All About Anger!

Anger is an emotion which everyone is familiar with because we have all experienced it for one reason or another.  And like other emotions, anger is not something which deserves judgment or criticism.  It is simply an expression of something we are experiencing – we are reacting to something or someone which is upsetting us.  However, what we do with our anger and how we express it can generate judgment or criticism.  If we do not have healthy and appropriate ways in which to express our anger, we might be at risk of harming ourselves or others.

Anger is a very energizing emotion.  It charges up your adrenaline and gets you motivated to take action of some kind.  The reality is there are often many other feelings underneath anger which one might be not be aware of or might be purposely ignoring as they are sometimes more painful to experience than anger (i.e. hurt, betrayal, disappointment).

There are many levels of anger and a wide variety of words to describe it and this is important to distinguish.  While you think you might be feeling angry, it is possible you are actually experiencing frustration, sadness or disappointment.  Perhaps you are feeling indignant or vengeful.  There is a big difference between feeling irritated or grumpy as compared to feelings of fury or rage.  These differences are important because if we begin to differentiate our feelings we might respond or act differently to them as well.

Prompting Events*

 So what makes people feel angry?  Here are a number of possible scenarios: 

  1. Having an important goal/plan blocked or prevented.
  2. A feeling of losing power, respect or status.
  3. Experiencing ongoing physical or emotional pain.
  4. Not getting a need met (i.e. not obtaining something you want which another person might have).
  5. You or someone you love is being threatened with emotional or physical pain by something or someone.
  6. An important or pleasurable activity has been interrupted, stopped or postponed.  (*From Skills Training Manual for Dialectical Behaviour Therapy – Linehan) 
Interpretations of Events* 

How we think about or perceive the event that has caused us to feel angry will contribute significantly to how we respond to the event.  Here are some possible interpretations of events: 

  1. Believing you have been treated unfairly.
  2. Believing that someone is insulting you, disrespecting you or trying to control you.
  3. Believing that things “should” be different than they are (i.e. things feel out of your control).
  4. Judging that the situation is illegitimate, wrong or unfair.
  5. Ruminating about the event that set off the anger in the first place or in the past and engaging in blaming someone or something.  (*From Skills Training Manual for Dialectical Behaviour Therapy – Linehan)
Expressions of Angry Feelings*

As stated above, how we express our anger might hurt us or help us.  Here are a number of responses that might cause the situation to become worse: 

  1. Verbally or physically assaulting the cause of your anger.
  2. Pounding on or throwing things, breaking things.
  3. Walking out, walking heavily, slamming doors or stomping around.
  4. Criticizing, swearing, blaming, complaining or being sarcastic.
  5. Brooding, being mean or withdrawing from others or from pleasurable activities. (*From Skills Training Manual for Dialectical Behaviour Therapy – Linehan)
Healthy Strategies to Manage Your Anger 

First, take some time to cool down.  It is not possible to think or react calmly or clearly when you are in a heightened emotional state.  Once you calm down, evaluate what caused the anger and reflect on whether there are any underlying feelings which need to be addressed (i.e. hurt, sadness).

Express your feelings and concerns to the person who might have contributed to the anger or talk to a trusted friend, family member or colleague about the situation/person which caused the upset.  Rather than focussing on someone or something (i.e. blaming) think about the impact the situation/person has had on you and how it has made you feel.  

Consider ways you might respond to the situation which could make it better or would allow you to achieve a more positive outcome.  Accept what you cannot change and change what you can.  The only thing you always have complete control over in your life is how you behave or engage with others.

Other things that might help you to calm down and reflect on what has happened are:

  1. Get some physical exercise – this produces positive endorphins and gives you time to think.
  2. Consider journaling your thoughts and feelings.  Sometimes getting them out of your head and onto paper can really help.
  3. Listen to music or play music if you have that talent as a way to distract yourself for a while.
  4. Read a book, take a hot, relaxing bath, watch a movie or call a friend.
  5. Engage in some relaxation or deep breathing exercises.
  6. Maintain a positive attitude and keep a check on your negative thoughts or negative self-talk. 
  7. Take ACTION to help yourself.

Keep an eye out for more information on how to manage anger in future articles and remember....counselling can also help.  Contact Karen at 705-875-7442 or at for more information.


Parenting Support

Unless some of you are superhuman parents, it is probably safe to say that each of us has struggled at some point in time in terms of knowing the best way to respond to our children's emotional, physical or psychological needs.  It is sometimes too easy to get caught in the trap of yelling or punishing rather than understanding and supporting them.  I have found the attached website to provide a wealth of information with respect to parenting and thought I would pass it on.

Sometimes our own childhood experiences or others issues in our lives (such as marital issues, work problems, depression, anxiety or stress, etc.) can negatively affect us as parents and can influence the way in which we parent.

Counselling can often help you to develop a better understanding of your own needs and behaviours and change them so you are not as easily triggered emotionally by your children.


Healthy Versus Abusive Relationships

Falling in love can be a very stimulating and exciting part of our lives.  We can be swept away by the intensity of our feelings and enjoy spending time learning about our partners. 

However, there are times when love can blind us to the faults and/or potential inappropriate or even abusive behaviours our partners might exhibit.  Sometimes these traits don't appear until later on in the relationship. 

While we don't want to lose sight of the bliss that comes with falling in love, we also don't want to be blind to potential dangers.  The attached file (see right) provides some guidelines which define healthy versus abusive relationships.

Healthy vs Abusive relationships.pdf Healthy vs Abusive relationships.pdf
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The end of a relationship is often extremely painful.  The person who initiates the break generally has had a long amount of time to process their own feelings about leaving the relationship but it can be a tremendous shock for the person being left.  Even if they might have ignored the warning signs that their relationship was in trouble, they might never have anticipated it ending completely.

Like any other loss in life, the end of a relationship requires a period of grieving, adjustment and healing.  This will not happen right away and everyone will grieve differently.  We allow ourselves to be vulnerable in relationships and that requires a level of bonding and trust.  When that trust has been broken, it can feel overwhelming.  Your sense of trust and security are shaken.  You might experience an identity crisis – not knowing who you are anymore without your partner.

Here are some tips to help you with the process:

1. Allow yourself time to grieve.  Denying or repressing your feelings or allowing others to push you to “get over it already” is not helpful or healthy.  Try to talk out your feelings with others you trust or seek a therapist to explore this.

2. Develop a strong support system for yourself.  Re-engage with friends you might have been neglecting and spend more time with those who are regularly there for you.

3. Engage in personal “self-help.”  This might be exploring a new hobby or actively engaging more in the ones you already enjoy.  Express your feelings creatively by journaling, painting, reading, etc.  Do activities that need to be taken care of but be sure to leave plenty of time for positive self-care and healing.

4. It is common for people to engage in blaming – blaming the one who left, blaming ourselves or developing a fear that we might not survive or will never find another partner.  Allow yourself to experience these feelings – denying them or keeping them hidden can at times, prolong the process of healing.  We often feel out of control and unable to stop the other person from leaving us.  However, there are some endings we can’t control because we can’t control another person’s behaviours – we can only control how we respond and what we do ourselves.

5. Exercise regularly!  Even if this feels difficult to do, regular physical exercise is not only a wonderful way to get back in shape but it also produces endorphins which elevate our moods and reduce our stress.

6. Rely on your strengths and have faith that you will get through this.  Think about what you have learned about yourself while in the relationship and recognize how that can help you in future relationships.

 For more support with relationships contact Karen at 705-875-7442.



Karen Searle, M.S.W., R.S.W., Psychotherapist
544 George Street North, Peterborough, Ontario
K9H 3S2 ~ 705-875-7442


Photo ~ a Peterborough garden