Recovery Workshop: Lesson Sixty-Eight
Anger and Rage - Anger Management and Addiction Recovery
In this lesson, I'm going to try to give you a quick ‘emotions for dummies’ course so that anyone experiencing an increase in anger while in recovery can put it into its proper perspective and hopefully, hopefully…realize that it is not the monster they may think it is.
Ok, here is the pattern. Emotional immaturity is a constant in fantasy addictions (sexual addiction, porn addiction, love addiction). Not that people with addictions can't experience emotions (in fact, they are usually experienced as being more intense than ‘healthy’ people), it is just that they lack the ability to manage their emotions in healthy, productive ways. And so, they live crisis to crisis…or, when they experience emotional discomfort (e.g. stress, shame, boredom, pressure, expectation, etc) they seek to escape into ‘pleasantville’. I’ve coined this state 'delusional actualization'—which is exactly what it is…the feeling of being actualized through fantasy—hence, the delusional part. It is not real. Anywhoo, the terms aren’t what is important. What is important is that you understand that, as a fact, you have not developed healthy emotional management skills. The way that you perceive your emotions, experience your emotions and utilize your emotions is an area of your life that needs focus. And that is okay, as it is a part of a healthy recovery process. That is why you give yourself time to recover…it is not so much time to end the addiction, it is time needed to establish that foundation of health.
So what has happened? Here you are, an adult who, at least until recently, has continued to use a rather childlike emotional management foundation (immediate gratification, all or nothing perceptions, escape) to help you live your life. Now, with the realization that you are ready to move on to a fully mature, healthy existence…you have ended your most commonly used emotional management skill—the compulsive ritual. That should be a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. Yes in that it is a necessary step to health. But look at it realistically. You have not yet learned to manage your emotions…all you have done is recognized that you want to learn to manage them, and have eliminated a destructive obstacle (acting out) in that path. But that does not translate to health. Instead, it leaves you more vulnerable. The emotions will still be there, but without an effective means of managing them (and don’t mistake this: addiction is an extremely effective—albeit temporary and destructive — emotional management technique), you will likely experience a spike in their intensity. Add to this the anxiety and panic that comes from realizing that you don’t KNOW how to manage them…and you can see why your emotions can be so volatile.
Does what I’ve just shared teach you how to manage your emotions? No, to do so would take a book—and there are lots out there. Just make sure that should you choose one, you choose one that focuses on DEVELOPING emotional management, not CONTROLLING anger. You develop that foundation for mature emotional management and you will see that your irrational anger will vanish.
Lesson 68 Exercise:
a) Map out your own anger rituals in the same way you did your sexual rituals long ago. Look for patterns in relating to your partner, coworkers, friends, yourself...where anger is triggered and you find it difficult to disengage from that anger.
b) Can you identify the elements of these rituals where you actively intensify the stimulation that is experienced?
c) Do you think that 'creating a break' upon the awareness of these anger rituals will allow you to slow the situation enough to allow your values to take over? Why or why not?