Anger is a natural human emotion. We have all felt anger at times. The intensity at which anger can be experienced can vary from annoyance to out of control rage. Anger is an instinctive emotion that is experienced in situations where we feel threatened or provoked. We can also experience anger when we feel we have been deliberately wronged or when our expectations have not been met. Anger can evoke aggressiveness that surfaces in a subconscious effort to protect and defend ourselves. Uncontrolled anger can lead to difficulties in relationships, in the workplace and in other areas of our lives. Uncontrolled anger can also create stress for ourselves and for those around us.
We all deal with anger in different ways and some people experience anger more frequently and intensely than others. Some of us express anger in violent outbursts while others suppress their anger and become grumpy, miserable people who others struggle to be around.
Suppressed anger can result in passive aggressive behaviour. This can cause us to act out our anger indirectly. Manipulation, Criticism, and sarcasm are some ways in which anger can be indirectly expressed. Suppressed anger can also result in self blame. This can lead to loss of confidence, low self esteem and sometimes self harm.
The healthiest and most effective way to deal with anger is by learning to communicate assertively. When we communicate assertively we are able to;
- Clearly express what we need
- Clearly express how we would like our needs met
- Express how we are feeling i.e. angry, disappointed or annoyed, in a manner that does not harm, hurt or demean others
When we communicate assertively, we converse with others showing respect for them and for ourselves.
Learning to deal with our anger more effectively will take time. We are all individuals and we each experience anger for different reasons. It is important for us to develop or implement strategies that will support us, that we are comfortable with ,and that will assist us with making changes.
Anger Management Techniques
Recognise the triggers/warning signs
Stress often occurs before we experience anger. It is important to identify the physical, mental and behavioural effects of stress i.e.
- Physical - increase in heart rate, breathing
- Mental - thoughts and self talk
- Behavioural - irritability, shouting, crying etc
Communicating assertively is the healthiest way to communicate. Learning to be assertive is one of the best ways to manage anger. Communication is about being able to listen to others and express ourselves to others.
- Listening - Often when we experience stress and anger we think and act irrationally, therefore we don't always listen to others, their explanations, thoughts or opinions. It isn't always easy to really listen, especially in the heat of the moment when anger is bubbling. When we communicate assertively we try to listen and see things from the others perspective with consideration and with an open mind. In order to listen, our minds must be open, free from judgement and we need to have a genuine interest in the other.
- Expressing - Communicating assertively means that we can express ourselves effectively and authentically i.e. we are able to explain what our needs (or expectations) are and how we would like them met, in a manner that is understood. Expressing ourselves in this way will not always mean that we get our needs met, but we increase our chances as our requests or expectations are clear. Being assertive also means that we communicate in a respectful way, having consideration for others and an awareness of the consequences of our behaviour. We are therefore able to feel and express frustration, disappointment, annoyance or disagreement without anger or hostility.
There are many relaxation techniques that are effective in assisting us to calm down and manage our anger.
- Counting to 10 slows us down and helps us to gain some perspective about the situation that is causing us anger. As we calm down we will notice that our breathing slows, as will our heart beat. Our shoulders will drop and some tension that we have been holding will also be released.
- Another way to calm ourselves down is to slow our breathing and use imagery (i.e. imagine a situation in which you feel relaxed, happy and content). This technique helps us to restore some calmness and rationality.
Once we have regained some control, our energy is then able to shift from who's right or wrong. We will be able to look deeper with more interest and curiosity regarding what caused us to get angry. In order to manage our anger in the long term we must gain an understanding of the reasons we get angry.
Change our thinking
When we're angry our thinking is often illogical and unreasonable. Be careful when thinking statements such as "never", "always" or "should" as these words are indicators that we have firm ideas about how things 'should be' in our eyes. It is important to consider that others hold different views to us and they also have the right to express them.
When we are frustrated, stressed or angry, the thoughts that we have and the self talk that takes place determines how our anger is expressed. Our behaviour is a direct result of our thoughts. Once we have identified what triggers our anger we will be in a position to choose to think differently. Increasing our awareness of what we think preceding the anger or during it, enables us to chose more realistic, logical thoughts which will help us to stay calm and in control.
Anger can also be caused by worrying or reflecting back on a traumatic event. Regardless of the cause of our anger, physiological changes occur when we experience stress and anger, including the following;
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Breathing speeds up and becomes shallower due to lungs working harder
- Brain chemistry is altered (our thoughts are irrational)
- Constriction of blood vessels in parts of the body
- Perception of pain diminishes
- Feeling of nausea
- Digestion slows
If these physiological changes occur regularly, our health can be severely affected.
YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT MANAGING YOUR ANGER. If you would like to learn more about how you can improve your coping skills and manage your anger, you can contact Victoria by telephone or email.