In my job, I deal daily with lots of angry codependent people. There are those who are angry about something specific (and sometimes have a right to be) and those who are just angry. Sometimes, they do not even know why and they are often angry at things that they have no influence over at all. Behind every bout of anger is a fear driving the process. In therapy, I look at effective ways of dealing with anger while negating the underlying causes. I have described in posts about protective voices shielding us from the real issues being felt on a deeper level. We listen to and believe these “protectors” because they offer the easy way out and they have been around since our childhood, so they are usually very strong in us. They are also the voices that caused codependency in the first place. Some of these voices (especially the Manager voice) can easily keep us controlled with “should” statements to the point that our anger boils over and those around us “get it”. This anger is often a defence mechanism that keeps the thought of what is really troubling us at bay. In the case of codependency, it is often the control measures employed to provoke connection are not working.
It is often misunderstood just how angry codependents can be, although they don’t always show it. A part of the drama triangle, that is often present around codependency, includes such issues as fixing, martyrdom and large amounts of anger when the expected return does not materialize.
When it comes to coping with anger, there are people who know how to do it in healthy ways and those who have problems managing their anger and expressing it appropriately. Instead of lashing out, becoming physically violent or intimidating those who have caused your anger, take a step back and allow the heat of the moment to pass. When you do this, your anger will be easier to manage, and you won’t end up in a situation that has gone from bad to worse. For codependents, it often comes out in rage after a period of holding it in.
Here are a few tips on how to deal with your anger when it seems impossible to manage:
First, acknowledge that you are angry: This might sound pretty basic, but you’d be surprised at how quickly people will try to deny that they are angry. Recognise the trigger that sets off your anger. Most people, if they stop and reflect on their anger, will be able to see it coming. You know better than anyone what makes you mad. When you can recognise the things that cause your stress reflex to bend towards this angry side of your emotional makeup, you will be better prepared to deal with it.
Pay attention to how others are coping with anger: Everyone is different, and we all have different ways of expressing ourselves. If you know you have a problem with anger, make a study of those around you. Watch how the people in your life react to things and situations that would completely set you off on an angry spiral. Make some mental notes about what they do and say and see if you can incorporate any of those tools into your own anger toolbox.
Teach yourself flexibility: Almost everyone with an anger problem has one thing in common: they react instead of responding. When whatever trigger sets you off, there is probably an instant and immediate angry reaction. Try to fight against this. Instead of reacting right away, gather all of the information you can and learn to be flexible. You cannot control everything, as much as you might like to. When something happens that makes you angry, instead of falling back on your comfortable reaction, respond by thinking it through and looking for other acceptable solutions.
Set your expectations a little lower: Part of being flexible is being okay with compromise or settling for almost everything you wanted. A major part of coping with anger is knowing that the world will not end just because something has not gone your way. Many people get angry because they feel threatened. Teach yourself to welcome several different outcomes, instead of being emotionally tied to just one. A huge trigger for anger can be expecting one thing but getting another. If you are ready for almost anything, you’ll have less reasons to be angry.
Work on communication: People generally do not enjoy communicating with angry people. If everyone in your life is afraid of your reaction, they are going to hesitate to talk to you openly. It’s okay to be assertive and clear about what you want.Just try not to be domineering. Angry people can be bullies, and you probably don’t want that reputation.
Try to be better about forgiveness and compassion: You will find it harder to be angry when you forgive people for what makes you angry. Feelings of resentment almost always lead to anger, so work through those and get rid of them as quickly as you can. This can be hard, even for people who do not have a problem with anger. Holding onto grudges is not going to move you forward, however. It’s going to keep you exactly where you are; angry and frustrated.
Finally, don’t be afraid to get help: There are many good therapists and behavioural health specialists who are trained in anger management. Talking to a counsellor about your unhealthy behaviour can help you cope with your anger.You might also benefit from group therapy or support groups for people with anger. When you have trouble managing it yourself, listening to other people share their stories can help you feel less alone in your struggle. Anger can lead to stress and depression, which will have a terrible impact on your overall physical and mental health. If you have a problem with anger, do what you can to manage it. Have an honest conversation with yourself about your behaviour and how you want to change it, then talk to a professional who can help you. Coping with anger is not something you need to do alone.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.
For more information, please visit: www.drnjenner.com