotion. The flow of emotions is a part of the whole human experience. However, the understanding and manifestation of these emotions, is what matters.