(404) 874-8536 johnballew@gmail.com

Expressing Anger

Wouldn’t life be great if the only thing you ever needed to say to the person with whom you are in a relationship was “I love you?” A quick, easy, positive message, fun to say and happily received.

Alas, life is more complicated. A relationship in which the only communication was “I love you” could only take place between two robots — or two individuals terrified at the thought of conflict. The problem is, studies show that chronically avoiding conflict is the number one indicator that a relationship will fail. Life in the real world requires us to sometimes say difficult things to those we love.

Some men involved with New Age philosophies think of anger as negative energy that is a waste of time. Some of us have learned that “nice boys” don’t get angry. Ever. Men who learned this lesson growing up often feel wounded or hurt instead, and are also very uncomfortable when someone is angry with us. We may fear being abandoned, for instance. You may want to notice your beliefs and family patterns regarding the expression of anger.

When feelings go unexpressed they sometimes fester and express themselves in unhealthy ways — turning inward on ourselves, for instance, or changing into resentment towards our friend or partner. Neither of these is a good option.

A technique many individuals find helpful for clarifying and dealing with feelings is to write a letter that you are not going to send. Promise yourself beforehand that under no circumstances will you send this letter or let it be seen by the person addressed. Then put pen to paper and write down whatever comes out — no editing allowed. Write as long as you want; let it all out. In the event that you find yourself thinking you really should send the letter, promise yourself that you will rewrite it first rather than send this copy. Getting your raw feelings out this way can be very useful, but it’s not necessarily the wisest way to communicate with someone you care about.

Acknowledging and dealing with unpleasant feelings that come up in relationships is the healthiest and often the quickest way to get beyond them. Developing our emotional skills helps us live lives that are happier and have relationships that are more fulfilling.

Some suggestions for handling anger in healthy ways:

  • Notice when you feel angry.  Sounds simple, but many of us don’t pay attention to what’s going on inside of us.  Learn to identify your feelings.
  • Notice the thoughts that accompany the feeling.  Are there patterns?  Is your thinking sound, or are you jumping to conclusions?  A trusted friend can be valuable in sorting this through.
  • When you find you are angry, talk about it as soon as it’s appropriate to do so.
  • Take responsibility for what you are feeling.  The way to do this is to make “I” statements:  “I feel angry right now because….”: rather than “You really piss me off!”
  • Don’t “kitchen sink” the person you are angry with; that is, don’t bring up old hurts and angers and throw everything you’ve got at them (except the kitchen sink!)

Recognize that anger is a normal and healthy part of life, but don’t let it control you.  If you find yourself feeling angry all the time, seek out a trustworthy friend or a therapist.

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.