Oops! Sorry!!

This site doesn't support Internet Explorer. Please use a modern browser like Chrome, Firefox or Edge.

Podcast Content

How to manage anger

Improve your relationship

Below is a transcript for our podcast episode - please note, this is an automated transcript, so there will be some errors!

To listen to the episode, click here

Episode transcript

[00:00:00] : do you ever find that you get really wound up by something so that you feel like you're always gonna turn green like the incredible hulk. If so we're gonna be talking about anger and how to deal with it in today's podcast or stay tuned. And if you want to find out more about how to improve your relationship, head over to the relationship maze dot com where we have lots of resources to help you find and create the relationship that you want. Yeah. Mhm Hi, welcome to today's podcast and today we're gonna be talking about anger. My name is tom McKay uh and my name is Angela decks. That was a very weak attempt at being angry. I couldn't quite do it. How would you do it? I was quite convinced. I was getting nervous as she did that actually. Okay, well, we talk about anger because anger is something that we actually work with quite frequently as counsellors, psychotherapists and also with couples, we get lots of clients coming to us saying, you know, I feel really frustrated. Um, and it presents, you know, it really clouds their life in all sorts of aspects. Uh, somebody gets constantly frustrated with everyone else and kind of starts shouting in or in couples relationship. Obviously it it presents itself by one partner shouting at the other, the other one being really frustrated and so on and so forth. Yeah. And when it turns into rage, that can be even worse as well. We've rage and where, you know, you may express themselves through anger physically in terms of violence. You know, that can be really problematic, particularly relationships and in everyday life. So, and obviously there are many facets to anger and why are we angry? There is a sort of evolutionary benefit to anger, so to speak. It's part of our fight, flight freeze response. So it's this situation when we perceive a situation to be threatening to us. When we perceive danger, we can respond in different ways. So we can kind of fight back or we can play dead or we can run away. No anger is the fighting back response. So it's mobilizing our body and we notice it when we're angry, we noticed that we have blood rushing through our system, the heart starts pumping uh, a lot faster than usual than then, usually in other situations. So we're kind of mobilizing for fighting and that's what we are experiencing when well, we're angry. So angry is anger is a response to a perceived threat, usually. Yeah. And as well, that's when angus turned outside and it can also be turned inside. So it's worth getting angry with somebody we might get, we might hold the anger in and that is probably more like the freeze response where essentially it immobilizes us, but we may take that anger on ourselves, you may feel depressed, who may kind of just shut ourselves away, isolate us out or even self harm. Yeah, so very often, I mean people are surprised when when I explained to them, a lot of kind of surprised when I explain anger um sort of inward anger as you know, depression as a as a form of inward anger for example, it's kind of almost like you're attacking yourself rather than someone else. So rather than putting it out that you hold it in here and frequently also this is related to um to low self esteem as well, so you you don't you can't attack yourself, you tell yourself that you're not worthwhile, that you're not a good enough person etcetera, etcetera, so you can manifest in that way as well. Yeah, and so just just get started, maybe just take a moment and think about what are two or three things that make you angry? So what what simply makes you angry? Oh God, I think, yeah, I mean, you know, I noticed it on the road sometimes when I'm driving and I can see somebody driving really irresponsibly racing along the road at you know, 100 miles in a 60 mile speed limit area or something like that can make me angry. How about you? Yeah, I mean some sort of thing when I think, but I think that kind of tallies with sort of any situation where somebody really I feel is taking advantage of somebody else, so not just me, but somebody else, whether it's pushing in a queue of british, uh driving irresponsibly and potentially causing risk when somebody I feel is disrespecting somebody um and not kind of acknowledging their rights. I feel that sort of thing can make me angry. And the question is, you know, have that time with the fight or flight response because that's not something that seems like a real physical threats. But to me I see that as being more like almost a territorial thing is that you know, you know, if you have a house and you have a garden, I'm sure most of most people are experienced where you have these neighbourly dispute because your neighbor kind of does something to defense or kind of like like somehow tries to take over a bit of your land or whatever it might be. And it's always like this territorial thing where we want to defend our territory. And I think in some ways it's similar that response where if we see somebody taking advantage of somebody for in my example, these are my values, these are the things I hold pressure. So it's almost like my territory. It's like these are my kind of ground rules the way that I see life. And if somebody violates that, then it makes me angry because I want to defend these things. Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes it might not feel so easy for you to express your anger. So you might think actually if I if I show the other person that I'm really angry, they might they might not like me anymore, etcetera. So the anger might come out in different ways and a very classic way in which it comes out is a very passive aggressive way. So where you you're not directly saying to another person, I'm really angry or you're not shouting at them, you're not showing them, but you kind of bring in under hands, you know, sort of digging at the other person. That's for many people, a very typical way of expressing their anger. And that's often because they have learned at home that it's not safe to express how you feel. It's not safe to express your anger. Um it's best to kind of do it in a way that where you have an out so to speak, where if the other person then says to you, well you were really aggressive there, you say, well no, I didn't say anything here. That was offensive, did I? Yeah, well it's not like you would know about that. Is that so that sort of thing would be sort of on the hand, comments. Yeah. And so sometimes that past aggressive thing we pick up and that can be very toxic in a relationship. And uh you know where and she's never expressed but expressed overtly is anger, but it comes across in this sort of almost like this poison you don't realize is there, but it's poisoning that relationship behind these scenes? Well, an anger is often a sort of it's a protest behavior. It's an expression of the frustration with the situation. And often it's finding expression through anxiety. So you can feel quite anxious and therefore get angry. Or you can also um protest by kind of withdrawing. That's another way of expressing your anger and that's often tie in with sort of passive aggressive stance in couples relationships. Yeah. And anger is not always a bad thing. I mean anger can be useful so anger can motivate us to take action. You know, many great causes have been sparked off by people becoming angry about what they feel is an injustice or something else in life. And that starts that movement. So anger can lead us to motivation. But it's when we hold onto the anger or when it's too intense or it goes on for too long, then it can be problematic and maybe just for a moment, just think about can you think about a situation where you felt more anger than is really warranted by that situation? Like say for example, you're going out to the shops and someone says something to you. Maybe it's sort of like could you move that out the way and suddenly you find yourself getting really angry and later on you think, well once you get angry like that, and the reason is because we don't just tend to feel the anger from that situation. We feel a build up of anger from all similar situations in our life. So we could think of it as being like maybe a gestalt to the anger but all the angry experience and is kind of connected like in a chain of emotion. And that a lot of research memory shows us a lot of memory is state dependent. That you know when we're in a certain emotion that kind of connects to the other times, we've had emotions that are similar. So it's like we have this this like chain of light bulbs and uh we say it's like each light bulbs like the times we have anger. And there are some of these light bulbs kind of bigger and brighter than others, like more kind of traumatic events where maybe we've been justified in feeling angry but they're all still connected. So even if we have a little event now, as soon as you turn that switch, the whole thing gets lit up so we feel that whole current from all of those times you have anger and that's why sometimes we feel more anger than is warranted by that situation, which in itself may not be problematic. Very good. So it's just a trigger, isn't it? The other moments of injustice, for example. Yeah. And another, I think useful image with anger is what's called the, the anger iceberg. So if you sort of visualize an uh, an iceberg at the top of it sits the emotion anger and underneath might be a whole host of other uh emotional experiences. It might be, it might be sadness, there might be frustration and there might be grumpiness, there might be a sense of helplessness. So anger very often is just how, how an emotion gets expressed. But underneath it, there's a whole, a whole host of other emotions that might actually need exploring in order to understand why do I feel this intense frustration here? Another thing is also lost as well. Lost very much grief. Natural part of the grieving process tends to be anger. So, you know, sometimes we have all these different things connected. Yeah, Absolutely. Yeah, so, and in relationships obviously, yes, it's really helpful to kind of, to when obviously there is often an expression of anger because it's normal that there are frustrations and relationships, you know, after all, there's two separate people who have different ideas, different ways of approaching things, different, uh, different plans and life, different emotional responses, etcetera. So there will be some conflict and there will be some anger as well, but it's how you manage that in the relationship that's going to be absolutely crucial. So first of all, um, it's really helpful also to understand that anger, that you have learned how to express anger differently potentially. Where in one family of origin there might be a very easy, you know, a frequent expression of anger. One, you know, parents shouting, siblings shouting or whatever. In other families, anger might have been conceived as being very dangerous and something to be avoided. And there's never an angry words spoken, there might be a lot of passive aggressiveness, but no obvious expression of anger. So anger is kind of suppressed. So if you imagine a couple where these two partners come together, this is going to be quite difficult. So for the person who frequently expresses angry feelings, they might get frustrated with the partner who never does. And uh, you know, just never actually shows what's going on for them and for the other partner might be very, very frightening to be at the receiving end of such obvious expression of anger. So this needs to be kind of negotiated and understood about how frustrations get expressed in the relationship and how to manage them. And certainly it's not helpful if one partner gets very easily aroused and angry for the other partner then to say, well, just calm down. What happens when you say, hey, this is really frustrating. Isn't it calm down? What's, what's that going to do? So it's really, um, it would be more helpful to acknowledge that there's a frustration to just say, well, you seem very frustrated right now, Maybe we can talk about that and then usually the anger goes down. Yeah. And actually with that as well, if somebody is in an angry states and it might not be upon, it might be after the street. Like say for example, you know, you have a little problem with your car, which translates in America like a little car crash or the car accident and the person is really angry, they come out, you know if they're really angry or if you're really angry and again a person as Angela said says like you just calm down then you get more angry. But actually, and what tends to happen better is if we kind of try to match some of the, not the anger but the kind of energy in the voice but say something very different, so acknowledge younger. So you know, I appreciate that, I appreciate that, this is really upsetting and X. Y zed but with a bit more energy in your voice because if you're saying it, I appreciate your upset. Again it doesn't it doesn't match it. So we want to kind of match the energy level. So it's a little bit like verbal aikido. Aikido is a martial art where essentially if somebody was to punch you rather than try and use force to block it. What you do is you take their force and redirect it, you channel it. So use a similar energy then you redirect it. So it's similar in our kind of expression when we're kind of talking, we use a similar energy to them, but not the anger. So we express it. Maybe we have a similar volume, a similar pace, maybe a similar sort of tonality in the voice, but we say something that acknowledges what they're experiencing. Um and I know someone actually did that many years ago who had been in a car crash and they used this principle and the person came out really angry and this person I knew back then said like, you know, it's totally my fault and basically saying in that sort of similar sort of energy, the expression a little bit like a person was saying it, but the voice, the words were totally kind of taking away from blaming the other person. So it actually really diffused it. Yeah, blaming is never going to do anything helpful blaming us just basically saying the responsibility rests with the other person and maybe sometimes that might be true, but sometimes it might not be true. Uh and also, but if you just blame someone else, that means you have no control over the situation. Ultimately, if you just pass on the responsibility to the other person. So it's really more helpful to kind of think about what can I do here in this scenario. That is helpful. Yeah. So that's that's another key thing is what we can do if you're feeling angry is first of all, what the first thing you want to do is take a moment, breathe maybe even counts to five. And the reason you might count five is it helps to distract you a bit from the emotion. So internally slow your breathing down, breathe from the diaphragm. Take a few deep breaths, count to five and then once your family a little bit more settled, then maybe approach it or go out for a walk in a relationship. Maybe just say, you know, at the moment I just we need to discuss this. I need to take a moment just to calm down, explain what you're doing rather than just walking out. Because that could be taken as being disrespectful, uh, and then come back and get into this discussion when you feel more calm. Yeah. And when you feel more calm as ankle said is think about how you express it to avoid blaming the other person. Like, you know, I don't want to say you're so rude, you're so aggressive, you're so hostile. Because immediately what happens is you go on the defensive. Absolutely. The you get the other person's back and that's it. So you want to say, I felt really upset when X happened, just say how you're feeling and begin to explore that and think about what, how can you come to a better way of communicating? Good. Uh, yeah, another sort of uh, tip that I sometimes give to clients that we saw that you might, you might or might not find helpful is to just have a little mantra, so to speak. Something that you can tell yourself in that moment, when you notice that your blood, your blood starts pumping, your heart starts pumping, etcetera and you become very angry. Some sort of mantra like, you know, you know, I need to stay calm. This is going to pass, give it a minute, whatever it is that you want to say to yourself, but something that works for you as a reminder that you need to kind of calm yourself down a little bit in that situation and then revisit your responses. Because what you don't want to do is respond immediately. If you're going to respond immediately is not going to be particularly helpful necessarily. Yes, so it's just finding that moment where you've calmed down your system a little bit and then you can have a discussion about it and actually to calm down your system, what you may need to do is actually do some exercise because when you're feeling angry it's not just an emotional response, your physiology changes. So as we talked about the fight flight response, you probably have more adrenaline thrown for your system with anger or aggression, it tends to be more court to solve that's released into the bloodstream as well. And basically we need to kind of manage that. And with exercise you can help kind of regulate some of these things processes in your body to just help kind of get everything flowing properly, get all kind of, you know, your system oxygenated properly. So it's a great way to diffuse some of that because I'm sure, you know, maybe you had an experience where you get really angry, really wound up about something, you can't sleep that night and it's almost like you can feel the chemicals in your body and that's, you know, doing some exercise can be a great way to help release that. Yeah. Or another thing that sometimes helps some people is the visualization. So it's just sort of imagining just having a visual cue, so to speak, that indicates to yourself, you know, sort of something calm and soothing. You might be whatever it is that you conjure up, it might be a meadow, it might be a sort of a beach that you're walking along. It might be a particular color that you associate with calmness. So if anger, for example is read for you, then think, well maybe I'm sort of thinking about green now as a color that I'm going to breathe in and that might help you to calm down in that moment as well. So whatever it is that you can kind of think of just one image, one symbol that takes you away from the anger. That can be helpful. You can't use humor with that as well. So remember years and years ago I kind of helped someone else. And this was a long time ago who was getting wound up by the expression of someone that they worked with. Uh and I got him to think of something humorous that kind of seem similar. And for them it was a picture of some sort of fish with its kind of cheeks moving in and out and they kind of visualize that over the image of the other person. And the next time I saw them they reported back just inwardly rather than getting angry, they just like they laughed internally. Yeah, that's quite, I mean you can also, I mean something that I sometimes you just you you give the anger a different voice, a comical voice like mickey mouse voice or something like that and that sometimes sometimes kind of diffuse is uh the thought that you have in your head and makes it kind of a little bit more comical and therefore less threatening maybe for you as well and for the other person. So these are all these are all sort of like uh some easy examples, then obviously another one that's really helpful with anger is to kind of be really clear about what's the trigger here? Because anger is a response to a perceived threat and perceived threat might be an injustice, it might be very often, it is the sense of, you know, somebody is not quite getting me or somebody is kind of getting in the way of something I want to achieve. There is an obstacle in the way, so to speak. Uh and it's been quite clear about what are your triggers? What is it that gets you going? What is it that gets your heart racing? What is it that you find really infuriating? And it might be that um you feel like the other person is not getting me, it can be that kind of frustration or the other person is saying something that's really hurtful to me. So being quite clearly about what is it that that gets this anger response going in you. Yeah and also importantly is well what do you do when you have a trigger? Well actually knowing the trigger, it means you prepare in advance so you think you know when this sort of thing happens you like to be angry. So it means that when it happens again you're trying to step back and maybe then be prepared. So you're breathing down rather than be immediately triggered into it. And to help with that as well. It can be useful to practice mindfulness. So there are various mindfulness apps around mindfulness courses where essentially we learn to detach from the actual kind of thoughts and step back and actually just experience ourselves more in a moment rather than triggered by this flood of things. Also connected to the past To mindfulness relaxation techniques as well. Could be really useful practicing to relax. Although I do believe myself that if someone's really angry sometimes it's difficult to do relaxation techniques. Absolutely. The key, the missing piece for me is certainly do some exercise first, do some exercise, get your system, get some of those hormones and chemicals out of your body and then relax. Then do the relaxation techniques. Or you could do some sort of displacement techniques. I mean this this sort of classic staff in the seventies was that you go on back and cushion which I don't think it's done anymore. And most certainly most counselling practices is not done anymore. But well if it helps you why not right. If that's the way of discharge it's about discharging, discharging this energy from your body. Then if that's what helps you, then by all means go and do it. You can also do you remember an episode of the Simpsons where the family will given like fats or something? I had to like whack each other kind of dresses, sumo outfits and things. And I think the reason it's not done so much is there is potentially a problem with this where if you get used to the way of displacing angry is hitting something, Even if it's like a punch bag, what you're associating is I'm angry or hit something to make me feel better. This danger. Like one night you go out, you have a couple of too many drinks late at night and you're angry. So you just hit somebody so you can be used as short term thing, but just be careful about using some of those things. Absolutely. I mean, and it's also not looking at the underlying causes, which ultimately is really what's helpful year as well. It's kind of for you to gain some understanding of what it is that gets you that sets you off in the first place. Why do you have this really strong response? I mean, if you have it once in a while, then obviously that's not a problem, right? We all feel angry once in a while, that's okay. But if it's a consistent thing that plays out again and again and again and gets in the way of lots of relationships, you romantic relationships, but also at work or in relationships with other people generally, then this is really something that needs exploration. And it's just sort of really having some understanding of what is it that gets me? Uh what, what is it that gets me going? What is the trigger here for me? And unless you kind of get to that, you can't really deal with it In the # one, I think. Absolute. And you know, with regards to that as well, if you're finding that you are repeatedly experienced a lot of anger and it's quite frequent and it's getting in the way of your life. There's really no substitute for good psychotherapy or good counseling. You do need to work for 1-1. Yeah, because I mean, that that's very much what you would do in a therapeutic setting. You would look at the underlying causes, You would look at the how do I manage this? That's really important as well. If I do feel really angry, how do you manage it through all of the techniques that we talked about earlier on, but really most important, it's also where is this coming from? Because once you've got to the to the bottom of that, you can really then start addressing it and thinking about, well, why is it that I feel so heard, so offended when this happens. Yeah, absolutely. Uh so I think we kind of got the end of today's podcast looking actually like, I think that's pretty much we've covered most of the ground here. And if you want any more kind of resources about some of the things we've spoken about, or more information about how to improve your relationships, head over to the relationship maze dot com and we've got more resources there. Yeah. We talked about it specifically about anger in relationships or conflict in relationships and how to manage that more effectively. Absolutely. And please tune into next week's podcast and please subscribe and share this podcast too. If anybody you think might benefit. So we look forward to seeing you next week. Take care and bye for now. Bye.