When Anger Threatens Your Recovery
You have many obstacles in recovery that you probably never even considered until you were out of rehab. Anger is a reasonable emotion, but when you’re in recovery, it can be a dangerous distraction and for many, an excuse to relapse. Keeping anger bottled up inside leads to stress and frustration, which is one of the first steps to returning to an unmanageable life.
When you feel an emotion, it consists of three components:
- Cognitive – the reason you feel the emotion
- Behavior – how you act when you feel a certain way
- Physical reaction – the way your body changes
Anger stems from a situation in which you might be hurt or threatened. This is actually a good thing. It lets you know that something is wrong and needs to change. The physiological reaction is due to a fight or flight response. You might breathe harder or have an increased heart rate. Angry behavior could be hitting something or shouting.
Reasons People Get Angry
Anger is a legitimate emotion. However, many people believe that anger shouldn’t be expressed. The problem isn’t in expressing anger, but in how you express that emotion. The more you stuff your emotions down, the more frustrated you get. When you finally do express anger, you explode.
There are times when you should get angry, but there are also times when anger may not be the appropriate response. This is called irrational anger. You might experience irrational anger when:
- There is a sense that another person might be a threat to you
- You rate people as inferior or superior
- You misinterpret what is going on in someone’s mind
- You have unrealistic expectations about someone’s (or even your own) behavior
When you get angry and deal with it inappropriately, it not only hinders your recovery but leads to many health problems such as insomnia and heart disease. It also threatens your relationships with family, friends and colleagues. You are also at a higher risk of committing an illegal act or becoming a victim of violence yourself.
Dealing With Anger More Effectively
Everyone feels anger. The key to dealing with anger is finding coping skills to release that frustration in appropriate ways. Here are some things you can do:
- Take time to relax and practice deep breathing. Remind yourself to think it through before exploding.
- Talk out your anger and frustration. Be respectful and assertive instead of aggressive and defensive. You feel anger when you’re threatened. Discussing the problem can give you a different outlook.
- Do something physical. Mow the lawn. Play basketball. Clean your office. Exercise. Put your excess energy into something that makes you feel better about yourself.
- Learn to laugh at yourself or see the problem from a different perspective.
- Identify the causes of your anger and try to deal with the root problem
Learning to process anger differently won’t happen overnight. It does take a concentrated effort to redirect your aggressive feelings when you’re mad. But it will be worth the effort in your recovery.
“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”
– Marcus Aurelius