Dealing with causes of situational anger
Updated 08 October 2014
by Sarah Graham
Monday 06 October 20141650 8372
If you struggle with anger, you may find that it can erupt in certain everyday situations and leave you feeling out of control. We asked some RSCPP therapists to identify common triggers for these extreme outbursts of emotion, and explain how you can develop strategies to better deal with your anger in future.
Feeling overlooked or powerless
Anger can appear suddenly and unexpectedly in any situation, but triggers are often to do with feeling unheard, dismissed, or overlooked. Anger is also more likely to erupt when you are tired, or hungry or feeling powerless in some way. The intensity of rage will always indicate unresolved earlier feelings - underneath anger there are the more vulnerable feelings of hurt, sadness and unmourned loss. Therapy may help you not get overwhelmed when you're in the midst of the situation.
Being put in a difficult financial position
A common situation might, for instance, be that you have been promised payment for work completed and invoiced, while at the same time relying on that payment to settle an outstanding bill of your own. If payment is not forthcoming when promised, you risk feelings of shame and inadequacy for not being able to fulfil your commitment. Anger may erupt as a result of being placed in a situation where you feel let down, anxious and powerless. Through exploring this situation, therapy may help you make sense of your reactions and see these within the context of your emotional history. The process of feeling understood and heard by me could, over time, enable you to contain and process your difficult feelings.
At work, someone keeps using your coffee without asking; is it wrong to feel angry? No, it's a perfectly appropriate response. If you don't say anything you will start to feel resentful, and this will grow and grow until the anger bursts out, which leaves you feeling out of control. If you have difficulty expressing your anger appropriately, therapy may help. Through therapy you can learn that it's okay to be angry (as long as it doesn't spiral into aggression), but also that anger is a perfectly normal emotion, and can actually be very positive as it brings about change. The key is recognising exactly what you're angry about; it's not that you don't want people using your coffee - you're quite happy to share it - but taking it without being asked is disrespectful. THAT'S why you are angry!
Poor customer service
A common situation in which anger may erupt is when dealing with call centres. Anger can be experienced due to a feeling of helplessness on the part of the caller, with no outlet for their frustration or indeed resolution for the issue. Therapy may help by looking at your past patterns, i.e. when you have felt helpless and out of control, how this helpless feeling has been provoked and offering a more satisfactory resolution in future situations, by exploring both safe expression of anger and empowerment.
You may experience frustration and irritation at times while driving - but road rage is something very different, likened to 'a red mist descending'. It's an anger so powerful that it can lead you to take unthinkable risks. You may feel you are beyond logic, and either you don't think about the potential consequences or are too furious to care. Therapy may help you explore the triggers and origins of your rage, and understand how you can develop strategies to manage and contain your feelings, rather than being overpowered by them.
You can find out more about symptoms and causes of Anger
, including how to find a therapist. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.