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Understanding Anger and Addiction (video)

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How do anger and addiction go together? We get this question all the time at The Clearing. They are related, and when you add stress and anxiety you get a toxic cocktail that causes many to numb out with substances and other diversions. Read more to understand how these all fit together and what you can do about it to stop the cycle.

Anger and Addiction

Everybody has anger. So why do anger and addiction seem to go together? Is anger some by-product of addiction and dependency? What we know is that any time we're angry and we're feeling anger, we know that underneath that anger there's a hurt. There's something that's hurting us inside.

For those suffering from addiction or dependency, there's a belief that it's not okay, for one reason or another, to express our anger. We cut ourselves off from that and it festers along with the original hurt episode or stimulus.

Anger Leads to Depression

Typically when we cut ourselves off from anger, we begin to feel depression. Depression is nothing more than anger turned inward.

anger-and-addictionNext, most of us don't want to feel what hurts inside. That's why it's called that. Hurt is not pleasant. It's something we're wired to avoid. Similar to when we stub our toe and it hurts tremendously - this is the physical body's way of telling us not to do that again and be careful with the toe so it can heal properly. The same hurting principles apply to emotional wounds.

To avoid the hurt, we'll cut ourselves off from feeling that as well. Now, that we're not going to feel our hurt and we're not going to feel our anger, we have our emotions bouncing back-and-forth, just kind of slow bounce, up and down.

From Anger and Depression to Anxiety and Panic

This emotional bouncing up and down is what we call anxiety. We're not settled.

Definition of Anxiety


a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

As we're on this cycle of suppressing anger and hurt and feeling anxious, the world of course can then intervene. It does for all of us, not only those with dependencies. The world introduces stress as a normal course of human affairs. 

With stress added to anxiety, we've now moved into panic mode. The emotional bouncing back-and-forth accelerates and then we get panic. What do we do about all this? Well, right now we're saying, "Man, I don't want to feel my anxiety, my panic, my stress, my depression." 

So we use. Substances and other dependencies follow. For many of us, this is living on the edge.

Does this sound familiar?



Addiction and Dependency to Cope with Stress and Panic 

The result is predictable. To avoid this emotional cycle and hurtfulness, I numb out.

I'm going to use.

Or I'm going to get really busy so that I don't have time to feel.

Or, I'm going to create some kind of dysfunctional relationship. That way, I can work on their issues instead of mine.

Or, I'm going to have a lot of sex because that's a fun way to not address my anger and hurt. 

Anger Hurt Loving Model

There is a way out of this cycle. We deal with situations like this all the time and use something called the "Anger, Hurt, Loving Model" to begin to address it.

The way out is to learn constructive ways to express our anger and to make it okay to feel the hurtful episodes and other emotional hurts. When we do that, we're able to apply love to the parts inside that hurt and then we're able to heal.

This may sound simple and maybe a bit corny, but it works. Most addicts and those with dependencies have deep, deep hurts that they've never fully dealt with and haven't been in a secure enough place to apply real love and healing. This is what we call healing underlying core issues. We've seen this countless times and it's breathtaking to see with our Participants.

We know that underneath hurt there's loving. This is such a simple model in terms of how our emotions are built inside, but it's very easy to get off-track and spin out of control.


Download eBook:

Healing Underlying Core Issues

Joe Koelzer

This post was written by Joe Koelzer

Joe Koelzer is a co-founder of The Clearing. He has years of counseling experience and a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica. After observing how depression and substance abuse impacted his wife’s life, Joe realized how broken our current system is for addiction and related mental health treatment. He witnessed firsthand how an evidence-based approach coupled with Spiritual Psychology saved Betsy and enabled her to gain control of her life. In co-founding The Clearing, Joe realizes his dream of creating and sharing this innovative approach with others in a structured clinical setting.

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