Anger can take you to the very edge of the cliff.
Do you know what I mean?
It can take over your senses. It can take over your conscience. It can take over your emotional integrity. Some people require practice and fortitude to prevent anger from taking over. Anger has a very intense emotional energy. For many of my clients, it is like sitting at the “edge of the cliff”, attempting to traverse that fine line between safety and emotional death. Once that strange sensation comes “on” everything that is reasonable slips away. This can be a frighting feeling. The very sense of control that is desired is gone. Many of my clients have to re-learn how to separate themselves from their anger. Anger has a way of becoming intractable. It requires more than psychotherapy and basic cognitive re-structuring to master this emotional energy source.
The other day, I was driving down one of the two major highways in Colorado. Unfortunately, traffic was intense. As I looked in the rear view mirror, I could see a young woman “barrelling” down my bumper. She was so close I could almost see the color of of eyes. I looked up again. She was no longer calm. Her face contorted and she mouthed f***you, with her middle finger extended. I continued to drive the speed limit. She found an opening in the next lane. As she passed me, she banged her steering wheel and mouthed some more profanity. The contortion of her face stuck with me. I felt for her. The AAA foundation found that between 1990 and 1996, road rage contributed to 216 deaths. Road rage is just one venue in which anger has been expressed.
Most people know that anger damages others and themselves. Yet, they do not know how to come away from “the cliff”. Often, clients say to me, “I wish I met you years earlier, I could have saved my marriage”. Being “on the edge” can mean risking someones life on the highway. Or it could mean risking your relationship. Being the one in charge of your emotions, including anger, is either developed in childhood or it must be developed later in life. Anger management is more than doing a “time-out” or learning about anger or engaging in counseling. True and successful anger management requires the participant to master anger at an emotional level by creating a wedge between themselves and the anger. Coming off “the cliff” means not going back up again the same way. It can be done successfully.