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Daniel L. Feeling Anger & Releasing Worry

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Jun 22, 2014.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    I'm struggling a lot with when I do feel anger I don't know what to do with it. I let it boil inside and eat me up. I let the person who angered me control the way I feel.

    Then I beat myself up after even thinking of not doing the right thing to take care of my kids or wife's need. I constantly worry what others think of me and if I will be accepted. I worry how they will react to what I do or say. My anxiety has decreased since discovering tms, but I still worry a lot about everything in general.
  2. Daniel G Lyman LCSW

    Daniel G Lyman LCSW TMS Therapist

    Thank you for the submission. This is definitely an important question, and one that many of my clients have asked: What do I do with my anger? The first part of that answer is figuring out exactly how you experience anger in your body. Many of my clients are unsure of what it is to feel anger in the body. They know that they have angry thoughts, but are not necessarily aware of the physical sensation of feeling anger.

    I’d encourage you to work on noticing what anger feels like within your body, for that will give you clues in your day to day life when you’re feeling even the smallest amounts of anger. I know this sounds like an odd process (“of course I know how to feel angry”), but I have found that learning to recognize the physical signs of being angry can help with learning how to manage them as they arise in everyday life.

    Secondly, it sounds like you’re working with a strong addiction to worry and fear. An addiction to fear is similar to many other addictions in that when we indulge in it, it sends a message to our brain that what we’re doing is pleasurable (whether or not we’re conscious of that pleasurable feeling). So, allowing yourself to indulge in those fears and worries only solidifies that addiction.

    I’d encourage you to try and recognize every time that you allow yourself to worry (have fear) about something in your life. Notice how many times per day you indulge in those worries. People often discover that they spend much of their day in a fearful place. Fear (as I’ve written about before) can do horrible things to do the body.

    For example, think of people sitting in a movie theatre watching a horror movie. Generally their visceral reaction of fear is one of tightness and tension (gripping the seat, pulling their hair, squeezing the hand of the person next to them). If we allow ourselves to be in a fearful state every single day, we’re encouraging our body to react in a similar fashion. If you live in a place of constant tension, your body will begin to suffer. Recognizing the damaging effects of fear can help begin the process of re-training our brain not to indulge in these fearful thoughts. See if you can (1) notice when you’re having these thoughts and (2) stop yourself. You might find that when you have these thoughts you will have the same physical reaction (though perhaps slightly more subdued) that those same horror movie patrons experience. At that point you can see how damaging it is to your body to continue those thoughts. Take a deep breath, and see if you can release some of the tension you might be feeling.

    The first thousand times you try this it may not work, but keep at it – building a positive, healthy habit takes time.

    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

    Shirley, North Star, Stella and 3 others like this.
  3. Becca

    Becca Well known member

    Wow, thanks for a great post, Daniel!
    This really struck home with me. I have a pretty active inner bully that loves to tell me all the ways I can and will fail, and fuels my perfectionism (which then spreads like wildfire). I know the thoughts are destructive. I also know, without a doubt, that my inner bully has the best intentions. It is trying to protect me from the dangers of the outside world – if I am not prepared for rejection, then I will get hurt. Yet, if I convince myself I've made a poor impression on a new now-ex-friend, or failed a class, or will never graduate/find a boy/build a family/fill-in-the-blank, I am protecting myself from all possible failures before they happen. Though these pre-failures often never actually occur, getting rid of thoughts and behaviors that are incredibly destructive is still quite terrifying, because I start to believe I have no way to protect myself. And then I freak out, and I go right back to the old, destructive habits that in their own way are comforting, secure.

    But thinking about the fear or worry as an addiction, or a dependency, is something totally different than those thoughts and emotions being protective and serving some purpose acting out of a place of good. I think there can be some comfort in thinking that those sorts of thoughts, though destructive, exist to help you or protect you. You can find self-compassion through it; you can understand it; it might even be more conquerable since it's in your own mind; something like that. On the other hand, thinking about fear or worry as things you are addicted to, things that exist outside your mind with no protective purpose, might make them more conquerable.

    I've been living my life thinking about fear and worry thoughts as being a part of me, a byproduct of my inner bully, that are serving to protect me (though in a totally misguided way). But I wonder if thinking about my fear and worry as an addiction, as Daniel talks about, might help me to break my old habits of indulging these destructive thoughts and labeling them as "protective" and allow me to start pushing back and create new habits allowing me to have less anxiety, less fear, and ultimately, more happiness.

    I'd be really interested to hear others' thoughts on this...
    North Star and Stella like this.
  4. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I believe the answer lies in Daniel's excellent post:

    As I understand it, his recommendation for addressing fear thoughts is to "recognize", "notice", "stop", "take a deep breath". And the reason for stopping the thoughts is that they create unpleasant sensations in the body (tension) which can create or amplify pain.

    So rather than thinking about how to think about fear/worry thoughts (very meta :)), I would suggest noticing how your body feels when you engage in fear and worry. That will tell you if they are beneficial to your mindbody. This is a very new approach for me, as I've been very analytical all my life, and considered it a strength. But I am beginning to realize that I can't think my way out of my thinking problems.

    My belief is that fear and worry thoughts are a defense mechanism as you state above, but not one that serves the mindbody well 99.99% of the time, and therefore, I am best served by stopping them.
  5. Becca

    Becca Well known member

    That's a really good point. I tend to be pretty analytical too (if you couldn't tell...). Though constantly analyzing things can be a great processing tool, it's also a great way to avoid actually doing anything.

    ...and, I'm pretty sure I just did it again :shy:

    Kidding aside, I do appreciate you bringing this up. Thinking about thinking about fear and worry - besides being very meta - makes it difficult to be mindful and present in the moment. I think this is a pretty important part of the steps that Daniel laid out on how to address those thoughts. I struggle with being present and I'm not totally sure why. (And now, of course, I'm starting to analyze that, and why that may be...) In any case, it's a habit I would like to change.

    Change doesn't happen overnight, I know, and changing behavior is hard. But, it's doable. I really like what Daniel wrote on this:
    Realistic and encouraging. I can work with that :happy:
    North Star likes this.
  6. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Totally awesome post, Daniel. I've been training myself to pay more attention to how I'm feeling throughout the day and it has truly be shocking at how tensed up I become. And yes…many times, anger is driving that tension. (Starting with an irritation with one of my kids.) I know cognitively that's NOT the reaction I want to have but it has been engrained in my reaction so there is much unlearning to do. Being aware of the physical effect though is very helpful in changing those patterns.

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