A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

Thoughts on counseling, healing, and creating the life you want

Managing Your Anger So You Can Get the Relationships You Want

As anyone who has ever been pregnant can attest, you’re really not going to get the best sleep of your life those last two months before the baby comes. What you may, in fact, get instead is heartburn, a weird separated joint in your lower back and a host of other issues that lead you to do anything but count sheep at night. Not that I would be experiencing any of those maladies now…of course not. Motherhood is all rainbows and lavender-scented unicorns.

Yeah, right.

So, one day last week when I was literally customer number one at Bojangles while the rest of my family slept peacefully in their beds, I heard this song on the radio as I chomped my biscuit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_goEernujW8  (I included the one with lyrics just so you can see why I’m making a deal out of this.)

anxietyI happen to think that this is the most  depressing song on the face of the earth other than “America” by Simon and Garfunkle. Honestly, the songs that get me are always the ones that sound sort of simple and maybe even a bit upbeat on the outside of it. But then, as you get further in, you realize that a keen sense of resignation and loss can be embedded anywhere…in songs that don’t sound serious until you listen well, and especially in people who appear on the outside of things strong and together.

Many of the clients who come to me for anger management are here because they are very high-functioning people. At work they may be known as trail blazers and decision makers. They have managed to form partnerships, have children and in general manage their affairs in a way that most of us would envy. Except, it’s not that simple is it? I usually hear something along the lines of, “Doc, I feel like people don’t really respect me, you know? I just think I have to fight so hard to be heard. Why can’t people realize that I’m not angry all the time; I just often feel so pushed?” Or, sometimes they will say that they actually DO feel angry all the time. In any case, these feelings of volatility and an inability to get grounded seriously interfere in their happiness. Those emotions are even more confusing when their professional spheres encourage a different kind of direct aggression than their personal relationships can bear. What is successful in one context sinks you in another. As Aimee dolefully says in the song, “And it’s not going to stop ’til you wise up.”

So what can you do to wise up in your relationships without feeling like you’re chickening out on expressing the strength of your feelings?

1) Realize that Anger is Information: I hate to break this to you, but everyone gets righteously ticked. Getting angry is not a weakness and it doesn’t mean your saturday morning yoga class hasn’t improved the opening of your heart chakra. Rather, it means that you are a human who has felt threatened or slighted in some way and you would like to do something about it. The tricky part is owning that the feelings are yours and that you are then obliged to communicate them coherently. What do you need to communicate to the people around you that they will not be able to hear if you deliver it via the manipulations of rigid silence or screaming? How much more traction does clear communication about your feelings (even the scary ones) lend your position than shouting?

2) Realize that Other People Have Half the Information You Need to Make a Choice: Too often people ignore the power of asking a series of really great questions to your partner in argument. This is vitally important if the person you tend to be angry at most often is an intimate partner or a child. As they say, information is power. And, the more of it you have at your disposal the better you can hone your intervention. Extreme anger in which you don’t consult with the other person carefully leaves you more out of control than you were before. And, when you feel both slighted and rudderless it’s difficult to do anything but rage blindly. Before you become accusatory it might be helpful to know things from the person who angered you like:

*How were you hoping I would respond to this?

*What was your impression of what just happened between us?

* What is your worst fear about this disagreement? Your best hopes about how we can resolve it?

3) Have an Internal Standard of Behavior: My grandmother was unflaggingly polite in public. Even under the most dire of circumstances, no matter how badly she had been insulted, she kept her wits about her. When I pointed out to her that so-and-so had really deserved to be shown some colorful language, she would give me a quizzical look and say, “But sugar, why would I let that person dictate how I behave? They can’t even manage their own behavior.” I think this is an important truth. If you are associating with people who repeatedly put you in a position to step outside your values and raise your emotional volume to cope, the other person isn’t the one who needs to adjust. You are. Decide consciously who will be a constructive force in your life and who is attempting to dictate your behavior for you.

Do you need help figuring out how to fan the flames of passion and creativity rather than the flames of anger? Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

Pinterest:DrHollyCox

Facebook: Lotus Therapy Center

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You Cannot Step into the Same River Twice and other Thoughts on Change

It’s uniquely beautiful here in Raleigh this time of year. Even now, I can hear the low hum of my children giggling in the green shadows of our backyard, the familiar sound layered over a springtime sonic boom of birds and busy insects. Anyone that can visit the south this time of year and not be sucked into the verdant commotion of it all has seriously disconnected from any ability to live in the moment. I missed this when I lived in Florida–the joyful rewards of a winter survived.

Even still, I spend an inordinate amount of my precious hours mourning the temperate balminess of the tropical landscape I inhabited for so many moons of my adult life. More importantly, I deeply miss the tribe of friends I had in Florida. When we decided to move back here to NC to be closer to family, I completely underestimated the fact that I would sometimes feel like a stranger in a strange land. Maybe this happens to other folks too? Those of us who have left the confines of our home towns discover that you can come home again, but home isn’t the same as it was when you left because YOU are not the same as you were when you hit the road. I am always reminded of that Heraclius quote, “You cannot step into the same river twice.”  The waters are flowing both in the river and inside of  you. I don’t know how this works for you, but in me it instills a sort of restlessness. There is never really anywhere to which you can concretely return. Rather, you choose someplace that feels viscerally recognizable and then piece together who you are there vis-a-vis your memories and a plethora of new experiences.

It’s likely that I am dwelling on this idea of how and why we evolve because my pregnancy is nearly over and I am rounding the corner into the home stretch. Our family will contain the same four quirky people who left the sunshine state for novel adventures in a familiar place, but now we are adding a wild card–an unexpected blessing that has sprung out of our detour back to the geographical start of it all. I must admit that I’m feeling oddly philosophical about this coming phase of our lives.

Typically, my blogs are meant to offer some guidance based on my everyday experiences as a therapist working with individuals and couples. But this one is mainly personal–about living a life that is conscious and robustly examined. I think the world at large, even (and especially) through experiences we choose for ourselves, offers many opportunities to collapse our awareness rather than expand it. We do that to protect the soft, vulnerable parts of our spirits. And in so rolling ourselves into those tight, closed balls we protect against good change as well. Sometimes, good change looks like experiencing the pain we were hiding from and realizing that it is manageable after all. And, when we’re not afraid of it any longer we can focus deeply on other things. In a therapeutic sense, that means confronting trauma, betrayal, anxiety, depression and a host of other monstrosities. The shadow of the thing is always longer and darker than the actual substantive part of it. That is good news. It gives purpose and shape to our efforts to persevere and evolve.

So, we’re always changing, you and I…stepping into our old familiar rivers and finding them to be of different depths than we anticipated.  I wish you happy trails getting your feet wet in both the new tributaries and the ones that seem recognizable. I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful summer.

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

Pinterest:DrHollyCox

Facebook: Lotus Therapy Center

Google +: Holly Cox

 

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