Anger is our emotional response to a perceived provocation. What we get angry about therefore largely depends on our personal interpretation of having been offended, wronged, or denied. Often it indicates that we feel that our personal boundaries have been crossed.
Being angry isn’t a problem in itself. It’s how we deal with it that often causes harm to ourselves or to others.
While anger is a healthy and useful emotion, many people have trouble managing their anger constructively without blaming, shaming or frightening others or without keeping this strong emotion in, turning it against themselves. Collapsed anger or unexpressed anger that is turned against oneself is often as harmful as uncontrolled anger.
Some people say that they never feel angry as they have learned to avoid the feeling and may tend to feel sad or depressed instead. Other people feel more comfortable with anger than with other emotions such as fear, sadness, shame or jealousy. Anger can then be like a shield that protects them from feeling vulnerable.
When anger has been stored up for a long time small things can lead to an overreaction, getting angry too quickly or too often, sometimes over quite small things.
How can Gestalt Psychotherapy help with anger management?
In working with anger I believe that it is important to address our personal interpretations of a situation and to understand our deeper hopes and needs. Past experiences will have shaped the way we perceive the present and how we respond to challenges in the here and now.
Our anger can be a desperate expression of underlying suffering and pain, it can be the result of deep longings for connection or a fear of rejection that feels too shaming to admit to. Sometimes it can feel safer to feel angry with others or oneself than to risk opening up to the possibility of real connection.
The therapeutic relationship offers a safe space in which to firstly learn to control the destructive side of anger, to explore the roots of it, to understand the underlying hopes and needs that are connected with it and to express these safely and assertively in all areas of life. The path of learning from our anger and to express it safely can establish a more positive approach to others and to ourselves and help us build strong and robust relationships.
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow