Alcohol and aggression seem to go hand in hand for some people. When they drink, the rage, frustration, and anger comes out. While this isn’t true for everyone, getting drunk is associated with about half of all violent crime in America.
For those men and women who tend to get angry anyway, adding alcohol can be like adding fuel to the fire. Alcohol has certain effects on the brain that might make one more comfortable with expressing anger versus when they are sober. For instance, alcohol reduces your ability to process information and it undermines your ability to evaluate the actions and reactions of those around you. You might be tempted to draw conclusions that are actually false but that cause anger to explode inside of you. Furthermore, drinking alcohol seems to erase the worries that you might have about any consequences of acting aggressively. While sober, you might be more cautious with regard to what others think, your safety, the safety of others, and other factors. However, drinking seems to make all those reasons that might otherwise prevent you from acting aggressively disappear.
Furthermore, social and cultural factors say that it’s okay to act aggressively while you’re drinking. Although most people don’t like seeing someone who is both drunk and angry, they tend to accept the fact that drinking has affected them in a way that facilitates the expression of their anger. However, this fact isn’t a blank ticket for those who drink to get angry every time they are drunk. Because if you’re struggling with anger and alcohol, then you are probably aware of the consequences that aggressive behavior can bring, especially when you’re drunk.
Perhaps it’s better to try to understand anger, why you’re so often feeling it, and what you can do to redirect anger. First, you should know that there are many feelings that often lie beneath the surface of anger. In other words, it’s common to feel hurt but cover it up with anger. Anger is a powerful emotion, and therefore safer to express with others. However, feeling sad or worried can accompany feeling vulnerable. These types of feelings are typically hard for men to feel, and it’s common for them to express anger instead. Of course, this isn’t true for all men, nor is it true that all women do this. Yet, these are typical gender responses because of our social conditioning.
For some, feeling angry can cover up their vulnerability. It’s less likely to feel vulnerable when you’re angry. The following are emotions that can sometimes get covered up by displaying anger instead:
It’s necessary to point this out because knowing this can then help you determine whether you’re actually angry or not. You might realize, right in the middle of expressing anger, that you’re actually sad. And with this realization, you can feel the sadness, let the anger go, and allow yourself to grieve or cry. Doing this is one way to help you understand yourself. It would allow you to recognize when you’re genuinely angry and when you’re feeling other emotions. And in this way, you can perhaps find yourself angry less often.
Talking It Out
At the same time, you might have a lot of anger to work through. You might have a fountain of anger from childhood, a betrayal in your adulthood, or another triggering life event. Perhaps because of this you’ve learned to live with anger and gain some perspective on it. However, if you’re aiming for long-term sobriety, and if you tended to get angry when drunk, then you might need a safe way to express your anger. You may need a way to effectively express it. You can do this by talking it out with someone you trust, diverting your anger into projects and goals you want to achieve, and working with a therapist about the underlying roots of your anger.
Anger is not a bad emotion. You don’t have to avoid expressing anger. However, if you’ve always been used to expressing your anger aggressively while drinking, the above mentioned techniques might be useful for managing your anger effectively.