Monday, September 28, 2009

Understanding Anger: Expression vs. Acting Out

Anger is the emotion that we are least willing to let go of. Once we are caught in its grasp, we hold onto it by repeating the angering incident over and over in our heads. This type of reflection can cause our anger to exaggerate to the point where it feels out of control. However, our experience with anger doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, anger can have a positive effect on our interpersonal relationships. Anger causes our energy level to rises enabling us to take needed action.

In my private practice in Los Angeles, I have discovered that many people do not realize that there’s a difference between feeling anger and acting out anger. Most people never realize that anger can be a healthy feeling which can motivate us to constructive solutions. When we act out anger, it involves an explosive effect that is typically destructive. When we engage in acting out anger, we avoid the healthy expression of our needs behind the anger.

Anger is a signal that something is wrong with our environment. Often, it’s a sign that our boundaries have been crossed and we need to fix it. We also feel anger when we are confronted with the unpleasant fact that we can’t control other people. We also feel anger when we are denied what we believe we are entitled to. Our anger is an attempt to control others and compensate for our feelings of helplessness.

Once we recognize our anger and deal appropriately with the triggering event, there is no need for continuing to hold onto the anger. Anger has done its job of warning us and raising our energy level so that we may take action. Once that is accomplished, anger has completed its usefulness.

Many times we hold onto anger well past the point of its constructive usefulness. We become invested in the belief that acting out our anger makes us more powerful or effective. In actuality, it does neither. Holding onto anger, past its usefulness, makes us appear weak and unstable. We then use it as an unhealthy way of holding onto the past. This is the point where we confuse the healthy expression of anger with the destructive acting out.

The healthy expression of anger is when we are able to verbalize our angry feelings in a calm and controlled assertive manner. It is important for us to own our feelings and clearly verbalize them.

For more information on Dr. Walton’s self-help anger album, log onto You can also follow his tips of the day on Twitter@LAtherapist. For more information on Dr. Walton, and to obtain free audio affirmations log onto his website at Press Release

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