Category Archives: Anger

BPD And Resolving Conflict With Others

If we suffered severe and chronic childhood trauma, particularly if, as a result, we have gone on to develop borderline personality disorder, it is likely that, without appropriate therapy, we frequently find ourselves in heated conflict with others, especially those others to whom we are emotionally attached such as partners or family members.

Indeed, one of the hallmarks symptoms of BPD is the experiencing of difficulties with interpersonal relationships.

We may have relationship problems for a variety of reasons that include :

And, when a relationship ends, sufferers of BPD are liable to take it particularly hard, especially if rejected in such a way as to trigger reminders of childhood rejection (on either a conscious or unconscious level). Indeed, the emotional pain of such rejection can be as excruciating as severe physical pain.

Because of the frequent ‘love-hate’ relationships BPD sufferers are prone to creating, the nature of the conflict between the sufferer and his / her partner tends to be cyclical and the first step is to become aware of the cycle and recognize its futility and destructiveness.

We also need to recognize the damage it is doing to our relationship ; conflict leaves both us and the person with whom we are in conflict feeling bad. Indeed, following outbursts of anger and rage, BPD sufferers tend to experience overwhelming feelings of profound shame. So, in essence, everyone loses and the relationship is undermined (and is likely to collapse altogether in the absence of effective, remedial action being taken).

Once we have become aware of this destructive cycle, we next need to make a definite commitment to trying our best to break it.

Obviously, though, if one has had a long history of getting into high conflict situations with others, the process of change is likely to take time and cannot, of course, be expected to work instantaneously ; one needs to learn and practice new social skills until they, in an ideal situation, become ‘second-nature’ and there will inevitably be setbacks along the way, paricularly when one is under intense stress, is deliberately provoked or is facing rejection.

Of course, each individual will have their own set of personal triggers which put them at high risk of entering into conflict with another so the next step is to try to IDENTIFY SUCH TRIGGERS.

Not letting potential triggers set off undesirable behaviors also entails controlling impulsivity ; you can read my previously published article entitled : Control Impulsive Behavior by clicking here. Also, you may wish to read my articles : Impulse Control : Study Showing Its Vital Importance and Childhood Trauma And The Development Of Impulse Control Disorders.

Once triggers have been identified, the next step is to rehearse in the mind how one will respond in such a way as not to create conflict or in a way that de-escalates any conflict that already exists. Using visualization techniques to aid mental rehearsal of one’s new, positive ways of dealing with situations that would have previously led to conflict can be particularly effective.

In his excellent book : The High Conflict Couple : A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Guide To Finding Peace, Intimacy And Validation (see image below to view on Amazon), Fruzzetti PhD endorses the above techniques and suggests using the acronym SET to help us to remember more constructive ways of dealing with conflict than we may used in the past ; SET stands for utilizing sympathy, empathy and truthfulness.

Assertiveness training can also help to ensure that a gentler approach to dealing with potential conflict does not lead to being taken advantage of.

RESOURCE :

Fruzzetti PhD’s Book :

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Depression : Anger Towards Parents Turned Inward?

The idea that depression is the result of our anger towards others (such as our parents) who have hurt and betrayed being turned inwards towards ourselves is usually thought to originate from the theories of Sigmund Freud, 1856 -1939 (who discussed the concept in his paper entitled ‘Mourning And Melancholia‘), although it is more likely to derive from the work of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) who, a few decades earlier during the 1880s, wrote that ‘no one blames themselves without the secret wish for vengeance’.

And, more recently, Horney (1885 – 1852) proposed that depression originates from having parents who lack warmth or are hostile, inconsistent and preoccupied with their own needs rather than with those of their children. This negative parental treatment leads to the child developing feelings of anger and resentment towards the parent. However, because the child is dependent upon his / her parents, s/he cannot risk expressing these angry and resentful feelings and so represses them (this repression may also be driven by feelings of guilt about resenting his / her parents, by fear of the consequences of openly expressing anger towards them, or by conflicting feelings of love for them – in relation to the latter, you may wish to read my previously published article : Why Children Idealize Their Parents). This process takes place on a largely unconscious level, of course.

However, rather than dissipate away, these feeling of anger and resentment are REDIRECTED TOWARDS THE SELF. This negative energy then combines with the child’s feelings of his / her own impotence, the negative attitude of his / her parents towards him / her, and a sense of his / her own feelings of hostility, to cause the young person to create a self-concept of being someone to be ‘despised’ (in relation to this you may wish to read my previously published articles : Childhood Trauma Leading To Self-Hatred And Intense Self-Criticism’ and How The Child’s View Of View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated.’)

According to Horney, however, at the same time, the child simultaneously develops the compensatory concept of an ‘idealized’ self which is unrealistic and unobtainable, no matter how hard the child / later adult attempts to realize it.

However, in a desperate need to compensate for the ‘despised’ self, the child / later adult develops an insatiable and all-consuming, neurotic need to achieve this ideal state, even though s / he is not consciously aware of the origins of this need. This intense, neurotic need may manifest itself in various ways including perfectionism, an overwhelming need to be loved and admired by everyone (e.g. by becoming famous), or to be omnipotent.

Needless to say, living up to these standards is impossible and the inevitable failure to do so, according to Horney, generates feelings of self-hate. Indeed, the anger associated with these feelings may become so deeply entrenched and buried within the body that the result is psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches and back ache, representing an unconscious, masochistic need to punish oneself.

Anger turned inwards against the self and self-hatred clearly suggests an utter absence of self-compassion which is why compassion-focused therapy may be helpful for some who find themselves trapped in this self-lacerating, masochistic frame of mind, whilst Horney recommended psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

RESOURCES :

Develop Self Compassion | Self Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Theories Of Cause Of Anger And Borderline Personality Disorder

causes of anger

As we have seen from numerous other articles that I have published on this site, those who suffered significant and chronic childhood trauma are at much-increased risk of developing borderline personality disorder (BPD) in their adult lives compared to those who were fortunate enough to grow up in relatively stable, non-threatening, loving and nurturing families.

And, as we have also seen, one of the most common and predominant features of BPD is intense feelings of rage and anger which are difficult to control, particularly in stressful situations (even situations which others may perceive as non-stressful or only very mildly stressful).

 

Theories Relating To Anger :

There are various theories which seek to cast light upon the origins of such feelings of aggression; four main such theories are as follows :

  • psychoanalytic theory
  • behavioural theory
  • cognitive theory
  • neurobiological theory

Let’s briefly look at each of these in turn :

  • PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY :

FRUSTRATED NEEDS :

Early psychoanalytic theorists attributed the source of anger in the child to deep feelings of frustration caused by not having their fundamental needs met (including unsatisfactory breast-feeding).

‘AN EXCESSIVE NATURE OF PRIMARY AGGRESSION’ :

The psychoanalyst, Otto Kernberg (b. 1929), who carried out important early research into the borderline personality, was one of the first to suggest that temperament (individual differences in personal traits that are biologically / genetically based and relatively independent of the influence of learning) may play a significant role in the development of the adult BPD sufferer’s propensity to be easily moved to feelings and expressions of intense anger. Kernberg referred to those with such temperaments as possessing ‘an excessive nature of primary aggression.’

  • BEHAVIOURAL THEORY :

EMOTIONALLY WITHHOLDING ENVIRONMENT :

Linehan, an expert in borderline personality disorder (BPD) who devised the therapy for the condition known as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), proposes the idea that aggression in BPD sufferers has its roots in the individual growing up in an ‘emotionally withholding environment‘ thus thwarting the child’s need to have his/her fundamental emotional needs met.

  • COGNITIVE THEORY :

ANGER AS A DEFENSE AGAINST REAL / IMAGINED / ANTICIPATED EXPLOITATION :

According to cognitive theory, one of the main functions of anger is to operate as a defense (a defence which has been unconsciously learned in early life to protect one in a threatening environment) against real or imagined exploitation (e.g. because a parent has used,,  taken advantage of  and manipulated the individual as a child).

  • NEUROBIOLOGICAL THEORY :

ABNORMALITIES IN THE BRAIN’S LIMBIC SYSTEM :

PET (positron emission tomography) scans have revealed that those individuals who have significant problems in connection with their feelings of anger and have histories of aggressive behavior can show abnormalities in the brain region known as the LIMBIC SYSTEM, or, more specifically, in the amygdala and hypothalamus (these are both sub-components of the limbic system) as well as abnormalities in the brain’s prefrontal cortex).

SEROTONIN :

Various research studies have also revealed that impulsive aggressiveness in individuals with BPD is associated with abnormally low levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) in the brain.

RESOURCE :

Anger Management Hypnosis | Self Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Why A ‘Love-Hate’ Relationship Develops Between The Abusive Parent And The Child

 

If we were significantly maltreated by our parent/s when we were children, we may well, as a psychological defence against the intolerable dilemma this put us in, have unconsciously developed a ‘love-hate’ relationship with them.

In such cases, feelings of love and hate for the parent are compartmentalised/separated because the state of mind required to both love and hate the parent simultaneously is an impossible, contradictory and paradoxical concept that the child does not have the emotional resources to materialise.

Therefore, to allow an emotional attachment with the parent develop that will allow his/her (i.e. the child’s) psychological survival, the child has no choice but to hold the feelings of love and hate for the parent in ‘separate mental compartments’). This leads the child to perceive his parents in terms of black and white’ rather than in ‘shades of grey’. Indeed, this was a psychological defence I unconsciously developed as a result of my own childhood experiences, vacillating between idealizing my parents and demonising them. It is only now that I understand more completely why this occurred that I am able, I hope, to hold a somewhat more balanced view (although, admittedly, I still don’t always succeed in this; however, the psychological warfare, borne of profound, emotional conflict, that rages on is, these days, restricted to the confines of my still grievously injured, but recovering, mind).

 

Anger Turned Inwards :

Often, the anger and hatred that the child feels towards the parent may, as another psychological defence, be turned INWARDS, leading to the child experiencing self-hatred and self-loathing ; this defence mechanism occurs when the child perceives (on a conscious or unconscious level) that feelings and expressions of anger and hatred towards the parent would lead to the him/her (i.e. the child) being put in danger (e.g. liable to incur severe psychological and/or physical damage). And, as Freud pointed out, anger turned inwards may lead to severe depression (as well as numerous other undesirable psychological conditions).

Goal Of Therapy :

According to this theory, in order to help the individual overcome his/her love-hate conflict, it is necessary for the therapist to help him/her to integrate the two ‘separate compartments’ of his/her mind (i.e. the ‘compartment’ that holds feelings of love for the parent needs to be combined with the ‘compartment’ that holds feelings of hatred for, and resentment of, the parent) so that s/he may start to see his/her parent, more realistically, in ‘shades of grey’ rather than in terms of either ‘black’ or ‘white'(See above). Individuals, too, are likely to require help with understanding how and why their negative feelings towards the parent have arisen and why such feelings may have been hitherto largely repressed/dissociated.

This is usually a long process and often does not occur until near the end of the course of therapy.

eBook :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above eBook now available on Amazon. Click here for details. (Other titles available).

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

How To Get Unwanted Emotions Under Control

 

 

‘I don’t want to be at the mercy of mt emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.’

Oscar Wilde

Emotional Dysregulation

We have seen that significant, protracted childhood trauma, particularly if it leads us to develop borderline personality disorder or complex post-traumatic stress disorder, can result in us having extreme difficulty knowing how to control emotions, such as anger and anxiety, as adults : in psychological terms, we are at risk of developing emotional dysregulation.

Sometimes, intense emotions become so painful that, as a defence mechanism, we shut our these feelings down (we may do this deliberately by using alcohol and drugs, or it might happen automatically – in the latter case we are said to be dissociating).

REASONS SOME INDIVIDUALS KEEP THEIR EMOTIONS ‘BURIED.’

Some people try to keep their emotions ‘buried’ (suppressed). There can be several reasons for this, including:

– growing up in a household in which any display of emotions and feelings was considered a sign of weakness or ‘not the done thing.’

– being in an occupation in which exhibitions of emotions are not encouraged e.g.police, military

– fear of losing respect

– fear of losing control

THE PROBLEM OF SUPPRESSED FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS:

However, keeping feelings and emotions buried takes up large amounts of mental energy and means they tend to be kept simmering beneath the surface, building up pressure and ready to explode.

And, very often, the emotion of anger is the one that is nearest to the surface, and therefore the one that is most frequently experienced and expressed.

HOWEVER, anger very often conceals, and has its primary roots in, the fundamental emotions of FEAR and HURT.

So, very often, when we express anger, what we are really expressing is this fear and hurt; to put it concisely :


OUR FEAR AND HURT IS MASQUERADING AS ANGER.


Acknowledging Our True, Authentic Feelings And Having The Courage To Express Them:

It is therefore necessary to become aware of the real feelings behind our anger, feelings that are likely to be intensely painful and that we have preferred not to acknowledge (or even not allowed ourselves to become consciously aware of) and to start the process of expressing them, understanding their origins, working through them and resolving them (ideally with a highly trained, professional therapist).

By getting in touch with our feelings beneath our anger, and working through them therapeutically, we can reduce or overcome outbursts of rage, self-destructive behaviour and bodily complaints such as fatigue.

If we do not get in touch with feelings such as hurt and fear (completely normal emotions that everyone experiences to one degree or another), but instead keep them ‘locked out’ and ‘buried’, we pay the very high price of not being able to get in touch with, experience or express positive emotions, such as happiness and joy, too. We aim to feel comfortable with all our feelings and to channel them constructively.

How To Control Emotions :

To control our emotions, we can apply specific skills, such as:

– learning to identify what we are feeling and linguistically label our emotions, e.g. ‘anger’, ‘fear’ etc – when we verbally name our feelings and describe them in spoken (or, indeed, written) language we are more likely to be able to control them and are less likely to act them out.

– acknowledge and accept emotions nonjudgmentally (as taught through mindfulness).

– change our thinking. Our feelings are connected to our thinking processes – consider trying cognitive therapy which can help retrain our thinking style and which, in turn, can lead to much improved emotional experiences.

Control Anger Pack (Download or CD). Click here.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Effects Of Repressed Anger Towards Parents

 

What Are The Effects Of Repressed Anger Towards Parents?

If our parent/s caused us significant psychological suffering when we were growing up, we may have built up a great deal of anger towards them, but we may, too, have repressed that anger and its cause (i.e. buried it deep inside our unconscious).

This repression of anger can occur because consciously facing up to the fact our parents emotionally damaged us so much and that this has made us so angry would be too psychologically painful. Hence, we do not allow ourselves to be consciously aware of this; this is what’s known as a psychological defence mechanism.

However, this repression of the real cause of our anger creates problems. One main problem is that we tend displace (re-direct) this anger onto targets who are not responsible for having created it. The result is we might often become inappropriately and disproportionately angry with people who don’t deserve it (eg. getting into barroom fights, ‘road rage’ etc).

Alice Miller, the internationally famous expert on how our childhood experiences affect our adult behaviour went so far as to suggest it was Hitler’s own repressed anger which led to World War Two!

There are many other signs which may indicate that we are suffering from repressed anger which I list below:

Possible Symptoms Of Repressed Anger:

1) Depression (Freud was of the view that depression is caused by anger being redirected against the self. He also believed that by bringing the real reason for our repressed anger into our conscious minds could very substantially relieve us of our psychological misery and pain. We need to accept this anger, realize its complete validity and not feel guilty about it)

2) Sarcasm (redirecting our hostility towards our parents through being sarcastic to others)

3) Extreme sensitivity to being rejected (if our anger was caused by our parents rejecting us, this is very likely to make it an extremely hard for us to deal with rejection in our adult life)

4) Becoming disproportionately angry due to trivial causes (such as spilling some coffee)

5) Constant tiredness (repressing anger depletes mental energy)

6) Tension in our muscles

7) Addictions (to numb our emotional pain, eg. alcohol, drugs, exercise, shopping, work, food)

8) Nervous habits (such as nail-biting, skin picking)

9) Passive aggression (expressing anger indirectly)

10) Occasional explosive outbursts of rage when the pressure

repressed anger becomes overwhelming).

How Can Repressed Anger Be Treated?:

Repressed anger and its causes need to be gently uncovered in a safe environment with a suitably qualified therapist. The anger then needs to be diffused in a healthy way (ie not in a way which harms the self or others). On no account should the anger be expressed through violence, as this clearly does hurt others and, one way or another, the self as well, compounding the problem substantially.

Resources :

 

Anger Management Self-Hypnosis Audio Pack.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Anger And ‘Thinking Errors’ (Cognitive Distortions).

anger_caused_by_errors_in_thinking_and_unhelpful_learned_beliefs

I have already written several articles which have been published on this site about how certain types of childhood trauma can make it more likely we will develop difficulties with controlling our anger as adults (click here to read one of these articles), or, worse, may lead to us developing psychiatric conditions such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder (click here to read my article on this).

In this article, however, I want to specifically examine how ‘erors in thinking’ can cause us to experience excessive and counterproductive feelings of anger:

 

Thinking errors (sometimes referred to as COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS) we may make that can cause us problems managing our anger as adults:

1)  Jumping to conclusions:

Psychologists also refer to this as ‘mind-reading’ (though this is not meant literally). It means that we may be prone to drawing definite conclusions about what’s motivating another individual based on flimsy evidence. An example might be:

‘I just know that person is deliberately trying to irritate me’

when, in fact, if we were to be more objective, we’d see there was little evidence that the person was , in fact, deliberately trying to do this.

2) Catastrophizing:

This involves exaggerating in our own minds how serious the consequences of something that has gone wrong actually are. People who tend to think in terms of extremes (sometimes referred to as ‘black or white’ thinkers) are particularly likely to do this (ie ‘catastrophize’).

For example, we may tell ourselves that a person ‘has ruined’ our ‘life forever’ and thus become extremely angry whereas a more objective judgement might be that the person has caused us a temporary and quite easily surmountable set-back.

cognitive_errors_and_anger

3) Selective attention/perception:

This involves disproportionately focusing on negatives. For example, we may become very angry with a person by focusing solely on what s/he has done to upset us whilst ignoring the person’s good intentions/motivation and/or all the positive things the person has done for us.

4) Using Emotive Language :

This refers to when we think or speak about a person using exaggerated and emotive language. For example, we might tell ourselves a person is ‘evil’ whereas a more sober assessment of the person we’ve deemed to have wronged us clearly would not warrant such a melodramatic judgment. Therefore, the anger we display towards the person may be as disproportionate as the language we use to describe him/her.

5) Over- generalisation :

This involves seeing a person as always behaving in ways that upset us when, in fact, for example, s/he may only occasionally upsets us with his/her behaviour. A common expression which reflects such over -generalisation is :

‘You never think about anyone but yourself!’

when, in fact, if we gave the matter more thought, we would be able to think of plenty of evidence which contradicted this.

Conclusion:

All of the above then, can make us feel more intensely angry than would be objectively warranted. To put it in a very colloquial way, the above represent examples of how we can fall into a trap of unnecessarily ‘winding ourselves up’. 

anger_and_cognitive_distortions

It is in our own interests to avoid making these errors as anger is so often destructive and counterproductive. Also, being constantly angry is a very painful state of mind which is emotionally exhausting and a waste of energy; energy that could be channelled in far more constructive directions.

Research has shown that a very effective way of treating these types of ‘thinking errors’ is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Click here to read one of my articles on this.

 

Resources:

Control Anger audio download. Click here.

 

EBook:

anger_management_ebook

Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).