‘I have so much anger in my heart’, I need help, I can’t do this on my own’.
‘I’m seriously afraid I’m gonna do physical harm someday because when I get really angry I get into a rage and can’t control myself.’
‘My rage this week is out of control. I’m worried I’m going to hurt myself or someone else. I do not feel in control and honestly, it’s scaring me a bit.’
These are some of the recent cries for help I heard this week
Anger is one of the strongest and scariest emotions we experience. It’s powerful and when you are in the full flow of it, it seems to have a force of its own. When it turns into rage, it can be really frightening. People throw things, shout, hit and kick, slam doors, swear and rant and rave. Some people silently clench their fists and dig their nails into their palms while trying to calm themselves down, others will bite into their own lip, making it bleed. But what is it about anger that makes us feel this way and react the way we do? Where does it come from and what can we do about it?
Anger is what we call a secondary feeling, it’s an emotion we have because of something underneath it. To put it in even simpler terms, think of it as a symptom. Like when your nose runs when you get a cold, your runny nose is a symptom of your cold. So too is your anger a symptom of something else that is going on underneath. But let me first explain what is going on in your body and why you feel anger in such a powerful way.
The Science of Anger
All emotions create a chemical reaction in your body. When we have a thought, that thought instructs your body into action. For instance, when you feel threatened, when your life is in danger, you first have the ‘thought’ of being in danger. That thought in your mind sends ‘help’ to your body to get yourself out danger. Adrenaline and cortisol gets released and pumped through your body to quickly oxygenate your blood, to get your energy up and to give your muscles the strength it needs for you to fight or run away. Now the thing about these chemicals is that if you do not fight or run away and burn them off, they start to build up in your system. And with the build-up, every time you feel angry, it gets worse and worse as the chemicals build up and you end up having a ‘short fuse’. Any little thing sets you off and you feel unable to manage your anger and its at this stage that it could go up a notch and turn into rage. Getting into a state of rage is entering dangerous territory as this is the stage that you literally want to hurt other people, you want to hit them, kick them, throw things at them. And often very sadly, a lot of people do.
So let’s look at some of the underlying reasons that cause us to feel angry;
- When you feel disrespected
- When you believe that you are not good enough
- You feel unimportant
- You are not listened to
- You are not taken seriously
- Yours needs are not being met
- You are tired, a lot!
- You feel scared or unsafe
- You feel threatened
- When your expectations are not being met
Added to this, so many parents feel incredible shame when they feel angry at their children. Most times this comes from fatigue and stress. Having children is life changing, you are never prepared for the incredible fatigue, the stress that comes with not knowing what to do when your child cries, or won’t eat or sleep, the additional financial stress of having to pay for someone else’s needs, losing your freedom, not being able to just get up and go, lack of sleep! Your life changes forever and it’s worse if you have no, or little, help. You start resenting inwardly just how much your life has changed and it makes you feel angry. Angry at the little people who you love so much, but who have also turned your life upside down.
The solution to managing your anger is;
- Acknowledge that you feel it. Feeling angry or any emotion is completely normal and acceptable – even if no one else gets it! What is not okay or is unacceptable is what you do with your feelings of anger. Hurting other people is NOT ok. Smacking, slapping, hitting, kicking, biting, name calling your child or another person big or small is NOT ok!
- The second step is to take better care of yourself, as hard as that is and as little time as you think you have, you have to prioritise some time for yourself, where there is a will, there is a way. Your life, and those around you, depend on it. Simple little things like having a nice relaxing bath or meditating for 10 minutes with some deep breathing exercise will quickly calm your body and your nervous system down.If you are a parent, being away from your children for a few hours so you can recharge is what will make you a calmer and much happier parent and your kids will love and appreciate you that much more. When you meet your own needs, you are more able to deal with their needs. If no help is at hand, then go for a walk with your kids, if it’s cold, put on your coat, dress them warmly and get into nature. Nothing has more of a calmer effect on us than being among trees and grass and sand. Put your phone in your pocket, don’t spend your time out walking while being on your phone as this defeats the object. Getting away from it all and being present in the moment, alone or with your child, is the quickest way you will feel calm, relaxed and recharged and be able to deal with life, and your family, better.
- Ask for help. There is no shame in not being able to cope and needing to ask for help. Ask someone to watch the kids, attend an anger management class, attend a support group, go see a counsellor or therapist.
- Do something physical. Get into nature, go for a walk, go for a run, put on some music and dance it out (this is fun to do with your kids too). Get a punch bag, or a punching pillow, get one for the kids too. Whatever physical exercise you choose, just do it so you can get those stress chemicals out of your body!
For additional help, make sure you join my FREE Facebook support group where you can ask me for advice and tips on coping with emotions and on relationships in general.