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Understanding Anger: There is Power in the Pause

Updated: May 3, 2022

Let's rethink our relationship with Anger.

One thing that comes up with anger is the concept of this person being difficult or not being able to play well with others. In psychotherapy we call these high conflict personalities (HCP). An HCP is someone with patterns of behavior that often increase conflict rather than resolving or reducing it. I hear this a lot when we are working through interpersonal dynamics.

What I want to offer is that more often than not people are not intentionally shitty, manipulative, defensive or combative…what I hear is reactive which is an adaptive behavior. Adaptive behaviors are often how you work to feel back in control of a situation when you are feeling super out of control.

Anger is an instinctive response designed to protect us from harm by pushing us into concerted action. Like all emotions anger isn’t good or bad it just is. Positive emotions teach us to carry on and negative emotions are designed to make us stop and do something (fight/flight/freeze).

Being angry is normal, losing your shit is NOT. Remember anger is often triggered by hurt, expectations not being met, or needs not being met. It could mean that an important goal is blocked or a desired activity is interrupted or prevented. It could mean that you or someone you care about is attacked or hurt (emotionally or physically) by others. It could be that you or someone you care about is insulted, offended or threatened by others.

In these moments I want you to first consider. Do I need to respond? And then in most cases I want you to pause to determine if the emotions are justified or unjustified. Remember there is POWER IN THE PAUSE.


If the emotion is unjustified we will attempt to act opposite to the emotional urge by:

Many emotions and actions are set off by our thoughts and interpretations of events, not by the events themselves. Examining our thoughts and checking the facts help us change our emotions.

We don’t want to push the anger down, we want to get through the moment with as little disruption as possible so that we can better understand where the anger is coming from:

Of course how to respond is relational and situational, but this will give you a baseline on how to regulate this emotion. All anger is NOT bad anger. Anger like all emotions are designed to help us make decisions that will protect us and keep us safe.


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