Getting royally pissed off: it's a nasty , debilitating habit - and a gift. On the one hand, when anger runs amok and becomes chronic cynicism, criticalness, grumpiness or passive aggression, it can damage your reputation, social life and health. Fury can also raise your heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline level and over time cause high blood pressure and depression.
But it also has its positive side, helping us to stand up for ourselves. The key to making productive use of our outrage, say the experts, is thinking of it both as an energy source that can help us reach a goal and as a signal that something is blocking us from getting there.
To avoid compounding frustration, it's important to recognize that we can't always have things our way. The chronically angry tend to be very set in that kind of thinking, it turns out.
If you're frequently irritated, frustrated, angry or enraged, seek professional support. Malnutrition, less than optimal liver function or underlying endocrine disorders can contribute to such emotions. Distorted thinking also increases our propensity to fly off the handle. If you opt for counselling, avoid someone focused on helping you "express your feelings." You need anger management skills . With the right therapist, people can generally lower their rage levels significantly within eight to 10 sessions.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
"What I have clients do first is name it: 'I am feeling anger right now.' Then they close their eyes and I ask them, 'Where is it in your body?' They might say stomach, chest or throat. I'll ask them to put their hand on that body part and focus on it for a moment. What people will notice is that if they can stay with it, the feeling will move, soften, disperse. Afterwards there can be a feeling of calm and peacefulness. I ask them to talk about it -- why the anger happened and what kind of action we can take."
GRETCHEN SUNDERLAND , life coach, Lake George, New York
" Avoid blaming the other person for your anger . 'You made me angry,' is a mistaken approach and gives the other person power over your emotions. Anger is a signal that something's not right and needs to be dealt with. Emotions don't give us the direction we move in, but they do give us the gas - anger is the motivation and conviction to address wrongs. (The thinking that underlies chronic anger) is the belief that there's only one way that's morally right, there's only one right way and that's mine."
DAN DALTON , registered psychologist, director of clinical training and instructor, Adler School of Professional Psychology, Toronto
"Anger and addiction problems may not be related, but often they are. Some have problems regulating their anger and use substances or gambling to regulate it. Others engage in addictive behaviours to feel excited, thrilled or alive. Then they act on their over-regulated anger. You've got to pay attention to anger. You have to determine if your interpretation (of an event) that generates anger is accurate or inaccurate . If you're making a lot of wrong interpretations, that needs to be addressed."
LORNE KORMAN , psychologist, head, Anger and Addiction Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, assistant professor of psychiatry, U of T
"You can have personal anger, when someone violates your boundaries. We can feel anger from a spiritual perspective - outrage at hunger, poverty, child abuse, the environment. There's also existential anger. Some people feel anger at just being here, at having to deal with life on this planet. Healing for that existential and spiritual anger, that's the journey of the soul. What action can I take that's right for me on my soul path? When you find it, it gives energy, aliveness and joy."
HELEN ZADOR , master, transpersonal hypnotherapist, certified reiki practitioner, Toronto
"When there is anger, the liver is stagnated or has been taxed by too many toxins. The liver detoxifies all our toxins and hormones, and its good functioning is extremely important for a positive outlook, calmness and serenity. Malnutrition can also lead to anger, especially the lack of B vitamins . For liver detoxification, we need greens , things that stimulate the production of bile. Anger could be a sign of hypoglycemia or endocrine disorders such as thyroid or hormonal problems. Once your diet is corrected, you'll usually feel a lot better physically and emotionally." vMILLIE LYTLE , naturopathic doctor, Toronto