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ADDICTED TO ANGER
Ask White Star
~ Millie Chalk
Why is anger addiction becoming an epidemic
in this country? Like anything, it’s because
people just want to feel good. What? Wait…
we’ve been taught from or youth that we’re
supposed to feel bad when angry, how is it that it can make us feel good? The answer to that question also answers why it’s becoming more prevalent in our society today.
Being addicted to anger has everything in common with all other forms of addiction be it drug, alcohol, sex, etc. in that it raises our dopamine levels and releases endorphins creating a high that can empower, relieve pain or depression, and bring to us a sense of relief at a time in this country where many are seeking solace. It sounds like a great payoff if it weren’t for the effect it has on those around us that bear the brunt of the negativity it spawns, plunging all around into a deep abyss of dark emotion. We walk away from an angry outburst feeling a little taller while those around us are left dealing with the baggage.
It may help us to understand that as humans we are hardwired to be angry. Anger is a primordial reaction to anything that threatens us with danger. This emotion is common to everyone when pressed. Being angry spikes our cortisol level, (a hormone needed to sharpen our focus) raising our blood pressure to feed the energy our body needs for a “fight or flight” response. Such chemistry exists to preserve us as a species but, the problem occurs when either there’s only the presumption of a threat, (in our day seldom anything physical) basically leaving us nowhere to run and allow those physiological systems to work themselves out. What happens instead to feel relief from the pent up energy, (enough to outrun a jaguar) we lash out to anyone and anything around us. We find ourselves feeling better from doing so but, at the emotional and sometimes physical expense of all of those within earshot.
High on endorphins we stomp through the wreckage of our lives along a path strewn with victims of our anger, those we love and work with and, often with the community in general. At some point the natural feel good chemicals that our anger has produced begin to subside and, as with any addict, we begin to search for another high, a bigger high. For most of us after something triggers our anger response we continue on with our lives but, for the addict it isn’t long before they can find something else to make them angry. Living in this day and age with our access to information it’s pretty easy to find something to be angry about but, for the addict, if there are no triggers present, they will even delve back into their past to relive a stressful experience just to get that fix and, the cycle begins again, feeding the addiction with bigger and more frequent outbursts.
They say that one answer to battling an addiction is first recognizing we have a problem but, in society recognizing an addiction to anger can be tricky. I’ve written in the past of how anger can be a good thing, empowering us, moving us to change and, lifting us up from the emotional stage of depression however, it is when the emotion of being angry becomes typical in our lives that we must look at how this can be interfering with our happiness. When the price of our anger becomes evident, when we’ve alienated those around us, we notice people avoiding us and, even seeking the option of leaving our lives, we must recognize that we have a problem.
Sometimes mere recognition can help alleviate the frequency of episodes but often this condition is set deep within us, as with all things, from our past. Patterns of thinking and reacting takes years to develop and chances are we’ve been building a storehouse of things to fume about. Even if it takes on the form of righteous indignation, (something I battle with, because of seeing so much injustice in the world), those emotions can fuel a cycle that can be hard to break. Some battles are important but not at the expense of our own lives. Remember if we’re not there to nurture our own wellbeing, because through anger we’ve corrupted our souls, we’re of no use to our cause. We must take care of ourselves first that we might then be there for others.
I’ve said this many times before but, we have to treat ourselves as we would our best friend. Stand in an awareness of what we’re looking at. Where’s our focus and is it on something making us angry? There’s a time and a place for that but, if it becomes a steady diet we have to take steps to alter our input if we want to create a better life and, a better world for all of us.
Next time you see something, whether it’s on social media or in your actual reality, ask yourself; “is what I’m seeing feeding a positive emotion within me? If your answer is “no”, then you might want to learn how to redirect your attention to something that can change what your thoughts are focused on. Found in the archives of Whisper-n-Thunder, (Ask White Star) I write about all aspects of turning your thoughts to something more conducive to the life we would all rather live, a life filled with more joy, understanding, and peace. Many great authors have written guides to finding your personal power in regards to orchestrating your emotions to serve you. There are so many avenues to developing what it is that works for you. Search out ways to find your own personal formula to happiness. I promise that it’s out there! Go find it.
Resources: Psychology Today, Jean Kim M.D. Aug. 25, 2015, Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion, Carol Tavris, PhD, www.rageaholicsanonymous.org