Understanding and Regulating Anger and Shame

bonechillsIn our culture, we are taught that anger is not appropriate, which is even more amplified for women. Unfortunately when we try to suppress our anger, it builds up like gas-filled magma beneath the earth’s surface and erupts. Our heart rate and pace of thinking speed up, our bodies get hot and we begin to sweat — and for some of us, the misfortune of turning beet red. We are experiencing a physiological effect that has been activated by our thinking. We may develop somatic reactions if we dwell here for too long, such as high blood pressure, stomach irritation, eating disorders, or poor sleep habits. We lose our ability to stay centered. Therapy can help you get back into a place of stability. I can show you how to use tools to change behavior and practice regulating the anger, letting go of the shame or embarassment (which sometimes is what lies beneath anger), and listen when feelings need to be expressed around letting go of these heavy emotions. Investigating the underlying root of discomfort while staying in contact with your breathing and sensations that arise in your body can be highly effective. There is so much that we can learn from our stressful emotions, but learning how to regulate them so we can live a more centered life is crucial to our personal growth, and interpersonal relationships.

Below are a list of books I often refer to in therapy that aid in anger regulation:

Coping With Trauma-Related Dissociation by Suzette Boon, Kathy Steele, and Onno van der Hart

– An insightful and normalizing read for those who experience themselves “flipping” over into a state of anger, or feel as though the anger has taken over, and find it hard to pull themselves out of a dysregulated state

Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson

When Anger Hurts Your Relationship by Matthew McKay 

– Helpful for clients experiencing anger in romantic relationships

A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook by Bob Stahl        

– A practical workbook filled with exercises and activities to bring into daily life to help regulate fears and anxiety

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A Tale of Two Wolves

One Evening, An Elderly Cherokee Brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My child, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The Old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

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