There are many types of anger, and if you don’t feel at least one of them occasionally, congratulations on being almost a perfect human being. Most of us feel anger even if we don’t always express it. Some are adept at presenting a smiling face while seething underneath. How do you deal with anger?
Anger simmers or rages. It rises up slowly, almost unnoticed like a boiling pan. Or it strikes as if from nowhere. It overwhelms and consumes. It energizes, empowers and purifies. Anger scares, shames, and puts us in the wrong. Anger makes us bold, invincible and incredibly right. Anger is negative, painful, hurtful and restrictive. Anger is positive, expressive and freeing. Anger is all of those things and every shade in between. Most people hate it when they feel angry; others are addicted to the rush it gives them and look for reasons to express anger.
We're examining the nature of anger, its negative effects and positive benefits. Included are 10 tips on how to deal with anger so that it becomes an occasional friend rather than a constant foe.
What is Anger?
Anger is one of the most recognizable basic emotions. It arises when your attention is focused on an unwanted thing, whether it is someone’s behavior or an inanimate object. It might show up as frustration, irritation, aggression. It can be clear, calm and directed, or it can fill your mind and cause you to rage at anyone and everything. Depending on the circumstances, anger can be an appropriate or inappropriate response.
Most of us want to be in control. We don’t enjoy it when an emotion blocks out rational thought.
The Positive Benefits of Anger
The release that can accompany a burst of anger is beneficial. Emotions which have been suppressed or ignored are given the chance to escape. If this means the anger is gone and normal life resumes after the necessary peace negotiations then all is well. This is healthy anger.
The Negative Effects of Anger
When anger is never released appropriately, it simmers below the surface. The person swallows it down, forces it back. This can cause all kinds of problems – from physical illness to mental health issues.
If anger is used to threaten, frighten or control another person, it becomes a weapon and is dangerous to all concerned.
The Anger Scale
Think of a linear scale with anger at point 0. Move your emotions to the right of the scale and they improve. To the left, they become more negative. So if you are on the scale at, let’s say -5, you may be feeling despair or guilt. As you move towards anger at 0, you start feeling better. You’re getting angry, which feels a lot better than despair. You feel empowered.
Should you be moodling along in mild frustration at +2, then something happens and your emotions dip to the angry feeling place, you will feel worse. At this point you have a choice to use the anger to make things better, or you give in to your rage and say hurtful and sometimes, irrevocable words.
Of course, these are just examples; there are so many levels and shades of anger that it’s impossible to categorize them neatly. Yet, the notion of an ‘anger scale’ is quite a useful tool as it can cause you to stop and think where you are on it, emotionally speaking, thus diminishing your anger at the same time.
What Is Anger, Really?
Unhealthy anger is resistance. It is resistance disguised in who is right/who is wrong. It’s resistance wrapped up in a temper tantrum. It’s resistance expressing itself in bullying or aggressive behavior. It’s resistance rolled in self-hate. It’s resistance born out of fear, or frustration or resentment. Anger is resistance and disallowing. It is extreme 'pushing against' something unwanted.
Yet healthy anger is the opposite, it breaks through resistance, blasts away the obstacles, releases tension and eventually dissipates the stress hormones cortisone, norepinephrine and adrenalin.
How To Deal With Anger: 10 Anger Management Tips
1. Own it. Recognize what kind of anger you are feeling. Does it feel like a release? That you finally have a chance to express your feelings? Speak from your heart. Use the ‘I’ pronoun, rather than ‘you’. For example, “I feel ignored,” rather than “You always ignore me.” This is about you.
2. Shake it off. Does your anger come from stress? Take a moment to remove yourself from the situation. Shake your hands loosely from the wrists for a few seconds. Exhale fully. Feel the energy change from negative to positive. This can be helpful when your anger is directed at a child.
3. Hold that thought. Breathe and count to ten before saying it aloud. Do you still want to say that thing? Would you care to rephrase it as an ‘I’ statement?
4. Could the other person be right? Has your ego gone off on one because it feels slighted, insulted or embarrassed? Is your anger unjustified? Ask yourself what is really going on. You could be using this incident as a reason to express a different problem. Don’t sustain your anger as a way to mask humiliation. Apologize and walk away. Make amends later.
5. Recognize your own unique physical signs of impending anger. Everyone has a warning mechanism. You might find you sweat, feel your pulse racing, stomach tightening or your fists clenching. As soon as you notice your signs of anger beginning, take yourself out of the situation and work out how to deal with the problem. Combine with ‘shake it off’ above.
6. Divert your anger into physical activity. Cleaning is always good as there is a positive benefit. Bang things around, mutter and take it out on the kitchen cabinets and the stove. You could also go for a walk or a run.
7. Express your anger through art. Write, paint or do whatever it takes. A journal can take the place of the object/cause of your anger. You can say whatever you want. Get those angry words down on paper. It’s as good as saying them out loud and far less hurtful. Call the other person all the names you like. Later you can burn, delete, or paint over it it. You wouldn’t want that hanging around unless it is a great piece of art or creative writing.
8. Love yourself. Caring about how you feel is the most important thing you can do for yourself. How you feel affects everything, from the way you look to how healthy you are. Constant anger takes its toll, so give yourself some love and attention.
9. Is it you, or is it them? Before you let anger take over, ask yourself is the other person hurting? Are they displaying anger because it’s the only route they can take? Show compassion instead of retaliation.
10. Know your triggers. Perhaps it’s your mother, or someone at work? Maybe you get angry because you can’t change a situation or put right an injustice? Maybe politicians set you off? Do your best to avoid these triggers. Merely recognizing them can help you deal with them. Humor helps a lot.
Choose to use anger wisely. It can be a powerful technique to blast through negative emotion, or it can ruin your life. You can learn to control it so it cannot control you unless you let it. Go forth in peace.