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Straight Talk Recovery – Episode 2: Anger


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Transcription of Episode 2: Anger

Adam Kostiw: Hello, everyone, welcome to another edition of Straight Talk Recovery with myself, Adam Kostikov and Raymond Moore. We welcome you back to the second session here. And today’s topic is going to be anger. Ray, would you like the leadoff?

Raymond Moore: What a great topic. I absolutely love this one. Today I’m coming into it and very excited to talk about this one. I’m sitting at home with three kids who are doing online schooling. So this is going to be a helpful one even for me. So it’s definitely hands down one of the most spoken about topics, at least with the population of people that I work with. Most often times anger is misunderstood. And what I mean by that is that a lot of times people try to figure out ways of how to actually deal with their anger rather than really looking at the sources of where that anger is coming from, how that manifests in their life, how that affects relationships. And really, that’s what we’re going to be getting into today, not just your stereotypical anger management techniques. Walk away, take a breath, but also looking at where is that anger coming from? Because I think for a lot of people, they don’t really understand that anger is something you can work on and eliminate to some extent. And that is not chronic, you know, state of emotion, that you’re just an angry person and you’ve got to accept that and try not to, you know, let it get the best of you. But really, there’s a way of actually looking at what’s driving that anger or what’s causing that anger. Right.

Adam Kostiw: Yeah, exactly. And we’re going to take a look at how far back anger comes from in our lives. And anger just doesn’t appear in our adult lives or our teenage lives it actually, we start learning about anger as a child and how all of a sudden its different emotions come up and how it gets expressed as anger. And at a young age, if we’re not taught how to cope with other emotions, then we learn that anger is a valid way of expressing those other emotions.

Raymond Moore: Definitely, and one of the things this usually hits home with a lot of people. Many people come from an environment where they’re taught to kind of suck up their emotions or, you know, move on or don’t let it get to you. And all those very deflective statements made by those in our life that basically tell us to get away from the actual emotion we’re feeling. And one of the interesting things is when I talk to a lot of the people I work with is many of them can relate to having that person in their life that basically told them to suck it up. And the one commonality with those people that often teach other people to suck it up, the one emotion that they don’t seem to be able to suck up very well is anger. Right. So a lot of times the role modelling of sucking it up leads to anger because if you’re not actually dealing with the primary emotion and I know and Adam, correct me if I’m wrong, I know a lot of times therapists define anger as being a secondary emotion. And what typically that means is that there’s more happening than, say, with the primary emotions, if that makes any sense.

Adam Kostiw: Sure

Raymond Moore: So if you’re sucking it up and you’re not dealing with those emotions, essentially it manifests into anger. So I’m not doing well emotionally in many other areas of my life. Typically what’s going to happen is the emotions have to go somewhere. And I’ve said this to the toughest populations that I’ve worked with is and it doesn’t really matter how tough you are, your emotions are much tougher and they’re going to get you one way or another if that comes out in anger, which it typically does.

Adam Kostiw: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, just to add to that, there is another way that we hear a lot of therapists and other people talk about. They’ll talk about it not just as a secondary, they’ll also call it a substitute emotion. Right. And it’s because it’s one of the first things we learn and we feel and express. So a great example I use with a lot of people is that child who’s building those blocks, they’re two years old, whatever the age may be, and they’re building blocks and they fall over, what they’re actually feeling is frustration. Yet when they pick up the block and throw it, it is an expression almost of anger. And if they’re not taught at an early age that it’s frustration, not anger, then they believe that that’s the way they react and that’s a viable way for them to move forward. Like you said, it’s a learning process. Emotions are what we learn in our childhood going up. So if we’re taught not to understand our emotions. Not to express our emotions, then, of course, the great one we hear with all our therapists here is, you know, emotional vocabulary, right? So if you don’t if you’re not able to actually recognize what’s going on with you, well, the go-to is anger, right. And so all of a sudden, anger becomes the catch-all emotion for everything. And that’s how it gets expressed. So you may be frustrated. You may be sad. You may have fear. Yet, it’s coming out as anger because that is what you’ve become comfortable with.

Raymond Moore: Exactly. I know. I know when I, often ask this in our group sessions when we’re running the group sessions is I ask that question, how many of you struggle with your emotions or how many of you struggle to recognize the emotions you’re feeling in the moment? And the vast majority usually put up their hand. And then I usually ask them, how many of you find it very easy to experience anger? And they all their hands go up very, very quickly. So the thing with anger and again, I mean, if you’re not expressing your emotions, how do you really adequately communicate your needs? So a lot of times it gets very confusing because people are kind of projecting through anger. And obviously, for the recipient, I mean, it’s intimidating. It’s scary. It could be, you know, whatever it may be. But ultimately, if you’re not used to actually opening up and sharing your emotions or being vulnerable, then what ends up happening is that you tend to start using anger to have your needs met. So although it may be you know, you may view it as being something malicious, that the person is unnecessarily frustrated or angry at me. Typically underneath that lies this genuine desire to actually be able to express, you know, what needs may be missing or whatever it may be. And if you don’t have the ability to open up and be vulnerable and say, hey, like this is what’s actually happening for me, it’s going to come up, it’s going to come across with anger. Right.

Adam Kostiw: You used a great word. They’re vulnerable because that’s at the core being vulnerable is what’s happening here is we’re using anger to distract ourselves from what we’re feeling, what all the other emotions are going on. And so we’re actually using it in a lot of cases so that we don’t feel vulnerable. We don’t have to deal with that. But the thing is, even when we use anger to distract ourselves from that feeling of vulnerability, at some level we still feel vulnerable. It’s still there inside of us. We’re just not dealing with it. We’re not validating ourselves. We’re not recognizing and allowing ourselves to be able to cope with it. And it just builds up. It just stays inside. Just because we’re expressing anger doesn’t mean that feeling of vulnerability actually leaves us.

Raymond Moore: Exactly, the one thing, it’s funny, even the fact that we’re saying it back and forth, anger and vulnerability are not really synonymous with each other. And it very much should be right. I know one of the hardest things to get through to people, especially those that do struggle with their emotions, is that the whole notion of holding back your emotions so that you’re not making yourself vulnerable for people to come in and hurt you? So the more I hold back my emotions, the more unlikely it is that somebody is going to be able to hurt me or take advantage of me or whatever it may be. It’s actually the opposite of what we’ve been taught for many, many years. Is that really the the sucking up and then the not talking about what’s actually happening is is actually the weakness. So so I know for a lot of people, I mean, I definitely come from I don’t know if I want to make this a generational thing. I personalize this for a second. But I know in my life, that was being tough.

Right? That was being strong and that was being this. And it wasn’t until really until I did my own work that I realized, well, wait a minute. No, it’s actually the extreme opposite right. For me and at least what I’ve learned and in working with people, but also in my own personal recovery, is that the toughest guys are the ones that I actually can get out there and say, you know what, I’m not doing good. Right. Like, you know, I’m missing my little girl are missing my son or whatever it may be. And, you know, it really hurts and not actually being afraid of what other people are going to say about it or how they’re going to see me. And I’ve really come to realize that vulnerability is the strength. So, if you want to be a tough guy for all of our listeners out there then get vulnerable.

Adam Kostiw: That’s right.

Raymond Moore: I know that sounds very, very challenging and very difficult, but at the end of the day, getting. Vulnerable is recovery and its progress.

Adam Kostiw: Right, and when you talk to people about what would it take for you to be able to do that, and their answer usually is it’s terrifying.

Raymond Moore: Yes.

Adam Kostiw: Right, and again, like you said, that’s what takes guts. That’s what makes the person to step up and do the difficult things. And that is a difficult thing. Right. And so we’ve got anger here. Right. And whether it’s justified or not, right at that moment in time, it’s giving us this feeling of righteousness that’s associated with the anger. Right. Which is so powerful, but it’s temporary. So that’s that temporary boost of self-esteem. I’m right. It’s all about me. You know, you’re wrong. It’s all about trying to make myself feel better in the moment and distract myself. Right. But we have to remember what I tell my own daughter and it’s important is emotions are temporary, OK? They do not last. What you’re feeling right now is not what you’re going to feel an hour from now or two hours from now necessarily. Yes. Sometimes there’s something going on in it may last longer, say the grieving process or whatever, but it’s finite. It’s going to end. You may feel it again which makes it feel like it’s happening all the time. But there is an expiration date to that emotion. And that’s what you have to remind yourself.

Raymond Moore: Yeah. And, you know, you brought up a really good point is, is I think a lot of people get really wrapped up with anger being actually a part of their identity. So I’m an angry person or people are afraid of me and they really get wrapped up with this persona. But that’s exactly right. When you really look at it, it’s a very short lived thing. Right. I think with anger and you hit a word that I use very, very often when I talk about anger is justified anger. So I’m not sure the approach you typically take, but I usually have, you know, unjustified anger and justified anger. And one of the examples I give is one of the things that makes me the most amount of angry. And I know this is going to sound like I’m joking or I’m exaggerating. It’s something as simple as Costco parking lots, like that absolutely makes me like nuts. Absolutely makes me nuts. And every time I’m in that situation, I start getting a typical stress response to what’s actually in front of me, people not parking correctly and inconsiderate people, etc. So what I actually do is I get very, very amped up and then, you know, I have a poor experience. I want to get in there. I want to get out. And and, you know, is that really a justifiable anger? No, because I mean, at the end of the day, I can go to a different store. I can avoid Costco, I can park down the street.

I mean, there is many ways of getting out of that situation when we talk about justified anger. I mean, Adam, right now, if you jump through the screen somehow and punch me in the face, I mean, that’s definitely a justifiable reason to be upset or to be angry. But I think for a lot of people, we struggle to stop and really look at why am I actually angry? And I love that you brought up your daughter, because I know for me, you know, at work I really established the skill of being able to regulate myself, professionalism, so on and so on. And then when you come home, you’re a little bit weaker. Right? So you come in, you get a little bit irritated, you get a little bit upset. And, you know, I found myself personally, you know, in a situation with my wife where, you know, a very small thing kind of gets me upset. Right. And, I’m sitting there and I’m talking about a jar of mustard baby being left out or just something very, very silly. And I find myself actually having a very strong response to the fact the mustard was what was left out. Right. And what people need to understand is a lot of these times when you’re actually feeling these physical responses happening within your body, because when we get angry, We have the stereotypical symptoms, we tense up, we flag or we sweat or it’s different for everybody. But one of the things that I’ve learned and I really work through with the people I work with is really getting them to ask themselves this very, very basic question is what am I actually angry at? And when you actually start to ask yourself that question, you may be surprised of what you see.

And a lot of times what you’ll see is like I mean, in my mustard scenario, 99.9% heck 100% of the time it’s typically because, you know what? I’m tired. Like I had a rough day at work or perhaps there was additional stress today that happened, whatever it may be, that really has nothing to do with the mustard, nor does it have anything to do with my wife. So a lot of times just stopping and asking yourself, like, really, what am I angry about? Am I actually angry at this person or am I angry at how I’m feeling right now? Do I need rest? So, yeah, I think. It’s always important to kind of stop and actually check in with yourself, because for me and I’ll speak personally for me the vast majority of time I’m upset or angry, it has nothing to do with the person standing in front of me or even the situation that’s in front of me. It’s typically my perspective or how I’m feeling in that moment that leads to that emotion that is on me. It’s not up to my wife and it’s not on anybody else to deal with. Right.

Adam Kostiw: And on the flip side of that as well. I’m glad you brought up talking personally, because this is a forum where me and you, actually get to talk more personal than we really can with clients and people in front of us. But we have to remember also the closer the people are to us, the more we feel, the more we can get those emotions coming up. So in my example that I’ve worked through and it was very difficult for me was even think of your own say a mother or a parent. Right. As they get older and stuff like that. For me, it was getting angry. And I recognize that it was frustration about something going on and that anger. And I was feeling whatever was I realized was my own inability to deal with that frustration and allow it to roll away. Where all of a sudden, you know, I could be working with a client and it could be, you know, I may feel pressure, but I can keep working. I don’t show it as anger. I may have a colleague and I’m able to work through. I hear so often is how come I can have so much patience with the patients, with these people, yet with my own family, my patience is so short-lived. And that brought me thinking is like, wow, you know, who are the people in my life that I have the least patience for? And I realize it’s the ones closest to me, the ones I’ve known the longest. The longer you know them there’s expectations as well.

Right, that we have these expectations going into it where someone we meet on the street we may have more a little bit more patience with them because there is no expectation. With a family member, like a mother. Right. You’re going in going, oh, she’s not going to be doing this or she’s going to be doing this again. You’re prepped. You’re already lined up, ready for it. Allow that frustration before you even walk out the door. But you’re not even recognizing it. And so it’s our family members. We have to remember that. And again, because we are talking about anger specifically today, but we’re talking about addiction. We’re talking about in the whole big picture it doesn’t happen in a cocoon. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It affects everybody around us. Right. And a lot of times it’s those interactions. Right. And why we’re so angry with other people. And the other thing we hear all the time, too, is, oh, you know what, really? You know, it’s a projection. I’m angry at myself. So we have to take a look at it. OK, why are you angry with yourself or how often do you actually allow yourself to recognize that you’re actually mad about yourself? Like you said Ray, when you go in, you realize it’s not about the mustard, it’s about what’s gone through your day. OK, that’s the important part. Understanding, you know, why am I angry here? Right. Where is this coming from? Where are my other emotions coming from? Where’s the frustration, the rejection, the humiliation, the hurt, whatever else is behind there.

Raymond Moore: The ability to be able to recognize that and to start practicing that skill. And I think throughout the podcast you’re going to hear that a lot. We’re going to be referring to practicing skills. And that’s definitely a skill to really start looking at is checking with yourself. So I want to make sure I didn’t kind of knock at the beginning of the group when I said, you know, a lot of times stereotypically we ask people to walk away. I mean, in that period of time when you’re walking away to cool down from a situation, it’s expected that you’re processing what it is that’s happening. So it is during that time, you really used to check in with yourself. And although you may be upset or you may feel heated, being able to check-in with yourself and return back to the situation. A lot of times people walk away from the situation. And what this does is it breeds what we call resentment. Right. So what ends up happening? And again, I mean, a lot of people use anger and resentment interchangeably when they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. So just to make it clear for resentment, resentment is to keep it as simple as possible. So it really resonates and sits in your head is resentment basically means to re-feel something over and over and over again. So in a situation, you may be angry, but if you’re still feeling angry a week and a half later, that has now become resentment. Right? So re-feeling it over and over again really doesn’t fix the problem. It just leads to more moments of actually being angry. So it’s important in those moments to really do that work. On yourself, and maybe it’s a justifiable anger, maybe you’re upset because somebody actually did cause some sort of harm or a threat to you, and that’s a separate thing. But nevertheless, if it’s one of those moments where you do realize when you walk away because I think all of us on some level, when we’re a little pumped up, there’s a piece of us that do understand maybe I’m overreacting just a little bit to this situation. And it’s in that moment we do that check-in with ourselves and we do it kindly. We do it kindly so we don’t do it if we have that moment. And I know for a lot of people, they expect when they leave treatmentor they’re done therapy, that they’re going to go home and just be perfect, at everything they do.

I mean, if you get home and you have a moment, and then you slam the newspaper down on the floor and then kind of you’re having a moment. Walk away from the situation and really look at what happened and then, more importantly, come back and own that. Because, Adam, you said you said it really well. I mean, anger affects more than just us. It affects those around us. So even if it is something as simple as me slamming a newspaper to the floor, those that are witnessing that are intimidated, they could feel afraid, they could feel whatever. So it’s important to come back and own that behavior by saying, you know what, I’m sorry I overreacted. I realize what’s happening for me is this and allow yourself to be vulnerable. And what that actually does is it creates a culture, at least within your family and those around you. And it really starts to show that change. It really starts to show that you’re responding to these situation better and healthy.

Adam Kostiw: Right. And I think, you know, because the time is rolling around here is that we should also add that anger and also the one topic we haven’t talked about is anger is it’s a substitute. We use anger so often so that we don’t feel pain. Right. That’s the one we didn’t talk about yet. And that’s those painful emotions. We have to recognize that there are emotions and they are painful and we have to be able to recognize that as well, it’s that certain things that we feel are painful in our lives, avoiding them doesn’t mean that we’re not going to experience them,right. So by distracting ourselves with anger, all it does is delaying the inevitable. We at some point have to deal with our pain. Right. If we want to move forward, if we want to recover, if we want to repair relationships, if we want. Which is a great segue to our next podcast, of course, which will be relationships, is we have to deal with our pain so that we can move forward, that we can work on forgiveness for ourselves, forgiveness for others. We need to validate ourselves, which is a word I’ll use often and legitimize it, recognize that it is something that is happening to us in the moment.

Raymond Moore: And thank you for touching on it. I mean, that’s absolutely huge. We talked in the beginning about dealing with those unresolved emotions. Most often, I think the best way to characterize all of that is pain. And I think that’s the most common thing that we hear is a lot of what’s happening under the surface are not pleasurable emotions.

Adam Kostiw: That’s right.

Raymond Moore: They’re not not typically excitement, elation, all that fun stuff. It is typically pain. And I think that’s the best way of understanding it.

Just a quick story, if you don’t mind Adam, to really kind of a round out the importance of really addressing your anger, and I did kind of touch on it as we were going on, how it actually affects other people and this is where it gets very challenging because, again, if anger is coming from pain and it’s coming from unresolved emotions, you would expect on some level for those around you to be compassionate and understanding about that. But that can only go so far. Right. And I’ll give you a particular example of something that I witnessed that really let me see the impact of people’s anger on those around them. So I remember working many years ago. I was working in a family program and I was dealing with this young kid and this kid was talking about being afraid of his dad. And that’s how he just said it.

He said, I’m only afraid when he’s angry when he’s not afraid I love him and he’s my hero. And just the language that that this young man used was absolutely well beyond his years. He probably had to grow up fairly quickly considering some situations. Right. But nevertheless, So he shared a story with me and it forever stuck with me. He said that he would get really excited because his dad came home in the evening, six or seven o’clock, whatever it was. And he talked about how he would often go to the door five minutes before his dad got home and he would peek through the blinds. Right. So he would peek through the blinds and watch his driveway. And like clockwork, his dad would come home at the same time all the time, and he would sit and watch through the blinds. And what he was looking for wasn’t just sheer excitement that dad’s on his way home. He was actually assessing the situation. And again, when I say he was young, he was very, very young to really be in the state he was in and he was peeking out the blinds. And what he was looking for was his father’s hair. Right. And I know that sounds very bizarre, but the kid had become so hypersensitive to when his dad was angry and actually understood that when his dad was angry, he had this anxious tendency to kind of pull his hair or to run his hands through his hair.

So if dad’s hair was unkempt, he ran to his room. And if when he came home because his dad was very, very particular about combing his hair, if his dad’s hair was combed, then he would actually open the door and run out and greet his hero. Right. So I was able to do some work with the father later on. And this forever really got him to look at how much it actually impacts people. And for me, honestly, I looked at and I was like, wow, how hypersensitive this child could be and attentive to this grown man, a person that, you know, at this stage of his life, he should really be looking out for the safety of his son rather than kind of vice versa. But essentially, it was really all about the hair. That kid became so sad and it was all about his anger, because when his dad came home, if he had a bad day, it became the family’s bad day. Right. And then after so long, I mean, the family can only take so much of them being compassionate and understanding that all these stressors that are happening for you, we can understand. But as time goes on, that anger, frustration, that fear of not feeling safe within my own community of the people that I love becomes so much to the point where the people that you love at some point won’t be there when you get home.

Adam Kostiw: Right. Okay, so again, we’re talking about relationships, we’re talking about family, which is the segue for our next session. So I hope that you’ve enjoyed this session with me, Adam and Ray, of straight talk recovery. And we hope you join us for our next podcast, which will be about relationships in particular. So once again, this is Straight Talk Recovery with Adam Kostiw and Raymond Moore. And remember, keep talking. Thanks and good night.

Raymond Moore: Bye, everybody.


Other Episodes

Episode 1: Introduction

Episode 3: Relationships

Episode 4: Co-dependency

Episode 5: Self-Compassion

Episode 6: Virtual Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Episode 7: Mindfulness

Episode 8: Grief

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