We are in a time of uncertainty and evolving change. I am offering video therapy or teletherapy via HIPPA approved software, including Zoom. Video platforms are easy to access and utilize —I email you a link and you can click on it at the time of our session.
I help clients develop strategies and techniques for managing intense anger or aggressive episodes. These techniques involve learning ways to “cool off” and validate underlying feelings so that they may be communicated more effectively. Generally speaking, difficulty with anger is typically the result of a person having difficulty regulating their emotions.
Individuals who have difficulty with emotional regulation report that they are constantly intruded upon by their feelings or find that they are unable to feel the normal range of human emotion. Their emotional reactions are highly reactive, and they experience emotional lability. They may become easily and quickly sad, angry or anxious and have difficulty coming back to a stable emotional baseline. The good news is they also have a greater ability to experience joy and happiness. People who struggle with emotional reactivity feel like they are walking around with no ’emotional skin’ in other words they have no buffer to protect themselves from difficult emotional feelings. Because they are so emotionally vulnerable sometimes they go to extreme behaviors (i.e. suicidal behaviors, drug/alcohol use) to try to take care of themselves and to alert the environment to take better care of them. The emotional pain they experience causes them to turn to quick, short term, solutions to emotional lability as a way to cope.
Emotional Regulation is achieving a balanced emotional life where you are neither numbed out from your emotional experiences nor emotionally overwhelmed by them. Achieving emotional balance is done through both talk therapy as well as learning specific concrete strategies for managing your emotional experiences. Therapy helps individuals to feel more in control of their emotional reactions, so they can consider the longer terms goals, and become more effective in communicating their emotions to others.
Research shows that Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), a structured approach originally designed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder, is effective for emotional regulation. DBT gives individuals concrete techniques to help lessen the emotional intensity they feel and to develop better ways to communicate their feelings to others.
I have advanced training in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
Here is a recent blog I wrote on anger and intimate relationships:
Do You Connect With Anger?
Do you find yourself attacking your partner or friends and then later regretting it? When a partner or friend makes a demand of you or gives you negative feedback, do you use anger to get them to back down? Do you find it easier to communicate your true feelings and opinions when you are angry? Anger is an ‘easy’ emotion—felt so intensely that words and actions flow instantaneously and without conscious reflection.
Take the example of Melanie, who feels ashamed of herself as she, once again, frantically scrolls through her romantic partner’s emails, text messages and Facebook account while he showers. As she perceives suspicious material, a cryptic text here, a ‘like’ on another girl’s Facebook picture there, her thoughts travel in a million different directions. Imagining infidelity, distrust and picturing her partner engaging in various liaisons with his female friends, she panics. By the time he exits the shower, she is enraged. The accusing and questioning leaves her partner befuddled, to the point that he cannot think straight or even remember exactly who he communicated with that week or, let alone, why. Melanie encodes his deer-in-the-headlights expression as evidence of his guilt and disloyalty. Throwing one verbal attack after another at him, she eventually exhausts herself and the two go to sleep. The next morning Melanie recognizes she overreacted and makes amends, only to find herself repeating this same scenario in less than a week’s time. Each time her partner accepts her apologies, loving her in spite of herself, she feels more connected and secure in the relationship.
For some, communicating through anger is a dysfunctional way to be one’s true self and connect. When a person has difficulty with self-acceptance, they may dismiss and push aside their moment-to-moment negative emotions to avoid conflict and remain accepted by others. At some point, the dam breaks and an event that may warrant minor annoyance triggers rage. People who fall into this pattern feel a sense of relief in finally being able to express their true self. The only way they can experience love is when a partner or friend responds to their unpredictable anger with forgiveness and unconditional support.
However, anger’s authenticity is short lived. It is hard to be the close friend or long term partner of someone who chronically uses anger to connect. Ultimately, anger serves to distance and erode meaningful connection. And initial relief quickly turns to shame and guilt for having to express what may be genuine feelings in such a destructive way toward someone they cherish. In the long term, connecting through anger begets self-alienation.
If you fall into this pattern, work to notice your feelings in the moment. Instead of blowing off your opinions and negative emotions to ‘get along’ and be ‘friends with everyone,’ reflect on what you like or dislike about the events and people in your life. Do not wait until your emotions hit a boiling point; communicate your thoughts and feelings on an ongoing basis. With anger, notice when you feel frustrated or disappointed so that it does not build into rage. Reframe blame toward others by owning your feelings without shame, i.e. instead of “Who are you texting!?” try “I feel insecure.”