Thursday, October 22, 2009

Am I Angry or Vulnerable?

Let us think about this quote from a renowned marriage counselor and therapist, Steven Stosny, PhD. It is from his blog on Psychology Today's website entitled, Anger Management Techniques, Why They Fail.

At least a couple of times a year, I get asked by members of the press why anger management techniques don't work. (Actually, they can work on a temporary basis, if you remember to do them when you're angry. I'll get to why you're not likely to remember them in a bit.) The more important point is that anger does not need to be managed; rather, the sense of vulnerability that causes anger must be reduced.

The key to this quote is in the last sentence. Managing emotions is not the answer to reducing their impact upon us. The solution is to deal with the underlying issues that cause the emotions in the first place. When we enter into recovery our goal is to understand ourselves more completely. Through this process of self discovery we learn what it is that causes the feelings we experience.

When we have unearthed our issues, our next step is to employ the tools we have learned and practiced in our recovery steps to help us cope more effectively with our environment. In this way we take charge of our lives, we own our power and in the process are able to fully experience our emotions without fear of seeming vulnerable or incompetent.

Attempting to manage our emotions is akin to suppressing them. We have learned in recovery that whatever we attempt to control or suppress eventually ends up controlling us. Therefore if we attempt to control or suppress our anger, it eventually ends up controlling us. We cannot successfully suppress emotions. They will leak out sideways causing harm to us and those around us via passive aggressive pathways. We may be chronically late, irritable, have headaches, feel tired all the time, be unable to enjoy sex, have insomnia, or any one of numerous other symptoms.

Here's a second quote from Steven Stosny's same article for our perusal.

Anger occurs in humans and animals when they perceive vulnerability and threat. The more vulnerable you feel, the more threat you will perceive.

The issue to effectively deal with then, is that of fear, vulnerability and the associated shame that accompanies these emotions. The recovery work that we practice, the tools that we employ and the success we enjoy in our lives works because we do address these underlying issues and fears. We take the time needed to become experts at ourselves... to fully reintegrate all parts of ourselves back into the whole person we once were. That our efforts yield results is a testament to the effectiveness of our philosophy, the diligence of our work and the quality of our tools.

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