How to Flip the Script on Anger
Anger is a natural response to situations. For example, in the heat of a stressful or hurtful moment, we can use our anger to endure what we are experiencing. However, uncontrollable anger is destructive to physical and mental health.
What Is Anger?
There are two categories of aggression: impulsive and predatory. Some substances are directly linked to impulsive behavior, meaning your expression of aggression may be the result of a substance, not a lack of control. On the other hand, predatory aggression is a planned act of anger.
Anger comes from feeling antagonism towards a situation or person. For example, when you feel someone wronged you, you may react with anger. Therefore, understanding the types of irritation or rage and their symptoms are key.
- Passive Aggression: If you avoid confrontation, you are more likely to react passive-aggressively by indirectly expressing negative emotions rather than addressing them. Passive aggression stems from the need to be in control. How do you know if you are passive-aggressive? You can look for these key indicators: giving the silent treatment, sulking, putting off tasks, or pretending to be okay with something.
- Open Aggression: If you react by lashing out through verbal or physical harm as a response to how someone wronged you, you are using open aggression to express your feelings. This response often presents as bullying, shouting, belittling, sarcasm, shouting, accusations, sniping, or blackmailing.
- Assertive Anger: When you use assertive anger to cope with situations, you utilize healthy expression. Assertive anger is choosing to listen, talk, and find healthy ways to cope with anger while exuding confidence and control.
Before attempting to transform harmful anger into a more healthy expression, you must first ask yourself what triggers it. Some examples include:
- Personal issues: Stressful relationships and jobs can increase the risk of you feeling angry.
- Outside events: You can’t control or expect everything that will happen to you. For example, when a friend is late or cancels, you might feel anger towards them. Traffic situations, accidents, or other uncontrollable events can also induce anger.
Substance Use and Anger
Perhaps your anger stems from situations that are self-made. When used in the context of anger, this is not a form of judgment. What does self-made mean? There are situations when your behaviors cause anger-producing events. For example, if you have a substance use disorder (SUD), your substance of choice can increase feelings of rage.
Substance-induced violence occurs because of the effects substances have on the brain. Experts have reported that substance use can alter your neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. The following substances were found to exacerbate anger:
Identifying and Coping With Anger
Once you determine your triggers, you can begin to flip the script and change how you react to your surroundings. Therapy and group counseling can teach you how to transform those reactions into assertive anger. Over time, with regular attendance, you can change your habits to reflect healthy coping skills. Here are a few examples:
Learn to think before you speak. When triggered by a situation, your natural instinct is to respond immediately without reflection. When tempers flare, you may even find yourself saying things you’ll regret later. Meditation is a mindful practice that teaches you to step away from a situation, process it rationally, and choose your words with wisdom. While in therapy, you can experiment with different coping skills that will transform how you respond to your environment.
Use your coping skills to disengage. In heated moments, anger often escalates to the point where neither party listens to the other. Walking away or tabling a conversation is a great way to avoid escalation and allows time to assess all sides properly. After you cool down, you can reapproach the conversation with clarity and a sense of calmness. Expressing frustration constructively will ease tension, thus avoiding confrontation, hurtful words, and blame.
Exercise. Activities like walking, running, and throwing a ball help reduce stress levels and boost happy hormones. Such healthy alternatives can decrease the volatility of the situation while also increasing your physical health. Plus, exercise provides an opportunity for mindfulness.
Find ways to ease your anger. Sometimes you need to adjust how you think or accommodate others in order to find inner peace. For example, if your partner is somewhat of a slob, find ways to conceal their mess until they’re able to organize it themselves.
Frame your sentences to avoid blame. Criticizing someone might feel like a positive means of expressing frustration, but it will likely hurt their feelings and only worsen the situation. Therefore, use “I” when sharing your feelings and avoid using finger-pointing language.
Let go of your anger. Holding a grudge leaves little room for positive feelings like forgiveness. Instead, you end up harboring resentment and bitterness. While in therapy, ask your therapist for techniques to guide you towards forgiveness and peace.
Avoid substances that induce anger. A substance addiction program can provide you with the tools and techniques needed for healthy expression in a substance-free environment. Don’t try to quit substances on your own.
Seek help. Beginning therapy is a sign of strength, not weakness. After all, you’ll end up leaving a better version of yourself.
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