Managing Anger in Recovery

In the world today, there are a lot of things to be angry about. Or are there? Why is anger such a part of everyday life? For people in recovery, it can be a dangerous or toxic emotion.

Anger is shown on tv more often that sadness or happiness. On police dramas and even sitcoms, anger is highlighted more than other feelings when there are men involved. It’s more socially acceptable than other emotions. If you pay attention to the mainstream media, you’ll see a lot of stories about road rage and violence, whether it’s on the evening news or an evening drama. Why does that matter? Many men are conditioned to be like the guys they see on television.

Fairly or unfairly, men and their anger are usually portrayed in two ways on television: either repressed rage or the kind of guy that plunges into uncontrollable fits of rage. The repressed guy isn’t glorified but often makes a dignified figurehead, even when he finally “explodes.” The violent guy, however, is considered to be more of a masculine and all-around tough guy. Neither of these is ideals. The world and men are much more complicated than they can ever be portrayed on television or other media. Everyone is an individual, and reactions to emotions depend on that person’s background and inner life.

The Truth About Anger

Anger is not an emotion that comes out of nowhere. Although many of us are quick to react in anger, there’s more than that “rageful” feeling at work. At the root of anger there are other emotions – usually fear or sadness. However, biology and instinct often cause anger to be the emotion we display. This is why most people, when angry or upset, will regress to the “fight or flight” reaction. Either you stay in place and get angry, or you experience anxiety and prefer to flee, ready to “fight” another day. While many people will blame this “fight” reaction to testosterone, the emotion itself is built into both men and women. It’s a survival instinct that allowed us to evolve into the humans we are today. Adrenalin is often activated when you’re angry – it’s what causes your pulse to rise and hands to shake. But all anger is manageable and can be used in a more constructive way than violence or outbursts.

Managing thoughts and feelings is a big part of recovery. Men are told that “boys will be boys” and “men will be men” when it comes to fighting, bullying and angry outbursts, especially when coming of age. This is just a saying; as we now know, gender has less to do with what sex you are born as, and more to do with how society trains people to act. On tv and movies, it’s often viewed as “sexy” or manly to be angry, sarcastic and even violent. However, nobody’s lives are similar to what is portrayed in the media, anyway.

While men may be more prone to angry outbursts or violence, in recovery, you learn that you are only responsible for your actions and reactions. You don’t have to act on negative emotions, even if that is something you have done in the past. You may feel there is a pressure to “do something” when you’re angry – but there may be little you can do to change circumstances. Punching a wall, yelling at a store clerk, or arguing with loved ones isn’t going to control your anger, and you’ll probably experience regret or shame once you’ve acted this way.

What to Do With Anger?

Men aren’t given guidance on dealing with anger healthily, but in recovery, you’ll learn new coping skills. Taking a “time out,” talking about your feelings with other men, and learning to deal with negativity are all things you can use as tools when you’re upset.

Exercise is also a powerful way to channel anger. It helps to reduce anxiety, gives your body the tools to channel adrenaline into good feelings, and helps you regulate all of your emotions more gently.

Whether you’re exercising or participating in sports, there are a lot of great ways to work off some of that stress that can leave you “on edge.” Exercise like surfing or biking, or sports like pick-up soccer are all great ways to get into shape and start mastering your emotional life in recovery.

Mindfulness and meditation are also ways to regulate anger. They can help you feel calmer in your everyday interactions and are a great way to deal with long-term stress.

Recovery is a journey, not a destination. Learning to cope with your emotions is a big part of that journey, and no one is perfect. Treatment can help you learn these skills. We can help you find the help you need to start your journey in recovery. Give us a call at 877-248-2401 to learn more about your options.

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