Coping with Anger

Today I got angry with my boyfriend. This is an almost daily occurrence because anger seems to be my go-to emotion when I’m feeling other emotions that I can’t handle, including anxiety, low mood, fear, self doubt, guilt… In this situation, my boyfriend was trying to help me with something I was worrying about. I couldn’t get my helmet to fit me correctly and he was trying to help me adjust it. He’s not very good at verbal communication, and far from being patient and recognising that it’s something he struggles with, I got frustrated and yelled at him. Obviously this isn’t a good experience for him, but this is a recovery blog so I’m going to focus on the implications for me. If I can focus on doing better, that will make his life easier too.

In this situation, I have been left feeling guilty and afraid that he will end up leaving me because of my behaviour. If I could recognise anxiety when it appears, and accept what help he is offering (or turn it down politely), I could have avoided lashing out verbally, hurting his feelings and leaving me with more difficult emotions to cope with.

So what can I do with the emotions I am left with? I accept that I feel guilty for now, but when my boyfriend gets home later I can apologise and try to put it behind us. I feel afraid he will leave me because of my behaviour. I can’t control whether he leaves me or not, but I can remind myself that he loves me very much, he has been very patient with me in the past, and I can renew my commitment to try to cope with my emotions better. It won’t happen overnight. I have a long journey ahead of me, but I have made a lot of progress to get to this point. I’m not on the first step by any means.

How can I cope better with anger in the future?

  • Firstly, my feelings are my feelings. Anger is not necessarily a ‘wrong’ emotion, and there are definitely times when it is an appropriate response. I will try not to beat myself up for my anger afterwards. It achieves nothing.
  • I can try to recognise and deal differently with other feelings (like I listed above) before they get out of hand and become more likely to get distorted into anger.
  • Identify triggers for anger, e.g. hunger, tiredness, someone being an ass about politics near me. I often get angry when I am hungry and need to eat something. I’m getting better at recognising this and eating something/holding my anger in check because I know it stems from hunger and not the situation I’m in. I’m also getting much better at picking my battles when it comes to my politics. That’s a story for another day.
  • I’d like to learn more techniques for dealing better with my anger when I’m already angry. It’s not realistic to avoid anger completely (and it probably wouldn’t be good for me to try) so I’d like to be able to cope with it better when it happens. I’ve heard people suggest things like counting to ten, or taking a deep breath. I’ve rarely managed to implement these.

Sometimes I worry that I enjoy my anger, only hating it when I am done yelling and I want it to go away and it won’t. One of my resolutions for this year was to be more compassionate to the people I love. I think keeping the other person’s humanity at the front of my mind in a confrontation would help to keep my anger from getting out of control. I’m not physically violent, I yell and throw tissue boxes on the floor or whatever, but obviously words can be very hurtful and a raised voice or an item thrown onto the floor can be intimidating and upsetting. I think being compassionate to others can help us learn how to be compassionate to ourselves (including our younger selves). The exhaustion and the self hatred I feel after angry episodes is not good for my mental health or my relationships with others. This is something I will continue working on to further my recovery.

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