An angry person can catch us off-guard if the anger seems to come out of nowhere or if the reason for their anger appears trivial. However, it’s important to acknowledge that some people instinctively respond with anger when they feel trapped in a similar situation from their past– this can be a symptom of PTSD. Addressing anger with somatic experiencing can lead to long-lasting effects.
What is anger?
Anger is an emotional response–a survival mechanism–to provocation. It is a self-protective impulse; an automatic sympathetic nervous system (ANS) response, fight/flight response. While it is normal for everyone to experience anger, some people have uncontrolled anger that is harmful to the person experiencing it and to those around them. It can look like blaming others for your own actions, being constantly irritable and anxious, causing physical damage to someone or property, explosive reactions, revenge and punishing, patronizing, silence and withdrawal from communication, sulking, emotional blackmail, and being overly critical of yourself and others.
What is somatic experiencing?
This is an alternative therapy that alleviates symptoms of shock trauma and developmental trauma by looking at the connection of the mind and body as well as how a person perceives body sensations. It helps the body return to a regulated state after feeling pain or numbness. Somatic therapy theory states that the mind, body, spirit, and emotions are all interconnected so trauma can cause physical changes in the body. Therefore, cultivating awareness of their connection can help a person let go of emotions such as anger that remain in the body from a traumatic experience. In somatic therapy, mind-body exercises, along with talk therapy, assist in releasing built-up tension that affects a person’s emotional and physical well-being. Exercises can include deep breathing, relaxation, meditation, dance, yoga, somatic work, and vocal work. It intends to help people free themselves of the psychological and physiological pain that keeps them from living their life optimally.
Anger and Somatic Therapy
Sometimes an event(s) is too much, too soon for the nervous system. This turns into a trauma that can be expressed through pent up anger or explosive anger. This therapy helps people find a way to access their anger stored in their body and release it. The body may hold on to anger and manifest in states of anxiety, brain fog, despair, helplessness, and blank mind. Once a person becomes aware of these states within them and recognize when they appear in the body, they can practice exercises to shift from being overly emotional to relaxed, creating a sense of security. If a person feels ashamed for having these emotions like anger, a therapist can help them get to a place of understanding and acceptance. From there, a client can face their anger and process it. This form of somatic experiencing therapy helps a person suffering from anger issues due to trauma liberate themselves from the trapped energy and break the cycle of defaulting to anger as a survival mechanism. Continuous use of somatic practices helps people rid suppressed emotions from the past or present. When a person is able to regulate their anger, they will notice less tension in their muscles, better digestion, improved concentration, and improved quality of sleep.
For more information on coping with anger, call Trauma and Beyond Center ® at (818) 651-0725.