“But you said. . . ”
“No, I didn’t. . . ”
“Yes, I heard you say. . . ”
“Well, that’s not what I meant!”
And so, it goes – round and round and round and we end up with two angry people who continue to find ways to attack, defend and destroy each other.
Anger builds as each continues to dig in their heels and insist they are right, and the other is wrong. You probably have had such conversations or have witnessed them. Discussions at this point soon move into the blame game:
“You always try to pin the blame on me. If you were here instead of out golfing, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“Oh, and how about you – out shopping again.”
The conversation has gone beyond misunderstanding and name calling.
So many things that contribute to high levels of stress in today’s world. Not having a job, home schooling while maintaining a job, unexpected financial concerns, trimming our budgets to bare bones, travel restrictions, and the inability to enjoy social functions, are but a few.
When the cares of the day max our ability to cope, we find that those high levels of stress can make it harder to maintain positive relationships.
We know that anxiety levels can dramatically rise as optimism flies out the window and worry about our future takes over. Anger, guilt, and shame are quickly activated. Learning to calm ourselves through slow, even breathing whenever stress levels rise is imperative.
Like summer wildfires, the results of anger unleashed and unchecked by logic or reason can leave behind destroyed relationships and ruined lives. Left unrestrained, our lives can become tinder boxes ready to explode with just a spark of irritation.
Anger, like fear, is a great stressor when it becomes the norm for dealing with life’s problems.
As therapists, we see the effects of growing up in homes where anger is out of control. The wounds and scars run deep. Unless recognized, addressed, and changed, the patterns of behavior repeat themselves from one generation to another.
It’s okay to be angry. It is not okay to be aggressive.
You may have been led to believe that anger is never good and when you get angry you should quickly censure it. As I described in my earlier posts, anger has a purpose and we need to pay attention to what it is telling us.
Aggressive behavior often accompanies anger out of control, but anger and aggressive behavior are not necessarily synonymous. You can feel angry without being aggressive.
When we feel we have little control over our life and anger becomes our predominant way of resolving conflict or problems, it can lead to aggressive behavior.
Whether you are a man or a woman, understanding your feelings of anger and what triggers it is important. The inability to understand its origins can result in hostility, silent rage, or passive-aggressive behavior. Understanding and becoming accountable for our emotions allows us to assert ourselves responsibly.
Anger, like all emotions, has a purpose. It is neither bad nor good on its own. When managed and expressed appropriately, it can be an important ally and friend.
The energy that anger creates can help us make important changes. When used as a motivational force it gives us the motivation to change our lives for the better.
Left unchecked, however, it simmers beneath the surface, ready to explode at any moment. Anger then focuses on everything that is and has been going wrong in our lives. It keeps us from seeing anything good.
It is to our benefit to find out how we acquired an angry-aggressive habitual response before it becomes a wildfire that burns everything in its path.
Someone has wronged us or betrayed us. Anger rises. It simmers in our thoughts as we contemplate our revenge: “Just wait; I’ll get even with you.”
And we repeat to ourselves over and over the injustice of the situation, of how we were treated and why we didn’t deserve it.
What felt like a kick in the stomach the first time is repeatedly replayed as we continue to stoke the flames of anger, hurt, and betrayal until we have a raging furnace inside of us – our stomach churning into hard knots, chilling our bones.
The purpose was to discover patterns of thinking and behavior that add unnecessary stress to your life.
Were you surprised by how your thoughts could increase or decrease the stress you had?
As we learned from Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis, we make assumptions about the world and ourselves that become unquestionable core beliefs and unbreakable rules by which everything and everyone is evaluated.
Irrational thinking influences how we think and act, how we treat others, our relationships, our attitudes, expectations, and assumptions.
It seems that life keeps handing us one stressful thing after another. We barely resolve one problem when ten others pop up, demanding immediate attention. Stress now becomes a constant battle, a way of life that keeps our thoughts and emotions in turmoil.
According to Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis, renowned scientists and psychologists, it isn’t situations by themselves that determine how we feel, but rather the interpretations and perceptions we make.
While it is important to pay attention to our emotional responses, we also need to pay attention to what we are saying to ourselves about these incidences. We can blow events out of proportion by how we think. These become thought distortions or irrational thinking that increases our stress levels.
We will experience stress every day. That is normal and natural. For example:
You’ve been asked to work overtime – again. The bus was late, you arrive home to kids fighting and an irritated spouse, the kitchen is a mess and you just want to throw up your hands and scream.
That is a pretty normal reaction to a string of events that were frustrating and exasperating. Who wouldn’t want to throw up their hands and scream?
However, when we remain in that agitated state, the original stress is compounded. We need our jobs, we want to have good times with our families, and we know we can adapt, but how do we keep the accumulation of expectations and demands from overwhelming us?
Focus on what you can do; don’t dwell on what you can’t do. As we age, there will be things we no longer can do and things we struggle to do. For example, arthritis can make it difficult to pick up objects or hold onto them, and we begin to worry about our abilities declining.
Worry can become a habit that eliminates possibilities. Do what you can and do it with confidence.
2. Acknowledge and accept.
It is hard to accept that we are aging. But each day is an opportunity to begin again.
What interests, passions, or things have you wanted to do but never had time for?
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