Frustration, irritation, and anger are common experiences for many of us. These feelings may be triggered by the numerous demands that are placed on us by our work, relationships, and day-to-day responsibilities, or they may come from a general sense of dissatisfaction with our lives. While some of us may feel like we are chronically frustrated or angry, many people experience their anger as something that comes up unexpectedly and can lead them to say and do things that they later regret. For others, anger can lead to social withdrawal and avoidance or to a general sense of indifference toward life. Additionally, I have often found that anger serves to mask more complex emotions, such as anxiety, sadness, or loneliness. Feeling constantly on edge, having a “short-fuse,” or frequent instances of verbal and even physical aggression can be signs that your anger needs to be addressed.
The way we manage and express our anger can also be strongly influenced by factors such as our culture, background, and gender. For instance, in American society expressions of anger are often viewed quite negatively and many times open and direct discussion of anger is avoided at all costs. Society also tends to have different expectations for women and men regarding displays of anger, with women often being judged more harshly than men for displays of anger or frustration. Finally, the way in which anger was dealt with by our parents and within our families often plays a role in how we handle that emotion. Some of us may have been raised to believe that anger is unacceptable or too dangerous to express, while others may have grown-up in a home in which anger outbursts were a routine occurrence.
Psychotherapy can be a powerful means of better understanding our anger and how to manage it. In my work with clients I help them to become more aware of the warning signs of anger, the reasons why they might be feeling angry, and how they can express it in a healthy way. This often means exploring in depth the situations and factors that provoke anger and frustration, as well the aspects of their background that might be contributing to their struggles. When handled appropriately, anger can be a powerful force in our lives that can motivate us, help us standup for ourselves, and be an importance source of confidence and self-worth.