Anger is a normal human emotion that develops in response to a perceived unfairness or injustice. Though unpleasant, anger has a purpose. When managed effectively, anger doesn’t have lasting negative consequences and can cue appropriate action.
When it’s not managed effectively, or occurs very frequently, anger becomes disruptive to a person’s life. Hints to festering aggression include tightened muscles, rapid breath, sweating, racing thoughts and fiery red cheeks.
Learning how to control even small bouts of anger can remind us that we are in charge and we do have the power to handle the issue. Anger doesn’t have to guide or direct our actions. When it does, however, it is our choice, not anyone else’s.
We choose to yell at the server for mistakes. We choose to lash out at our spouses. We choose to slam the door or storm out of the house. We choose to scream and shout. We choose to use words that are damaging.
While feeling angry is perfectly normal and OK, hurting someone as a result of the anger is never OK. Most of us regret what was said in an angry fit. Like a tornado, anger has the potential to wreak havoc on our lives.
Making the choice to handle anger productively requires self-exploration and small changes. We can begin by examining what kinds of situations trigger angry feelings or outbursts. As always, a list of the top culprits can offer senses of self-awareness and insight.
After a list is created, it is then helpful to consider what kind of thought processes are behind the triggers. Is this a sensitivity from a previous life event or circumstance? Is it tied to something that occurred in childhood?
Whatever the rationale, the thoughts behind the anger can clue us into the purpose of it. Often times, we feel as though we’ve been wronged or treated unfairly. We feel like someone has been rude or inconsiderate of us. Thus, we react to these thoughts with anger and distress.
Here’s the deal: when we boil over and unleash that aggression inappropriately, we are no longer controlling the anger. Rather, that anger is controlling us. We are suddenly victims to our emotion, moving to its direction and command. At that point, we’ve lost. Many individuals, who are prone to angry outbursts, feel like they’ve won because they are empowered and vindicated when acting out.
What about the other person, though? Can we truly win at all when someone else’s feelings or safety have been compromised? I don’t think so.
Now, I’m not saying we can’t be assertive and stand up for ourselves. Of course, this is very important to maintaining emotional well-being. Too many times, however, we’ve been witness to someone else’s explosiveness. The trick is harnessing the anger and turning it into something useful – and not a dangerous weapon.
To make the anger more effective, we can consider examining our thoughts and challenging the ones that aren’t helpful or logical. Rigid and unwavering thoughts are typically building blocks to problems. Expecting the world to always be fair, just and polite is unrealistic. Expecting that everyone always follows the rules is also unhelpful. When we begin to think in such rigid terms, we are setting ourselves up to feel frustrated and angry.
Consider the last time you were angry at a car for driving too slowly. As humans, we often think, “They should be driving the speed limit,” “I’m going to be late because of this person,” “Why can’t they speed up” or “I’m sick of bad drivers.” The perceived unfairness moves our aggression to the point of road rage or physical symptoms of anger. At the very least, it doesn’t improve our day.
At that point, we have handed that power over, guided only by our emotions. To curtail this reaction, we must learn how to first calm down. When we become angry, our thoughts are likely racing and propelling the angry feelings. Once we are calm, we know we are handling the situation appropriately because we are directed by more relaxed thoughts and feelings.
What is it that we’re always telling kids when they’re angry, anyway? We tell them to take some deep breaths, count to 10, take a time out, go to their room or leave until they’ve found a way to calm down. These rules still apply to adults and can be equally beneficial. Sometimes, after we’ve managed to calm down, we realize that the issue wasn’t that big of a deal.
The situation looks a lot different once we’ve managed to chill out. Then, if we’re still unhappy, we can communicate what we’re feeling in a respectful manner. This increases the likelihood of resolving the problem. Using I-statements to express what is bothering you can help.
Saying, “When I come home to the dishes stacked up in the sink, I feel upset and overwhelmed.” This sounds much better than, “I’m sick of doing everything around here.”
The website, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anger-management/MH00102, suggests developing solutions to the problems to feel more in control. The site also advises utilizing physical outlets. Partake in exercise or a sport to relieve some of the tension. Other outlets, like walking, running, yoga, journaling or listening to music, can have positive aftermaths as well.
Never underestimate the power of inner-dialogue. Talk yourself through a situation. Those same thoughts that once caused fits of screaming or yelling can ease you through a troublesome circumstance when they are reined in. Telling yourself to calm down, relax or ease up can help. Sometimes, just giving the person a break can make the difference. Remind yourself that the individual may have had a bad day or may be struggling with personal problems.
The website also discourages holding grudges. This leads to resentment and more anger. Forgiveness, however, is freeing and liberating – but it’s a choice.
Choices are what define a life, after all. We make choices about what we eat, who we spend our time with, what kind of work we do and how we spend our day. Fortunately, we also make the choice to control our feelings of anger.
This might be a foreign experience to some. To others, it may be easy and require little effort. It doesn’t matter which end of the spectrum you fall – it just matters that you are willing to make a change and tweak that very same recipe.
And unlike snapping at your spouse or telling off the telemarketer, making the decision to control your anger is one choice you will not regret.
Published: July 11, 2012