Why do I feel angry all the time? Understanding anger addiction
Feeling unconditionally loved by our primary caregivers is essential to foster a healthy sense of self-esteem. Unconditional love is experienced when a child feels felt, heard and seen, in ways that meet their most basic developmental needs. Parents who are attuned to their children’s emotions with empathy and without judgement help them nurture a sense of self that is whole, even when experiencing intense negative emotions such as shame, fear and anger. Neglect (including emotional) and abuse sustained throughout childhood, however, lead to developmental trauma and feelings of low self-esteem. As such feelings are easily triggered and not processed functionally with the help of an emotionally conscious and mature other, the developing child is more susceptible to create a dysfunctional relationship with their own emotional, inner world.
Children who are made to feel inadequate for having negative feelings (or any feelings at all) by their abusive and/or (emotionally) neglectful parents and feel powerless and rejected when triggered have little or no access to functional tools for emotional processing. In such cases, they are highly likely to resort to maladaptive coping strategies to deal with their shame, fear of abandonment and other feelings of unlovability to regain some sense of wellbeing. It is logical to want to feel good. It is also human to avoid suffering and try to control it. Problems arise when a given strategy becomes “the only one”, and, especially, when it does more harm than good in the long term. A rare instance of binge eating in front of the television might be okay when it is not one’s exclusive means of tolerating the pain of one’s losses. When that becomes a daily routine to deal with chronic stress, unprocessed grief and feelings of powerlessness and emotional isolation, you got yourself an addiction.
Anger – predominantly experienced as a secondary emotion – helps us regulate feelings of vulnerability. Under its influence we feel respectful, dignified, entitled and righteous. It does so by making us feel energetic, powerful and ready to fight and defend ourselves from whoever or whatever – including feelings – that make us feel small and hurt. In this heightened state of arousal, we experience a high that may become addictive. As the overweight who focus solely on dieting but avoid exploring the deeper, underlying mechanisms that feed their food addiction and, for that reason, struggle to keep a healthy weight – anger addicts remain angry by neglecting the primary emotions that trigger it. Therefore, the reason why you feel angry “all the time” may be centred on fear, reluctance, or difficulty to access the deeper, more painful emotions you have carried from years of (emotional) neglect and/or abuse.
If you identify with the above, I recommend trauma counselling to deal with the effects of complex trauma, such as pent-up anger and anger addiction.