Like many people suffering from Complex PTSD I have trouble with anger. Some have trouble controlling their anger which is a serious problem for them and anger management is a tool they have to learn and use on a daily basis. The slightest thing can trigger their anger. It destroys relationships and marriages if left unchecked. Others, like myself have trouble expressing anger and it turns inward. This is just as much of a problem as the emotions don’t get processed and therefore no true healing can take place and life can’t move forward. My Therapist has spent the last five years trying to get me to express my anger at my parents and the men who abused me. I find it almost impossible. Not almost, I actually do find it impossible !!!!! Why ? Because it terrifies me what will happen if I express it. Of course I am angry at what happened to me but I just don’t know how to show it. I have learned to suppress it for forty years and to let it out now is terrifying a prospect. She has explained to me why anger is so special and why we need to express it.
5 Ways Anger is Special
It’s Motivating: Anger’s purpose is to push you to protect yourself. Anger gives you energy. It’s activating, and it drives you to engage, not withdraw, as most other emotions do.
It Never Stands Alone: Anger is always a result of feeling something else. You feel hurt, marginalised, overlooked, targeted, mistreated or vulnerable. Anger isn’t just an emotion, it’s a constellation of emotions. There are always layers of feelings underneath it, feeding it.
It Seeks a Target: Other emotions can simply be. Anger cannot. Like an arrow shot from the bow, it looks for a target. This is what makes anger so easy to misdirect. It may erupt at the wrong person, in the wrong way and at the wrong time so very easily.
It Can Be Turned Inward or Outward: Sometimes directing our anger at its true target can be acutely uncomfortable, and sometimes we aren’t aware of the true target. This is when we are at risk for turning our anger inward, directing it at ourselves.
It’s Capable of Damaging Your Health: Research has shown that anger prone individuals and people who express their anger as rage are more at risk for heart attacks and cancer.
Anger is a powerful, protective, complex emotion. Yes, it has potential to do great damage. But used properly, it also has potential to help you mightily.
Anger’s power means that it warrants special training in childhood. It was your parents’ job to teach you how to recognise anger when you have it, how to discern its message, and how to let it motivate and energise you in the way it’s meant to do. But far too many of us are raised by parents who do not have these skills themselves. This sets you up to ignore your own anger or over-use it, each of which can put your health at risk.
In Therapy we are slowly working towards ways at verbally using words that mean anger. That is all I can manage right now. It’s a start however we have talked through methods of using anger that is helpful and here they are:
How to Start Using Your Anger in a Helpful Way
Make an effort to become aware of the moment you feel anger. Usually, your heart rate will speed, your face may feel hot, and you will feel a surge of energy. The sooner you notice your anger, the sooner and better you can take control of it, and use it in a healthy way. The key is to know that you’re angry when it’s small instead of after it’s already intense.
Regard your anger as a helpful message from your body, and put energy into figuring out its proper target, and what its message is. It may be saying, “Watch out for this person,” “Speak up,” “Protect yourself,” “This is an unfair situation,” “You are being hurt right now,” or an infinite number of different things. Listen to your anger, and it will inform you.
Learn the skills of assertiveness. The skills are: being aware of your anger and why you’re feeling it, managing the anger so that it doesn’t come out excessively; and identifying the right words and tone to express the feeling to its proper target. These are the skills of assertiveness. And you can learn them! I am a work in progress but will get there as I am surrounded by a wonderfully supportive team.