Are you chronically angry?
Or does someone you are close to always seem angry, frustrated, or upset?
There are reasons why we humans can be like this, including current levels of stress, health problems, and, ultimately for many, old childhood emotional wounds and injustices which we haven’t yet really healed from.
For this last one, the emotions can often be quite complex– some combination of anger plus fear plus humiliation or shame, for example. And if you combine all these you get rage.
In fact, I would argue that most people, including many of us, who might be chronically angry are really suffering from old childhood wounds and injustices which are probably unconscious to them.
What they DO with all that pain, however, is often VERY noticeable and potentially very destructive to their relationships, including with their children and their spouses.
What chronic anger can look like varies with each person, but it can include:
-being short with people
-being cold or withdrawn
-constantly being sarcastic or joking at other peoples’ expense
-always being defensive or negative
-being contentious or contrarian
-appearing to be or being thought of as a ‘miserable person’
-being vengeful or quick to hold grudges
-chronically sabotaging others (or oneself)
-assuming the worst about others or about a given situation
Some less obvious, but nonetheless significant examples of chronic anger include (some of these may surprise you as you may not see the immediate connection to anger—for these, take my word and experience….)
-chronic forgetfulness in an otherwise healthy individual
-tuning people (or certain people) out and not ‘hearing’ them
-chronic lack of follow-through or lack of caring or taking things seriously when needed
-chronic ‘tiredness’ or ‘doom and gloom’ in an otherwise healthy individual (by the way, unexpressed anger or anger turned inwards and ‘imploding’ on the Self can cause or contribute to both chronic anger AND depression as well as chronic fatigue)
-chronic boredom or disconnect
It’s important to know that people who are chronically angry are IN PAIN. They seem miserable and behave the way they do because they don’t know how to escape from the emotional chains that bind them to the past.
Maybe they were given too much responsibility too early on by emotionally incompetent parents. Maybe they were abused. Maybe they had other great losses that we can only imagine.
So unless they are breaking the law or acting out physically (i.e. violence for example), we need to start with an EMPATHETIC approach when dealing with them. By the way, empathy does not equate with weakness.
An empathetic approach includes both trying to understand the other person AS WELL AS setting appropriate limits and boundaries with them when necessary and in a compassionate manner, in order to help them to heal and to grow and in order for us to not be further compromised by their behaviors.
Every chronically angry person, unless they are a sociopath (i.e. criminal, pre-criminal, or criminal-like) or they have a primary psychotic disorder (i.e. schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, etc.) where their ability to understand reality is by definition compromised, has a healthy part of themselves that KNOWS on some level that they are doing something wrong when they act out in an angry manner.
They are, in fact, either consciously or subconsciously usually looking for someone to help them STOP.
When we set boundaries with them, without anger or contempt, we are appealing to their healthier side; the side of them which gets it and which agrees with us on some level and wants to grow and to heal.
Of course, if the person, in addition to being chronically angry, is psychotic, as I’ve mentioned, or is somehow dangerous to you or to others, professional help is required.
What if YOU are the one who is chronically angry?
My first piece of advice is to focus on practicing and honing my adult skill of Restraint (the ‘R’ in my ‘REALADULTS’ mnemonic—see my prior post of the same name for more.)
This skill is also known in my office as the ‘bite the tongue technique’.
You must convince yourself that much of what you say, and, in fact, many of your first impulses and reactions, are really about YOU and your past traumas like all those hurts and injustices from your childhood and years past that I mentioned before.
You must learn to not trust these first impulses and reactions enough to immediately act on them anymore.
In other words, shhhhh…bite your tongue.
Keep most of your Comments to yourself and, instead, practice my LVAC technique by Listening, Validating others, Asking open-ended questions, and Commenting last, if at all.
Practice hard, like you would any other skill, and it WILL pay off handsomely. You will find yourself growing and healing as an individual, and you will find your Emotional Credibility (trust + likability) skyrocketing with others.
We must respect where these strong feelings and reactions came from and what they represent to you and to your life’s story, but we must also help you learn to train yourself to no longer allow these feelings and reactions to dictate your behavior or to control you and your life.
Let’s help free you from the demons of the past which keep you trapped in an angry, false shell of your True Self.
Sometimes people need professional help getting there and that’s perfectly fine. Sometimes counseling and even a bit of medication will help you get started if you can’t yet do it by yourself.
What’s important is that you learn a better way to take care of yourself and your pain.
There are REASONS why you always feel angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, threatened, or scared. Don’t let your life go by and your relationships suffer without addressing them, and yourself, properly and with care.
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.