By: Andy Gear, LPC, EMDR Trained Therapist
Why am I so angry?
Do you ever ask yourself “why am I so angry?” Or maybe your life just feels way too frustrating and stressful. If so, this may be a sign of a deeper issue.
It’s tempting to blame others for our frustration, but irritants don’t have to cause outbursts. There are other choices; you don’t have to live like this. Here are four ways to change your life:
1. Notice the difference between the emotion of anger and our response to it.
Anger is an appropriate response to legitimate injustice. But most of us don’t notice the transition from emotion to reaction.
That is where we can get ourselves into trouble. We feel like it is one big reflex that we have little or no control over. But that is generally untrue.
Slowing down our response allows us to notice the choices we are making.
This is where anger management techniques can be useful. Breathing exercises, mindfulness, and other such skills can help us slow down our physical reactions and choose how we want to respond.
2. Notice your expectations.
Anger often springs from our unrealistic expectations. We are not entitled to a problem-free life, and life rarely goes as planned. As obvious as that sounds, our anger often reflects these illogical expectations.
It is important to objectively examine our expectations. If we find ourselves consistently frustrated by traffic, it is likely we have unrealistic expectations of what driving in a city is like.
Cars will cut us off, lines will be long, people will make mistakes, and customer service will be laughable. Accepting these as a given will drastically improve our enjoyment of life. The world isn’t out to get us, even if it feels that way sometimes.
People (even close friends and family) are not required to respond the way we prefer. If your pet peeve causes you consistent irritation, consider giving it up. It is unlikely that people will suddenly change.
3. Notice what anger tells us about our boundaries.
Anger can be a useful sign that our boundaries are being invaded. It warns us that something needs to change.
You may be too busy, too tired, or living an inauthentic life. Stress and exhaustion can significantly impact outlook. We may need to learn to say ‘no,’ pursue healthier relationship, or live more in line with our values.
This may involve downsizing to what you really care about or pursuing a goal that is truly significant to you. Otherwise our deep seeded discontent may come out in unexpected and sometimes violent ways.
4. Notice what’s behind the anger.
Anger is often a secondary emotion. It is generally not the first emotion we feel. It is a reaction to softer emotions like anxiety, sadness, or hurt. But we often prefer anger over admitting that we are hurting.
Anger allows us to feel more powerful or in control, but it prevents us from dealing with the real problem. We neglect the roots of our problem—such as anxiety, depression, grief, or trauma.
Going straight to anger stops us from communicating with our loved ones about what’s really going on. Sharing our feelings of hurt or rejection would allow them to reassure and comfort us. We could have healing conversations that lead to greater connection. But communicating surface anger leads only to defensiveness.
Noticing what comes before the anger helps us to deepen our relationships through those healing conversations. This awareness also allows us to seek healing of the root issues that are driving our anger.