What is Anger?
Anger is a sense of upset with someone or something we feel has wronged us. It can vary from minimal irritation to full blown rage.
Anger can be triggered by outside forces, or internal thoughts. Like most emotions, anger expresses itself through mental and physical symptoms.
We have evolved to experience anger as a protective measure. It may trigger fight mode, allowing us to defend ourselves when necessary.
However, most situations where we feel angry aren’t life-threatening. Under these circumstances, it’s inappropriate to act aggressively.
We should allow ourselves to feel angry, as it’s helpful for processing emotions and creating solutions. However, we must control our expression of anger. Otherwise, we risk hurting others, our relationships and ourselves.
Why are Some People More Easily Angered Than Others?
We likely know someone who has been described as “short-tempered”. Such people are said to have low frustration tolerance. They may lash out more quickly and severely than others.
Quick-to-anger individuals may believe they shouldn’t have to experience annoyances. They may struggle to let things go or feel slighted more easily.
Low frustration tolerance may have genetic roots. As well, the environment we grow up in impacts our ability to handle anger.
If we were taught that anger is bad, we may have suppressed it. As such, we didn’t learn healthy ways to deal with it. So, when we do experience it, it’s explosive.
If our caregivers didn’t model healthy coping skills, we likely never learned them. Luckily, we still have the chance to develop them!
Identify the Cause
Typically, there will be triggers for anger. Once we identify them, we can either avoid them or find ways to cope. Triggers may include:
- Feeling disrespected/unappreciated
- Feeling powerless
- Unjust treatment
- Feeling threatened
- Traumatic memories
- Personal problems
Identify the Symptoms of Anger
As mentioned, anger is a mental and physical experience. If we know the signs, we can notice when we’re experiencing them. This allows us to take a step back and consider how we want to respond.
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Increased heart rate
- Clenched fists
- Muscle tension/clenched jaw
- Flushing (hot ears, red face/neck, etc.)
- Sweaty palms
- Stomach ache
Learn Better Communication Techniques
Communicating our anger can be empowering. Tactful communication helps us express ourselves, and also strengthens relationships. We learn to talk about our needs, while others learn the best way to meet them. Ex.
- Cool down. If needed, we can walk away in the heat of the moment. We can simply say, “I need time to cool down.” This gives us a chance to think about what we want to say. Then, we can express ourselves without saying things we may regret.
- Be assertive. Assertive communication requires us to express ourselves directly, without being aggressive. We should explain exactly what we’re feeling, why and what we need to feel better.
- Consider timing: We should think about when the recipient will be most open to our feedback. Ex. someone may not respond well if they’re falling asleep, or in a rush. We should use common sense to determine a good time to communicate. This increases the likelihood that they’ll hear us fully. Thus, a more sincere resolution can be reached.
Start an Anger Journal
Anger journaling can help us track the cause and intensity of our anger. Eventually, a pattern will emerge. This pattern brings awareness to our triggers.
When such situations arise, we’re can more easily say, “I’m feeling triggered”. This awareness makes it less likely that we’ll react aggressively; it gives us time to pause and think.
When anger journaling, we can consider:
- What caused the stress/anger?
- What about the situation was upsetting?
- What thoughts were associated with it?
- On a scale from 1-10, how intense was the anger?
- What was the response?
- How did the response impact others?
- How did the response impact us?
- What consequences did the response have?
Practice Relaxation Techniques
During moments of fury, we can practice relaxation techniques to ease emotional and physical tension. We can do whatever (constructive) activity helps us relax, like:
- Deep breathing
- Taking a bath
- Progressive muscle relaxation
Seek Anger Management Counseling
Sometimes, we may try to manage anger alone, with limited success. Or perhaps we don’t know where to start. If so, professional counseling could be the beginning of a healthier approach to anger.
Anger is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be uncontrollable. We can choose to take charge of our anger, and channel it into something productive.
So, identify triggers, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and show anger who’s boss!