If you read last week’s post on addiction and anger, then you may be thinking: OK, I get that stuffing down anger leads to depression and anxiety and ultimately sets the stage for substance abuse.
But what’s the alternative? What are we supposed to do instead?
Today, we’ll talk about a powerful healing tool, something we call the “Anger-Hurt-Loving” model. We’ll share what you can do to start healing the underlying core issues that are driving your substance use.
What is the Anger Hurt Loving Model?
Simply put, the Anger Hurt Loving Model is a way of conceptualizing how we humans deal with emotion, both consciously and unconsciously.
It clarifies why we feel what we feel. It’s a tool to help us move forward in recovery. The model looks like this:
How the Addictive Cycle Starts
Anger and Addiction are tightly linked. Whenever we feel anger, there is a hurt underneath as well that triggers it.
For a variety of reasons, sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to feel and express that anger; we cut ourselves off from that emotion. This “cut-off” is represented by the top diagonal line the chart.
Left unchecked, these cut-off feelings of anger can turn inward and become depression. We create an internal wall around the anger.
Most of us also don’t want to feel hurtful emotions either … because they hurt! When we do the same thing with our hurts as we do with our anger – refusing to acknowledge, refusing to feel – we cut them off as well, represented by the lower diagonal line in the chart.
So now that we’ve cut ourselves off and are not going to feel our hurt or our anger, we have our emotions bottled up as well in unhealthy ways. Our emotional energy (represented by the vertical arrows in the chart) bounces back and forth between these internal walls.
This emotional bouncing back in forth that we feel is called anxiety.
And when stress enters into the picture, as it always does in the course of life, the anxiety emotion accelerates into panic.
After all that, is it any wonder that we use? Is it any wonder that we engage in compulsive practices such as gambling, eating disorders, overworking and overspending? We don’t want to feel stress. We don’t want to feel anxiety or panic.
So we numb out.
Looking for What’s Beneath Anger
Here’s the good news: it is possible to respond differently to anger. We don’t have to stuff it down; instead, we can look for what lies beneath it.
When we look beneath anger, we see that there’s an underlying hurt.
How does that work? Let’s take an example that’s relatively minor. Say someone has cut us off in traffic. Even though our minds know it’s not a big deal, we feel a tremendous rage.
We are hurt inside, thinking, How could this so-and-so do this to me?
If our response seems out of proportion to the situation, we can be sure that we’re carrying around a lot of emotional baggage!
When that other car cut us off in traffic, it tripped a wire on some old emotional pain.
Deep down, we’re furious about all the times in the past when others didn’t respect our needs, and moreover, when we ourselves didn’t respect our needs. That’s our underlying source of pain.
The Underlying Hurt
The underlying hurt can be anything that’s causing us emotional pain. It might be unexpressed or unfelt grief or loss. It might be trauma. It might be the fallout from bullying or abuse or neglect.
When we don’t feel safe enough to encounter these hurts head-on, we’re afraid to feel them and so they stay buried within us.
But what many of us don’t realize is that when we go underneath the hurt on the model, we encounter loving. There is an immense capacity to take care of ourselves.
Our Innate Worthiness
One common objection we hear on that point goes like this: “Well, how can you do that if you don’t even like yourself? I hate myself!”
We like how psychotherapist Jodi Aman addressed this question in her Freedom from Anxiety and Addiction interview:
“Even if people [say they] hate themselves, they also defend themselves, don’t they? The fact that they defend themselves at all …. that tells you that they know somewhere that they’re worthy, even though they’re acting out a lot of other ways that they’re unworthy.”
Of course, our defensiveness can also get us into trouble. But the larger point is that there’s a part of us that knows deep down that we’re worth defending.
And when we connect with that underlying love and self-compassion and apply it to the parts of ourselves that hurt, something amazing happens.
Check out our video of the Anger, Hurt, Loving Model on our post “Understanding Anger and Addiction.”
PS – The annual Happiness Happens Day is August 8. Created by The Secret Society of Happy People, this day celebrates the human capacity for happiness and delight.
But if you’re struggling with depression, it can be hard to imagine feeling happiness. Stay tuned for our next post on Addiction and Depression to learn about healing from this prevalent and often-debilitating condition.