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When Anger Becomes a Problem

1) How would you describe or define anger?

2) is anger “bad”?

3) what are some healthy strategies or tips to manage anger?

4) who would benefit from seeking anger management therapy?

  • Anger can be defined as a natural emotional response to perceived wrongs.
  • Anger itself is not “bad”, but how it is expressed and managed can be.
  • Healthy strategies for managing anger include taking deep breaths, engaging in physical activity, engaging in mindfulness techniques, and constructively expressing feelings.
  • Anyone struggling to manage their emotions or having difficulty controlling aggressive behavior may benefit from anger management therapy.

Contact Amanda


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(209) 915-1659

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4530 N Oakland Ave
Whitefish Bay, WI 53211

Contact Laurie

Laurie Groh

Ready to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation?

Laurie Groh, MS, LPC, SAS

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(262) 289-1519

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1429 N. Prospect Ave
Milwaukee WI, 53202


Laurie Groh: Hi, my name is Larry Groh. I'm the owner of Shoreside Therapies, and today we're with Amanda Lo, we're going to talk a bit about anger and how it affects us, and what we can do about it. So thanks for coming in.

Amanda Lo: Thanks for having me, Laurie! Hi everyone, I am Amanda Lo, I use her/she pronouns, and I am a licensed clinical social worker at Shoreside Therapies and I'm really happy to be here this morning.

Laurie Groh: Awesome! Well, let's get right into it, so how would you define anger?

Amanda Lo: Yeah, you know, like anger is defined in so many different ways. If you go on Google and you search up what is anger, how do you define anger? You will probably find, like so many different definitions on anger. How I best understand it as human and as a therapist, is that anger is kind of like an intense feeling of some sort of displeasure and it ranges in intensity and severity and I think about it on a spectrum, right. You know mild intensity, which is a little bit of annoyance, to really intense fury and rage where we're maybe really aggressive. And so that's how I think about anger. Typically, anger will manifest itself physiologically and or biologically, and so you know you might start to notice your heart racing, right, or your thoughts are going a million miles per hour, or there might be increase in adrenalin or serotonin levels in your body, I think about that as anger. Anger is typically more, it's typically a secondary emotion and there's usually something underlying, and I'm really excited to talk more about what that might have.

Laurie Groh: Yes, so it's a secondary emotion, and you know, as therapist we hear about that all the time, but listeners might not know what that means. So would you mind sharing what that means? Yes, well, you know, I think of primary emotions as like feeling happy or feeling sad. Right. A lot of times people start to identify anger as kind of their identity or who they are. You might hear people say something along the lines of: you know, "I'm just an angry person." And that contribute a lot of guilt and that leads to a lot of shame, and so secondary is kind of. You know, maybe you know one of my friends says something mean to me and I feel really hurt by it. That's my primary emotion, but because I don't really know how to deal with that feeling of hurt, it tends to manifest in anger, and so that's typically what we think about when we say secondary emotion.

Laurie Groh: Awesome, all right, so this is a question I hear all the time and there is definitely assumptions about anger in what it means. So question for you: is anger bad?

Amanda Lo: Yeah, I mean, you know me too Laurie. I get this question all the time, especially when I work with a lot of clients and they approach me and say something along the lines of, you know, am I a bad person? right. Or you know, am I terrible? For, you know, feeling angry or feeling bad? And you know I think a lot, and so I think that's just really normalized. A lot of people receive anger as something bad or a negative emotion. However, you know we refrain anger. I'd like to think about it as a natural adaptive response as humans, and so we typically experience it when we feel like there is a sense of injustice or there is something wrong right, and so we feel really want to normalize that anger is an emotion and it's here to stay. Right, and so it's not that it's a bad emotion, we just have to normalize. You know anger as a natural response and so when it does become, it varies in not like whether or not it's good or bad. You know anger is a natural, normal emotion, but it does. You know it can be bad if we don't know how to cope with our anger, and so I also want to normalize that. Anger in is an instinctive, natural response, like our natural way of responding to anger is through aggression, and that looks something like yelling or throwing something right, or maybe even isolation, and so we really just have to learn how to navigate anger. So anger in itself is not bad, but how we typically respond to it could result in unhealthy behaviors.

Laurie Groh: That makes a lot of sense. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, it's not. It's not a bad feeling, but we don't like it usually, so that I mean that can change too. Sometimes people can feel kind of addicted to that feeling too. I've heard of like it does kind of feel good sometimes for people, but most of the time people are are saying: I don't want to feel this angry all the time.

Amanda Lo: Just at that Laurie, and you know, I think, if you like to echo what you are saying, of course some people it feels good because they've been holding and building up all of these different emotions and primarily anger. We're feeling really overwhelmed, which is what I hear often especial cause. There's a lot of shame with feeling angry, and so a lot of times people would usually use the word feeling overwhelmed, or feeling really exhausted. And so when that builds up, and if people were to express their anger through yelling or something, it feels good because it's kind of like you know when you blow air into a balloon. If you don't you know, release that air, it pops, and so that's similar to this feeling of like you know, this feeling good once you're able to, and so there's a lot of normalization needed here to talk about anger.

Laurie Groh: So what are some healthy strategies or tips to deal or manage anger?

Amanda Lo: Yeah, I mean there are a lot of different ways to manage your anger. I like to think about anger, as I don't know if you can imagine an anger ladder chart like a ladder right. There's different steps to get to the top. I like to think of anger. You know we all typically wake up. You know pretty baseline and if my baseline is, you know, feeling pretty normal or okay. But I wake up 10 minutes later than I really really wanted to. I might start to feel a little annoyed with myself. Right and maybe because I woke up 10 minutes later than I usually do, I didn't get to make myself a cup of coffee and so if I don't get to make myself a cup of coffee, I feel really frustrated. Right. And so because I can't get my coffee, you know, run out the door and now I'm stuck in traffic because I'm running late for work. Now I'm starting to feel more irritable. And let's say that I go to work and my boss is a little snarky with me and says: "Amanda, why are you late?", I might respond in anger, I might lash out. My boss wasn't a problem right, it was kind of a build up of all of these different emotions. And so all that to say is, I think one really healthy strategy is just communicating and addressing the emotions when you notice them. So if notice that I'm feeling before I feel angry, I need to address that right and sometimes I recognize that in the moment it's really hard to address it. And so you know, in those moments, if you, if you find yourself already at anger, I think another really helpful strategy is to take a step away and engage in some relaxation tools. Right, and that might look like utilizing your five senses. I like to use that a lot, with my clients noticing what is around you, what you hear, what you feel right, what you see, and I think that really helps to calm us down. I think about breathing. You know, noticing how your lungs contract in out is a really good way of relaxing, maybe journaling, a lot of times we just need to vent right and if we don't have the tools or the people available to us; I would recommend journaling because I think there's a lot of power in seeing kind of your emotions and your feelings and your thoughts on paper. So journaling is way to release a lot of these emotions and build up of those emotions. And cognitive reframing is essentially the most lament terms is changing from a negative thought to positive thought right, and so I often hear a lot of my clients who engages in a lot of self blame because they feel angry along the lines of you know, Isuck, or I'm awful, I am such an angry person. What would typically say is change those negative thoughts to a more positive thought and that positive thought could look something like. You know it's okay to be upset, normalizing our feelings, anger and then say: and it will all be okay, right, it's okay to be upset and it will all be OK. I think it's a good way to reframe anger and I think it really puts things into perspective. And all for my, my young clients, you know, alot of my teens, my adolescents, I recommend, try kickboxing class or, you know, go and scream into a pillow right, it's OK, you don't have to hold it all in. There are many, many different ways to diversify how you manage your anger.

Laurie Groh: Yeah, so it sounds like there's a few suggestions which I love. I love the the ladder because that is typically how anger works. It's it can go faster right, but there's usually a step-by-step kind of process to it. Noticing that sounds like noticing it before it gets too. You know too high and then you don't have much control. Noticing it at that first level. You might be able to manage that a lot easier. It sounds like and maybe utilizing some of those other techniques like deep breathing and using your five senses. It also sounds like the cognitive reframing which I love. I think that can be so useful and it sounds like too, where people tend to say negative things towards themselves, maybe towards other people, and you mentioned, like saying to yourself i suck, or I'm an angry person, and you're right, like reframing that into what's something that's not as negative. How can we take those labels away? Because labels in general right, they are ways to make us feel a lot and give us no direction whatsoever. So I love that. I think that can be so effective.

Amanda Lo: Yeah, and really the goal of this is to just really accept that anger is an emotion that we all feel, and the most helpful thing is to just recognize how do we deal with that anger right? How do I raise awareness to these different emotions that I'm feeling before I engage in behavior that I don't like and I will probably engage in self blame afterwards. Right so I just wanted to echo what you are saying.

Laurie Groh: Yeah, yeah, and I love that idea too, of expressing getting that out, because that can make a huge difference too, like we're talking about earlier, of like some of that has to get released. So it's this energy that needs to be expressed, so doing some sort of physical activity, whatever feels like it makes sense for a person, could be really useful. All right, last question, so who would benefit from seeking anger management therapy?

Amanda Lo: I mean, I think honestly, everyone right really, because again I said it earlier, but I think it's because we've all experienced anger. You know at some point in our lives right, some more than others, and you know. So I really think that if you find yourself resonating with what we've been talking about, I think it might be helpful to speak to a therapist, kind of have a consultation, whether or not it would be a good fit for you. However, if we were to be a little bit more specific, what typically see in my practice, Laurie, is primarily see a lot of boys or identifying individuals or or men identifying individuals, because a lot of those primarily manifests, you know, through aggression in a lot of boys or men it would really say that that's how they respond to anger, and so I, you know, I think if you are listening to this and you are identifying individual, it might be helpful if you start to notice that you're irritable often or you know, you express anger in an unhealthy manner. I think it be helpful for you to maybe seek therapy. A lot of individuals with depression or anxiety. Again, one symptom of depression or anxiety is often irritability, which typically happens or occurs to more men or boys and individuals who are really emotionally dis-regulated. I think you know those who don't really know how to, you know healthily express our emotions. If you, you know, tend to isolate yourself a lot right or you tend to maybe clench your fists a lot right, I think that a lot of that could be signs that you would benefit from anger management there.

Laurie Groh: Yeah, I love that and I think there is. There's definitely an increase right now. I'm seeing any ways of people feeling that irritability and feeling short-tempered and recognizing, oh this is affecting my relationships, or it's affecting how I'm feeling about myself, because I don't want to behave that way or act that way. So yeah, I agree. I think it can be really useful for a lot of individuals and yeah, and we deserve to feel better.

Amanda Lo: Yes exactly, I think you know that increase might be potential, you know impact from COVID-19 pandemic as well, a lot of people. You know living in isolation, a lot of teens not being able to experience the the life that they should have had in school high school. And so you know we see a lot of anger resulting from that time. And so I think you know if you resonate with this and your in therapy, I think there could be a lot of helpful outcomes by pursuing anger management therapy. You know. My hope is that as we talk about anger and as we work through anger, that you will have improvements in your relationships, better sleep, you know improvement in your mental health, well being and just feeling. You know more in control of your emotions in yourself, which then results in better self esteem. Right, we're not always just engaging in all of these negative self talk, we. We. We like to look at ourselves as humans with these normal natural emotions, but we are in control of them, and so I think that really helps to build confidence in who we are as individuals.

Laurie Groh: Yes, beautifully said, yes, it does well. Well, thank you so much, Amanda for talking with us today and if you'd like to reach out and set up an appointment with Amanda, you can go to our website at ShoresideTherapies.com, and Amanda's information is right on our website. So thanks again, and talk to you soon. Talk to you soon bye!

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