Anger – part 2
Some of us have difficulty recognizing our anger; some of us find it so troublesome to acknowledge our anger that we deny it and turn it inwards on ourselves. Hmmm. Sounds painful. It is! Anger turned inward is called depression. (I can hear some of you, maybe even health professionals, typing away at a rebuttal.) That’s okay, do whatever you need to do to deal with your anger issues. It is much healthier to take some action, provided it does not harm anyone including yourself, than to turn your anger in. Writing is a very constructive outlet for anger. And don’t tell me I am opposed to antidepressant medication. I am not, if it is used as part of the solution. If we take a pill, legal or not, and collude with the prescriber, (or collude with the patient if we are the prescriber), saying the pill is the solution, we do a great disservice. Medication can be an enormous help in bringing one up to a level of functioning to effectively deal with the anger, fear and depression. Still, one does have to deal with the anger, fear and depression. Sorry, there is no magic pill and my magic wands have been on backorder for years now.
And, if you believe you have a “chemical imbalance” causing your depression, start balancing it with resolving your old anger. There is no harm in trying…it just might work. It’s a chicken and egg deal…think about it.
So how does that anger stuff work? In Anger, Part One, we talked about children, (you?) who are brought up without being taught a constructive way to deal with normal anger. Watch a toddler get frustrated (angry) with trying something new, which they do about every two and a half minutes. If they are helped through both the something new and the frustration by another person, their anger (frustration) gets resolved. What’s going on here? The toddler is angry because he cannot do or get something; he is fearful he will not be able to do or get something he wants. Take away his toy. What happens? He is angry because he has lost something. If he is helped to do or get what it is he wants, his anger goes away; if he cannot have whatever it is, but is coached through his feelings, receives empathy and hugs, and has his needs met, he moves on, not needing to hang onto the anger…someone has understood and helped him feel better in spite of not getting what he wants.
As adults, we have the same emotions: we get angry because we are afraid of losing something we have, or not being able to get or do something we want. For those with a history of being abused, this is very serious; you may have lost all trust in other people, all sense of self, have no self-esteem and be angry with God, if you believe there is a God. You, too, can heal. It just takes a lot of hard work.
If we agree that anger is an expression of fear, then part of the solution is to allow oneself to identify and feel it. Becoming vulnerable enough to experience the fear then allows us to look for a solution. Here’s where it gets sticky. What is the fear about? Example: if it is real time and there is real danger, protect yourself. If you are angry and afraid of being thrown out of your apartment because you owe back rent, get a job. Get two jobs, sober up, stop spending money on entertainment and pay the rent. Then you don’t have to be fearful and angry at losing your place.
People who are willing to look carefully at underlying fear usually find that they need to trust. Trust the process, trust the universe, maybe even trust that there is a God who is in charge and can help. Example: big business deal depending on decision by other party…you cannot control other party, are fearful of losing deal so are generally pissy with everyone, family and friends as well as your office manager. Not cool. If you have done everything you can, acknowledge your fear, then trust. Try praying, not for everything to go your way, but for acceptance; it can’t hurt.
If your anger (fear) is based in old stuff, perhaps childhood neglect or abuse, abandonment or frequent frustration, the solution to your current feelings will require some sorting out. Most of this stuff is too much for anyone to do alone…your brain is not always your friend. Therapy can help, as can support groups, but you have to really use them; writing or journaling about old stuff is therapeutic. Physical activity to discharge some of the anxiety and irritability is the best medicine I know and changes brain chemistry to actually produce internal antidepressants called endorphins.
For those of you in a recovery program, you have access to tools, called steps, to deal with old stuff. Write your fourth step! For those who are not in recovery, similar “steps” provide the solution; they include reading, writing, talking with others, especially those who have been there, listening, and praying. Get to work. It is not useful to carry around old fear and anger to make you depressed and no fun for your family and friends!