If a top-down admonition to breathe deeply and calm down worked, you wouldn’t be searching for anger management help. Nanoseconds before the outburst of anger, your nervous system flashes over with feeling. Some patients go to pieces inside, and then the rage is an effort to knit themselves back together. It’s like an explosive panic attack. You seem out of control and very powerful at the exact moment you are least in charge. Anxious, frightened people evoke caregiving in others. Panicked, enraged people evoke fear and calls to 911. Even if you can remember that you are supposed to breathe deeply and take a walk around the block, no part of you is present to hear the message.
It’s a good idea, and it doesn’t work.
What does work?
This is trauma. Trauma yields to exploring what happened to you when you were helpless to respond. It is not quick. There are no “tips.” It’s a slog and a hard one too. Often what we will find is a chaotic childhood household, mental illness and substance abuse in the parents, long separations without explanations a child can understand, hospitalizations and bullying. What dynamic therapy offers is a place to discover, name and grieve the past so that it doesn’t ruin the present. I know you don’t want to think about the past. But thinking about it is the key to stop LIVING it.
One word about shame. It’s a whole other way of falling apart, isn’t it? You’d do anything not to go there. My office is a no-judgment zone, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t feel ashamed. We will sit with it, you and me. We’ll abide like the Dude. You won’t die of it, you just think you will. After you work it through, you won’t have to avoid it so much and it will free you up. Rant over.
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