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Internal Vs External Anger – How to Manage Both Effectively
When you think of anger what comes to mind? Perhaps a shouting, red-faced person hurling insults? How about a quiet, anxious person hiding in their home? This second example isn’t what most people commonly associate with anger but, as a therapist, I know how complex anger can be. Anger is responsible for many different issues. You might not always realise that unresolved anger is to blame.
So, what are the two sides of anger?
The Two Faces of Anger
When a person struggles with anger there are many ways it can affect them. Anger isn’t unhealthy – it’s a normal human emotion. But it can be difficult to deal with effectively. Firstly, because it’s such a strong emotion and, secondly, because there’s a lot of social stigmas associated with anger. There are many unhelpful ways we try to process our anger. This leads to more problems.
Anger causes both an emotional and physical reaction. Anger is often a response to feeling threatened. As such, it makes sense that our body responds with an increased ability to defend itself – ‘fight or flight’. However, we cannot lash out at everything or everyone that makes us angry. Consequently, people develop a variety of conscious and subconscious ways to deal with these feelings.
Anger Turned Outwards
Anger turned outwards and expressed inappropriately is probably what most of us think of when we think of anger issues.
Some people feel like they have very little control over their anger. It explodes, often without warning, and they experience rage. This can result in aggression, shouting, abuse (towards themselves, others, or objects), violence, property damage and dangerous behaviour. It’s obviously not ideal for several reasons. It will isolate you from other people, can be dangerous and can get you into trouble. It’s very important that people who experience this should seek help with anger management.
Anger & Destructive Behaviour
When anger elicits a feeling of shame or lack of control some people turn to unhealthy behaviours to try and negate this. They try to combat the feeling with coping behaviours that help them feel in control or as a way of punishing themselves. Self-harm is associated with anger. It is something some people use to process the feelings or to punish themselves for feeling angry in the first place. Not all self-harm is immediately obvious. Consider dangerous activities and sports, recklessness, excessive alcohol consumption, drug misuse and over/under eating. These might distract from negative emotions for a while, but at the end of the day you are actually punishing and harming yourself.
Anger Turned Inwards
Another way people deal with unresolved anger is to suppress or redirect it. They push it down, turn it inward, or try and convert it to something else. Distraction and forced positivity can work for a while, but eventually they lead to greater problems.
Internalised anger can cause physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, depression, headaches and tension. It can also lead to passive aggressive behaviour which is not good for relationships. People who tend to focus anger inwards may be socially withdrawn, sulky, irritable and grumpy.
A lot of my clients come to me about things other than anger. They don’t realise that anger is actually the root cause. That’s why hypnotherapy is so valuable. For effective change and relief, you need to treat the cause, not just the symptoms.
Pent up anger can cause a general feeling of being ‘on-edge’ and ill at ease. It simmers away under the surface and may present as anxiety or depression. Controlling such a strong emotion takes a toll both physically and mentally. Many people suffer with chronic fatigue as a result.
Anger & Low Self Esteem
There’s also a link between low self esteem and anger. Feeling angry all the time can really damage someone’s self-esteem. Some people who are anger avoidant do not want to experience or express anger at all. They feel it makes them a bad person and this triggers shame. It’s completely healthy and normal to feel anger but some people find experiencing this powerful emotion extremely distressing. This is often seen in those whose upbringing discouraged these kind of emotions or those who have been exposed to violence or abuse.
People who have deep shame attached to anger may become isolated and avoid socialising. They may feel depressed or have social anxiety. When they experience anger or the related shame, they may display physical signs such as sweating, blushing, or shaking, which makes them feel even worse.
Conversely, sometimes anger is caused by confidence and self esteem issues. When we learn to recognise, allow and use anger positively, we feel validated and more competent.
Anger & Anxiety
Some families, particularly in previous generations, did not allow children to feel angry. They saw this as bad behaviour and would attempt to deny or control these emotions in their children rather than help them acknowledge and manage them. If you were raised in a family where your feelings of anger were rarely acknowledged, you may not recognise them now. You might mistake them for fear, anxiety or panic. Anger can be a very strong emotion and this in itself can make us anxious if we don’t understand it. However, this is especially true if we are programmed to fear anger as something destructive.
Learning to recognise anger, accepting it, and using it to understand ourselves can give us a new sense of power and peace.
How to Express Anger Healthily
The best way to deal with anger is to express it in a constructive and safe way. Effective and assertive communication can be a good way to do this. The key is to express your needs, boundaries and feelings whilst being respectful and not aggressive.
If expressing your anger isn’t possible or appropriate, you may be able to calm the anger. To do this effectively you will need to control your internal thoughts and responses, rather than just your external behaviour.
Help With Anger & Related Issues
If you would like to explore any of the issues mentioned here or would like to book a free, no-obligation appointment for yourself, please do get in touch today. The ability to effectively deal with anger is a great gift to yourself. And can really make a big difference to your happiness and wellbeing.