Anger Management Counselling in Bristol
Anger is inherently a natural and healthy emotion, which exists to keep us safe. It enables us to protect ourselves when there is physical threat, and to maintain our sense of self when other people try to overstep our boundaries. Anger can be expressed in a healthy way which is safe and respectful, rather than hostile and attacking. When expressed in a healthy way, anger can support healthy relationships: when we feel safe in ourselves, we can allow others to express themselves, without feeling threatened by their different opinions, needs and ways of doing things.
Anger can become problematic when it is suppressed, distorted or expressed in an unconscious and uncontrolled, way. For example, suppressed anger can lead to depression or passive-aggressive behaviour, where the angry person gets back at others indirectly, for example by frequently being late or “forgetting” to do what they’ve promised to do. Another thing people may do when they don’t have effective ways of processing their anger is to become constantly irritable and snappy, thereby adversely affecting their relationships and how they function in everyday life.
Repressed anger can actually be physically damaging: studies have found that people who hide the anger they feel in response to an unjust attack are more likely to get bronchitis and heart attacks, and to die earlier than peers who express their anger when other people are annoying.
If your way of dealing with anger is impacting negatively on your own wellbeing or on your relationships, whether because you bottle it up or because it is coming out in uncontrolled ways, you may want to consider having counselling. Counselling can help you to get in touch with and understand your anger and to learn healthier ways of expressing it.
It is worth distinguishing anger from rage, which has its origins in early life trauma or distress. In the natural way of things, a child learns to regulate his emotions through his attachment to his primary carer, usually his mother. When he experiences distress or pain, he runs to his mother, and in finding comfort, his distress will subside. Through this natural cycle, repeated over a period of time, he learns to comfort himself and regain his equilibrium. Conversely, if the mother not attuned to the child for whatever reason, the child experiences abandonment. His crying escalates into a rage, because his life literally depends on his needs being met. If this happens frequently, the child does not learn to regulate his emotions, and gets stuck at that first developmental stage. In adulthood, he may be unable to differentiate feelings: he feels either good or bad, but cannot identify feelings such as anger, sadness or joy. People who are in a rage perceive themselves to be in a desperately unsafe environment.
Because rage originates from early life trauma, before the child’s cognitive processes developed, it does not respond in a lasting way to counselling approaches that address thinking and behaviour. The primary need of people who are easily enraged is to be supported by a safe environment which enables them to connect with the emotions of their early traumas without feeling overwhelmed. In a safe environment, which can be provided by a compassionate therapist, feelings can be differentiated, named and processed. The person’s level of arousal will start to subside, and he/she can begin to ask in a direct and non-aggressive way for his/her needs to be met. This can ultimately lead to safer, more authentic and fulfilling relationships.
EMDR is another therapy I offer, which can be very helpful in resolving early life traumas so that rage no longer gets triggered by unmet needs in adult relationships.