A Licensed Professional Here to Guide You
Experiencing and understanding your feelings of anger can help you better regulate your emotions and express yourself more constructively. This ability to experience anger more freely can increase creativity and assertiveness and allow you to be more in charge of your life.
In the process of growing up and becoming socialized in our families and society, we often learn to distrust, withhold, or ignore our anger. For example, if we are continually discouraged or shamed when we experience anger, we can develop a phobia about it. As a result, we may overly inhibit anger, negating the energy that could help us assert ourselves, set limits with others, and define who we are and how we want to live our lives. Or, if those around us express anger in an impulsive and explosive manner, we may either learn to either avoid the feeling altogether or imitate unproductive ways of expressing anger.
In either scenario, our inability to experience and express anger constructively can negatively affect our ability to manage relationships and carve our way in the world. Having an explosive temper that seems to come out of nowhere hurts us at work and at home. Chronically repressing anger can lead to a variety of other issues, including underperformance in school and work, shyness or social phobias, self doubt, insecurity, and stress-related medical conditions such as headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and unexplained body pain.
Using a combination of ISTDP and mindfulness-based approaches, I will help you desensitize your “affect phobia”—your fear of expressing anger and other emotions--through systematic exposure to these conflicted feelings and developing greater awareness of how you may be blocking this feeling which is so critical to our self esteem and general well being. Through this process you will learn techniques to experience and express your anger and other feelings in ways that will help you achieve your goals and improve your relationships.
“To survive, animals must avoid predators; humans must
avoid the loss of relationship” (Frederickson, 2013, p. 37).
For some people anxiety is a chronic state that they have lived with for most or all of their lives; for others anxiety is episodic, occurring during transitions, loss of relationships, or periods of uncertainty. Your anxiety may come in the form of heart palpitations, sweaty hands, headaches, or an achy feeling in your gut. Or you may experience panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, or obsessions and compulsions. Anxiety can be particularly powerful and visceral because it activates the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, affecting your heart, your lungs, and your digestive system
While experiencing anxiety can be extremely uncomfortable and even disabling, remember that anxiety can also serve a positive function: preparing the body to respond to danger. As Jon Frederickson points out, it is not predators that we modern humans need to avoid in order to survive, but the loss of relationship. Whatever threatens our relationships when we are young will create anxiety. When something occurs as adults that reminds us of those earlier experiences, we will feel that anxiety as if the threat of loss were current. For example, if in childhood we learn that a parent perceives feelings such as anger or sadness as a threat, we will become anxious when we feel these emotions. Sometimes we learn this explicitly from the ways we are rewarded for ignoring our feelings--for example, if we are told to be strong and push aside feelings of sadness when enduring a loss or traumatic event. However, more often we learn these things implicitly, not through one or two experiences, but through a thousand subtle interactions that are repeated with our early caregivers. Because implicit learning is mostly unconscious, later on we will have no idea that an emotion inside of us is triggering our anxiety. Yet we carry bodily memories of these early experiences, and anxiety results when a current interaction reminds us of them.
In therapy you will begin to understand the cause and effect relationship between your feelings and your anxiety. Exposure to these feelings will reduce anxiety, as your body’s natural threat detection system gradually learns not to react to these feelings with fears of rejection or abandonment. Returning the body’s natural threat detection system to its proper function can not only help us regulate anxiety, but can free us up in many other ways to feel more creative, spontaneous, and fully alive.