by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 27, 2020 anger management counseling, greensburg counseling0 comments
Managing Displaced Anger During Difficult Times
It has been said that anger is a secondary emotion, triggered by preceding fear, rejection, hurt feelings, humiliation, and sadness. With the current pandemic, restrictions on our daily activities, the uncertainties of our futures and our medical and financial wellbeing, it is no wonder people have been on edge. This disruption has been significant and abrupt. Suddenly, we no longer have the same level of stability in our lives and the need for structure, safety, and predictability has been jeopardized. Everyone has experienced some form of loss, and many are grieving.
Lately, while watching morning news, we hear the retellings of incidents involving explosive anger where someone has violated another physically or verbally. Often, we are seeing these acts in public arenas, on display for anyone to witness, which is telling that we are not coping well as a society. So, what is happening? Has the world gone crazy? Are these the preludes to a hostile, post-apocalyptic dystopia? Likely, no. It’s more probable that people are misplacing or “displacing” their frustrations. Displaced anger or aggression occurs when one is unable to express anger towards the source of provocation so instead, the individual acts out towards others. Often, we are not able to direct our anger toward the actual cause of our fears and frustrations. For example, it would be of no use to air our grievances to the virus itself and we are also unlikely to get our desired response from people who have direct influence over our day to day struggles. So, then many of us are left fearful, anxious, grieving, and frustrated with no say or control over what happens next.
While it’s easy to focus our attention on our lack of control, doing so will only increase these feelings of frustration and helplessness. Despite current limitations, there is still much we have influence on in our lives today. We can choose what type of activities we engage in throughout the day, our diet, exercise, and our sleep hygiene regimen. We have influence over our thoughts and mindset, whether we focus on the negative or we see the positive in situations. We can control what we are watching on television and social media or listening to on the radio or podcasts, all of which impact our outlook and perspective. Those choices effect how we feel and in turn how we cope with our stress.
Even the most Zen of us will displace our anger onto innocent bystanders from time to time. After all, we are human. In these moments, when you feel yourself becoming easily agitated or triggered, take a second, breathe, and identify the real cause of your anger by asking yourself, “What’s really bothering me? Does this make sense?” and even, “Does my emotional reaction match the situation?” Note that if it is something you cannot change, there are still things about the situation or in your life that you do have influence over. Exercise positive self-care practices such as physical activity, being outdoors, reading, listening to music, eating a healthy diet, guided meditations, deep breathing and other stress reducing techniques. These can be thought of as preventative activities to increase your threshold for stress and strengthen emotional resiliency. Be mindful of when you have reached your limit and need to seek additional help or support. Lastly, always remember to T.H.I.N.K. before you speak. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Choose to be kind.
Andrea Kellman, MS, LPC who provides therapy, marriage, and family counseling services in our Greensburg counseling center.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 29, 2019 emotional intelligence, emotional iq, feelings chart0 comments
Emotional IQ is a hot topic and big buzzword, for good reason. Feelings matter! Lets get really honest, how well do you identify feelings? Can you notice them well in your partner or friends and colleagues? Do you have the ability to perceive feelings in yourself? How do you respond to others feelings and to your own? Meaning do you push them down or maybe you are on the opposite side if this spectrum and instead of holding them in, perhaps you overshare and let them out everywhere? Therapists and Counselors are usually rather masterful at honing in on others feelings, we often assess a persons primary emotions, which are fear, anger, sadness, and happiness. Then examine the deeper layer of secondary emotions, which means, what emotions are exhibited for having the primary emotions? For instance if you notice you are angry, do you then lapse into guilt for that? That would then form a feeling constellation which can be a web to disentangle and sometimes a source of anxiety and depression. It is said that for some women especially, depression is anger turned inward, it is especially taboo for women to express anger, culturally we make some space for men to express this emotion.
Furthermore, when learning about feelings counselors can also analyze meta- emotion, which means how does a given person feel about feelings in general. Tongue twister right? For instance, how much does a person exhibit comfort in having an emotionally fueled dialogue? Do you generally believe emotions have little significance and should be pushed away or do you appreciate your emotional state and tend to make decisions based on them? We also know that the more we seek to repress emotions, the more we end up injuring ourselves, according to good old, Sigmund Freud, the more we repress a thought or feeling, the more it will come out in even bigger ways. Which emotions when exhibited are triggering to you? All of these answers are vital to forming an understanding of yourself and the world of others around, they will be important to recognize if you’re going to have success in any relationship.
Some recommended exercises to enhance emotional awareness or emotional IQ are to check in with yourself a few times a day, possibly by setting an alarm on your phone. At 5 different intervals through the day, note which emotions are coming up for you, for some it will be best to focus first on identifying the primary emotions? Also, where do you notice those sensations in your body, for example, anger is sometimes felt in the head, sadness in the chest, and grief in the stomach. These can be very variable depending on the person. Start to notice what you feel, being mindful and suspending judgement of your emotional state. The first step is always to recognize. Identification is enough but later, you may also start to pay attention to any emotions that come up as a result of the initial feeling, the emotional constellation, for instance when feeling anger, do you then observe guilt for feeling angry, and then even deeper shame. Usually, in our happiness obsessed culture, we don’t attach as much guilt or fear with joy, but some people do feel guilt for experiencing happiness. Think about it, think about you, in all of your feeling states.
Take Away Learning Points
- To further enhance your emotional IQ, it is also good practice to start to think about what each of the above emotions feels like, where do you notices its sensation in your physical body and what feelings accompany it.
- The primary emotions are anger, sadness, happiness, and fear.
- Primary emotions can trigger secondary emotions and create feeling constellations.
- Emotions are important and the more we repress them the more they emerge in less healthy ways.
If you want to work on emotional IQ, Counseling can help!
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by Stephanie McCrackenNovember 11, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, holidays, marriage counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy0 comments
The holidays symbolize time to be close to those who we hold near and dear, the sentimental stuff of greeting cards, television series, and memories to be made. In later years we may recall the time that the snow fell 8 inches on Thanksgiving Day and Aunt Margaret perfected her best version yet of caramel apple pie, while baby Charlie was just learning to crawl. The Griswold style celebrations, the kind in which we run to each other with open arms to gleefully share in discussion of all of the incredible things that we have been doing with our ultra-successful lives. Stop, cut! Perhaps you are like many of us who struggle during the holidays, maybe it’s been a tough year or a tough life and thinking of the holidays fills you with dread. Just maybe there can still be some way to encounter some of the most common impasses in a compassionate and constructive way.
Often that relationship concern, family rift, lost job, death, or defeat has a way of haunting the landscapes of that which would otherwise be a charming holiday season. This ominous considerations often lead to a preoccupation with stress during the holidays, we balefully note the slipping away of our glittering joys topped with an extra serving of sadness for not being as happy as we expect that we “should” be. For instance, since the lay off at the office, you have not been feeling quite yourself and grief keeps you from even telling your perfectionist mom about the loss. Yet with thanksgiving it will now become impossible to avoid the situation and anxiety is heightening with each approaching day. Perhaps it is time to allow the people that care about you to be a support? It is often helpful to remember that we imagine others to be in ways that may be less of a reflection of them and more a reflection of us, mom may not become angry or critical when hearing our woes, look carefully at those parts of yourself which cause anxiety at the thought of revealing humanness and vulnerability.
Maybe you have a very small family, no family, a family that lives across the country and not enough of a work break or airfare to get there. For you, the holidays end up being a time of aloneness, in fact when your coworkers ask what you are doing for the holidays you always make up a story about being with Great Aunty Mildred, the shame in admitting the truth is most easily shrouded in deception. Instead you will be sitting inside watching ancient reruns of the Brady Bunch submerged in a dialogue of your general unworthiness towards companionship. Perhaps this could be approached differently, honest discourse demands courage from ourselves but it often opens doors, maybe even doors to holiday gatherings. Remember, although you may feel that you’re the only one alone on the holiday, you’re not, there are others who are in the same position. Maybe by summoning your inner Gandhi and “being the change you want to see in the world” and host your own “Friends-giving.” This is becoming a popular way to celebrate with others, particularly if done in the evening or the day after the holiday. If neither of those options sounds like a fit then accept the challenge of donating your time for the day towards helping a charity or creating something that you can donate with the idea in mind, “how can I help someone today?”
If your concerns aren’t about bringing together people but being surrounded with people who you have been seeking to avoid then read on. For instance, entering into grandma’s house, many hugs and hellos exchanged, the scent of crisp turkey skin intermingled with sage wafting through your nostrils as you see the infamous Aunt Carol approach. Your stomach lurches as you start to feel the anxiety coming on, she is that one family member who always criticizes everything that you do. In previous years “why aren’t you married, you will end up old and alone” “when will you have children, the clock doesn’t tick forever you know!” “why haven’t you been promoted yet?” and on and on, you end up leaving feeling simply terrible about yourself and no matter what you try to say in your meek defense she just doesn’t take the hint. Many of us know the type of meddling in which the inquisitor seems to be blissfully unaware of the sensitive nature of the questions which he or she is asking. With this sort of encounter sometimes it can elicit some compassion to remember that this person is reflecting to you their own inner dialogue and her misguided ability to connect with others in a welcomed and comfortable way. There may even be a bit of pity to think that this is how Aunt Carol has probably talked to herself all of her life and maybe some of the reason that she is here all alone. While it is hurtful to hear her litany of unwelcomed suggestions she may be trying to warn you of markers that she missed in her own life as often advice has more to do with the givers perceptions than the receivers needs.
Yet still a tiny thought for the all doing and typically matriarchal figure who may have wielded cutlery and cooktop for days to prepare this thanksgiving feast, with matching napkins and table centerpiece she has created a vision that would make Martha Stewarts jaw drop. Yet the cooking and the cleaning take so much attention that she ends up missing the togetherness of the day. For this sort of host or hostess, remember that everything doesn’t need to perfect and also to keep the gathering well within your financial means. It is easy to go overboard with tons of eats and treats and obsessing about the perfectly rendered pumpkin pie but the point isn’t to create to the point of stress and exhaustion but to enjoy each other in good times together. Step away from the turkey and have a seat, even if only for a bit, allow others to help as they will surely be excited about the opportunity to contribute to this day of thanks.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing our wish for you is to encounter something or someone which allows gratitude to unfold into you on this Thanksgiving and Holiday Season. Often we become confused by our seemingly unique life circumstance and would be best served to recognize that in experiencing our life situations we aren’t really as unusual as we imagine. With the hope that you too will enjoy this holiday season, gobble-gobble!
With an extra serving of love & mounded with hope,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
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by Stephanie McCrackenSeptember 4, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, elephant journal, mindfulness, personal growth, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
As written by us and featured in Elephant Journal http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/09/serenaded-by-fire-dancing-with-anger-a-psychotherapists-musings-stephanie-mccracken/
Experiencing and acting upon anger, despite its steeping potentials, is often shrouded in uncertainty and even guilt or shame, causing many people to attempt its subterranean burial. Due to cultural and early childhood learning, anger is only given an opportunity to only to be exhumed by accessing deeper levels of consciousness. This cultural urging to truncate human richness towards the effort of appearing uni-dimensional, saccharine and serene may be especially felt by woman, “be a good girl” they say. Despite valiant efforts to remain superiorly cool, even the most grandiose attempt to dismiss anger will result in its manifestation in less healthy manners. Perhaps you are a person who has been accused of yelling or other frenetic outburst to which you adamantly deny, then this reflection may resonate with your unconscious yearning for wholeness and serve as an impetus towards allowing some of the disavowed aggression to lovingly bubble forth.
In the range of the human emotional experience, anger is a vital, valid, and often in containment of a message. Anger is alphabetically close to danger but this too means that anger has a protective function. Whether the sensation of anger propels our action to ensconce and protect the rainforest from loggers or our child from the grips of a bully, anger is an activating emotion. On a cellular level when anger erupts we will likely notice an acceleration of heart rate, pupil dilation, vasodilation, all similar to panic and anxiety these would have allowed us to evolve in our prehistoric forms by seeing better, running harder, and accessing our reserve of strength. For some this is a rapid and temporarily irreversible ascension which will require some time spent self-soothing to reenter the terrestrial atmosphere. In fact, within couples therapy and marriage counseling it is noted that divergent conflict resolution needs are a common theme, it becomes essential to understand what yours is and how it interacts with those around you with the aim of growing towards health and balance.
It is not only relationships which may benefit from a better relationship with anger, modern science supports that repeatedly experiencing activating emotions renders a tantamount physical and emotional bill. Such as the case of the “type A personality” those with the monumental drive to make the world one conquest are also often noted to linger on the precipice of fiery anger. This puts them at continued risk for heart disease, hypertension, and additionally the social cost that can come for those that motion in a perpetually haughty dance with angers tempo. Allow us to admit just this one thing, whether it be culturally or from our families many of us learn, to our detriment, that there is something dangerous or forbidden about the outward expression of anger. Perhaps it is that we will be consumed by experiencing it or act out in a way that is unacceptable, which may lead to repression of the feeling thereby becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy as those things we wish to bury almost always evidence themselves in more dramatic and unexpected ways. Provided that we recognize and utilize our emotions in a productive and socially responsible manner, angers energy has the potential to become a beneficial driving force!
From Repression to Expression With heightened and hot emotions like anger there may be some cultural and personal sentiments which discourage the human experience by placing an added layer of shame, guilt, or doubt upon the expression of negative feelings, even if done in the most appropriate and effective of manners. The real challenge may be in encouraging a person who practices repression that they are even experiencing such feelings, particularly if they have learned from an early age that the expression of such feelings is unsafe as we see with victims of trauma and abuse.
Unveiling The Masking of Anger The multitude of colors and ensembles with which anger is known to present itself can be bewildering. From the exceedingly calm demeanor which may only display a mild tightening of the area around the lips, to the full out adult temper tantrum and there are even those who utilize passive aggression to make their inner world become evident, anger is indeed a human universal as much as some may wish to dismiss its being.
In recognizing aggressive and animalistic impulses we seek to nurture a healthy degree of fire, without being dominated by unconscious aggression. Even for the good girl, the journey towards wholeness and mindfulness will require that we first prioritize a relationship with our inner self to begin to recognize our anger, respect the sensation and then work within the pause between thought/feeling and action to formulate an appropriate response to anger. Some questions that you may want to ask of yourself- What happens for our internal sanctum as the heart thrums faster and the embers flicker towards rising heat? Do we trust our ability to communicate effectively in a hot state or are we the kind of person who needs a cooling off period to navigate a high level of frustration? When was the last time that you expressed anger and what emotions come up for you as you consider your expression of this human sensation? The point is that provided we are being mindful and authentic we are best honoring ourselves and our bountifully rich human experience.
In robust wholeness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Psychotherapist offering Marriage Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenOctober 15, 2013 counseling, couples counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, Uncategorized0 comments
There is great wisdom in the seasons, the rhythms of the earth. I admire the leaves, those curious objects transitioning in brilliant metamorphosis. They motion from soft and green to reds, orange, and rust while becoming dry and brittle, forming a carpet upon the earth in their final descent. Yes, the earth has many lessons for us; mere mortals. In spring she takes in, blossoming and growing but with time, she wilts and in a dazzling display, she falls, letting the leaves, flowers, cones and the like, all go back into herself. I often see many people in the world and in my office, even myself at times, who struggle to “let go.”
Past pains, disappointments, greedily lending themselves to calcified resentment. It is that little man perched atop the watchtower of the soul, waiting for another insult or injury from our loved one or family member. Sometimes our little internal watchman becomes hyper-vigilant, ever wanting to prevent our spirits from being scathed. When too many hurts have been accumulated, our memories becomes infiltrated with all of those winces, from the chronically late boyfriend, our ever critical mother, the sister that is always undermining your happiness, these things we remember! The problem is that we often remember too well, it is indeed a part of a healthy longing to protect ourselves from those who would hurt us. So we store away these abundant notations about others, retrieving the data in the future, making an effort to “duck” before the next blow is hurled. Often when we store away so much angst pertaining to specific others, we will become too quick to react, overflowing with hurt or anger in even minor instances. We hold fast to our internal list of wrong doing and to those who will listen we complain and wallow at the injustice of “others” who pain us! There is a normal and healthy amount of time to complain or be upset at the injustices or insults which will inevitably be hurled at us in this life. Yet I must ask, how useful is it to continue to hold on to anger and resentment?
One of my favorite anonymous quotes is “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get die.” Often with our lists of anger, we are exclusively causing injury to ourselves! As it often is with human foible, the very mechanisms which may serve to protect us, become the source of our very own brand of strife! If you will allow yourself to reflect honestly, each time you recount the story of your critical mom, failure to thrive brother, masochistic professor, it really only makes you upset again. The physical and emotional stress that results from accumulating our lists of hurts may lead to coronary disease, somatic illness, angry explosions, drug or alcohol abuse, and may be related to mental health disorders such as depression. Forgiveness and the ability to move beyond the sins of our foes is an ability that will serve you very well, even if you don’t think you’re (insert explicative) boss/girlfriend/ex deserves your forgiveness, it may be time for you to consider letting things go for your own health and wellbeing.
There is wisdom in forgiveness, each of the major religious gurus speaks abundantly upon the topic, for example Jesus Christ, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Along with the Dalai Lama who even wrote a book titled The Wisdom of Forgiveness, he states it eloquently with “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion, and forgiveness, the important thing is that they should be a part of your daily life.” We should also remember Mahatma Gandhi who is quoted as saying, “The weak can never forgive, and forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” I am not a spiritual leader, I am only a psychotherapist, a woman who struggles with the very same human dilemmas as all of the rest of you, yet I will recommend that you take the time to lay to rest those angers, hurts, and pains.
Take a long hard look, maybe even make a list of all of the grudges that you are needlessly carrying with you. Accept them, remember them, I have even suggested that some clients wrap that list around a rock and carry it with them everywhere for a week. Then when the week is over, take the time to think about your experience in lugging a heavy and burdensome weight in your pocket. When your week is over, the time is up, lay it to rest. As a clinician who respects traditions and rituals, perhaps making a ceremony of it will help you to solidify the process of letting go. Bury it, burn it, burn it and bury it, rip it up. Whatever you do, let it go and don’t set off searching for its remains. Allow it to be over, not for the other person who has hurt you, but because you love yourself enough to not sit with toxicity in your blood. Because peace and serenity are your goals, because Gandhi, Jesus Christ, and the Dalai Lama said so, let go of resentment and make some room for more love, peace, and contentment. In a Technicolor array of splendor like the leaves twirling from the sturdy oaks to rest peacefully atop the fall earth, may it decay into next year’s nutrient rich soil.
In peace and love,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Reviving Minds Therapy
Offering Psychotherapy and Marriage Counseling
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More