Anger and addiction are closely related. Occasional anger is normal and sometimes healthy. If we see someone being treated cruelly or unfairly, anger is an appropriate reaction. However, expressing anger constructively isn’t easy. Some people are prone to angry outbursts that are destructive and usually make matters worse. Most people go the opposite way and stifle their anger. This has the advantage of avoiding conflict and is therefore preferred in civilized society. Unfortunately, stifling anger doesn’t make it go away; it only becomes internalized, leading to feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and depression. When we feel we are treated badly, we often keep it to ourselves. We might ruminate on an insult or nurture a grudge. Bottling up anger like this typically leads to pain and despair. It’s not unusual for people to try to feel better by using drugs or alcohol. Habitually trying to suppress emotional pain often leads to addiction. Treating addiction requires finding ways to handle anger more constructively.
Take a moment.
The most important thing is not to let anger make you do something foolish. Anger may inspire you to act, but acting out of anger usually multiplies problems. Shouting at colleagues, driving recklessly, and starting fights are all excellent ways to make you situation much worse very quickly. Instead, pause and recognize that you’re feeling angry and that you need a minute to calm down before you respond.
One of the best ways to calm down, whether you’re anxious or furious, is to take some deep, measured breaths. When you’re angry, your heart rate speeds up, you get tense, and your adrenaline surges. You can’t control your heart rate or adrenaline directly, but you can relax and take some deep breaths. Try breathing in for a count of four, pausing, then breathing out for a count of four. This will help your heart slow down and dissipate some of the anger. You probably won’t feel cheerful and relaxed right away, but a few deep breaths can calm you enough to keep you from doing something you’ll regret.
Don’t feed your anger.
Much of the time, we’re angrier over our interpretation of events, rather than of events themselves. If something makes us angry, it’s easy to pour fuel on the fire. Say, for example, that a friend has a party and doesn’t invite you. There are a dozen innocent reasons this might have happened. Maybe she thought she invited you but didn’t. Maybe it was a work obligation and she thought you’d be bored. Maybe you had told her you would be out of town but forgot to tell her your plans had changed. Missing the party in itself isn’t too much of a hardship, and certainly nothing to be angry about. However, the perceived slight is what burns. It’s even worse if you inflate it by thinking your friend betrayed you, that she doesn’t respect you, or that the people who were invited disparaged you in your absence. Once you start thinking this way, it’s very hard to stop. You just get angrier and more hurt. On the other hand, if you interrupt this cycle right away and realize you don’t actually know why you weren’t invited and there’s no reason to assume it was a slight, you can proceed more sensibly.
Look for solutions.
The instinctive response to a threat is to fight or run away. If you feel threatened or offended, it’s easy to make the mistake of believing your dignity is the only thing at stake. You may feel like striking back, or perhaps you keep quiet, but still nurture a resentment based on a perceived insult. In reality, when someone makes us angry, they rarely mean us any harm. In fact, they hardly think of us at all, which may be why we get so angry. We believe our feelings should be as important to others are as they are to us, which is, of course, unreasonable. Rather than getting offended, it’s much better to look for solutions. What actually caused the situation that has made you angry? What does that situation look like from the other person’s perspective? These questions can help you find a solution, whereas merely being offended will not. Even if no solution is possible, taking the other person’s perspective and trying to understand the situation objectively will make you feel less attacked.
There are two common problems when dealing with anger. The first is that you lose your temper before you’re even aware that you’re angry. The second is that you have become so used to stifling your anger that you feel numb, not even consciously aware that you feel angry. Both of these problems make it hard to deal with anger constructively. One thing that might help is mindfulness meditation. Sitting quietly for 20 or 30 minutes a day, watching your thoughts and emotions come and go makes you more aware of what’s going on in your mind. Gradually, you become alert to the signs of mounting anger and you can take a minute to calm down before you lose control. If you are largely unaware of your anger, mindfulness can help you get more in touch with your emotions so you can work on expressing them constructively rather than suppressing them and getting depressed.
Get some exercise.
Going for a walk or a run is a healthy way to blow off some steam. Whatever you’re angry about bothers you less and less the longer you go. You start to see it from different perspectives and you start to feel that a solution is within reach. Exercise can also help you stay calmer throughout the day. It lowers your blood pressure and resting heart rate and makes you less sensitive to stress, which makes you slower to anger.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.