Recognize your Anger Personality type and learn how to recognize and deal with the triggers.
Our world is filled with anger and aggression. Newspaper headlines scream about fighting all over the globe, violence in our neighborhoods and abuse in our families. Turn on the TV or go to the movies and you will be flooded with images depicting horrendous crimes, bloodshed, and brutality. We are so comfortable living in a hostile society that we spend millions of dollars purchasing violent video games for our children without realizing that we are contributing to this problem.
What is anger? My explanation is that anger results as a reaction to someone or something that gets in the way of our safety or wellbeing. How do we protect ourselves from these dangers? Some of us react aggressively retaliating with words or hurtful actions while others repress their anger, and instead of striking back, turn the anger inward, harming themselves instead of the aggressors.
Do you or someone you love struggle to control an anger problem? Most likely your method of handling anger developed early in life. When I was a pre-school teacher I saw how three or four-year olds developed angry coping behaviors that may still be troublesome in their lives today. I recall Ben, a three-year old whose parents were on the verge of divorce. He was clearly affected by his stressful home life.
Every morning during play time he would ride a tricycle around and around the play yard unwilling to go into the classroom again when it was time for indoor activities. On a really bad day he would enter the schoolroom and knock down all the toys or games I had set up on the tables before settling down. One day when Ben was playing with our pet hamster he squeezed it so hard that it died! He didn’t do it on purpose. He was a little boy who was unable to understand, talk about or control his intense feelings.
Jimmy, another angry boy, was a bully who pushed others around or grabbed toys out of their hands when he was in a bad mood. Since Jimmy was pretty big he could overwhelm the smaller, meeker children.
During parenting conferences I explained that my rule for acceptable behavior at school was: Things are not for breaking and people are not for hurting. These 2 boys were not able to comply. After informing their parents what was taking place at school I suggested ways that the families could deal with their sons’ anger control issues without punishing them.
Ben’s mom heeded my advice and bought her son an inflatable punching toy to use any time he felt overwhelmed at home. She later reported that he destroyed 3 of these! Jimmy’s parents collected small stones that Jimmy could safely hurl at their backyard wall when he felt like hurting someone.
Before you can control your anger you need to identify your anger style. Not everyone with an anger problem yells, has fistfights, or gives the object of his or her anger a bloody nose. Some of us express our anger in other ways that also lead to unhappiness. Here are some common Anger Personalities that you might recognize in yourself or others.
The Hot Head is very dramatic. Victor never hit anyone when he was angry, but he massacred inanimate objects. He threw things, broke things and, before there were cordless phones, he tried to pull the family phone out of the wall in his blind rages. Victor’s wife recounted a tantrum when Victor was so furious that he looked around the living room for something to hurl, but when he realized that he had broken all the ornaments and ashtrays, he raced to the kitchen, took a few packages of frozen hamburger from the freezer and hurled them out the front door!
The Potty Mouth lets fly with words. These people freely cuss and insult the objects of their rage. Frank was embarrassed when his wife Barbara would say what she felt even when it wasn’t appropriate. She thought nothing of insulting or demeaning anyone who got in her way.
A variation of this verbal troublemaker is The Comedian. Comedians may have a great sense of humor, but they often joke at someone else’s expense. Put downs and ridicule come naturally to them.
Instead of ridiculing, The Blamer avoids being responsible for his or her angry feelings or actions by blaming others. “See how you are,” or “You made me do that” are the ways that Blamers rationalize their behavior. However, not all angry people act out or verbalize their negative feelings toward others.
The Addict suppresses his or her anger and turns it inward in ways that can cause physical harm. As a psychotherapist specializing in treating people with compulsive behaviors I have learned that most binges are temper tantrums! Although overdoing substances or activities can be destructive, each binge can also show you the way to become conscious of the amount of anger you are carrying around.
When clients share that they lost control over food, spending, drinking, drug using, etc I don’t ask how much they ate, spent, drank, used, I inquire how strong their urge to comfort themselves was. How intense was the “gotta have it?” When Joe or Jane rates a binge on a scale of #1-10 and says #9, I ask: “What in your life at that time was a #9?” The person then pinpoints the distress. Most of the time it has to do with anger or resentment.
Somatizers are people who suppress anger in other ways that stress their bodies. These people get a variety of aches and pains, like headaches, stomachaches, asthma attacks or more serious conditions. Accident-prone folks may experience sprains, strains or broken bones.
One of my clients had to cancel when severe excruciating sciatica laid her low. The pain radiated from her hip down her thigh and leg. When I saw her again she explained that she was in the midst of a lawsuit with someone who was a “pain in the ass!” Her body was obviously reflecting her feelings.
Some other kinds of passive personalities that carry around unexpressed anger are The Clam who retreats physically or emotionally and hides away, The Cry Baby who turns on tears rather than expressing anger appropriately, and The Sulker who stirs things up as an excuse for a fight but refuses to explain what the bad mood is all about.
The Passive Aggressive person is both actively and passively expressing anger. He or she may forget a promise, break or spill things that belong to you, tune you out, or frequently come late while you fume as you wait.
If you have identified with one or more of the Anger Personalities I have described, what comes next? Here are some suggestions to help you control your anger appropriately and improve your health and happiness.
1. List your Anger Personalities.
2. Write a description of how you act when that part of you takes over.
3. Which people or situations in your life trigger your anger?
4. Which people or situations from your past still trigger your anger?
5. Learn anger management techniques such as: EFT tapping, yoga breathing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, 12 Step program, or therapy.
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