THE ROOT OF ANGER

 

This month of September, I have been conducting group classes on childhood and parental wounds. One of the topics that we touched on in the highly interactive sessions, is ANGER.

Anger comes from a space of feeling unsafe. When you think about the fight / flight response to stress, usually it comes from not feeling okay or safe. Your system will then produce adrenalin to keep you ready for action to protect yourself from the perceived sense of danger.

When you have grown up in a home where there were chaos all the time, what happens is your system becomes accustomed to staying in crisis mode and over time you may develop anxiety.

Anxiety is the fear of the unknown and the need to have control.

When you are losing that control or have no predictability or consistency – you don’t know what is going to happen – you go into an anger stage. The people around you are going to experience your high levels of frustration, anger and even sometimes rage. Why? Because you have been accustomed to feeling unsafe. That is how you find that people develop hyper-vigilance where they are constantly watching over their shoulder and constantly feeling afraid. People also develop phobias like a fear of enclosed spaces because they don’t feel safe – ‘If there is no escape, then I am not going to feel safe over there.’

These things are often triggered by our feeling unsafe when we were growing up. Some of us, through some work and sometimes through spiritual resources, will eventually develop a feeling of safety. If you are more outgoing or more aggressive and you have anger issues, you are likely to fight and have rage and you are always ready for a fight. If you are not aggressive in that way, you become passive aggressive where you turn your anger inside. This means that you will not express it but it is going to show up. Sometimes you develop high blood pressure or depression because of all this anger that you keep inside when you do not feel free to express it.

If you often feel unsafe, you again go into self-preservation and you will experience outward anger where you are aggressive towards others or you turn that anger inside which is what we might call passive aggression. When you turn that anger inside, you can develop panic attacks because that is a lot of negative energy that you have turned inwards.

Remember that because you are constantly on alert mode, then your body is going to be unable to manage that level of adrenalin in your body. You then begin to feel dizzy and like you cannot breathe and sometimes you can faint. This is because the body has been triggered so much and it feels it is unsafe and unable to manage the high alert. That is how you end up feeling that you are not breathing very well and you pass out. That feeling of being unsafe is very terrifying.

Where anger that is rooted in a childhood where you were never allowed to speak up or you internalized a lot of anger as a child, that can over time develop into anxiety disorders like panic attacks ,PTSD and even depression. This is where you constantly feel that you are a victim of life…a victim of others…you can’t say no to people…you get so mad…you isolate yourself and don’t want to come out and speak out and if you do, you usually react so badly that you could end up in a hospital or a police station for assault.

It is very important, if you have issues with anger, to look back into your childhood and see whether your current situations are triggering unresolved issues of holding on to anger, grief or feelings of betrayal from back when you were a child.

It is very beneficial to look back to where you have been so that you can dump out what you don’t need any more and now you can unlearn some unhealthy coping mechanisms. You can then enjoy your life now and not carry all this baggage that you have carried over the years

If these are issues that you are struggling with, feel free to get in touch with me for personalized sessions where we can chart a way forward for you.

We will continue to hold the classes on childhood wounds every Saturday night this October, on Zoom. They are at an affordable cost of Ksh 375 only, and open to people from all parts of the world.

You can email us on info@gracekariuki.co.ke or Whatsapp +254797490404 for more information

As always, I encourage you to continue to live by design.

 

My Youtube video on this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQj7_Hp8e0g

Our thoughts

Cognitive restructuring: Your ideal guide to reframing your thought patterns.

Your brain is not always right! In fact, you should not always believe what it tells you for that matter. Mhm, a bitter pill to swallow? I know, but that’s the fact. Even though the brain is such a powerful organ that alerts us of dangers and helps us get solutions, sometimes it can be misleading or rather lie to us.

Over time, the brain develops some faulty connections which lead to thoughts that are not necessarily true. When something happens, the brain quickly makes connections to alert you why the situation at hand has happened the way it has. This is where the brain tends to lose it since the connections it makes can be unhelpful, sometimes. What am I driving at? When these unhelpful connections happen, they trigger negative emotions making us experience feelings of anger, sadness, stress, and anxiety for the wrong reason.

Cognitive restructuring

Take an instance whereby your spouse is late to come home and they are not picking up the phone. Different people will react to this scenario in diverse ways depending on what their brain tells them. One person may think that their spouse is late because they are out there cheating. Another person might freak out and think that something terrible might have happened to their spouse hence the reason they are not responding to phone calls.

Both of these people could be wrong, yet, they might already be feeling angry, fearful or anxious. This happens when we are not able to take charge and capture the first automatic thoughts we have before they can proceed to mess up with our emotions hence affecting our mental health. At this juncture, allow me to introduce to you, cognitive restructuring, which is the solution to negative thinking patterns or what is popularly known as cognitive distortions.

In very simple terms, cognitive restructuring is reframing your thought patterns so that you are able to identify negative thoughts and change them as soon as possible. To break it down even further, it is ‘changing your thoughts.’ This in return helps to curb negative emotions and behaviors that might result from the said emotions.

Do I need cognitive restructuring?

We could all use some guidance, to be honest. Cognitive restructuring is an important element of therapy, because a healthy way of thinking is vital for good mental health. This means that identifying our negative thoughts and consciously changing them could very well help us better handle stress, anxiety and depression. As a therapist who not only handles marriage and family therapy but also mental wellness, cognitive restructuring is a term that pops up in nearly all my sessions.

You do need cognitive restructuring, to be able to look at the positive side of a situation. This way, you learn to view problems as challenges, meaning they can be addressed with the possibility of a positive outcome.

Let’s look at Bob’s story. A year ago, Bob set out to start his own business, one that he had been considering for a while. He worked hard at it, and channeled his energy and resources into what he considered the venture that would turn his life around for good. Unfortunately, Bob’s business did not flourish as he had expected, and he suffered great losses that led him to shut down the business. When it got to that point, Bob thought of himself as a failure. He was distraught! For many of us, that would be our initial thought if we were to go through such an experience. However, the process of changing our thoughts in such a case, would teach us to look at our failures as learning opportunities. This way, we are able to be objective as we review what went wrong, and what lessons we can pick and carry with us on our next attempt at pursuing our dreams. We look at ourselves not as victims of circumstances, but as courageous survivors who now have another chance armed with more knowledge and resilience!

To be better able to change our thoughts, we also need to dispute the thoughts using facts. Remember, our mind can lie to us! Whatever we think is not always necessarily the truth. We could also use alternative explanations that are not as distressful. We are then better placed to think rationally about the situation, without being overwhelmed by emotion.

Do you have a best friend? I would like to imagine that our best friends would be those who speak to us with empathy and honesty. How do you speak to yourself? Are you hard on yourself? When making an effort to reframe your thoughts, how about you try to speak to yourself as a best friend would?

Focus on what you CAN change. Have you heard of the Serenity Prayer? We may not always be in control, but we can choose to focus on what we can take control of – like our thoughts. We can gather the courage to change what we can, and be hopeful that the decision to do so helps us feel calmer and more confident.

I would like to challenge you to develop distress-tolerant thoughts. As living beings, we are bound to have times when life gets tough. Look back and think of all the times that you have weathered a storm – the many times that you have gone through really tough times, and survived. Let such times serve as an inspiration for you to believe that whatever you go through, you can make it through.

May your mind be stronger, and your thoughts better. Cognitive restructuring is an exercise that takes time, but it is one that has the potential to change your life in a very positive way. At the end of the day, we all desire to have a clearer mind and a better approach to every day challenges. If this is a process that you really feel you need, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.