Anger is considered the most dangerous of all emotions in recovery. While anger is a normal emotion that all of us are likely to experience at one time or another, what makes the difference is how we deal with it. Unmanaged anger leads to relapse in several ways:
1. Angry people act irrationally and do things they may later regret.
2. Anger leads to stress.
3. The physical manifestations of anger (see below) can act as a trigger.
4. Unmanaged anger can lead to broken relationships.
5. Anger actually prevents one from effectively dealing with the source of the problem.
The degree to which people experience the emotion of anger will vary greatly but it is said to be made up of three components:
• The Cognitive Response (The Thought Process): How people respond to anger depends upon their mental interpretation of the event. A teacher working with a handicapped child who is being rude is likely to have more patience than she will have with her rude husband.
• The Behavioral Response: Words or actions that may range from silent sulking to violent homicide. The response may cause an explosion of overt anger behaviors (shouting, throwing, hitting), or covert behaviors (resentment, irritation, sulking), which if not dealt with, may eventually cause an “implosion” of hidden anger.
• The Emotional/Physical Response: Times of stress cause chemical changes in the body. Any unfamiliar or stressful event can produce physical reactions and cause increased heart rate and lung function, increased digestive activity and other arousal factors. This explains the link between anger and high blood pressure.
Anger and Resentment
One of the emotions that fuels anger is resentment. People experience this when they feel they have been wronged in some way. Such wrongs can be real or imagined. People in recovery can become resentful if they feel that their efforts are not being appreciated, or if other people are getting in their way.
Ignoring feelings of anger about a traumatic incident, such as child sexual abuse, rape or the death of a loved one, allows resentment to build.
An addiction prevents the person from expressing their anger in a healthy way, plus addicts may have learned unhealthy ways to express anger from their parents or other relatives when they were younger.
Addicts may be angry at themselves but they blame people around them for their problems.
Anger Management Tips
The Mayo Clinic provides 10 anger management tips:
1. Think before you speak. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.
2. Once you’re calm, express your anger clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.
3. Get some exercise. Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry.
4. Take a timeout. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful.
5. Identify possible solutions. Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand.
6. Stick with ‘I’ statements. Avoid criticizing or placing blame, which might only increase tension.
7. Don’t hold a grudge.
8. Use humor to release tension.
9. Practice relaxation skills such as deep-breathing exercises, or repeating a calming word or phrase. You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses.
10. Know when to seek help. Consider seeking help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you.