Anger Management Files: Corrupted vs. Clean Anger
If you find yourself constantly on the verge of a “blow up”, then something’s wrong. If anger is the most frequent emotion experienced, I call this corrupted anger. It’s corrupted because a person should be experiencing an array of emotions rather than mostly anger. More than likely, there is an underlying emotion below the anger that needs expression. That underlying emotion might feel threatening or unstable, so rather than get in touch with that emotion, anger erupts. Clean anger on the other hand is an appropriate response to displeasure and acts as a positive motivator for change. If you experience corrupted anger, maybe it’s time to explore what might be going on “underneath”.
When I was newly married, my short fuse ignited often. My poor husband had no idea what he was in for. My tolerance level for frustration bordered on the non-existent. Once in a fit of anger, I chucked my wedding ring at our kitchen window and put a big crack in it. Because we were barely making ends meet at the time, it took a while to save up enough money to replace the window. The cracked window stood as mute testimony of my out-of-control rage. I wish I could say that window was my only casualty, but it wasn’t. Eventually we had a heart-to-heart chat about my outbursts. Clearly I needed help. As a result of intense soul-searching and targeted therapy, I came to terms with the underlying issues that fueled my anger. My window-cracking days are over!
When properly channeled, anger is clean and can be a positive motivator for change. Anger management is not about eliminating anger all together since anger lets us know we care about something that needs our attention. But corrupted anger garbles the message and frequently covers up for other emotions like hurt, rejection, loneliness, grief, or fear. It’s important to get to the root cause of your corrupted anger, deal effectively with what you find, and then you experience freedom. From there, you also learn to express anger in appropriate ways that preserve relationship.
If you have anger issues, here’s a brief awareness exercise you can try:
Just the Facts:
Write down a situation when you felt your anger get out of control. Include all the people involved, the setting, and any relevant details or background.
What were all of your expectations for that situation? Include what you were expecting from the others involved, yourself, and the environment. For example, if you were waiting in line at Starbuck’s, you might have reasonably expected to wait 5 minutes for your order, you expected the barista to make the right coffee, and you expected to enjoy your drink.
Think about all the feelings you experienced when your expectations weren’t met. Were you frustrated at yourself or someone else? Did time constraints make you feel anxious? Did someone say something offensive? Did something profoundly unfair happen and you felt helpless to right the wrong? If you need ideas for feelings, refer to the Feelings List.
How did your out-of-control anger affect you, others, or the environment? Did your actions cost you something in terms of money, relationship, your own peace of mind, or physical damage to someone or something?
How could this have been handled differently? What could have changed the outcome? What did you need in that moment that you didn’t have? How can you prepare for next time?
Clean up your anger so it does what it was designed to do: get your attention to make productive changes. If you need someone to help you do this, you can contact me for a session and we’ll work together to eliminate corrupted anger from your life. Emotional health problems unfortunately can play a part in fueling substance abuse and creating a dual diagnosis in patients.
Watch the video ‘Anger Management With Christine Lister’:
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