Posted on February 28, 2019 by Origins
Anger is often closely tied to addiction. It is a normal response to the hurt caused by trauma, abuse, or neglect. However, many people don’t deal with their anger in a healthy way. They either lose control and become aggressive or even violent, or they repress their anger, which can lead to depression and anxiety. People who habitually repress anger, often because they learn early on that their anger will be punished, may become passive aggressive. They may resort to sarcasm, stonewalling, or avoidance when someone makes them angry instead of addressing the problem. Whether you are prone to violent outbursts or passive aggression, the unskillful expression of anger can alienate the people who care about you. Having supportive friends and family is important for everyone and it’s especially important for people recovering from addiction. If anger is a problem for you, here are some more constructive ways to express it.
The first and most important thing to do notice when you’re getting angry and don’t make any decisions while in the grip of anger. When you’re angry, your judgment, foresight, and self-control are basically non-existent, so anything you do impulsively out of anger is likely to make things worse. Take some deep breaths and calm down, then decide what you want to do.
We are often aware of being angry, but we are less aware of what emotions lurk behind that anger. Typically, anger is a reaction to hurt, sadness, rejection, or other painful emotions. It’s fine to tell someone that you feel anger, but it’s much more helpful if you understand why.
Most of the time, people don’t intentionally try to hurt you, especially people who care about you. We more often hurt the people we care about unintentionally or to retaliate for being hurt ourselves. The initial reaction of anger is almost always self-centered, reflecting a belief such as, “She shouldn’t have done that to me; she’s a horrible person.” If you can cool off and take a broader perspective, you will often find that whatever made you angry was unintentional or that you set the ball rolling through your own behavior. We may not like it, but we need to act with compassion and honestly review our own mistakes. Taking a broader perspective will help you not take things so personally.
When you’ve cooled down, identified your emotions, and considered things from the other person’s perspective (possibly with the help of a peer), then you talk to the other person about why you’re angry. If you tend to avoid conflict, you might be tempted just to let it go–and maybe sometimes you should–but communicating will improve your relationships and help keep resentments from festering. Focus on your own feelings and avoid accusations. This is often difficult, but it gets easier with practice.
It might help to write down whatever you’re angry about. However, this shouldn’t be a gripe list because that will only reinforce your resentments. Describe the situation as accurately as possible and try to clearly articulate your own emotions and behavior.
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