Whose Anger From Your Family Does Your Anger Resemble Most?
Who in your family do you resemble most when angry? Your mum, your dad, pop or nan. An older sibling perhaps, or maybe an aunt or an uncle.
Anger is a natural and often justifiable reaction in many situations. While it’s healthy to recognize the feeling, it’s not always healthy to act on it; especially when acting on it in a way that could be harmful to yourself or others. Dwelling on your anger and stewing in it until it festers is also unhealthy.
Do you sometimes catch yourself wondering if you ‘caught’ your anger from somebody else, someone in your family or ancestry? Can we inherit our anger in the same way we inherit physical characteristics like eye colour, curls or dimples?
The short answer is that anger may run in your family. Genes can indeed play a noticeable role in our inclination toward anger and our patterns of expressing this emotion – which might help to explain the way you experience anger.
Many mental illnesses can run through families, such as bipolar disorder and major depression. A common characteristic of each of these examples is anger (or, in the case of depression, irritability). If you’ve been uncharacteristically angry lately, or wondering if an undiagnosed or recently developed mental health condition might be causing you to lash out in anger, there are a few steps you might consider taking:
Look into your family’s medical history. How familiar are you with the mental health – and physical health, while you’re at it – of those related to you? Does bipolar disorder, depression, intermittent explosive disorder, or any other mental illness that might be characterised in part by those angry outbursts appear in your ancestry? Don’t be afraid to consult your family members directly; do exercise great tact and sensitivity when asking them though, conscious of offering compassion and support where necessary – if you’re comfortable sharing your concerns, you may consider sharing your reasons for bringing up the topic in the first place.
Meet with a medical or mental health professional. If you’re experiencing symptoms of mental illness, or you simply can’t come up with another explanation for your angry impulses, speak with a qualified professional. They can assess your symptoms, offer diagnosis and help you manage any harmful symptoms (like your anger, if it is expressing itself in destructive ways). Even if you don’t have a mental illness, a mental health professional can help you manage your angry outbursts with anger management counselling, and other effective forms of therapy and treatment.
Another significant factor, outside of genetics, that can lead to people having angry tendencies similar to their relatives is learned behaviour. We absorb so much from our environments, every moment of the day, from the moment we are born. Learning behaviours, like expressing anger, can occur in two different ways:
Modelling, where children observe a behaviour and repeat it. If a child observes violent outbursts of anger from those around them, then they are more likely to engage in violence or angry behaviour. This has been demonstrated in the renowned and well-documented Bobo Doll Experiment, in which different groups of children were exposed to different models. The researchers found that a group of children who were exposed to an aggressive model were far more likely to engage in aggressive behaviour than the children in other groups who weren’t exposed to aggression.
Reinforcement, where an initial aggressive act is rewarded or reinforced. This validates the individual’s inclination to aggression and encourages them to continue expressing harmful anger. For example, if lashing out in anger led to you getting what you wanted when you were a child, you’re more likely to react with anger as an adult because you learned that doing so would be rewarded.
Is it all coming back to you now? Can you recall a time when you learned to react with anger in certain situations? Situations like being embarrassed or being overlooked perhaps. If so, there’s good news: you can always buck old habits and learn new behaviours instead. Habit replacement.
Here are a couple tips for managing your inclination for angry outbursts:
Practice makes perfect. You’ve already taken the first crucial step – that is, recognizing you have an anger problem. Now, in moving forward, you should remember that change does takes time and conscientious commitment to a new outcome. It probably won’t be easy at first, but with practice and commitment, you can alter your angry predispositions.
It’s okay to ask for help. Don’t shy away from asking loved ones for their assistance. Tell them you’re trying to make a change and could benefit from their feedback. Ask them to let you know when you’re reacting inappropriately or how you could express your feelings more effectively.
Reach out to a mental health professional. If you think you could benefit from working with a therapist, don’t be afraid to take advantage of available mental health services. There are countless providers who specialize in anger management, including myself, that could offer you some valuable assistance and support.
What’s most important is that you don’t play the blame game, expecting others to take responsibility for your emotional reactions. Instead, take consolation in how the right amount of effort, motivation and application makes us all capable of rendering harmful habits extinct and establishing new helpful habits.
Source Material: Taylor Bennett https://bit.ly/3lCXYJF[CP3]
Emanuel Perdis is a trauma-informed Anger Management therapist who administers therapeutic counselling for individuals as well as couples. His key specialties for counselling are Anger, Relationships, Trauma and Anxiety. All therapy is delivered online, via Zoom, and enquiries can be made through https://www.emanuelperdis.com/let-s-talk or on the phone via +61 412 288 081