Many people think their anger isn’t a problem because it surfaces only once in a while. How would you like to live next to a volcano that erupted only once in a while?
We all know what anger is, and we’ve all felt it — whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage.
Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems — problems at work, in your relationships, and the overall quality of your life. It can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an impulsive and powerful emotion
The nature of anger
Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. Like other emotions, it’s accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up.
It can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person or an event, or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, neither good nor bad. Like any emotion, it conveys a message, telling you that a situation is upsetting, unjust, or threatening. If your reaction to anger is to explode, however, that message never has a chance to be conveyed.
So, while it’s perfectly normal to feel angry when you’ve been mistreated or wronged, anger becomes a problem when you express it in a way that harms yourself or others.
You might think that emitting your anger is healthy, that the people around you’re too sensitive, that your anger is justified, or that you need to show your fury to get respect. But the truth is that anger is much more likely to hurt the way people see you, impair your judgment, and get in the way of success.
The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings, and behaviors, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary for our survival.
On the other hand, we can’t physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us; laws, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far our anger can take us.
Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive.
Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior or a personality that seems perpetually mocking and hostile.
Are you too angry?
There’re psychological tests that measure the intensity of angry feelings, how prone to anger you are, and how well you handle it.
But chances are good that if you do have a problem with anger, you already know it. If you find yourself acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening, you might need help finding better ways to deal with this emotion.
Types of anger
Three types of anger help shape how we react in a situation that makes us angry.
Many don’t like to admit that they’re angry, because they don’t like it. This comes out in things like becoming silent when you’re angry, sulking, procrastinating, and pretending that everything’s fine. It comes from a need to be in control. Want a hand with dealing with it?
On the other hand, many people tend to hit out in anger and rage, becoming physically or verbally aggressive and can often hurt themselves or others. This comes out in fighting, bullying, blackmailing, accusing, shouting, backbiting, sarcasm, and criticism.
The healthy way to deal with anger is by being controlled and confident, talking and listening, and open to help in dealing with the situation. It means thinking before you speak, being confident in how you say it, yet open and flexible to the other side. It means being patient; not raising your voice; communicating how you’re feeling emotionally, and trying to understand what others are feeling. When you deal with anger assertively, you demonstrate that you’re mature and care about your relationships and yourself.
Importance of forgiveness
Forgiveness is always important; if a person has apologized for making you angry, or if you realize that the situation isn’t worth it, be open to forgive. And willing to be forgiven and forgive yourself.
If you understand the heart of forgiveness to the core, it’ll help you to calm down and will help your relationships with others to flourish.
Effects of anger
Chronic anger that flares up all the time or spirals out of control can have serious consequences for your:
- Physical health: Constantly operating at high levels of stress and anger makes you more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, a weakened immune system, insomnia, and high blood pressure.
- Mental health: Chronic anger consumes huge amounts of mental energy, and clouds your thinking, making it harder to concentrate or enjoy life. It can also lead to stress, depression, and other mental health problems.
- Career: Constructive criticism, creative differences, and heated debate can be healthy. But lashing out only alienates your colleagues, supervisors, or clients and erodes their respect.
- Relationships: Anger can cause lasting scars in the people you love most and get in the way of friendships and work relationships. Explosive anger makes it hard for others to trust you, speak honestly, or feel comfortable — and is especially damaging to children.
How does anger affect the brain?
Anger before impacting our body affects the brain first. Our brain is similar to an alarm system. It triggers all the parts of our body when we happy, sad, excited accordingly, and also are responsible for the release of adrenaline which makes us more responsive and reactive.
Brain releases adrenaline and stress hormones responsible for controlling the heart rate and blood pressure. During the times when we’re angry, the secretion of these’s high resulting in heart attacks and high blood pressure. Not only that, but it also compromises the neurons in the hypothalamus, the brain’s command center for the response of stress.
Many people think that anger management is about learning to suppress your anger. But never getting angry isn’t a healthy goal. Anger will come out regardless of how hard you try to compress it down.
The true goal of anger management isn’t to suppress feelings of anger, but rather to understand the message behind the emotion and express it healthily without losing control. When you do, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll also be more likely to get your needs met, be better able to manage conflict in your life, and strengthen your relationships.
Mastering the art of anger management takes work, but the more you practice, the easier it’ll get. And the payoff is huge. Learning to control your anger and express it appropriately will help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a healthier, more satisfying life.
The steps to anger management
The problem, of course, happens when the anger isn’t resolved. There is a five-step process that a person can go through to effectively deal with their anger.
- Admit it: Some don’t like to admit they’re angry. However, to begin resolution you need to be objectively aware of just how angry or irritated you feel. When you acknowledge the severity of your emotions, then you can begin to do something about them.
- Vent it: There’re two types of venting — physical release and emotional release. A physical release may assist in an immediate reduction of emotions, but its benefit is only temporary. The emotional form of venting is required. This type of venting is typically in the form of talking through your feelings with an objective another person. The person you speak with could be a therapist or counselor, or it could be several of your friends. Just don’t jeopardize a friendship by dumping too much negative emotion on one person.
- Plan it: Once the emotion has reduced to the point that you’re thinking more rationally then you begin to plan how to deal with feelings or to deal with the circumstances that have caused them. This is where a professional counselor can prove to be invaluable. They’ve got access to a wide collection of resources to assist you in dealing with anger.
- Do it: Once planned, the next step is to discipline yourself to carry out the activities. One interesting is to write a letter expressing your outrage at the person who inflicted this pain on you. Then read it carefully to make sure you’ve included everything. Read it again, several times if you like, and burn the letter. You’ve got it out. When externalized, emotions lose their power.
- Forget it: Some find this a strange final step. The reality is that if you’ve completed the four steps listed above, forgetting will happen as a natural consequence. As you pursue other meaningful activities, the powerful emotions will eventually die a natural death. In some exceptionally difficult cases, more effort and professional help may be required.
Additional anger management tips
- Think before you speak: In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything — and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.
- Once you’re calm, express your anger: As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non-confrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.
- Get some exercise: Physical activity can help reduce the stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.
- Take a timeout: Timeouts aren’t just for children. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.
- Identify possible solutions: Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child’s messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening — or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything and might only make it worse.
- Stick with “I” statements: To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes” instead of “You never do any housework.”
- Don’t hold a grudge: Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.
- Use humor to release tension: Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what’s making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.
- Practice relaxation skills: When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as TAKE IT EASY. You might also listen to music, write in a journal, or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.
- Know when to seek help: Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret, or hurts those around you.
Anger in ancient scriptures
If you’re a person who believes more in religion, you’ll be glad to know that’s much written on the topic of anger.
Anger leads to clouding of judgment, which results in bewilderment of the memory. When the memory is bewildered, the intellect gets destroyed; and when the intellect is destroyed, one is ruined.Bhagavad Gita 2:63
Keep your temper under control; it’s foolish to harbor a grudge.Ecclesiastes 7:9
Those who spend in prosperity and adversity, those who curb anger, and those who pardon people; God love such beautiful-doers.Quran 3:134
If wronged, you shouldn’t wrong in return. One’s anger, if not subdued, burns ourselves; if subdued, it procures the virtues of the doers of good acts. You should never give pain to others by cruel words. Never defeat your enemies by despicable means. Never utter sinful and burning words as may give pain to others.Mahabharata, The Book of Beginning, 86:7-9
There’s a lot of information about anger and its management in ancient wisdom. All the scriptures, epics, or holy books have spoken about the topic of anger.
Anger is a leading cause of damaged marriages, abused children, and violence in the home, school, and workplace.