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Stop Self-destructive Anger Responses

Chapter 12: Stop Self-destructive

Anger Responses

Tools for Anger Work-Out

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.


What are my self-destructive responses to anger?

My self-destructive responses to anger increase in frequency based on my level of anger.  To help me recognize these behaviors I will use my journal to record my level of frequency of the following 100 self-destructive behaviors which stem from unresolved anger in my life.


Self-Destructive Self-Inventory
I will rate each self-destructive response by writing down in my journal the degree to which it is true for me using this scale.

1 = never

2 = rarely        

3 = sometimes

4 = often

5 = almost always


  1. overuse of alcohol
  2. overuse of nonprescription drugs
  3. overuse of prescription drugs
  4. shoplifting
  5. petty theft from my employer
  6. illegal acts of revenge on my enemies
  7. compulsive gambling
  8. compulsive overeating or binging
  9. binging and purging
  10. anorexia
  11. compulsive exercising
  12. compulsive shopping
  13. overuse of credit cards
  14. compulsive drive to acquire material goods
  15. putting myself down in public
  16. setting myself up for failure
  17. unwillingness to play the political survival game on the job
  18. ignoring authority directives
  19. direct disobedience of authority directives
  20. insubordination on the job
  21. arriving late to work or school
  22. excessive absenteeism
  23. playing hookey or skipping required work and/or functions
  24. ignoring personal hygiene
  25. dressing in such a way as to hide my beauty or sexuality
  26. jumping to negative assumptions about motives when people show an interest in me
  27. feeling like a loser even when I wasn't
  28. ignoring the yes messages in my life
  29. workaholism
  30. compulsive need for recognition or approval
  31. need for perfection
  32. compulsive need to look good
  33. fear of taking a risk
  34. unwilling to take a stand
  35. keeping silent; not letting others know how I feel
  36. compulsive sexual acting out
  37. excessive masturbation
  38. participation in aberrant sexual practices
  39. self-pity parties
  40. constant focusing on how awful my life has turned out
  41. inability to find my “pony'' in anything, i.e., chronic pessimism
  42. arguments or fights with people
  43. complaining
  44. holding a grudge; the desire for revenge
  45. having a chip on my shoulder
  46. being overly sensitive to the remarks of others
  47. excessive cleanliness or tidiness
  48. chronic nagging
  49. exaggerated task-oriented behavior rather than people-oriented
  50. never giving people a chance to be my support
  51. being a loner
  52. playing it safe when I am with people
  53. avoiding any chance of rejection
  54. rejecting others before they reject me
  55. excessive need for excitement
  56. management by crisis approach to life
  57. setting up situations to ensure a constant state of crisis
  58. need for the adrenalin rush I get when solving big problems
  59. lack of time management skills
  60. procrastination
  61. lack of preventive orientation
  62. holding onto denial of my problems
  63. unwillingness for change to occur
  64. lack of honesty about who I am and how I feel
  65. preferring to lie than the hard work of being honest
  66. unwillingness to trust anyone
  67. close-minded to new ideas
  68. obstinate holding on to the way it was always done or the way it was
  69. daydreaming or escaping into fantasy
  70. diverting attention from the issues at hand that need to be dealt with
  71. wearing masks to hide my feelings
  72. ignoring what's good for me and what I need
  73. not applying myself on the job, at home, or in my personal life
  74. giving others the power to intimidate me
  75. unwilling to defend my rights assertively
  76. excessive TV watching
  77. excessive sleeping or napping
  78. excessive involvement in time demanding activities,
  79. activities that help me avoid the realities of life
  80. being irresponsible with my life
  81. yoyo dieting (losing and quickly regaining weight)
  82. smoking (legal and/or illegal substances)
  83. eating unbalanced meals
  84. not caring for my health
  85. not wearing seat belts
  86. driving carelessly
  87. driving over the speed limit
  88. engaging in risky or dangerous activities
  89. having suicidal thoughts
  90. acting on suicidal impulses
  91. ignoring the warning signs or symptoms of an illness; not getting proper medical attention
  92. inflicting injury and pain on myself
  93. encouraging or allowing others to abuse me physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually
  94. not defending myself in the face of a violent attack
  95. lying about my skills or competence in order to get ahead
  96. ignoring my feelings in a relationship
  97. sacrificing myself for the sake of others
  98. allowing others to take advantage of me
  99. putting others first, myself last
  100. not working on my self-growth and self-esteem enhancement program for personal recovery and healing

What causes me to act self-destructively?

Reasons for my self-destructive behavior include two main areas:

  • holding anger in and inappropriately expressing it.
  • When I hold my anger in instead of expressing it in a healthy way, I end up acting in self-destructive ways because I:
  • experience depression
  • become pessimistic
  • feel resentment
  • want to get revenge
  • end up with a chip on my shoulder
  • hold grudges
  • wear masks to hide my feelings
  • feel bitter and disappointed
  • feel powerless to get what I need
  • feel like giving up


When I act out my anger in rage or other impulsive ways, I end up acting in self-destructive ways because I feel:

  • guilty for my rage
  • remorse for hurting others
  • embarrassed by my behavior
  • disappointed in myself
  • like a loser or a failure
  • ignored and unwanted
  • repentant but unforgiven for my actions
  • afraid to let my anger out again
  • like I should be punished in some way
  • that my life is not worth living


What are typical characteristics of a self-destructive response to anger?

When I have acted in a self destructive way regarding anger it is:

  • almost always at a subconscious level; I'm unaware of the self-destructive nature of my behavior.
  • defeating my personal growth
  • a means of sabotaging my growth
  • often not clearly connected with the object(s) of my anger
  • something I would usually deny as a response to my anger
  • a behavior of mine about which I would rather lie than face honestly
  • often at the root of my resistance to mature change and growth
  • something I hold onto; I can't let go of it easily
  • based on my irrational thinking and belief system
  • often in direct opposition to the values I profess to uphold
  • a paradox that is hard for me to explain
  • a habit that has developed over time and is resistant to change
  • a behavior I saw in my parents and other members of my family of origin
  • often the behavior that ultimately led me to seek out professional help
  • something that reduces my self-esteem

What irrational thinking leads to my self-destructive anger responses?

  • I am a loser, a failure.
  • No matter what I do things will never change.
  • This behavior has nothing to do with the way I handle anger.
  • A little self-pity is just what the doctor ordered.
  • Being a little self-indulgent is healthy. Anyway it's just this one time.
  • My life is already a wreck; how could this hurt.
  • No one will ever like me, want me, or love me for myself.
  • Everyone is out to get me; I have to accept this fact.
  • No matter what I do it will never be good enough.
  • I can't deal with that problem; I'm too ashamed to fact it.
  • It's better to stuff my anger; it's cosmetic and clean.
  • Don't bring up a problem from the past if it hurts too much to face it.
  • I've gone this long without dealing with it, so let sleeping dogs lie.
  • I'd rather stay to myself than be hurt again.
  • I have to do it all on my own or it won't be fully corrected.
  • Unless I can do it perfectly I won't do it at all.
  • I don't need people to help me with my problems.
  • It's better not to be too analytical with my own behavior; why create new problems for myself.
  • What others call self-destructive, I refer to as having fun.
  • Everyone needs a little excess in life; we're only human.
  • Live life to the fullest and party hearty; life is too short not to enjoy it.
  • The only way to have fun is to let it all hang out.
  • No matter what I try, I can't stop those behaviors.
  • This behavior is what makes me unique, why change?
  • My behavior isn't slow suicide, it's just variations on a life-style.
  • How else are you supposed to blow off steam?
  • This behavior is painless, victimless, and doesn't cost a cent.
  • It's not like I murder people with my behavior.


What are the negative consequences of engaging in self-destructive anger responses?

When I resort to a self-destructive response to anger, I:

  • get stuck in my efforts to change and grow.
  • experience more pain and suffering.
  • find that my growth is diminished or lost.
  • find myself going backward rather than progressing in life.
  • feel irresponsible, flippant, and careless.
  • get confused by the differences between my beliefs and my behavior.
  • remain both mentally and physically ill.
  • am prone to a greater risk for panic attacks or other stress-induced illnesses.
  • find the direction of my life out of focus, nothing is in place.
  • give power to people, places, and things.
  • resort to addictive or obsessive behavior.
  • revert to the old scripts, the old ways of dealing with anger in my family of origin.
  • find my anger does not dissipate.


How can I rid myself of self-destructive responses to anger?

Identify each specific behavior, attitude, or feeling that is self-destructive.

Try to identify the anger at the root of each self-destructive response.


Define the anger at the root of each self-destructive response by listing in my journal:

  • the persons involved:
  • the events involved:
  • why it angers me:
  • how it affects me both then and now:
  • why this anger has so much power over me now:
  • what resentment, revenge, hatred, or rage is involved:
  • how I originally handled this anger:
  • why I haven't dealt completely with this anger yet:
  • what irrational thinking causes me to act this way:
  • what healthy responses to this anger could I substitute:


Perform anger work-outs on each issue until I am able to let go of the anger, forgive those involved, and forget the events.

Begin to extinguish each self-destructive behavior by:

  • asking my spouse or significant other to help me stop this behavior.
  • asking for care and concern from the members of my support network.
  • joining a twelve-step program.


Develop a new set of behavior traits to replace the self-destructive responses to anger, including:

  • the use of assertive I feel statements with people as soon as I feel anger starting.
  • the use of health oriented activities for anxiety, tension, and stress release, like physical exercise or progressive muscle relaxation
  • the use of an internal monitoring system to trigger an alarm when I slip into self-destructive behavior.
  • use of self-esteem enhancing behavior like self-affirmation, positive visual imagery, and self-hypnosis.

Steps to overcoming self-destructive responses to anger


Step 1: I need to identify each self-destructive behavior I use as a response to anger. To do this I will rate each of the one hundred behavior traits listed in Self-Destructive Self-Inventory in the first section of this chapter as to how they impact my life.


Step 2: For every behavior to which I've given a rating of 3 or higher on the Self-Destructive Self-Inventory, I will use the steps outlined in the fourth section of this chapter.


Step 3: Once I've completed the steps to overcoming each of these self-destructive behaviors, I need to do a self-inventory to see if I've accomplished my goal.


Step 4: If after my self-inventory I find I'm still acting in self-destructive ways then I need to return to Step 1, and begin again.