"I don't know why I get so angry sometimes"
One of the common patterns people describe is suddenly exploding over what seem to be trivial things. Their reaction seems to be out of proportion with the actual event.
The reason this can occur, is because of a way we manage anger, often called “bottling”. By suppressing anger, literally swallowing it down, helps us to cope with anger in the short term, so it can be discharged at some later point. It helps to prevent people from behaving in ways that would otherwise be unacceptable, harmful, or shameful. Although suppressing anger reduces our conscious awareness of feeling angry, we will still have a bodily reaction to anger – faster heart rate, increased breathing, increased muscle tension, and reddening of the skin.
So, while "bottling” is a way of coping with angry feelings, it does not prevent the bodily arousal that accompanies anger. Repeated over time, it can become like a habit, which is done in response to any feeling of anger, and can sometimes become so automatic the person is largely unaware they are doing it.
“Bottling” is like using a dam. It holds back the feeling of anger, to keep the water on the other side flowing more calmly, but it can only hold back so much before it overflows. What we notice and pay most attention to is the slower flowing water, rather than the mass of water building up behind the dam. Eventually we may reach a point where one seemingly 'trivial' event, can push us beyond the capacity of our 'dam' and we explode into anger.
Counselling can help by enabling you to increase your awareness of when your anger is rising. You might for instance be able to notice the 'symptoms' of anger, such as a racing heart, faster breathing, tension in the jaw, arms and/or hands, and feeling hot, before you have the feeling of being angry. These kinds of insights can help you explore ways of responding more constructively to your anger.
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About Mark Redwood
I am a humanistic counsellor, which means I believe we are born with the potential to lead full and rewarding lives. Sometimes, we can get stuck and need some help to get going again. I have a BA (hons) in counselling. My experience includes working with young people, bereavement, anxiety, depression, and anger.