What Therapists Do to Cope When They’re Really Angry

Some emotions are easy to manage, such as joy, excitement, and contentment. But others, like anger, are tougher. Still, feelings of anger are a necessary part of a healthy emotional makeup, therapists say.

“Anger is a useful emotion. It alerts us that something is wrong or a boundary has been crossed — it lets us know that some kind of action needs to be taken,” said Dani Marrufo, a marriage and family therapist in California.

And anger differs from many other emotional states because of one thing. “Being crazy is an interesting feeling because it’s something everyone can relate to in relation to happiness,” said Sadaf Siddiqi, a psychotherapist and mental health consultant in New York City. “I think [fewer] people really have an understanding of happiness… A lot of people don’t know what happiness is, they’re always looking for it, but almost everyone knows what it’s like to be crazy.

Being angry can feel overwhelming, but there’s a smart way to handle it (and a few things you can do next). Here’s what therapists do when they’re really angry:

The best thing you can do is allow yourself to be angry.

“I let myself go with anger and recognize that I’m…angry, I’m upset, and I kind of have to ride the wave,” said Taisha Caldwell-Harvey, psychologist and founder and CEO of The Black. Girl. Doctor, an online therapy and wellness platform.

At that point, she does what she needs to do to recognize the feeling, whether it’s letting off steam, screaming, or something else entirely.

“I’ve done a lot of work to be able to know that what I’m feeling is valid…and so I have to give myself space to be angry and be in that emotion,” Caldwell-Harvey explained.

When you don’t let yourself feel your anger, bigger issues can develop.

“There are all kinds of bad things that happen to our bodies internally and emotionally when we suppress our anger,” Caldwell-Harvey noted. This can include ulcers, rapid heartbeat, higher blood pressure and more.

However, letting yourself feel your anger doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sit with it. Marrufo said she enjoys exercising the energy that comes with madness. “Anger for me can be really big and intense and overwhelming at times,” she said.

Lifting heavy weights, going to the batting cages or singing screams in his car are all ways Marrufo vents his anger. “It’s like the energy that I’m holding back… has to go somewhere else,” she said.

Anger needs an outlet, otherwise it can turn into something more. For Marrufo, keeping those feelings inside can mean that “maybe later I’ll feel anxious, or later I’ll still feel just as angry.”

It is not advisable to make immediate decisions when you are angry.

Enes Evren via Getty Images

It is not advisable to make immediate decisions when you are angry.

There are other ways to deal with your anger once you’ve sat down with it. Start by thinking about what triggered it.

Once you recognize that you are crazy, you can act.

“I process the experience of being crazy in two stages that work well with each other. One stage focuses on the short term and the other on the long term,” Siddiqi said. is to calm myself down in the moment so that my body is in a less intense state – I do this by pausing to give my brain a chance to see that I’m not actually in danger and I’m not doing it. have to be on the defensive. »

During this break, Siddiqi said she was going to drink some water, have a cup of tea, or take a few deep breaths. “All of these steps allow more oxygen to reach my brain and also help me be more present in the moment,” she said. It also moves the body into a calmer state.

After a few minutes or hours, Siddiqi moves on to the next step. “This is where I will process my experience as I reflect on ‘Hey, what actually triggered me?’ or ‘What could I have done differently in the future?’ “, she said.

She journals, meditates, or talks with a trusted loved one to reflect on these thoughts. “This stage is really, really important because that’s where the growth really happens,” Siddiqi explained.

You can also try an “adult time out”.

Just as it can help kids cool down, it can be a good idea to put yourself in “adult down time” and have some alone time when you’re feeling really hot, said McCrae Carroll, therapist in Caroline from the south.

Carroll said you can take 20 or 30 minutes to walk around or take a few breaths before diving into a conversation that could get tense.

After this time, “come back to see if [you] can continue the conversation and see if it actually moves forward,” he said. It’s always a good idea to have great conversations once you’re in a quieter, flatter place.

Set limits.

Addyson Tucker, a Rhode Island-based psychologist, said they’re likely to set boundaries when angry, which can affirm how they’re feeling.

“I I have every right to be angry about this,” they said. “What you say and do is not OK.”

These boundaries might involve setting limits on what topics you’re willing to discuss, or even setting physical boundaries between you and a loved one, such as not allowing your mother to come over unannounced.

Tucker noted that often being angry isn’t enough to meet a particular need, and a boundary may be what is needed.

Try to stay off social media.

“I really try not to use social media,” Tucker said.

People may turn to social media in situations where they can’t express their anger directly, Tucker noted. Sometimes people end up posting passive-aggressive messages in reaction to the pain, which can make things worse.

We “use social media or email to passively express that we’re upset before we’re ready to talk about it,” Tucker said.

And avoid making big decisions.

It’s no secret that when you’re angry, you don’t think clearly. Siddiqi said she avoids making decisions when angry, especially decisions that have major consequences.

In other words, don’t turn down an invitation to a family vacation because of a fight with your mom, or email a co-worker to confront them about some behavior that bothers you. It’s easy to feel that decisions have to be made immediately, but for most things, that’s not really the case.

“In a state of anger or anger, I will say I don’t have to decide that right this second,” Siddiqi said. You can give yourself a few minutes to calm down and reflect before diving headfirst into something you might regret.

In the end, do what is right for you.

“Know that everything we feel has a purpose, and it’s up to us to respond appropriately,” Carroll said.

So just because a HIIT workout might work for someone when they’re angry doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing for you.

Tucker said they never tell anyone their coping tool is bad. Instead, they try to understand the purpose of the coping mechanism. For some people, anger isn’t simple – just think of the stereotypes of the “spicy latina” or the “angry black woman.”

For people who aren’t allowed to express their anger and rage, there may be coping strategies that help them mask or code-switch in ways that really aren’t good for them,” Tucker said. “It’s not good for their body, but it could actually be a way for them to survive.”

So don’t be ashamed if your coping mechanism isn’t on this list. And know that what you are feeling may be more deeply rooted and point to a much greater challenge. “Especially for marginalized people — people of color, black people — we have a lot of anger that sometimes isn’t understood,” Caldwell-Harvey said.

That goes for historical trauma, which can manifest as the rage or anger felt when injustices happen again and again, Caldwell-Harvey said. It’s not as easy to overcome these things.

And understand that anger is necessary.

“Emotions are neither good nor bad, and we shouldn’t think of them as good or bad,” Caldwell-Harvey said. “We have this wide range of emotions and it’s for a reason, and living a full life means you feel them all.”

Although you can try to regulate your emotions, don’t be discouraged if your anger takes over from time to time. “I would say practice makes progress, and when it comes to managing your emotions, your progress will never be linear,” Siddiqi said. “And that’s normal and OK.”

Messing up once in a while is part of being human, so if you find yourself depending on coping mechanisms that you’d like to stop using, be kind to yourself.

If you can afford it, you might consider talking to a therapist to help you regulate your emotions and feel more comfortable when anger hits you. Check databases like Psychology Today or Inclusive Therapists for mental health professionals near you.

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