By Esther Mann

Dear Esther,

I got divorced about 10 years ago. Looking back, I realize that my wife and I had no business getting married. We were both very immature and had plenty of issues of our own. And in general, we were a really bad fit for one another.

Since then, I’ve had four serious relationships. I’ve been really blessed to have met the four women I dated for a substantial amount of time. Each one was wonderful in her own right and I do believe I’ve learned something from each of them. But each relationship eventually ended badly, and once I started being honest with myself, I had to admit that I was the one who messed up.

I’ve been trying to be more honest with myself and take responsibility for what I’ve been doing wrong. What I’m finally owning up to is that I get angry often and easily. I think that’s what scared all of these fabulous ladies away from finally committing to me. When I’m good I’m very good, and we had great times together. But I’m accepting the fact that it’s the anger that they couldn’t be around.

I’ve always been a passionate guy. My emotions, whether love or anger, are “big.” It’s just the way that I’m wired. I’ve been trying to be more aware of when I get overly excited at work or at other places, and I’ve been trying to tone it down, but I’m not having too much success. I’m nearly 40 years old and I guess I’ve acted this way pretty much my whole life. If I’m ever lucky enough to meet another terrific woman, I would hate to blow it the way that I have done so many times.

What advice do you have for someone like me? I’m really a nice guy, all in all, and would give the shirt off my back to help someone. But I guess “healthy” people don’t want to bring my anger into their lives. I get it; I just don’t know how to fix it.

Angry

Dear Angry,

So you’re one of those guys who have gone through life allowing anger to hijack their relationships and probably other good stuff as well. I’m glad to hear that you are recognizing your culpability. That’s an excellent starting point. Far too many people are unable to see themselves honestly and take responsibility for their failures. So you’re off to a great start in turning this situation around.

Anger is part of life. We all feel angry at times and it can be a normal, healthy emotion. It sends a message, advising the angry individual that a situation is upsetting, unjust, or threatening. Sometimes that’s called for. But when one is unable to control his or her anger and as a result begins to mistreat himself or others by allowing fury to enter the picture, it becomes a serious problem.

Aside from ruining relationships, out-of-control anger can also affect one’s physical health, leading to heart disease, diabetes, a weakened immune system, insomnia, and high blood pressure. It can lead to mental-health issues, clouding one’s thinking, and making it harder to concentrate or even enjoy life. It can affect’s one’s career as well, since it’s hard for people to trust an individual with explosive anger.

You need to start by trying to understand the message that your anger is attempting to send you. It is obviously covering up other emotions that are not being acknowledged. Anger is a one-note response that can be masking other emotions. It takes time to work on discovering the source of frustration and what would be a more appropriate emotion. Maybe what you really need to be feeling is sadness or insecurity. Additionally, anger can mask anxiety. When you perceive a threat, it can activate the “fight or flight” response. Think about what might be triggering in you a need to “fight.” If you can uncover what you are really reacting to, and what would be a more targeted and appropriate reaction, you can start thinking about ways to resolve the issues.

Another good idea is to start becoming aware of the warning signs that your anger is about to emerge. It could be a knot in your stomach, clenching your hands or jaw, breathing faster, a headache, or maybe your heart pounding. Additionally, try to pinpoint the triggers that often contribute to your anger. Possibly drinking, traffic, being put on hold by insurance companies, etc.

Here are a few tips to cool down: Focus on the physical sensations of anger. Take deep breaths. Get moving with some physical activity. Stretch or massage the areas of your body that seem most involved in the experience of anger. And of course, slowly count to ten.

And if you can slow things down enough to the point where you are able to self-talk, try asking yourself some of these questions: Is it really worth getting angry over what just happened? It is worth ruining the rest of my day? Is my response even appropriate to what just happened? Is there anything productive I can do about the problem? Is getting angry worth my time?

You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you, but something tells me that you’re ready to experience a major growth spurt in your emotional well-being. And if that’s the case, the best is yet to come!

Esther

Esther Mann, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Hewlett. Esther works with individuals, couples, and families. Esther can be reached at mindbiz44@aol.com or 516-314-2295. Read more of Esther Mann’s articles at 5TJT.com.

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