IS YOUR ANGER A PROBLEM?
We have all experienced anger in our lives, may it be towards the IT network that is slow, at somebody else or even towards ourselves and our personal problems. In fact, it is a completely normal human emotion that is healthy when expressed and dealt with correctly. It is when that anger becomes destructive and gets out of control that we feel that we are at the mercy of this unpredictable emotion. It can have a tremendous negative effect on the quality of your life and on your personal relationships. It can be frightening, deeply unsettling and very uncomfortable.
You might have noticed that some people are more angry than others. They are “hotheaded”, chronically irritable, and more intensely aggressive than the average person. They might not always throw things but might display their anger through sulking or withdrawing socially. These types of people are described as having a low tolerance to frustration, inconvenience or annoyance. Taking things into their stride doesn’t exist and are especially infuriated when feeling that the situation is unjust or when they feel that they are corrected for minor mistakes.
Anger is likely to have a negative impact on how other people see you, it can impair your judgement and even get in the way of your success. Yes, it can even have a negative effect on your physical health. Do you remember the last time when you were angry? Can you remember the physical effects it had on you? Did you experience an increased heart rate, tense muscles, shaking hands, clenched fists, goosebumps or felt your face turn pale or red where your veins were becoming visible? Suppressed anger and rage contribute to sleep problems, digestive problems, high blood pressure, an increased risk of respiratory problems, a weakened immune system, heart disease and even a shortened lifespan due to the impact it has on the body.
But anger doesn’t only have negatives. Essentially, anger can be beneficial when a healthy level of emotion is maintained.
Benefits of Anger:
- Firstly, you need to find out what is really behind your anger. Anger is often only the tip of the iceberg as other emotions are hidden beneath the surface and not easy to be seen and therefore big things happen over something small.
Is it masking other feelings such as insecurity, hurt, stress, pain, guilt, shame, frustration, vulnerability or embarrassment? Are you responding to a threat that is making you anxious and that you are in the “fight or flight” mode? Is this an automatic response that you learned from others or from past experiences? Do you have a genetic predisposition, or don’t you know how to solve problems effectively? You could also view the opinion of others as a personal challenge and that you might have a hard time compromising.
By identifying the real source of your frustration, you will be able to communicate your anger better and take clearer and more constructive steps towards a resolution. We need to reach deeper within ourselves and provide insight into ourselves. We need to dig deep, find out what the real cause is and address it at its source.
To be able to identity and label our emotions correctly, talk about them to the point and straightforwardly and where we feel understood, we diminish the negative feeling and arousals that we have been experiencing. Saying this, it is important to mention that having outbursts and tirades will only reinforce your anger problems and negatively fuel the situation.
- Because anger relates to a deep need to control, it functions as a way to withhold benefits from others in order to increase your own welfare. When controlling your anger appropriately, you will be in a better position to fulfil your needs and control your own destiny.
- It increases effective performance, creativity and optimism. Basically, anger energizes us and gives us the strength to overcome stronger enemies by motivating us to stand up for ourselves. You become more creative in finding solutions to problems and you mobilize resources that facilitate the removal of obstacles in your pursuit to your goals. By optimising this creative thought process, you become motivated to solve problems as you are in the need to implement change if things aren’t the way that they are supposed to be. By focussing on this process, you focus more on what you hope to achieve, rather than focusing on the insult, disrespect, exploitation, victimization, pain and insult anger aspects.
- Anger can be used as an affective bargaining tool which may lead to a successful negotiation position. Because anger asserts our position very strongly, it can lead to others compliance where they rethink their position against our own position. It tells others that what we have to tell them is important, that we are standing up for ourselves and that it is important for them to listen to us. This challenge needs to be done in a constructive way where cooperation is encouraged.
- Anger can lead to self-improvement and may enhance emotional intelligence. Because anger can lead to motivation, it can also lead to self-change and self-improvement. You can become a force of positive change by just knowing yourself, your own shortcomings and your own faults. You can become flexible in your response to emotions by embracing uncomfortable emotions rather than giving wings to your anger or by repressing or avoiding these emotions.
So, what sets you off? Are you aware of your triggers? Because stressful events don’t excuse anger, it is important to understand how events affect you so that you can avoid unnecessary aggravation. Do you always get into an altercation when hanging out with the same group of friends? Are you overgeneralizing certain people or situations by using “you always …” or “you never …”? Are you very rigid on your view of certain situations or do you tend to blame others for your problems instead of taking responsibility for your own actions and life? Or are you guilty of jumping to conclusions or assuming what other people are thinking or feeling?
Think about these statements that you can complete “I feel angry when I ... (e.g. feel ignored / am embarrassed / have to follow orders / feel jealous)”, or “I feel angry when other people ... (e.g. are late / are inconsiderate / lie to me / insult me / don’t work as hard as I do)”, or “I feel angry when faced with these events or situations ... (e.g. family arguments / child abuse / name-calling / financial problems / conflict at work / mistreatment of animals)”. These are your triggers. These are the things that sets you off and once you are aware of these things, then you can work to change the way you react to them.
By thinking about everything mentioned above, you might wonder how you can then take control over your anger and managing it correctly.
Managing Your Anger:
- When in the situation, you firstly want to take deep breaths (from your diaphragm). Do the 5-5-5 count process by taking in a deep breath for 5 counts, hold your breath for 5 counts and breathing out slowly for 5 counts. Repeat this until you feel calm and relaxed. Remember, when you are in a situation where your anger is taking over and all rationality will be lost, you want to calm yourself down to be more in control of yourself and your own actions. Keep your cool and let the other person know that you are uncomfortable, experiencing intense emotions and therefore you will not be able to communicate clearly.
- Take note of your own body language. We communicate not only with words, but the way we sit, stand, use our hands or facial expressions often speak louder than words. If you do find that your body is tense, do progressive muscle relaxation where you tense and relax the muscles in your body one section at a time.
- Use humour as a way to defuse a situation. Call it “silly humour”. Find the humour in minor situations, but do not try to laugh off your anger or problems. Rather use humour to help you face your situation more constructively. Be aware that harsh, sarcastic humour is not a healthy way to express anger and that demeaning the other person will not benefit either one of you.
- Write about your feelings. Use a diary to track your anger and rate your anger level. Writing these things down will help you work through the situations and problems at your own pace.
- Avoid dirty fighting techniques and always fight fair. Do not pick a specific time or place for an argument that will aggravate the situation more. Do not escalate the argument from the problem to a personal attack. Do not try to list as many problems as possible, rather stick to the original issue. Do not respond to a complaint by exaggerating a complaint of your own. Do not exaggerate the importance of a problem by saying “if you really … you would …”.
- Change your environment and leave if necessary. If you know that certain parts of the day are particularly stressful, give yourself some personal time where you can prepare yourself for those stressful times, taking a brisk walk around the block is a great option. Alternatively, if you are in the situation where you need to get control over your anger, ask for a timeout and go to a safe place to calm down. Slow the situation down so that you can handle the anger situation in a calculated and positive way. Focus to rather make a good decision than a fast one where you can exercise power and control in dealing with the person who provoked you, thereby you will also be able to make rational decisions.
- Give yourself a reality check. Think of what is making you angry, then decide how important it is in the big picture. Decide whether the situation is really worth getting angry about and is it worth ruining the rest of your day or precious relationships?
- Lastly, but definitely a very important point is to find healthier ways to express your anger. Know when to let something go. Start making positive statements. Make the relationship your priority by strengthening and maintaining the relationship by respecting the point of view of the other person. Be willing to forgive, release the urge to punish and instead find ways to resolve the conflict, and be cautious of your own thought process.
Remember that when you are dealing with an angry person, you need to stay cool, don’t take it personally, listen to the person while they blow off steam, think of solutions together that you both agree on, do not take chances and keep yourself safe (especially when the other person has a weapon).
I would like to quote Mark Twain when he said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”. William Arthur Ward also said, “It is wise to direct your anger towards problems – not people; to focus your energies on answers – not excuses.”. Anger has to be managed and used wisely, we have to keep it in-check because only then can it be used as a powerful instrument to the betterment of ourselves and others.
By mentioning all these techniques and tips above, I still want to make it clear that if you feel that you are not in control of your anger and you feel that you are not coping, to please reach out and speak to somebody to give you guidance and support where necessary and where possible. Therapy can help you to identify your triggers and provide a safe place where you can learn new skills on managing and expressing your anger. Don’t wait until it is to late.
Thank you very much for reading my blog. I truly hope that it helped somebody, somewhere. Please send any feedback or comments to email@example.com and remember to have a look out for a new blog every week.