Anger in Recovery
Everyone Gets Angry
Almost all individuals will experience at least occasional feelings of anger. Such emotions may occur when people feel frustrated or mistreated in some way. The individual who is angry can become opening aggressive or they may exhibit behaviors of passive aggressiveness. Excessive anger can be dangerous because it leads to all types of physical, emotional, and social consequences. Anger can be highly destructive emotion for those who are in recovery from addiction as it can lead to relapse.
Anger is a type of emotion. The degree to which people experience this emotion will vary greatly but it is said to be made up of three components:
* A cognitive component which involves thoughts of why the individual feels angry
* Angry behavior may include shouting, breaking, or banging things
* A physical reaction which is associated with the fight of flight response. Such a response will lead to physiological changes including increased respiratory and heart rate.
Anger can be passive or openly aggressive in nature. The individual who is passive aggressive may appear outwardly calm and friendly. Inside such people there can be a lot of anger that just isn’t being expressed openly. Examples of passive anger can include:
* Manipulation is when the passive aggressive individual will provoke other people to react. They may deliberately set out to make the other person become angry by pressing their buttons. It can include such behaviors as emotional blackmail or trying to make the other person feel guilty about something.
* Dispassion involves exhibiting an attitude of not caring about the other person. This can involve completely ignoring them or just being aloof
* Secretive behavior such as talking about other people behind their back or making secret complaints about them.
* Turning to obsessive behaviors as a means of dealing with inner frustrations
* Deliberately failing at tasks to punish other people
* Using self-blame as a means to take on the role of a victim
Causes of Anger
Anger can have rational or irrational causes. If an individual feels that somebody else has harmed them they may respond with anger. There will also be times when people will use anger strategically. The aim is to increase the chances of getting what they want by acting aggressively. Some individuals become angry as a way to release pent up frustration.
There are said to be four main types of thinking that cause people to become irrationally angry:
* The individual may have unrealistic expectations about how other people should behave. This type of thinking is often involves words such as, “they should” or “they shouldn’t”.
* Rating people as inferior or superior can often lead to feelings of anger towards them.
* People will misinterpret what is going on in the mind of the other individual
* Anger car arise if there is any sense that this other person might be a threat
The Dangers of Anger
Excessive anger can be a dangerous emotion that leads to undesirable consequences such as:
* Alienating friends and family
* If the individual experiences the ‘fight or fight’ response too often it can begin to damage body organs. It also means a great risk of heart disease.
* It can destroy romantic relationships
* It can lead to loss of employment
* It causes insomnia
* People who are excessively angry may suffer from fatigue
* The individual may become violent
* It increases the risk of becoming a victim of violence
* Such people may be more likely to commit an illegal act
* Angry people are more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs for solace
* People can feel an amount of guilt over their angry outbursts
Anger in Recovery
Those individuals who enter recovery after a period of addiction can struggle with anger. The early months of sobriety can be an emotional rollercoaster with great highs and great lows. For years the emotions of such people will have been anesthetized with chemicals, but now they suddenly become awake. The individual may feel happy one minute but then become irrationally angry over the slightest provocation.
In many cases it will have been an inability to deal with emotions such as anger, that led people into addition in the first place. It is therefore not surprising that this continues to be a problem when a person enters recovery. In the past they will have used substance abuse as a coping strategy, but now this option is no longer available to them. This means that they will need to learn new more effective ways for dealing with such emotions. If they continue to try to use ineffective coping strategies it will make recovery difficult. As the well known saying goes – if people keep on doing the same things, the same things will keep on happening to them.
Anger as a Relapse Trigger
Anger is one of the most frequently used excuses for why people relapse after a period of sobriety. This emotion may build up of a period of time until the individual explodes. They are unable to think rationally, and this puts them at real risk of return to substance abuse. The individual may decide that they no longer care about their recovery, or that they want to punish other people. They can completely forget about how much they’ve wanted to build a life away addiction, and how much work they’ve already put into it. Picking up a drink or drug again out of anger always leads to remorse afterwards.
Anger is one of the steps in the relapse process. What happens here is that the individual gets stuck in recovery, but tries to ignore the situation. They fail to deal with their lack of progress and frustrations build up over time. They are no longer happy in recovery and begin remember the good times of substance abuse. Eventually this individual will snap, and they will be unable to think straight because of anger. At this stage they will be highly likely to return to the comfort of their old addiction.
Dealing with Anger in Recovery
It is important that people in recovery learn new ways to manage anger. It must never be allowed to fester until it derails the individual. Here are a few methods for how it may be managed:
* Techniques such as mindfulness meditation can be highly beneficial in helping people manage their emotions. This allows the individual to understand these emotions better. It can also allow people to disassociate themselves from feelings of my anger.
* There are many techniques available for managing anger. This could involve something as simple as going for a long walk rather than confronting an individual right away. Concentrating on breathing or counting to ten can also sometimes be helpful.
* Regular exercise is an effective way to release pent up frustrations.
* Looking at the real cause of irrational anger outbursts is important. It may be a sign that something is not right in the individual’s recovery. Sometimes talking to a counselor or trusted friend can be a help.
* Anger management classes can be beneficial for those who regularly find themselves in trouble because of this emotion.
* Most rehab programs will teach coping strategies for dealing with anger.
* Assertiveness training can help people learn how to get what they want without the need for tantrums.