Understand: Why We Use Anger?
First Payoff - It makes you feel like Superman or Superwoman
Sometimes we need to feel like we have some power in a given situation. We feel powerless, frustrated and victimized and so anger comes to the rescue and we grow in super human strength, don our cape and rubber boots and fly off the handle. We find our strong voice, and speak up; although we say things we regret later. There is a short term payoff but we know, deep down, we are not superman but it makes us feel good anyway, at least for a little while. Then we regret the mess we have made with the people we are supposed to be the closest to.
Second Payoff - Anger Reduces Stress
Stress creates physiological arousal or tension. It can come from a lot of sources like: deadlines, pain, worry, frustrations, unmet expectations and unmet needs. The greater the stress, the greater we need to reduce the stress. Anger discharges the physiological arousal. People feel oddly relaxed, the pressure is released, and they can breath again...for a short time that is. Soon the anger returns. Studies show that anger reinforces the use of anger again. Hitting a pillow, or a punching bag or a wall only reinforces you to do it again next time. It does not really release the anger. It just feels better for a short time when the stress is released. Anger creates more anger. Each time you blow up, it is more likely you will do it again but it's stronger and harder to control. The people around you get hurt and defensive and dislike you the more you get out of control.
Third Payoff - Anger hides emotional pain
Anger puts a tight lid on painful feelings and blocks our awareness of most of our deep feelings. We can stop almost any painful feeling if we can just get mad enough. Many men/women have done this all their life so that they don't let themselves experience feelings. Living in your thoughts without feelings is only living half a life. So many people try to block out feelings because they hurt so much. The long range affects of hiding your feelings with anger is to lose touch with feelings all together. Feelings are important signals to let you know what needs to change in your life. Unexpressed, unacknowledged feelings get worse over time. Therefore you must ramp up your anger to cover them up. Then you begin to wonder why you are so angry all the time. Another long range effect of using anger to cover emotional pain is that it is reinforcing and habit forming. See the tab that explains "Why feel Feelings"
Fourth Payoff - Anger Gets you Attention
Sometimes it seems that no one will listen to you unless you yell. Anger does catch people's attention. Many will get alarmed and try to please you. But the long range effects hurt you more than help you. People get defensive, start tuning you out, start avoiding you and then just tune you out completely. That makes it worse for you and so anger must increase to get the same attention. As you rant and rave, people start being disgusted by you, they resent you and shut you out.
Fifth Payoff - It is used for Punishment or Revenge
Someone lets you down, hurts you and does not live up to what you expected of them. Inside, you feel hurt and rage. You want to punish them and teach them a lesson. You want them to feel as much pain as you felt, even more. You hunger for a chance to get them back. Maybe you will tell them off. Maybe you can embarrass them. The problem is that whenever you act out these impulsive behaviors you end up creating enemies; and some of these enemies are your closest friends or family. And of course, these enemies want to punish you back for hurting them. As these bitter struggles continue, each of you goes to new lengths to punish which often leads to violence and the destruction of relationships.
Sixth Payoff - Anger helps you to Change Others
In many dysfunctional families, members learn to get what they need by extorting and manipulating others with anger. We coerce others with blow ups or the threat of blow ups. We force others to comply with our demands and we use anger as a club. The long range effect is a family of 'anger users' to get what they want.
Analyze Your Anger
How many anger payoffs do you use? Most of us have used all of them at one time or another. Which ones are your standby regulars? How often do you use them? What time of day or what circumstances do you find yourself falling into the same habit? Are you sick of the long range effects of your anger? Are you ready to change? You have learned to use anger. What you have learned, can be unlearned and a new pattern can be relearned. When we realized that we USE anger as a tool, and we learned it from someone, we need to find a better way to take care of ourselves, our family and our friends. Instead of instinctively reacting in anger, we need to find out what is triggering our anger. Anger is usually a secondary emotion. What are the primary emotions that are triggering my anger? The first step is to slow down the emotional reaction and hold onto the primary emotion. Identify it, acknowledge it, and feel it. If we keep covering up our emotions with anger, we will never figure this out. Allow yourself to feel the primary emotion and stop yourself from jumping to the old habit of covering it up. Some of the primary emotions I am talking about are: shame, guilt, hurt, jealousy, disappointment, embarrassment, frustration, anxiety, fear, worry, sadness, feeling disrespected etc. See the tab labeled "Why Feel Feelings".