Learn How to Manage Your Anger
We all feel angry from time to time. It is normal and healthy to experience this emotion. If, however, you feel angry all the time or your anger manifests in explosive arguments or harmful behaviors, then your anger is controlling you rather than the other way around. And when your anger runs your life, many parts of your health and happiness can suffer. If you can relate, then this guide is right for you. Anger management can help you gain control over your angry behaviors and learn to express this emotion in a healthier manner.
Emotions themselves are neither good nor bad. They each convey meaning to you and provide valuable information. The feeling of anger is not the problem; instead, the issues that arise are most often the result of not expressing your anger well or using it to impact other people negatively.
Many people falsely believe that anger should be “let out” for you to be healthy, or that you cannot control feeling angry. While it is true that you should not suppress emotions, venting is not a healthier option. This type of behavior just fuels your frustration and is not a productive solution to your situation. While it is true that you cannot always control how you feel toward a situation or a person, you can control how you allow that anger to influence your behaviors and choices.
Anger should never guide your actions, as it can result in damaged relationships and interfere with your ability to enjoy success. It also impairs your judgment, as you are thinking with the emotional center of your brain instead of the rational, logical portion.
Types of Anger
There are a few different types of anger that can help you understand the different reactions you may have. These are:
- Passive Aggression - If you don’t like confrontation or admitting that you are angry, you can get passive-aggressive. This can be shown as becoming silent, procrastinating, sulking, and pretending that everything is fine. This type of anger is caused by a need to be in control.
- Open Aggression – This is the type of anger that happens if you lose control, lash out, and get physically or verbally aggressive towards others or yourself. This can be in the forms of fighting, bullying, blackmailing, shouting, and criticism.
- Assertive Anger – This is the healthiest type of anger. It happens when you usually think before you speak, are confident in doing so, and are still open to the “other side”. It means you are patient; don’t raise your voice; can communicate how you feel emotionally, and try to understand how others feel. Dealing with anger assertively demonstrates maturity and care about the people around you and yourself.
Understanding Anger Management
Expressing your anger in ways that do not harm yourself or other people is the goal of anger management. Many people believe that if you are hot-tempered that is just part of who you are, and it cannot be changed. That is false. You have more control over your emotions and how you express them than you may realize, and anger management teaches you how to tame this harmful emotion and learn to express it healthily.
The goal of anger management is not to suppress your angry feelings but to understand what they are telling you and to learn to express them to other people in a more productive way without losing control. Learning to manage your anger will help you feel like other people understand you better, your needs are better met, and your relationships are stronger.
Through practice and changes in your behavior, you can learn to control how you allow anger to make you behave and treat other people and yourself. Over time, you learn healthier strategies for expressing anger as well as becoming better at identifying the real source of your anger which is often a different emotion, such as shame, embarrassment, loss, hurt, or frustration. Once you know why you feel angry, it is easier to express and process it, too.
Why Anger Management is Important – Consequences of continual anger
Anger is nothing more than a primary human emotion, just like happiness, sadness, anxiety, or excitement.
However, when you get angry frequently and too easily, you can negatively influence your relationships and damage your physical health. Anger comes with a prolonged release of stress hormones that can destroy neurons in areas of the brain responsible for your ability to think clearly, your judgment, your decision-making, and your short-term memory.
To understand the mechanism, you must understand that anger creates a surge of energy. Then, chemicals like adrenaline enter the bloodstream which increases your heart rate and blood flow and tenses your muscles. This results in the compromise of the immune system and cardiovascular system.
Excessive and uncontrollable anger hurts your career, your relationships, and your self-esteem. Depending on how strong your rage is, and your behaviors related to showing your anger, it can even end up in financial and legal problems, if you harm or threaten others. Anger can also be the cause of substance abuse, domestic violence, and abuse.
For those who struggle with chronic anger, it is especially important to learn skills to identify and manage this emotion. This will lead to growth and change.
What causes anger?
Understanding anger, its roots, triggers, and consequences, is the key to managing it.
It is fascinating how some can explode in rage when angry and others can shake it off easily. Studies in psychology have shown that anger results from “a combination of the trigger event, the qualities of the individual, and the individual’s appraisal of the situation”.
- Trigger: an event that provokes anger.
- Qualities of the individual: include personality traits, like competitiveness, narcissism, low tolerance for frustration, and the state they are in which can be one of anxiety or exhaustion.
- Individual’s cognitive appraisal of the situation: the situation may be appraised as blameworthy, unjustified, punishable, unfair, etc…
Combining these components determines if and why people get mad.
Why do some people get angrier than others?
Some people are more prone to get angry, given their personality traits. Becoming angry is associated with high neuroticism and low agreeableness, and it can be linked to the following habits and attitudes:
- You believe your rights and privileges are superior to those of other people.
- Focus on things that are out of personal control.
- External regulation of emotions. It makes you very dependent on the environment and you try to regulate your emotions by controlling one’s environment.
- External locus of control. You believe that your well-being is controlled by external sources.
- Refusal to see other perspectives.
- Low tolerance for discomfort and ambiguity.
- Hyperfocus on blame.
- A fragile ego.
There is also an ongoing question of who gets angrier – men or women. Well, research shows that there is a common misconception that men get angrier than women. What has been proven is that masculinity may be associated with anger, if threatened.
How can you manage your anger?
Anger, just like all emotions should be monitored with self-awareness, so that it doesn’t turn into hostile, aggressive, or violent behavior toward others or yourself.
There are support groups that you can attend, that will help you understand your anger, identify its triggers, and develop anger-management skills.
Cognitive restructuring therapy can teach you how to reframe unhealthy, inflammatory thoughts.
If you want to deal with anger effectively:
- Get more sleep. Sleep deprivation makes it harder to control your emotions in general, as it is an essential part of emotional and mental health. Seek better and healthier sleep to prevent yourself from being carried away by anger.
- Consider different interpretations. When you’re angry, take into account alternative perspectives of the situation.
- Take deep breaths.
- Accept your anger. Know that it is ok to feel it, just like any other emotion. This may come from being wronged, treated unfairly, or provoked, but you should still express it assertively.
MayoClinic has provided a list of tips that are essential to managing your anger:
- You should think before you speak. Whenever your anger gets triggered, it is easy to be impulsive and say something that you may later regret. Before reacting, take a few deep breaths, process your thoughts and emotions, and then express yourself. By doing this, you will be able to respond more positively and assertively.
- Express your emotion when in a state of calm. In the same line of thought as the previous tip, express your concerns and needs when you’re calm, without trying to hurt others or trying to control them.
- Practice physical activity. Exercising helps to reduce stress which is a pre-anger possible state. You can do this by adding it to your weekly routine to get long-term benefits or choosing to get some movement when you’re in a state of anger - going for a walk or run is a good option.
- Take a timeout. During a stressful day give yourself short breaks of quiet time. This will help you feel better prepared to handle upcoming events without getting angry.
- Identify possible solutions. Identifying what makes you mad is a way to focus on possible realistic solutions. This means that you would be avoiding your triggers. If your partner is late for dinner every night, try scheduling meals later in the evening. However, if solutions are not possible or available to you, understand and accept that some things are out of your control. Remind yourself that acting on emotions might make things worse.
- Stick with “I” statements. Whenever you are expressing your concerns or describing a problem, always choose “I” statements. This is a more respectful and specific approach than criticizing or placing blame on others.
- Don’t hold a grudge. Forgiving someone who made you angry might help you learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship. It is a powerful tool. Finding yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice is easier than you might think.
- Use humor to release tension. Humor is a helpful tool to face what’s making you angry and any unrealistic expectations you may have for how things should go. This doesn’t mean being sarcastic, though, as it can hurt other people’s feelings and make things worse.
- Practice relaxation skills. Practice deep-breathing exercises, listen to music, practice journaling or meditation, or do a few yoga poses – you will know better what is more effective for you to relax. If not, try different things until you find the ideal for you.
- Seek help if needed. It can be challenging to control your anger, especially if you have anger issues or your anger causes you to do regretful things or hurt others around you.
What should you do when dealing with angry people?
Just like you, everyone can feel angry. So, as important as it is to know how to manage your anger, you should also know how to act when interacting with an angry person.
First, you should ask yourself if the anger is justified and if you can do anything to help resolve the situation.
Second, remain calm. Keep your voice calm and soft and avoid yelling or swearing.
Third, know when to disengage. If you can't see the possibility of a positive resolution, you may end the conversation or walk away.
Fourth, make sure you are safe. Being angry doesn’t necessarily mean being violent. However, if you feel that you are in danger, remove yourself from the situation.
The bottom line
Anger is a strong emotion that can come easily to people, some more than others. It is important to deal with it positively so that you don’t damage both your health and relationships.
Although becoming a master of anger management may take some time and hard work, it does get easier over time and will improve your life in many ways. Learning to express your feelings of anger more appropriately will enhance your wellness and allow you to lead a more satisfying, happier life.