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