Dealing with anger

Anger gets a negative label in the collective culture. But like any energy, it’s neither good nor bad – what you do with that energy is what matters. Anger arises when we perceive that someone has violated our boundaries, or those of someone we love, and managing this anger is a learned skill. The anger is destructive if it's unleashed uncontrollably on another person. If the anger is unexpressed, it turns inwards and becomes self-destructive. Or if a person disidentifies with their anger, it can come out in passive agressive behaviour. If however the anger is used to mobilise the appropriate physiological and/or psychological defences in a controlled way, then you can harness this energy to maintain your boundries.

Sometimes this anger is valid and appropriate, but more often it’s triggered disproportionately by core wounds inside ourselves, or underlying issues in the relationship. When we are triggerred, we can use the emotions as a way to examine the wounded/shadow self. Connecting to this energy is where traditional talk therapy-oriented psychology can get stuck – it also needs to be somatic and experiential, and this is where holistic counselling shines.

A lot of men and women that come to see me have anger issues. It’s more common that men are are overly angry, causing problems in relationships and self-destructive behaviours; while women have often dis-identified with their anger and find themselves unable to maintain boundaries and engage in interpersonal conflict when it’s needed. This is primarily due to cultural shaping, but also due to our role in our family of origin.

Discharging anger

Discharging Anger (the cathartic approach)

Anger is a powerful energy, and when anger arises in the body it can take control of your emotions and cognitions. Learning to connect to this energy is important so that you can stay in control. Excessive anger tends to block any sense of compassion or empathy, which can makes constructive conversation impossible. If you feel excessive anger, step away from the conflict situation. Relate to the other person (if there is one) that you need some space.

Physical activity is the best way to move this energy. Go for a run (it will tend to be fast and intense, not jogging), hit the gym and lift heavy, or [my personal favourite] go and hit something like a punching bag. You may also find screaming into a pillow or underwater helpful, or listening to angry music. Eventually the energy will run it’s course and you’ll be left feeling a little tired and deflated, and probably left with feelings of sadness, grief or helplessness that were lying underneath the anger. This is a better place from which to engage in compassionate dialogue with the other person, though some connection to that anger will ensure you maintain your boundaries.

Cultivating Calm (the Zen approach)

Meditation and mindfulness practises help you to obtain a calm state, and help you to be less reactive throughout the day. A meditation practise will also help to give you space between the situation/trigger and your reaction. Sometimes meditation or the use of deep breathing can help shift the anger.

It’s also useful to learn to pendulate between the two states – getting angry and then calming yourself down again. Get used to seeing how the anger feels as it arises in the body, and what you can do to calm yourself back down. This ensures that when you do start to feel the anger, you can recognise it (hopefully with more space from meditation) and move yourself back into a calmer state quickly.

Addressing core wounds (the psychotheraputic approach)

When the anger we feel seems disproportionately strong compared to the cause, we are triggered due a core wound. These typically are around feelings of being unloved such as rejection, abandonment and betrayal, and generally come from childhood. The work is to identify these feelings, and then follow the threads of memory back to when we first experienced these core wounds. For example, we felt abandoned as a child, resulting in an insecure attachment style and every time our partner wavers in the relationship, we catastrophise and think they will abandon us too.

Relationship issues can also accumulate over time, and these can make both parties overly reactive due to the resentment underneath the surface. Communication is key in these issues, although it's important to know that some issues don't have a 'solution'. Often these relationship issues are also caused by core wounds.

The good news is that it’s possible to tame your anger, and it’s a gateway to the inner / shadow work that will help address your core wounds. If you’re looking for some help with anger management or inner work, book a free discovery call .


More from my blog