Feeling angry? Does anger control your life? There’s a lot of nonsense talked about anger and many of the myths can perpetuate the problems anger creates. Here are five stories you might be telling yourself about your anger that Eifert, McKay and Forsyth point out are just not true.
Lie 1: Being angry and aggressive is instinctual to all animals
Er, nope. Anger does serve a purpose when we need to defend ourselves but look at other animals.
They only get aggressive when they are trying to stay alive and feel threatened or are sorting out hierarchies within the pack. Other animals tend not to hurt each other because they work in groups and any harm you do to your group makes the collective weaker.
Human beings rely on relationships to get along, we love connection and closeness. When we co-operate and look after each other everyone benefits. Angry behaviour often destroys this.
Lie 2: When you feel frustrated aggression is unavoidable
Can you imagine a world where this would be true? What would it be like if everyone became aggressive when they felt frustrated?
People act in all sorts of ways when they feel frustrated. Some get angry, some cry, some shrug their shoulders and get on with the day.
You don’t get to choose the feelings you have but you do get to choose how you behave.
Lie 3: Letting your anger out is good for you
Spend time kicking the crap out of your pillow? Scream and shout in the car when you’re driving on your own? Surely this helps let it all out?
Research suggests that this is not in fact the case, it does the opposite.
If you release anger in this way you are teaching yourself to be more angry. You maintain your angry state of mind and you do nothing to resolve the issue that brought up the angry feelings in the first place.
If you are releasing your anger on other people this makes the situation you are in even worse. Anger tends to beget anger and does nothing to resolve the situation you are in.
Lie 4: Anger is always helpful
Anger is great for getting you out of situations where you are being threatened or attacked. It can also help you set boundaries in your life when other people are trying it on.
Where anger is not helpful is when you get stuck in it. If you are feeling hostile or judgemental about yourself or others it can have a serious impact on how contented you feel in life.
It’s not unusual for people I work with in my therapy centre in Wilmslow to have angry feelings about people or things that have happened years ago.
Often these get in the way of them moving on with their lives and connecting with people who are important to them.
Research shows that holding on to anger in this way increases the chance of cardiovascular disease – even more reason to behave differently.
Lie 5: Your anger is caused by somebody else
It makes sense to look around and try to blame someone or something else when you’re in pain – why wouldn’t you? There’s a small flaw in this plan though.
When you blame others for your anger you give your power to them. Sure, people are going to do things that really piss you off at times but you get to decide how you respond. That’s your choice.
If you give your power away so easily then you are doomed to suffer from anger over and over again.
Want to do it differently?
If you are fed up with the havoc anger is wreaking in your life and you think it’s time to get it sorted out then why not give me a ring on 07966 390857.
I’ve been counselling people with anger issues and teaching anger management for many years now so you can feel confident I know where you are coming from.
We can work together to deal with angry feelings differently and move towards a rich fulfilling life where you connect to the people and things that are important to you.
Read the book
The myths in this article are taken from Act on Life Not on Anger: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Problem Anger.
This is a great book aimed specifically at people who are dealing with anger issues and is based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.