How To Break The Addiction To Anger

Dr. Brenda Shoshanna

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“In my mind are thoughts that can hurt or help me. I am constantly choosing the contents of my mind. ”

Dr. Gerald Jampolsky

There are many ways of being addicted and many purposes an addiction serves. Addiction to anger is one of the most common and lethal addictions, and one most seldom recognized. Like addiction to alcohol or drugs, the addict feels good in the beginning, becomes hooked by anger and then gradually as the addiction grows, it consumes more and more of their lives, producing painful consequences.

The Best Way To Undo An Addiction

The best way to undo an addiction is to look it squarely in the face, see how it operates, when it arises, how it maneuvers, the lies it tells us, the false promises it offers and the huge costs we pay for it. Once we understand the process of addiction fully, the next step is to undo the fear the keeps it going - to handle the need behind it fuels it. In this way we take the power back over our own lives. To begin this process, to look at our addiction fully, we start by looking at some of the function an addiction serves.

Functions of Addictions

When we are addicted, all we can think about is our addiction, about getting another “hit". Our focus and attention narrows, many aspects of life are blocked out. This itself is soothing to many. As focus narrows it numbs us and blocks out painful feelings and experiences that we may not wish to deal with. At this point the addiction is serving as a defense against pain and anxiety. It is preventing us from seeing and dealing with issues, which need to be attended to. While this presents temporary relief, the situation behind the addiction, the fuel which feeds it, festers and intensifies.

Addictions also provide a sense of pleasure, power, of being high, mighty and invincible. (A defense against the feelings of helplessness and inadequacy many feel). Despite the fact that these good feelings the addiction produces are temporary, the craving for them can become so intense that the person becomes blind to consequences of their addiction. They also become blind to the fact that as the addiction develops, the dosage increases - they inevitably require more and more of it to feel okay. Not only does the dosage increase, but so does the negative impact upon their lives. Many become slaves to their addiction. Little by little it takes everything away.

Addiction provides a false sense of security. All the while an addiction is running, it makes the individual feel safe and secure. The reality, however, is those addictions destroy an individual’s true safety. It blinds them from doing what needs to be done to build a life of true value and stability. Lenny was usually a mild mannered man who withdrew when faced with conflict and troubling situations. He feared speaking up, feared hurting others and feared being in the wrong. As a result, his work life suffered.

He was passed over for promotions and despite his fine skills, relegated to lower level tasks. During one office conflict, when his immediate boss was present, something inside Lenny flipped over. “I couldn't take it anymore, " he said. “I felt my face get red and then just opened my mouth and let everyone know where I stood in no uncertain terms. " To Lenny's amazement, rather than being censored for his outburst, he was respected. People started to look at him with new eyes, as someone to be reckoned with.

This was Lenny's first experience with anger. He liked it. It provided a sense of power and strength that had been lacking. Afterwards he felt better as well. Soon he became hooked. Rather than deal with his feelings about himself and learn constructive ways of relating to others, Lenny began to depend upon having outbursts. (The way children can depend upon having tantrums). Lenny's outburst stopped his co-workers in their tracks, dominated the situation, and gained him the attention he had long desired. Soon Lenny began trying this at home as well. Despite the upset he generated around him, he got what he wanted.

Effects Of Addiction To Anger

Before long, Lenny was addicted to anger. In the beginning it gave him a feeling of strength. He didn't even notice that his closer friends and family were withdrawing from him. He didn't connect the anger with the new difficulty he'd developed with his digestion or the bad dreams he was having. Lenny soon began to feel that without the anger, he would be vulnerable, used, passed by. He needed the anger for his very life. And he was willing to pay the price.

When we are angry we often have a temporary feeling of strength, energy, righteousness, power, authority or control. Much like alcohol, the surge of anger, which takes over, can block out fears, inhibitions and doubts. There is a temporary sense of freedom and empowerment that we normally lack. Anger can also block out logical thought processes, producing a sense that we are absolutely right. When some are angry, there is no room for wavering, and they feel no need to. Some individuals who have trouble making decisions can make them easily then. They do not realize that it is not they who are making the decisions, but the anger they are host to. Decisions made while angry are often unilateral and focus only upon a limited aspect of the entire situation. These kinds of decisions rarely provide positive outcomes.

Anger provides a sense of justification. Many actions that might seem unacceptable when calm seem perfectly fine when we are angry. Anger also encourages us to blurt out negative thoughts and feelings we may have been holding in that might have better gone left unsaid. Of course, after the surge of anger passes, it is difficult to take these words back. Even if we apologize the after effects remain. Although it might have felt good to speak out while angry, a little later on when reality dawns, there is often a sense of regret. In one way or another we have to pay for what we have done.


List the times when you feel angry or upset automatically. What persons, thoughts, memories or situations bring this up? For now, just notice and write it down. As you go through the day, when another flash of anger strikes, step back and write it down as well. Rather than reacting blindly, you are stepping back and taking time to just look.

As we stop responding to the urges of anger, we begin the process of taking the steam out of it.


Melt away toxic feelings with The Anger Diet, (30 Days To Stress Free Living. ) Dr Shoshanna, psychologist, speaker and relationship expert offers the only diet you'll ever need - from anger. The diet shows us how to give up one form of anger a day and replace it with a healthy, constructive antidote. You find out how anger works, the 24 forms of anger, what to do when you’re the subject of anger and much more. Dr. Shohsanna is author of many books, including Zen Miracles (Finding Peace In An Insane World), Wiley, Zen and the Art of Falling in Love (Simon and Schuster), Save Your Relationship (21 Laws of Successful Relationships), Living By Zen, (Timelesss Truths For Everyday Life) Her personal website is , she can be reached at, .


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