Anger is an emotion experienced by almost everyone and it can be expressed in many healthy ways. Unfortunately, anger can also consume people at times and wreak havoc on themselves and the people around them. When your anger gets to a point where it interferes with relationships, or it seems like you experience anger more often than not, then it can become a big issue.
Physiological components of anger
Sometimes your body’s response to a perceived threat is anger. Early on we needed feelings like anger and fear to help cope with things like angry bears, hungry lions, and other tribes that presented as a threat. Anger served to activate the “fight or flight” system in the body known as the sympathetic nervous system, which increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and provides a spike in energy hormones and adrenaline. These physiological responses created a way to fight the threat or flee to safety.
There are also neurological responses to anger. The center of the brain, largely responsible for emotions such as fear and anger, specifically the amygdala, immediately begins to light up when it senses a threat in your environment. When the center of your brain lights up during a state of arousal, such as anger, there is decreased activity in the frontal lobe of your brain which is responsible for decision making and planning. That’s useful when you are being attacked by a bear because it helps you make a quick response and supplies the energy needed to eliminate the threat or flee. The downside is that when you have been cut off in traffic or miss an exit it isn’t so helpful because it leaves your body in body in a state of high stress and energy. The body can remain in this state of arousal for hours after it has been triggered.
Not only is there a physiological component to anger, but there is also a psychological piece. Some have considered anger to be a secondary emotion meaning anger serves as a defense to protect our vulnerable and overwhelming feelings that lie underneath. When you get angry at your spouse for not doing the dishes after you have asked over and over again, then what lies beneath could be hurt because you have confessed a need that is important to you and he/she has consistently ignored it, and consequentially ignored you. That hurts. When someone who is supposed to care for you decides to disregard you, there is certainly a painful emotional consequence.
Of course we know that anger is not only at play in couple’s relationships, but also in families, at work, within friendships, and in the community. To be clear though, anger is not an emotion bound to destroy people and relationships. Anger can be used to motivate people to convey their needs in a healthy way. Anger is a signal that something has gone awry and needs attention. Every emotion lets us know that either our needs have haven’t been met, anger is not an exception.
Can Therapy Help?
Most counselors are trained to carefully and responsibly walk through healthy emotion regulation with individuals, couples, and/or families. We have therapists who have a passion for helping our clients walk through anger and hurt to find healing. Therapy can help to heal the pain that anger has created in relationships, families, and in you. If you feel like anger is in control and has created wounds in your relationships, you are welcome here. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us or schedule an appointment!