A look at Anger
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Rose Driscoll Registered member MBACP, MA
3rd August, 2012
We've all been in supermarkets and heard a young child having a tantrum splayed out in the aisle red-faced usually accompanied by a parent shame faced, embarrassed and sweaty not sure how to deal with this outburst of anger. Many of us have been that parent having to decide how to deal with it.
The child has 'lost' it and their fury spills over the normal boundaries of acceptable behaviour and we are treated to a melt down of emotions. Sooner or later, the noise dies down, words are spoken which put things right and order is restored for the time being.
Imagine however, the tantrums of a three year old being translated into the body of a 16 year old or a 30 year old and you have a problem. None of us would find this funny or embarrassing; we would find it scary and we would back away from it at all costs.
As adults we do not have the luxury of giving full public vent to our fury and it is a major reason why anger is regarded as dangerous and troublesome both to the person expressing the anger and to those on the receiving end. People's reluctance to deal with anger or to look at it is entirely understandable. Most of us get angry at certain times which are also entirely understandable; when we feel overlooked, let down, treated unfairly or humiliated by others. We also get angry with ourselves for letting people 'get away with' being rude to us or pushing in front of us and if we aren't careful our lives can get swept up in anger. It can take charge of us.
Anger is an important emotion as it offers us a kind of barometer that things aren't quite right and we do well to listen to it. We are often right to be angry: about the world's injustice, with the banking crisis at present, with the government cuts and for all kinds of social reasons. These kinds of anger urge us to behave humanely with other people to make the world a better place.
Some of us, like the child in the supermarket described above, get beside ourselves and cannot contain our anger and it spills out with apparently very little trigger. If this continues to happen we need to listen to that too. It is another kind of barometer telling us something else. This is the kind of anger that may have other causes which are more deep seated for us personally and which can threaten to make our lives miserable.
To go back to the child having a tantrum in the supermarket: Melanie Klein suggested that life is difficult and painful for even so called 'normal' or 'happy' children. She goes on to suggest that children can often feel helpless about their situation, they have no control over anything; their parents, their home, the way they are treated. Feelings of being small, of being told what to do, of being spoken down to can predominate in their lives and then if their parents provide them with a sibling they may also become threatened by jealousy and rivalry, thinking that their parents don't love them as much as their sibling.
Of course most of us survive the ordeal of childhood without realising it has been an ordeal. However, feelings of helplessness and smallness follow us into adulthood especially when people do talk down to us or treat us unfairly. Some of us have had good role models to follow, good advice given to us and we learn to cope with such feelings without losing our temper.
For some people, however, this does not happen for whatever reason. Any trigger, any sign, which most of us are able to shrug off, can set off a 'tantrum' in others. If this starts to happen a lot then we have a situation which we now refer to as 'an anger management issue'. Anger management can be viewed as an imbalance of regulation. People who have a problem with anger are often unable to understand what is happening to them. Often they have put up with far too much injustice and unfairness and then 'blow up' about some apparently slight or imagined insult.
Obviously it is not as simple as this. Anger, like any emotion, cannot be caught or described in an article such as this. However, it is the cause of much domestic violence, of much unhappiness for people and to bring it to the therapy room is an attempt to try and understand and unpick why we feel it has to be part of our armour. Try it and see. It can't do any harm; it may do some good. Have done with the shame and the guilt and the hurt which are the by products of anger. Don't let anger rule your life.
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