What Sort of Anger Do You Have? Red or Blue?
We all experience anger in our lives, but some people feel that they have way too much. They see the effect on the people around them; their anger is something that they're keen to manage or control. However, there are different forms of anger; you need to match the right treatment with the right anger as they have different sources and therefore, different ways of effectively dealing with it.
Anger is a good force
One of the most critical things to understand is that anger can be a force for good in our lives. Anger motivates us. It gives us the energy we need to transcend the obstacles and difficulties in our path. This anger spurs us to accomplish things, to defend ourselves, to right wrongs and to persist when we are held back. It is also the energy that we draw on when we are under attack as it allows us to instinctively fight back without thinking too much about the consequences.
This might be what is called in Freudian terms an ‘aggressive drive’. This isn't to say that it is always positive or that it is always used in the service of a worthwhile ideal, but it tends to be something that can feel like a defence; arises in the face of a difficulty then subsides when the difficulty has gone. Let's call this red anger.
The other sort of anger is one which is rather confusingly called narcissistic rage. This anger has a whole different look and feel to it. Rather than being in response to an obstacle, narcissistic rage can rear its head in all sorts of circumstances. It is often experienced as overwhelming and out of control; it can last for a long time, long after the provocation has subsided. It's a sort of anger that you might experience or associate with tears of frustration.
This sort of anger arises when something (or someone) that we think should be within our control is outside our control. We get so frustrated: “why isn't this person doing what they should do?!” It just doesn't seem understandable to us and is infuriating. Let's call this blue anger.
With red anger, people sometimes need to moderate their levels of aggression as some people find it quite uncomfortable. Cognitive / behavioural techniques are quite good for this as there might not be too much of a problem and our deep feelings are rarely tied up in it.
On the other hand, blue anger can stem from incidents deep in our past when we weren't able to clearly separate ourselves from others; we weren't sure where we ended and the other person began. This is a typical way that infants seemingly view the world, and is one that we gradually grow out of. However, if we encounter developmental obstacles, this process may not complete entirely leaving us unsure, in the heat of the moment, where we end and the other begins. This form of anger can also be treated, but it takes time and understanding. Cognitive/behavioural approaches don't seem to work as well with this because it doesn't address the real problem – it just covers it up.
Psychotherapy is effective in identifying and dealing with both forms of anger. A psychotherapist will choose the right method for working with you to understand and moderate the anger that so troubles you.
– Tim Hill
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