How to Use Your Anger to Improve Your Life

This is How Positive Change Happens… How do you feel about getting angry? If you’re like many of my clients, you might believe there’s something wrong with you for feeling angry. You might even think something bad or dangerous will happen if you let yourself acknowledge and experience your anger. I get it. I’ve been there myself. There’s this common belief that anger is just a “negative” emotion. But I don’t buy it. Anger is one of our primary emotions. It’s impossible to live without feeling anger. A lot of experiences in life naturally evoke anger in us. Like the rest of our emotions, anger serves a purpose. If we let it, anger can mobilize us to take adaptive action, like standing up for ourselves and for each other. But when we refuse to acknowledge and experience our anger, then anger cannot do its job. One client tells me, “I have a hard time standing up for myself and being assertive.” Another shares, “I’m afraid of my anger.” You’ve probably noticed that anger gets a bad rap. These inner struggles with anger are painful, burdensome, and destructive. It’s the emotion we freak out about most. When we feel anger coming up, we tend to unconsciously fire a bunch of “defenses” rather than being honest about feeling angry. “Defenses” are therapy-talk for things like: • Getting anxious or afraid when we’re not in objective danger • Going into a depressed state by turning our anger inwards • Defending against our anger by putting up a wall, distancing ourselves, shutting down, pretending we don’t feel angry • Judging ourselves mercilessly, criticizing...

Are you sure you want to diagnose yourself with “depression”?

This is How Positive Change Happens… Sometimes, a counselling session with someone starts out with the client saying something like this: “I’ve got depression” or “I’m depressed”. Whenever I hear that, my ears perk up even more than usual. I often respond with “I’m sorry to hear that. Have you been diagnosed with depression?”. Sometimes, I hear “Yes, my doctor sent me to a psychiatrist. They asked me lots of questions and then told me I have depression”. Okay, so this client has been assessed and given a diagnosis from qualified professionals. The diagnosis is more likely to be accurate and we go from there in our counselling work together. I offer research-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) strategies for depression and that client is often including doctor-supervised drug therapy in their treatment plan too. Other times, I hear something like “Well, no, I haven’t been diagnosed. I’ve done some reading online and it seems like a lot of the info on depression applies to me. I really feel depressed”. This kind of response calls for a different approach from me. I wouldn’t do this client any favours if I immediately hopped on that train with them and went along with a framework and diagnosis that turns whatever they’re struggling with into a mental illness. Clinical depression may or may not be accurate or relevant here. We need to get curious and investigate more together first. Here’s some life experiences that can be mistakenly interpreted as, or mislabeled as, “depression”: hard-hitting, deep sadness from grief and loss of a loved one through death or the ending of a relationship of any...