“Anybody can become angry – that is easy! But to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power.
Anger is part of being human
We all feel angry at times – it’s part of being human. It isn’t a ‘bad’ emotion; in fact, it is a useful, energizing emotion in its place. It drives us into action against threats, it allows us to define our boundaries, it can help us to realize when something is not working for us and encourage change or motivate us to achieve our goals. Can even be a catalyst for social change.
And supressing anger is not a healthy response. Recognizing our healthy anger, express it in a healthy way and let it go is necessary.
However, anger becomes a serious problem when you express your anger through destructive behaviour. This means you react angrily when something does not go as you wish and your well-being and the well-being of people around you are seriously affected.
This also means that your ability to feel other emotions is blocked and you can’t find alternative ways to express yourself.
It is ok to feel anger. What is not ok is to act on it and in any way harm other people or other creatures.
Anger is different from aggression.
The trouble is that anger and rage are primitive emotion that activate our emotional brain and blocks our rational brain.
There are many sources of frustration and this part of our brain has not yet caught up with the complexities of modern life. Things don’t work out how we expect. People don’t do what they’re supposed to do. We don’t get what we want… It is really frustrating that we cannot control everything, isn’t it?
Some people express angry feelings outwards, through physical and verbal aggression and violence, some people direct their anger inwards, such as believing they hate themselves or hurting themselves or denying their basic needs.
The chemical fluctuations that anger activates in our bodies make us focus on the “threat”, without paying attention to anything else around us. The emotional brain is on fire and our rational perspective is completely lost.
As we all know, excessive and misdirected anger is not great for our relationships with other people, at home or at work.
What’s more, if we are in the habit of getting angry when things don’t go as we expect, research shows that our health will suffer. Chronic anger is the biggest predictor of early death through heart disease; bigger even than chronic smoking.
Anger can be a learned habit
Most of the time, anger is a learned habit. Angry feelings are often influenced by our upbringing. Maybe you have grown up in a family where being permanently angry was the norm. This could mean you have angry outbursts whenever you don’t like the way someone is behaving, or whenever you are in a situation you don’t like.
Or maybe you have been brought up to believe that you shouldn’t complain and have been punished for expressing anger as a child. This can make you turn your anger against yourself or cause angry outbursts at inappropriate times. It may also make you feel angrier in general, leading you to react more aggressively in other situations.
Sometimes your present feeling of anger is related to a past difficult experience. Maybe you experienced traumatic situations in the past or you were bullied and you couldn’t express yourself at the time. This means that you find certain situations particularly difficult to deal with, and are more likely to react angrily. But the anger you are feeling in the present is reflecting your past situation and is not entirely about what is happening now.
Anger and your imagination
Anger can be generated – and aggravated – through misuse of the imagination. Anger can be thought of as a type of ‘negative trance state’. We are totally focused on what is bothering us and stuck in the emotional mode. We all have an imagination, but misusing imagination can create problems for us. You can even generate angry feelings and physiological reactions by remembering past anger, or imagining that you are angry.
If we get in a state of trance when we are very angry, it makes sense to use a trance state to stop anger from being triggered too easily or too often.
Guided Imagery (Hypnosis) complemented with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you understand the cause of your anger, give you tools to quickly calm yourself down and channel that energy into something creative.
This way you can smooth your emotional brain, think much more clearly in frustrating situations and creatively find solutions to resolve your problems. Obviously, this will improve your relationships and your performance in every circumstance.
Anger triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response. The adrenal gland floods the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Heart rates, blood pressure and respiration increase, the body’s temperature rises and the skin perspires. The mind is sharpened and focused.
Some of the short and long-term problems that have been linked to unmanaged anger include:
- Digestion problems such as abdominal pain
- Skin problems such as eczema,
- Heart attack
- Increased anxiety
- Loss of friendships
There are three types of anger which help shape how we react in any situation. These are: Passive Aggression, Open Aggression, and Assertive Anger.
Many don’t like to admit that they are angry, because they don’t like confrontation – this is called passive aggression. This comes out in things like becoming silent when you are angry, sulking, procrastinating (putting stuff off you need to do), and pretending “everything is fine”.
On the other hand, many people tend to lash out in anger and rage, becoming physically or verbally aggressive and can oftentimes hurt themselves or others. This is called Open Aggression. This comes out in fighting, bullying, blackmailing, accusing, shouting, bickering, sarcasm and criticism.
The healthy way to deal with anger is by being controlled and confident, talking and listening, and being open to help in dealing with the situation. This Assertive anger can help relationships to grow. It means thinking before you speak, being confident in how you say it, yet being open and flexible to the ‘other side.
Anger warning signs
Anger warning signs are different for everyone, but often include some of the following. Some of these warning signs might start when you are only a little irritated and others might start when you are very angry. Circle the warning signs that apply to you.
Let’s challenge some thoughts
Can it ever be the case that a person can feel offended even though no offence was intended? Can you recall a time when you realized you had no reason to be offended? Describe
Do people, do you suppose, ever have the feeling they are totally in the right when they are enraged but later, once they’ve calmed down, actually see some aspects of the other person’s point of view? Describe a time when that happened.
Create a list of your triggers and review them daily so you would notice them before they become a problem.
What makes anger come alive? Where are you? What are you doing? Who is with you? Give some examples.
When is most probable to get angry? When you are tired? When do you have a bad day at work? When do you feel you are not in control? When do you feel disrespected?
Does any of these things make it worth it for you to waste energy and damage your health, lose your friends/partner or go to prison?
Were there other emotions present when you felt angry? For example, felt insecure, fearful, frustrated, need to be in control, need attention, etc?
What to do – Anger integration
|Recognize your early anger
|Accept that your anger is sending you a message. Notice in your body where do you feel the anger. Experience it as a sign and ask what is the unmet need behind the behaviour. Pay attention to the early signs that you are getting enraged.
|Take a time out
|Temporarily leave the situation that is making you angry. If other people are involved, explain to them that you need a few minutes alone to calm down. Problems usually aren’t solved when one or more people are angry. The goal of diversions is to buy yourself time. If you can distract yourself for at least 30 minutes, you’ll have a better chance of dealing with your anger healthily.
|Breathing and being present
|Take a minute to focus on your breathing. Breathe in on a count of 4, hold, out on a count of 7. Stay there feeling the respiration. Chang from imagination to observation, from the past or the future to the present: Look around you and focus your attention on your surroundings – colours, shapes, sounds, smells, sensation in your body.
|Engage your prefrontal cortex
|Do something that forces the neocortex in your brain to engage, such as counting backwards in threes from 50 – it is enough to keep the rational, thinking brain in control.
|Imagine a relaxing experience or place. What do you see, feel, hear, or smell? Spend a few minutes imagining every detail of your relaxing scene.
|Move your body
|Chemicals released in your brain during exercise create a sense of relaxation and well-being. Go for a walk or other type of exercise you enjoy
|Think of the consequences
|What will be the outcome of an anger-fuelled action? Will arguing convince the other person that you are right? Will this outcome help you achieve your end goals? Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?
|I can take control of my anger and my life
I am in the driver’s seat
I chose how to act in any situation.
I am the master of my life. I don’t react – I choose my actions.
My anger is a habit and is temporary. When I calm down, I can resolve this situation and find creative solutions
I hope this will help you to manage this important emotion. It takes time to change an habit. It takes time to learn new skills. But you can do it with practice and patience. It is a question of time and training.
If you are interested in learning about assertiveness and boundaries and how to effectively protect your space, Check this article