Solutions for Anger & Aggression © Martyn Carruthers

Online Life Coaching & Counseling for Anger & Hostility

Anger Management

Anger is a normal reaction to threats to yourself, your relationships or your values.

Anger is part of life. It is problematic if it is chronic, if it causes you to act impulsively,
or if it sabotages your concentration, relationships or occupation.

Yet anger can empower you to challenge injustice or to change yourself.
Do you usually withhold anger – or do you know safe ways to let it out?

Is your anger temporary, following some crisis or event –
or is it there most of the time, simmering in the background?

I feel irritated most of the time, especially at work … I tell my employees what I want,
and I tell them if they don’t do it well enough or if they don’t work hard enough …
I will fire them … I won’t let them take advantage of me …

Were you taught to hide anger  – to keep it all inside you? Withheld anger may result in bullying others, hurtful self-criticism or self-harm.

I was more or less abandoned as a child. My mother was often in hospital and my father worked away from home. My grandmothers raised me. I am 47 now but my anger at my parents seems to fill my chest … it probably caused two heart attacks. Washington

Anger is a feeling, hostility is an attitude and aggression refers to behavior. Although anger is often described as the emotion evoked when a person cannot attain a goal or fulfill a need, most anger seems to be a response to injustice.

Were you ever taught how to manage anger? Let’s check. Do you feel anger, hostility or aggression when you perceive:

  • unfairness to yourself or injustice to others
  • possible hostile intent: “He or she did that just to annoy me“.
  • disrespect of your or others’ thoughts, beliefs, feelings or needs
  • threats to something you identify with, e.g. your family, culture or religion

If you feel anger and rationalize it, you can better understand your emotional reactions. Then you can decide how best to respond.

Expressing love includes expressing anger
If you can’t express anger – you are hiding yourself

Suppressed or Hidden Anger

If your anger and its consequences are problematic, you may try to hide your anger, but your inner stress may lead to depression, obsessions or addictions.

Withheld anger can contribute to problems in the bedroom such as impotence (erectile dysfunction in men and frigidity in women). Angry people often damage their relationships – which may increase their anger – spiraling towards isolation.

People who are afraid of their own anger may be called passive-aggressive. They may not allow themselves to feel anger … they hide or deny their angry feelings, perhaps even from themselves. They may be afraid that if they allow themselves to feel anger, they will damage or destroy something – including important relationships.

Anger is also associated with high blood pressure and heart disease. Suppressed anger may be also be experienced as depression or as psychosomatic symptoms. Warning signs include:

  • Grinding teeth at night
  • Avoiding completing important tasks
  • Sleep problems and possibly nightmares
  • Muscular trembling or tics; (fist clenching is common)
  • Chronic pains in neck, heart, solar plexus or stomach areas
  • Sexual impotence – erectile dysfunction in men or frigidity in women
Sociopaths – Antisocial Personality Disorder

People who feel detached from other people and from themselves may not feel emotions such as love, guilt, empathy or conscience, yet they may crave respect. Sociopaths perceive people as things, and may manipulate or hurt people without guilt or remorse, to gain respect (many politicians and salespeople seem to fit this profile rather too well.)

The con-artists behind scams and frauds are often sociopaths. They can be charming – they may pretend emotions to better victimize people. They focus on their own needs with little regard about the consequences of their actions on other people. Many are compulsive liars who disregard societal rules. Many are in prison.

Chronic Anger & Aggression

Some people cannot fulfill their roles or responsibilities. They may be physically ill, mentally disturbed, immature or they just want to be somewhere else. If these people do not express their anger … often someone else will. Many children feel and express their parent’s anger – perhaps for decades.

If a child decides that a family member is a victim, and another is a victimizer, that child may attempt to rectify the perceived injustice by expressing the anger of the perceived victim – to the perceived victimizer. This expression of anger can lead to a child identifying with the perceived victim.

(This does not mean that a child’s assessment of family dynamics is accurate, although many victims will express gratitude and relief if someone, even a child, seems to feel and express their hidden anger.)

I always had a short fuse. If I see anybody being victimized, even slightly – I have to do something. My whole life is about protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty. That was my job since I was three … yes, I’m a policeman. New Zealand

Later in life, angry or aggressive outbursts may be triggered by relationship events that seem unjust. Triggers for such angry behavior include:

  • Favoritism
  • Hostile behavior
  • Betrayal of trust
  • Broken promises
  • Inflexible leadership
  • Lack of cooperation
  • Poor communication
  • Undeserved criticism
  • Insensitive authorities
  • Unreasonable demands
Identification with a Victim

If you watch TV or a movie, and you find yourself feeling anger towards an actor, you may have identified with someone in the movie who was being treated unjustly. You may even still feel that anger after the movie, for a while.

A drama triangle was described by Stephen Karpman, in: Fairy Tales and Script Drama Analysis (1968). This drama triangle describes three habitual roles of people in human relationship systems:

Victim Rescuer

If a rescuer identifies with a victim, the rescuer may express sympathy to the victim and anger to the victimizer – anger that the perceived victim did not or would not express. (Such triangles are common in families, and are often easy to recognize).

My father was a victim of my mother. She was horrible and he just took it. I was so angry with my mother that I would explode … my husband is more and more like my father … he is trying to manipulate me … and my eldest daughter is always angry …

We find that habitual angry people are often suspicious, evaluating each person they meet. (Habitual victims more often behave passive-aggressively.) Some common signs of a person who identifies with a victim include …

  • rarely feels satisfied
  • constantly devalues people
  • attempts to control relationships
  • repeatedly confuses relationships
  • constantly irritated, impatient and suspicious

Some angry people dedicate their lives to helping victims or to punishing victimizers. (We have met many angry therapists and law enforcement officers who do this!)

Chronic Anxiety . Chronic Conflict . Chronic Fatigue

My husband thinks he is a good manager, but he is angry with his staff if they don’t do things EXACTLY as he wants, and he is angry with them if they waste his time asking for details.
He’s not much different at home.


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