Processing Anger in Addiction Recovery

by baladmin | October 21, 2015

Anger is a common human emotion; just like excitement, fear, sadness, frustration and jealousy. However, anger is one the most taboo feelings. Often, when anger is avoided and suppressed it causes further stress and sometimes addictions. Alcohol, drugs and food are commonly used to suppress emotions. What many of us fail to understand is that anger is a very useful tool for our lives. It is our bodies way of alerting us that something is off and needs to be evaluated.

Each emotion we have is beneficial to our survival.

    • The feeling of joy tells us, “This is fun! Do more of this!” Fun is something we need in order to thrive.
    • Sadness tells us, “This hurts. I don’t want a lot of this.” Sadness is something we need to remind us of what we enjoy and what we don’t.
  • Anger tells us, “This is frustrating. Something needs to be fixed.”  In order for our own well being we need anger to warn us of potential threats and then adjust in a productive way.

Anger is a protecter. Envision it as the alarm system on your house. When someone breaks in the alarm goes off. The alarm triggers the police who then show up to capture the intruder, and restore peace.

Anger comes from the mammalian brain-this is your alarm system. The mammalian brain is primitive and responsible for our survival. When acting from this area our decisions are linear and not thoroughly thought out. The mammalian brain doesn’t pause- just like an alarm doesn’t pause. It simply acts (and more often than not causes more destruction than good.) That’s why we need to relax. When we establish a calmness within the body we can make decisions using the evolved and rational new brain; the neocortex- this is the police. Both the mammalian brain (the alarm) and the neocortex (the police) are needed to restore peace.

So how do we experience anger without immediately reacting, hurting yourself or the people around you? You carefully explore what triggered the anger and strategize a way to prevent it in the future. But, before one can explore you need to RELAX. Here are some tips to do so:

    • Do a yoga video from YouTube on anger
    • Express your anger through art
    • Journal about your anger
    • Write a hate letter to the person you’re upset with and read it aloud in therapy
    • Do a guided meditation from YouTube on anger
  • Go for a walk. *Try not to run as running will speed up your heart rate. Walking will relieve tension, but also calm you down.

Remember that these tools are not for the sake of making your anger go away. Anger is a good thing. These are simply ways to calm yourself so you can look at the anger and find a constructive way to address what is triggering you.

If you or someone you love is struggling with anger and chemical addiction Balboa Horizon can help. Call us at (866) 316-4012.