by Dr. Lorin Bradbury
Question: I’m having a problem of short temper and can’t control my anger, although I express my anger verbally, and not physically. I am on medication for depression. Sir, your valuable opinion please.
Answer: There are a number of precipitators of anger, and there’s no guarantee what I’m about to write will answer your question, due to lack of information about you, but there are some common roots of anger. Some of these include fear, pain, and frustration. Probably the most common source of anger is fear—fear that things are not going to turn out the way you want something to turn out.
In a dating relationship fear might be a reaction when you sense the relationship is not going to lead to marriage as you desired. In marriage, anger might manifest when the one you married doesn’t yield to all of your desires. On the job, you might experience anger when you fear you are being passed over for a promotion and you fear someone else is going to get the promotion you deserve.
Please note that in each of those scenarios, the fear is associated with expectations you have created and when the expectation you created doesn’t materialize you become afraid life is not turning out the way you imagined. Fear than becomes a precursor to anger. Once you reach the point of anger, you are only one step from depression. And, in truth, you set yourself up for anger.
The next time you are afraid your expectations are not going to turn out as you planned, imagine yourself in a canoe navigating white water rapids. The worst thing to do in that kind of situation is to attempt to turn around. Instead of becoming afraid and angry, you might acknowledge you don’t know how it’s going to turn out, and it’s possible you may turn over.
But why not try having a blast as ride the rough waters. Squeal a little with glee. Once you’re out of the rough waters, you will be glad you hung in there and didn’t become angry, and you will be better able to handle the next patch of white water.
Other sources of anger can be related to hurts you have experienced in relationships. It’s important to understand that love and anger are not opposites. They actually sit in chairs next to one another. The opposite of both love and anger is apathy or indifference.
If you still are experiencing anger related to a broken relationship, recognize you still are experiencing a form of intimacy with the individual who hurt you. When you heal from that hurt, the sight of the person, or the mention of his or her name will elicit little to no emotion.
How do you heal? Well, denying the presence of the hurt and resultant anger will not solve the problem. Some people stuff their feelings of hurt and deny their anger. Some go silent and even become depressed, but that is unlikely to heal the hurt.
Instead, it’s better to find someone you trust and talk about the hurt feelings, taking responsibility for those feelings. They are real. But anger is a choice, and stuffing those feelings, spewing the anger verbally, or becoming physical toward someone else is not healthy. If you can’t find someone you trust with whom you can process those feelings, I recommend therapy.
There are a number of other sources of anger, but one I don’t want to overlook is anger related to the loss of a loved one. When you experience the death of someone close to you, it is normal to go through a stage in which you experience anger. It may be anger toward the cause of the death, or even anger toward the one who left you behind. But be assured this is a normal stage of the process of accepting the loss.
Most people navigate the stages of grief within a year. If you become stuck in the anger stage for a prolonged period of time, you may want to consider visiting, or even starting, a grief group where you can talk with others about the experience of grief. Some may be further along and can relate to where you are at the moment. Again, I want to assure that this kind of anger is not pathological unless you become stuck in the anger stage.
Going back to the question that precipitated this response, you mentioned you do not express your anger physically, but only verbally. Don’t minimize verbal expressions of anger. Words can be abusive and hurt others. You indicated you are on medication for depression. I would recommend you consider contacting a counselor or psychotherapist for an evaluation and therapy.
Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected]